Devotional: May 8, 2020
The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, Thus you shall bless the Israelites: You shall say to them,
The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you;
The Lord lifts up his countenance upon you, and gives you peace.
So, they shall put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.
Numbers 6: 22-27
You have probably heard this passage before. It is formally called, “The Priestly Benediction,” and this blessing contains some wonderful thoughts and imagery.
It begins with a wish for the Lord to bless us, and also to keep us. Presumably, “Keep us” means to keep us from harm.
The next phrase, “Make His face shine upon you,” may seem a little mysterious to us. However, it might be understood as the Lord approving of us in such a way that He looks directly at us. The opposite of this would be to hide one’s face from someone, as if conferring shame, or maybe embarrassment. Also, it is safe to assume that when God’s face is shining upon someone, then the Lord’s favor is with them. God’s grace follows this favor: “[May the Lord] be gracious to you.”
“The Lord lifts up his countenance upon you.” This means that God will look us directly in the eye. He is not afraid of our gaze, nor does He avert His eyes from us. The opposite of this would be to turn one’s face away, again often in shame. So “The Lord lifts up his countenance upon you,” is another way of saying, “The Lord gazes upon your face with fondness and affection, because He loves you!”
“And give you peace”. This would be a very real hope for the people of Israel. At the time the Book of Numbers was written, the Israelites had not yet taken possession of the land of Canaan. There would be armed conflict to do so. Therefore, it would be a welcome thought for the Lord to grant peace to His people.
The book of Numbers is mostly a book of numbers: it is literally the compiled results of a census! In between lists of numbers, there are a lot of almost bizarre directions on how to handle particular situations, and descriptions of the responsibilities each of the different tribes of Israel. In other words, the Book of Numbers is not the most exciting reading! Thankfully, through Jesus, all those “directions” became unnecessary, and we do not need to access our Lord through the rituals dictated in the Old Testament.
Tucked in the middle of what many readers regard as a relatively boring book of the Bible, there is this wonderful blessing, this “Priestly Benediction”. It has been uttered in Christian churches for centuries! Perhaps the appearance of this blessing in the midst of the “boring” parts of the Book of Numbers is a lesson for all of us. Life will not always be exciting, or exhilarating. Sometimes, it seems like all we do is a series of menial tasks. Doing the laundry, mowing the lawn, cleaning out a junk drawer, or taking out the garbage.
However, I believe God wants us to realize that each moment of our day is truly a blessing from Him. God’s face is shining upon us, and giving us grace, even when we don’t realize it. So realize that wherever you are, and however you are feeling, God’s grace and blessings are still with you, every moment of every normal day. May the Lord help us to keep our eyes and hearts open to His promise.
May the Lord bless you, and keep you, this day, and every day!
Lord, help us to realize and remember that every moment of every day, you are with us. Thank you that your face does shine upon us. Help us to share that blessing with others. We pray this prayer in the name of Your son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.