"The Lord bless you, and keep you:
The Lord make His face shine upon you,
And be gracious unto you: The Lord lift up His Countenance upon you And give you peace."
(Numbers Chapter 6, verses 22-24)
These are very warm, familiar, uplifting and comforting words. They were first spoken by the High Priest of Israel Aaron, and became known as the Aaronic or Priestly Blessing. Just once a year the High Priest waited on God and after the appropriate time in His Presence, he came to the people and pronounced the blessing.
It is the role of the priest to make intercession. Aaron did that and then appeared before them dressed in his ornate priestly robes and ministered the word that reflected the heart of the Father.
In just a few days time, the world will focus on the baby Jesus. Appropriately we rejoice and celebrate but His birth in that Bethlehem manger was a glorious invasion of life-changing dimensions. Jesus became our High Priest, not just a baby, but also a Lamb. John the Baptist described Him as 'the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.'
What an enormous task? The sin of the world has been blatantly broadcast for all to see throughout this year and yet this Jesus, made a sacrifice to be rid of it all.
As our High Priest Jesus, interceded for us. John records the intercession: "Father, I want those you have given to me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given to me because you loved me before the creation of the world." (John chapter 17, verse 24) After Jesus prayed He turned to the people and said, "The Lord bless you and keep you."
Aaron did not make up the words he spoke. After time in the Presence of God Aaron spoke what was on the heart of the Father. Through Jesus we know the heart and desire of the Father has never changed. I am deeply indebted to Jeff A Benner and the Ancient Hebrew Research Centre for broadening my understanding of Scripture (ancient-hebrew.org). Consider just some of the abstract words expressed in the Blessing – bless, keep and peace.
The intent behind the word 'bless' is "respect." The Father has shown His respect for us by providing for our needs and we in turn 'respect' Him, and willingly offer ourselves as His servants. We show respect by kneeling. Our body is bowed in the Presence of our kindly, gracious, benevolent Father.
Keep has an amazing meaning. The ancient Hebrews were a nomadic people and they relied heavily on their livestock. Author and linguist Jeff A. Benner said, "In order to protect the flock, the shepherd would construct a corral of thorn bushes." This provided a hedge of protection around the sheep. That phrase 'and keep you' has that context. The Father will protect you. His angels will surround you. It is a picture of Blessed Assurance.
"The Lord make his face to shine upon you" is also significant. In Hebrew expression each person has many faces. The Hebrew word paniym is translated 'face' but it is often written in plural form. Your face might be happy or sad. You may be downcast or jubilant but when referring to the Father turning His face towards us, the word also means 'presence' or the 'wholeness of being.'
As we embrace this blessing through our High Priest we are invited into the fullness of His Presence. We experience the very 'wholeness of His being.' There were times in my childhood, my dad would look at me and I immediately knew whether I was in his good books or not. The context here is of the heavenly Father rejoicing in you. You have His full face and that face is shining. With His face comes the assurance of peace.
When my beloved dad gave his full support I could overcome all manner of fear. How much more victories are to be won when we are assured of the full force of our Heavenly Father doing the fighting for us?
I have never known any earthly dad who has not enjoyed lifting the precious baby and expressing parental love and joy in the most demonstrative way. So the Heavenly Father enjoys His fellowship with you.
He gives those who know and love Him that precious peace. We have that shalom from Sar Shalom, the Prince of Peace. In a few days time, we will join with those who enjoy Christmas. We will recall the great events of Bethlehem and recognize that this child came to us with a mission of love. In the Book of Numbers there is another verse, "So shall they put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them."
So with Christmas, Jesus and celebration in mind, consider these word from The Expositors Bible Commentary: "Christians may read these words and find in them, not only the Lord's special covenantal relationship with Israel at Mount Sinai, but also a reflection of the covenantal relationship God has with his people, the church, through the work of Savior Jesus, in whom we have experienced preeminently the smile of God. The threefold invocation of the name of the Lord is not going to be lost on Christian readers either:
"May the Lord Yahweh as Father, Son, and Spirit bless his people and keep them, cause them to know his presence and his grace, and allow them to sense his smile and his peace." Amen!
Ron Ross is a Middle East consultant for United Christian Broadcasters (Vision FM). Previously he was radio news editor for Bridges for Peace in Jerusalem, Israel.
His career started at WINTV (Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Ron Ross' previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/ron-ross.html