A sermon preached by Mr G. Rose
on New Year’s Day, 1931, at Croydon
The LORD spake unto Moses, saying: Speak unto Aaron and unto his sons, saying: On this wise ye shall bless the children of Israel, saying unto them: The LORD bless thee and keep thee.’ Numbers 6.22-24
I have not read the whole of the blessing, because I may not be able to speak from all of it, but I may say that if the Lord grant the one part, He will grant the whole, and in that sense we can say that what God joins together, neither men nor devils can ever part.
The reason for my not reading the whole of the blessing is that I feel my mind led to speak of the source of the blessing and the nature of it, rather than the words describing it.
I suppose there is scarcely a person here tonight but what someone has wished them ‘A Happy New Year.’ That is very well where it is meant kindly, and it is right to take it kindly; but I am sure that everyone who is born of God will feel that there is a depth of need in our hearts that no creature can ever satisfy or communicate to us. We feel that we need God in the Trinity of His person Â— as is always meant when the word LORD is printed in capital letters as it is here. When the word LORD is so printed, it has two things in it; it means the Creator, and it means the Creator in covenant. When it is applied to God’s people, it means Father, Son and Holy Ghost in covenant. That is very important, because it shows that if the Lord blesses us it is not a haphazard sort of blessing, such as that of people who happen to meet us on this day and perhaps think no more about it the rest of the year. No, my friends, God’s blessing of salvation, His blessing in providence, in regeneration, in gracious preservation and in upholding us, is because it is His will and His pleasure to do it. We do not realise the pleasure that the Lord has in blessing. We read that He `delighteth in mercy,’ and `delighteth’ is a very strong expression of pleasure. You and I, my friends, can realise only a very little of what wonderful grace it is that the Lord should ‘take pleasure in them that fear Him’; and that the Lord has laid up blessings to those that He brings to feel their need. If you want to know whether or not you are one of God’s people, look back into your experience and see whether you wish to be one; whether you can see that in the experience of God’s people that you want for yourself. We read of Moses that he chose rather to suffer affliction with the people of God,
than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season. God brings His people to choose wisely, as the poet, speaking about Solomon, says:
If Solomon for wisdom prayed,
The Lord before had made him wise, Else he another choice had made,
And asked for what the worldlings prize.’
If you can see the good of God’s people, it is because He has given you eyes. If you desire the lot of God’s people, it is because He has given you that desire. He gives us to know by His grace what it is to be poor for want of Jesus Christ. Such are they who are poor in spirit. David said: am poor and needy,’ yet that man had thousands of people to do his bidding. God had given him more wealth in the spoil from his enemies than perhaps any man had, except his son Solomon. And yet he said: I am poor and needy.’ A man in a palace may be poor and needy in his experience. Now if you are needy for spiritual things, you will desire the Lord to bless you not only with the temporal blessings of time and sense, but also with those things which will reach down into your soul’s experience, and save you from sin, Satan and the world, and prepare you for Heaven.
One of the principal things to remember is that there can be no abiding blessing under the law, because we are sinners. If you and I are to have blessedness that will make us eternally blessed, we must have it through a priest. ‘The Lord spake unto Moses, saying: Speak unto Aaron.’ Moses could not do it. He was not in the position to do it. He represented the law. The law can demand, but it can give nothing in a way of blessing to sinners. The children of Israel could not be blessed apart from the sacrifices. We all need a priest to bless us. When atonement has been made, even a holy God can speak of blessing unto Moses, who represents justice:-
`Here’s an amazing change indeed, Justice is now for me.’
`Speak unto Aaron and his sons.’ This was not to come to an end with the death of the earthly priest, for he was only a type of that Priest whose priesthood is in the power of an endless life. The blessing of the Lord upon His people is never to be interfered with. That is the blessing you and I need. We want a deathless blessing, because we are poor dying sinners, and we want a blessing that flows to us through mercy Â— mercy which is based on the atonement, based on Jesus Christ rendering a full satisfaction to the law of God, so that when God blesses us He strains no point, does no violence to His holy character or His holy law. Are you tried because of your unworthiness? Do you feel there is enough sin in you to dry up every mercy you have? I do. As you look back on the past year, what does it seem like in your own estimation?
Sin and transgressions for the most part; unbelief, worldliness and carnality; and perhaps you have not got through this first day with a clear conscience. Well then, how can such as we expect God, a holy God, to bless us on the ground of works? I could not expect God to bless me; but we see the goodness of God in that He has not left our blessings to depend upon our worthiness. ‘Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage?’ There is no love like His. If you had injured someone all you could all the years you had known them, and yet they blessed you after that, pardoned you and loaded you with benefits, what should you say about it? Would not that break you down? Would not that give you some thought and appreciation of what real love was?
