Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to Aaron and to his sons, saying, ‘In this way you shall bless the sons of Israel. You are to say to them:
The LORD bless you, and keep you;
The LORD cause His face to shine on you,
And be gracious to you;
The LORD lift up His face to you,
And give you peace.’
So they shall invoke My name on the sons of Israel, and then I will bless them.” Numbers 6:22-26
Verses 22-27 show God’s gracious response to his people if they maintained purity in the congregation. The heart-devotion that they showed by their actions was viewed much like that of the Nazirite vow (see Numbers 6:1-21). To “bless” (in Hebrew barak) carries the idea that God’s presence, activity and love are brought into a person’s life and environment. This blessing was set before God’s faithful servants under the conditions he had established (Deuteronomy 11:27).
The priestly blessing consisted of three parts:
- The giving of God’s blessing and his protection from evil forces and all that was harmful to one’s welfare in life (v. 24 and Psalms 71:1-6).
- The shining of the Lord’s face upon them, i.e., God’s favor, goodwill and grace toward the people (v. 25), which meant God’s anger was turned away from them (Psalm 27:1; 31:16; Proverbs 15:30; 16:14 and Isaiah 57:17). Remember grace is God’s unmerited mercy, unmerited love and unmerited saving power.
- The turning or the lifting up of the Lord’s face toward them (v. 26), i.e., caring for and giving to them with heartfelt love (Psalm 4:7-8; 33:18 and 34:17). What God gives is “peace” (v. 26). Being at peace (in Hebrew shalom) means being complete because God supplies all that is necessary to give life its fullness (Malachi 2:5). This includes hope for the future (Jeremiah 29:11). The opposite of “peace” is not only lack of harmony, but evil in all its forms (Romans 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:3 and 1 Thessalonians 5:23).
God’s blessing on his people would result in their being used to touch all the nations. They would reflect the lighted torch of God’s salvation to all of humankind (Psalm 67; 133:3; Ezekiel 34:26; Matthew 28:19 and Luke 24:50).
This beloved priestly benediction finds its original context in Israel’s wilderness camp. As a culmination of the camp’s creation and purity (Numbers 1-6), the blessing of God is portrayed as flowing out from his central dwelling, spreading outward to the ends of the encampment. God’s shining and uplifted face is idiomatic for his favorable disposition toward his people. All of Israel’s life, health, prosperity, security and wholeness-the substance of the blessing-derives from the nation’s relationship with the Lord. Though he uses priests as mediators, God himself is the one who blesses his people. Later in Numbers, such a divine determination to bless Israel will be expressed dramatically when, despite the king of Moab’s multiple attempts to curse them through the pagan prophet Balaam, it becomes clear that the Lord is pleased to bless Israel and not curse them (Numbers 22-24). As the blessing is said to put the Lord’s name on his people, so too Christian baptism place one into the name of God (Matthew 28:19); found “in Christ,” we possess every spiritual blessing (Ephesians 1:3) provided we have accepted God’s unmerited mercy, unmerited love and unmerited saving power.
Today’s Bible Readings:
Daniel 2:24-3:30, 1 Peter 4:7-5:14, Psalm 119:81-96 and Proverbs 28:15-16
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