This famous blessing seems to stand alone in its context, coming right after a long set of instructions (on the consecration of Nazirites) and immediately before the narrative on the completion and consecration of the tabernacle. Sandwiched between these consecrations we have the priestly blessing of all Israel, petitioning God to turn his face to his people. The result of God’s ‘conversion’ to his people is nothing less than the application of his own name to the nation. It is this identification of Israel with himself which is the source of their preservation and peace.
- What does this blessing reveal to us about the intentions of God for his people?
- Why is identification with God a source of preservation and peace?
In the light of the glorious wonder of the reconciliation of God and humanity in Christ, we can marvel along with the psalmist that the Eternal One would have such benevolence and care for finite creatures like ourselves, that he would name us and claim us as his own.
Commentators often suggest that the timing of Christ’s birth of Mary—in the ‘fullness of time’—ought to be read in the historical sense, referring to the remarkable benefits brought to Palestinian society, and indeed to the whole Western World, by Roman administration and the proliferation of the common languages of Greek and Latin. As important as these geopolitical developments were, we would do well to seek for a deeper meaning to what is meant by the ‘fullness of time’ by reflecting on the eternal purposes of God in his Word, the lamb which was “destined before the foundation of the world but was made manifest at the end of times for your sake” (1 Peter 1.20).
In this reading we see the same principles of God claiming a people as his own that we saw in the first reading, expressed here as adoption. Notice the personal intimacy of Paul’s proclamation of our being given the name of God first as a community and also as individuals, being made by adoption through Christ what Christ himself is by nature: a child of God. The phrase ‘fullness of time’ here, along with the testimony of the Old Testament, suggests this adoption, our becoming children of God, is the eternal creative purpose of the Almighty.
It was, of course, at circumcision on the eight day (a number of no little symbolic meaning) that Jewish boys were (and still are) named, just as in the church Christians have traditionally named their children at Baptism.
Here we see that our eternally intended adoption is effected in the mystery of the incarnation, in the wonderful paradox that the eternal One who gives names has instructed that he himself be given a name in return. And wonder of wonders, through that name he has graciously taken on our salvation as his very identity, for Jesus (Yeshua/Joshua) literally means “salvation,” “for he will save his people from their sins” (Mt 1.21).
- How fruitful has this Christmas season been for your reflection on the mystery of God in Christ? Has faith in your adoption and his providential care for you been a source of joy and peace, or has it seemed less-than real or relevant?
- How has the gift of adoption transformed your life? How have you seen it change the lives of others?