The Expository Files

The Lord Bless and Keep You
(Numbers 6:22-27)  

God had promised Israel during Moses' leadership that one day He would raise up another leader like Moses (Deuteronomy 18:15-18). This promise is announced as fulfilled in the New Testament with the coming of Jesus (Acts 3:18-26). Certainly Jesus is like Moses in many respects; for example, as Moses led people out of bondage in Egypt so also Christ Jesus frees us from bondage to sin. Also, Moses chose to leave the luxury of Pharaoh's palace and suffer hardship with his people, and Jesus chose to leave heaven and dwell on earth as a man.

But it is important to understand that while there are similarities, there are also great differences. The Book of Hebrews emphasizes some of these differences such as the fact that Moses was God's servant but Jesus is God's Son (Hebrews 3:1-6). <See the excellent article "Consider Him" on this passage in this issue by my co-editor, Warren Berkley>.

As our text we will consider an event in the life of Moses when the Lord spoke to him and told him to give Aaron, the high priest, some instructions. The text is found in Numbers 6:22-27:

"Then the Lord spoke to Moses saying, 'Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, "Thus you shall bless the sons of Israel. You shall say to them:
The Lord bless you, and keep you;
The Lord make His face shine on you,
And be gracious to you;
The Lord lift up His countenance upon you,
And give you peace."'
So they shall invoke My name on the sons of Israel, and I
shall bless them."

According to Jewish writings, this benediction was quoted daily in the temple as well as in the synagogues. The words of this blessing, given through the mediator Moses, become even richer when we consider them in relationship to our new mediator and leader like Moses, that being Jesus Christ. In the light of the new covenant, which is a better covenant with better promises (Hebrews 8:6) we, as Christians, have much to rejoice about!

The Lord's Blessing

"The Lord bless you..." (Numbers 6:24a). The blessings of God, spiritual and physical, ought never to be taken for granted. This benediction recognizes the source of all good things as being God (cf. James 1:17). No doubt the people under Moses' leadership thought of the blessings God had promised them if they would continue to obey Him faithfully. He had promised that "if you will diligently obey the Lord your God, being careful to do all His commandments..." that "... all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you." (Deuteronomy 28:1,2). Then the blessings are described. They would be blessed in city and country; in their offspring and the offspring of their flocks and crops and in protection from their enemies. The Lord would make them "abound in prosperity" (Deuteronomy 28:3-14).

Jesus' blessings for us today emphasize the spiritual rather than the physical. While He gives certain assurances in the physical realm, His sacrifice on the cross had to do with restoring us to spiritual life and giving us spiritual bread and water so we need never hunger or thirst again (John 6:27-35). Jesus makes a point that the world often overlooks. He could have made it His business to provide physical blessings the way Moses had (vs 31, 32) but Jesus was providing something better. This is because those who emphasize their physical needs and desires over their spiritual needs will only grow hungry again and ultimately perish whether they have something to eat or not. But those who partake of the bread of life will live forever.

The Lord's Keeping
"...and keep you." (Numbers 6:24b). The idea of "keep you" is divine protection. In Moses' time, this would refer to protection from hostile invasions and drought and things chiefly of a physical nature. However, again the emphasis shifts in the New Testament and deals more with spiritual protection. One good example of this is the figure of speech that Jesus uses to describe His relationship with His disciples. He is the "Good Shepherd" and we are His sheep. He knows His own, and His own know Him. He lays down His life for his sheep so that they may be protected from the robber or the wolf. His sheep hear His voice and follow Him, and as long as they do, He keeps them safe promising them eternal life (John 10:1-16; 27,28).

The Lord's Shining Face
"The Lord make His face shine upon you..." (Numbers 6:25a). The Lord's face is depicted a shining in several places in the Bible. It shines with a tremendous radiant glory, instilling awe in His creatures. We recall how even Moses' face once shined after communicating with the Lord.

However, there is more to it than that. The blessing asks the Lord to make His face "shine upon you." This suggests a pleasure or warmth of association with the Lord. Awareness of God's presence brings comfort to the faithful.

We also recall how Jesus was transfigured in the New Testament. Peter, James and John were awe-struck when the beheld the Lord. The Bible says, "And He was transfigured before them; and His face shone like the sun, and His garments became as white as light." (Matthew 17:2). Paul, in encouraging faithful living on the part of Christians and a warning against being lulled back into the world, later wrote "Awake, sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you." (Ephesians 5:14).

The Lord's Graciousness
"...And be gracious to you;" (Numbers 6:25b).
Certainly God favored the faithful of Moses' era with mercy and blessings. Our God is a God happy to give good things to His children. The nation of Israel never did better than during those times when it was loyal to God. Neither will our own nation, and the same thing applies to individuals.

The supreme example of God's graciousness is not found in the sun or rain or crops or physical prosperity. We thank God for these things; but as wonderful as they are they pale when compared to the favor God bestows upon us through His Son Jesus. It is this inner wealth that is most important; the blessings of spirit which God abundantly gives. "He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?" (Romans 8:32).

The Lord's Countenance
"The Lord lift up His countenance upon you..." (Numbers 6:26a). This phrase suggests the opposite of "hiding His face from you" which the Bible also uses (Isaiah 54:6). It suggests His interest as well as His readiness to help. It is a look of approval that the Lord gives to those who live by faith.

The Lord watches His people today as well. Again, it is a look of approval that the Lord gives His people. He knows what we endure for His namesake. He will not forget our work and love (Hebrews 6:10) and will one day welcome the faithful home with the words; "Well done!" It is a
wonderful thing to know that the Lord approves of the way we are using our talents, opportunities and lives.

The Lord's Peace
"...And give you peace." (Numbers 6:26b). This peace denotes stability and calmness. Isaiah wrote, "The steadfast of mind Thou wilt keep in perfect peace, because he trusts in Thee. Trust in the Lord forever, for in God, the Lord, we have an everlasting Rock." (Isaiah 26:3,4).

Jesus is our Rock, and gives peace as well. A solid foundation is needed for stability, and there is none sounder than that of the Living Word of God. Jesus promises peace, and since He is the Prince of Peace we can be sure of His promise. In this mad, crazy world, we are sorely in need of this calm assurance and peaceful confidence. Your friends, family and neighbors need it as well. "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:6,7).

 By Jon W. Quinn
From Expository Files 11.8; August, 2004