The American Library Association has changed the name of the award they give which honors works that make major contributions to literature for children. Formerly the “Laura Ingalls Wilder Award” it is now the “Children’s Literature Legacy Award.” That news moved one widely renowned American poet to tweet, “I hate my literary era.”
Hating the era in which we live, literary or otherwise, can be attractive at times. I’ve been there and often return for a visit, sometimes short and other times protracted.
The blessing we are studying (Numbers 6:24-26 and discussed previously here) was given to be pronounced over the people of God. Repeatedly. Repetition is necessary for those things we are prone to forget. And we can easily forget that the God who blesses and keeps us is the God of all history, even over our current era. Perhaps we need to look at this and every era with renewed eyes.
This blessing is a poem, and poetry serves meaning and memory. In the Hebrew, the first line is three words, the second is five, and the third is seven. The blessing is given with an economy of words exposing a depth of meaning. And so the matters pronounced and the desires longed for occupy our attention. God is commanding his blessing to be upon us, his people, in such a way that we not forget.
This command and the words which comprised it were given many centuries before Christ. It was given in a world and in a setting when all was not the way it was supposed to be. Its content would find resonance when God put flesh to the blessing in the incarnation, sending his Son to deliver his people from the kingdom of death and to bring them into the kingdom of his Son. It would be in the cross that victory over death was secured and in the resurrection that it was confirmed. But all that was far in the future and yet God was in the blessing and knew the way in which he would bless, even when the recipients could not yet see it.
The world in which we live suffers from the death throes of death itself, but the things we despise in it will not prevail. The content of this benediction is not empty. These are not mere words. They touch upon things that God is doing, will do, and cannot fail but do.
As Christians we have no right to be pessimistic. We have no cause to believe the father of lies who invites us to fear. We sorrow over the broken things, we seek the kingdom in our prayers and our work, and we accept the cost that that entails. But we can never forget that the God of blessing, the living God, the God of promise, the God of the empty tomb, is at work.
That we long for one that is yet to come to make all things well does not mean that we must hate the era we are in.