“And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: ‘Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, “This is the way you shall bless the children of Israel. Say to them: ‘The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine upon you, And be gracious to you; The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace.”” (The Aaronic Benediction, Numbers 6:22-26)
We close many of our worship services with this benediction. God’s people have used it for over 3,400 years. It encompasses all of God’s blessings while also expressing the tenderness and steadfastness of the Triune God.
The Lord Himself prescribed it to be used, and He will follow through with what He said.
“The Lord bless you and keep you.”
The word “bless” means to give a gift. It is neither earned nor deserved. His blessing encompasses life and salvation. His people desperately need to receive that as a gift, as it is far too expensive for them to afford.
The word “keep” indicates something very precious—a treasure to hold on to and keep safe. The Lord is saying that that He will keep us since we are precious to Him! In like manner Jesus prays for His Father to keep us (John 17:11).
“The Lord make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you.”
It is distressing when someone we care about is so angry with us that he won’t even look at us. More than once in the Psalms, His people express their dismay when they feel that the Lord has hidden His face from them.
What a joy it is to know that, according to His grace, God’s face is shining upon us! We often define grace as undeserved love, and rightly so! But love us He does. His grace is an intentional, purposeful, committed, active love.
“The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace.”
Here we are invited to behold the expression on His face. Look at His eyes. Behold the love and gentleness there. With a look He calms our hearts. Feel His peace.
“The Lord bless you and keep you” reveals the warmth of God the Father, who loved us so much that He sent His only begotten Son to rescue us. He desires for us to be His children and to remain in everlasting fellowship with Him.
“Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!” (1 John 3:1)
“The Lord make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you” reminds us that God the Son has made peace between us and God. Because of His perfect life, atoning sacrifice, and victorious resurrection, the face of God shines upon us. What Jesus did for us is God’s grace in action.
“But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” (Ephesians 2:13)
“The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace” directs our attention to God the Holy Spirit. He is the One Who changed our hearts of stone into living hearts that embrace the Lord with a faith that trusts in God and His promises.
Thanks to the Holy Spirit, we are God’s children, and, since we are His children, God’s face is soft and loving toward us. In the name of Jesus, the Spirit fills our heart with the peace of being in a close, everlasting fellowship with God.
When you hear the words of God’s blessing at the close of a worship service, you are at that moment actively being blessed by God Himself. And it doesn’t end there. . . .
Remember: everything in this blessing comes to you through the Lord—your loving God—Who is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8).
That is precisely how long He will continue to heap His blessings upon you!