Numbers 6: 22-27 (NIV)
22 The LORD said to Moses, 23 “Tell Aaron and his sons, ‘This is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them:
24 “ ‘ “The LORD bless you and keep you;
25 the LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you;
26 the LORD turn his face towards you and give you peace.” ’
27 “So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.”
What could be more appropriate in these turbulent political and uncertain economic times than to turn our thoughts to God’s blessing on his people? Indeed, regardless of the times, we are to be more conscious of and more grateful for God’s blessing on his people.
Verses 24-26 are known as the “Aaronic blessing” or “Aaronic benediction”. This blessing was given to Aaron and his sons to apply, however this blessing is clearly from YHWH.
It is made up of three lines (as we read it now and in the original Hebrew). We should note that “YHWH” appears in each of these lines. That emphasises the blessing is from YHWH, from the LORD. It cannot be and must not be appropriated as a blessing from Aaron or a blessing from Moses. Nor is it to be appropriated today as a blessing from anybody else – it is from the LORD.
As if to emphasise this very point, verse 27 gives the reason why YHWH commanded Moses to tell this to Aaron. YHWH did so in order that Aaron and his sons would put “my name” (which is “YHWH” – “I am”) on the people of Israel and, through that, “I am” (“YHWH”) will bless them.
The second of the three lines, that the LORD’s face would “shine upon you”, appears often in Hebrew worship. We have only to look to the Psalms. Consider these examples:
Let the light of your face shine upon us, O LORD.
You have filled my heart with greater joy than when their grain and new wine abound.
I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.
(Psalm 4: 6b-8).
May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine upon us,
(Psalm 67: 1).
This same line is also used in Christian worship, for example in the hymn referred to as “Old Irish Blessing”. In the bridge between the verses we sing:
May the Lord bless you and keep you
May the Lord make his face to smile upon you
And give you peace.
Yes, the third line of the blessing is that the LORD will “give you peace”. “Peace” here is not merely absence of conflict. “Peace” is the “shalom” of God, the complete rightness and well-being of a person which encompasses relationships too, the foremost of which is the relationship with the LORD.
And so may this be a blessing to you today:
The LORD bless you and keep you;
the LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you;
the LORD turn his face towards you and give you peace. Amen.