`Nothing but sin I Thee can give, Nothing but love shall I receive.’
There is a thought there that to my mind is very rich. We cannot give God anything so that He should be good to us. God is good to us notwithstanding all our unworthiness. It is not because there is anything in us to deserve that He should bless us, but because there is superabounding grace in Him; as the Apostle says: ‘Herein is love, not that we love God’ Â— you might expect people to love you if you loved them, but Â— ‘while we were yet sinners’ Â— in our unregeneracy Â— ‘Christ died for us,’ and what more could He do? Now what do you think about Jesus Christ? I am sure not one of us sufficiently appreciates the sufferings of the Saviour and all that had to be borne before any of us could be blessed. You cannot be blessed apart from the Priest. What do you think about Jesus Christ? What is your estimate of Him? What is your estimate of sin? If you have never seen your sin as it is before God, you have no true estimate of it. Some will say: am no worse than other people. I am better than some. I do not do this and that which I see others do.’ That is a wrong premise altogether. We shall never be condemned on those grounds. All sin is primarily against God. We have wronged our fellow-creatures, but we sin against God. It was that which made David say, under the conviction of the Spirit through the prophet Nathan: ‘Against thee, thee only, have I sinned.’ He had wronged others in the most grievous way he could wrong them Â— for I do not see how any person could be more sinned against than was Uriah; David followed up his first sin by premeditated murder, and took away the life of the man whom he had injured. But with all that, David, with a right knowledge of sin, said; ‘Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight.’ My friends, it will be your mercy, and mine, if we are brought there, and then we shall know that it is only through a priest we can be saved and blessed. Jesus shed His blood and became our Priest. Apart from pardon we cannot be blessed in that way which will take us to heaven and will make us truly happy even while we are here.
And then I want to come to the fact of the blessing. Those who have said to you ‘A Happy New Year’ simply wished it, they could not give it to you. Aaron and his sons were not to say to the children of Israel that they wished them to be blessed; it was to come upon them, the blessing should accompany the word. That is what we want.
`On this wise ye shall bless,’ not a way chosen by the children of Israel. If you and I are to be blessed, we must be blessed in God’s way. Do you realise that? If you were asked what you wished, you might ask for something useful, comfortable, and pleasant in temporal things, but it might be the very worst thing for you. But God can bless all His will to each of us. We do not know what may lie before us, but the Lord does, and the manner of the blessing is in His hands. May He give you each this year what is best for you; that blessing which shall cause you to bless Him.
`On this wise.’ When anything comes from God it partakes of the nature of God. Now do you want what the worldlings prize? They prize earthly things. We need earthly things, but if the Lord gives you what is in this blessing you will be blessed whatever may he in your lot providentially. God’s blessing will rise to the top of every present experience. What God is to you will be the crown of your experience.
`The Lord bless thee,’ and we need it. You and I, left to ourselves, are certainly poor, and what has made us poor? Sin. Adam was very rich before the Fall. He was placed at the head of creation. He and Eve were the only creatures that were capable of holding communion with their Maker and of worshipping Him. As the head of creation, and being a perfect man, Adam’s knowledge could not have been fragmentary, for it was bestowed, not obtained. I believe Adam could read the book of creation fully. It was necessary he should, because everything was put under his feet. He was made in God’s image; God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and he became a living soul; but when he fell he became poor. He fled from God, his mind was darkened, his affections, and motives were no longer pure. He was debased, fallen, and he became God’s enemy, instead of God’s willing subject. Yet, when he was hiding from God, conscious of his sin, God came to him. He did not go to God. God spoke to him of mercy Adam never asked for mercy, and yet God blessed Adam with the promise of a Redeemer. Ever since then man has been an enemy of God in his very nature, and well some of us know it, because we feel it. But through the atonement of Jesus Christ, God may bless us with His Holy Spirit. Now I cannot desire for you, or for myself, any greater blessing than God’s Spirit, even the Spirit and grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. The last words in the Bible are: ‘The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.’ You cannot have any better portion than that, and none can give it you but the Lord. It must come from the Trinity, and it must flow through the priesthood of the Lord Jesus Christ. That is the channel through which
it must come to you, and if it comes to you, it will make you a blessed character, a happy person. It will bring hope into your darkest experience, comfort into your most distressing circumstances, and nothing is able to reverse His blessing, or rob you of it.
`The Lord bless thee.’ It is a great mercy to be blessed with the fear of God. Do not ever ask for earthly things first; ask for heavenly things first. You might say: ‘I need money, I need employment, I need comforts.’ If God blesses you with His Spirit, He will not forsake you whatever circumstances you are in. You may have money, and be a very poor person. You may walk in a very trying pathway, and be a very favoured person. I can say, through the Lord’s goodness, that my worst times have been my best. I have been happiest in my mind and have felt to be the most favoured man when I have been in the greatest troubles. Do not seek outward things first. You may not want them very long. And don’t seek them against the Lord’s will Â— that is, do not beg that you should have them irrespective of the Lord’s will, for we read: ‘He gave them their request, but sent leanness into their soul.’ Do not be persistent about asking the Lord for anything earthly, as if He had forgotten your need. Do not insist that you must have this or that of an earthly nature. Press your case as you are able that God would give you His fear, His blessing. I know this to be true: ‘If he giveth quietness, who then can make trouble?’ Â— and if the Lord bless you with the Spirit of Christ, I know He will care for your body. Peter said: ‘Casting all your care upon him, for he careth for you.’ Now I do not know why I am led to say this, and tell you not to press for earthly things, but press more for spiritual things, for the things that will make you truly happy and blessed.
May the Lord bless you, not only with His Spirit, so that you may know your need, may be able to pray, may have a good hope through grace Â— all these are that with which the Lord blesses His people Â— but may He bless you with His fear so that you cannot do as other people do. This is the thing to ask yourself: ‘Is this right before the Lord?’ Â—not, ‘Is it carnal policy, or worldly expediency?’ My friends, if you are able, like Daniel, to let everything rest on what is right in the sight of God and leave it there, He will take care of you. If you do that which is right in His sight, the Lord has blessed you.
But I know what some of you want, and may the Lord bless you with it. It is that which I want. I want more softness in my experience. I am too often hard. Things do not affect me. I seem as if I have got more moonlight than sunlight in my life. It is a cold light, though clear, but so different from sunlight. It is the warmth I want. I want to realise more godly sorrow on account of sin, more living desires. I want real hunger Â— not to say I am needy because I know it, but really to feel it. I want to hate sin more than I do, because it is sin against a good and gracious God, not hate it because I suffer.
And then again, we want to realise the mercy of God come to us. We talk about mercy, we hear of mercy, we read about it, but it is when it comes to our heart that it does us good. Now what will do this? Forgiveness, and a sense of the love and the goodness of God, that He should pardon such as we are. That will melt our hard hearts. We want the Lord to make known His power in our experience. If the love of God is shed abroad in your heart, that will make you happy and make you rich.
We need also to be blessed with patience to be willing to be where we are. We nearly all want some improvement in our circumstances; we are after that more than we are after improvement in our souls Â— yet that is our first need. That is our greatest need: to he right in our spirit, to be blessed in our soul with humility, with living desires after the Lord Jesus.
`And keep thee.’ We need the Lord’s hand to be with us to keep us lest what He gives us we should lose; lest sin should grieve the Spirit of God so that He should withdraw His gracious presence. Oh, what need there is of being kept, because everything within and everything without is against us. It may be even tonight the birds have been busy catching up the seed as fast as it drops into the mind, so that no effect shall remain. It is a great thing to be in the world, and not of it. It is a great thing to be a pilgrim; not a citizen of this world, but a citizen of heaven:-
`Saviour, if of Zion’s city
I, through grace, a member am, Let the world deride or pity,
I will glory in Thy name.
Fading is the worldling’s pleasure,
All his boasted pomp and show, Solid joys and lasting treasure,
None but Zion’s children know.’
May the Lord keep us. There is all the difference between two words that will describe the happiness or unhappiness of the whole human race: one is ‘kept’ and the other is ‘left’ May we all be kept by the power of God, by the gracious dealings of God. God’s people are prepared for heaven, prepared by the grace of God, by the teaching and the sanctifying of the Spirit of God. The ungodly are fitted for destruction; they are never prepared for destruction, but they are fitted for it by their own sin.
May you and I remember that it is the Lord only that can bless us, and communicate that which will make us blessed. However many friends you may have, however many kind wishes you may receive, none can make you blessed; your blessing must come from the Lord, His blessing maketh rich with riches that cannot be lost, riches that will last beyond time.
`The Lord bless thee.’ It is a personal blessing, and it must be personally realised. It will not be enough for you to hear about it. You need the Lord to bless you in your own soul so that you can experience in your heart the peace of God which passeth all understanding, and that shall keep your heart and mind in the love of God.