The Old Testament (”OT”) Book of Numbers is about God (Father, Son, and Spirit) showing His faithfulness to faithless Israel during forty years in the wilderness. Numbers was breathed out by the Spirit through Moses about 1400 BC, but Moses was really writing about Christ in advance of Jesus’ incarnation.1 The New Testament Book of Hebrews describes how Jesus’ high priestly ministry is superior to all OT priests and sacrifices. As our Priest, Christ offered Himself up once for all time as a sacrifice to satisfy divine justice and to reconcile us to God. Now in Heaven, Jesus continually intercedes for us and His prayers always get answered! This gives Christ’s followers supernatural confidence in serving Him.
In Numbers 6:24-26, God commands the priest to pronounce these benefits on God’s people: Verse 24 The LORD bless you and keep you. Verse 25 The LORD make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you. Verse 26 The LORD turn His face toward you and give you peace.
Repetition for a Reason.
This benediction is so familiar, we may take it for granted and under-appreciate it. Familiarity with God’s word should not breed contempt, but should help us love and trust Him more, getting God’s truth deep down into our souls and changing our lives from inside out. In Psalm 136, the Lord says He loves us 26 times! The repetition emphasizes Christ’s extreme care for His followers so that we take it to heart. Jesus’ benediction in Numbers uses repetition for the same purpose.
The table below summarizes Numbers 6:24-26, looked at in a Trinitarian way:
|Verse||Active person||What He does
(2 verbs each)
|Hebrew words||Hebrew syllables||Hebrew consonants||Hints at and points ahead to The Holy Trinity|
|24||The LORD||blesses us and keeps us||3||12||15||
God the Father is Lord
|25||The LORD||makes His face shine upon us and is gracious to us||5||14||20||Jesus is Lord
|26||The LORD||turns His face toward us and gives us peace||7||16||25||God the Spirit is Lord
(2 Cor 3:17)
In Numbers 6, God’s people were marching to Promised Land, needing the Lord’s protection. Now Christians are marching through this fallen world to Heaven, so we need Jesus’ same eternal care and security. 2 Peter 3:13 says: In keeping with the Lord’s promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.2 But we are not yet home; we are foreigners in this world.
This benediction in Numbers was repeated every day in the Jewish Temple and is one of oldest poems in Scripture. This blessing has also been used by Christians worldwide for over 2,000 years to encourage Jesus’ people to press on. This are not empty religious words; they announce the Lord’s ongoing work for us. He still comes near us and He still acts to help us. These verses heap up God’s blessing upon blessing, grace upon grace, bringing us Jesus’ all surpassing righteousness, peace, and joy. Let’s examine Verse 24 today:
Verse 24: The LORD bless you and keep you.
In the Bible, a blessing is not a polite thing to say when people sneeze. Blessing is God the Father giving us His favor, protection, and other good things. Melchizedek said, “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth, who delivered you from your enemies.”3 The Lord still keeps us from harm, watches over our life, and shields by His power until He takes us home to Heaven.4 He empowers and transforms us according to His eternal purposes, making us more and more like Jesus. God the Father turns us from our wicked ways, gives us eternal life, and guarantees that no one or nothing can snatch us out of His hand.5 Not even Satan can seize us from God’s care. He wants us to feel safe with Him.
How deep the Father’s love for us, How vast beyond all measure, That He should give His only Son To make a wretch His treasure.6
God the Father blesses us to make us a blessing to others, and those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed.7 We encourage others by praying for and with them, bringing them to God’s throne of grace for help in time of need.8 Sometimes we can’t change peoples’ circumstances, but we can bring them to God who can. That’s real love. We can be friends in the middle who bring others blessing from our Father’s house.9 The Lord protects, provides for, and rescues people everyday, often using us as His co-laborers. That gives our life meaning, value, and purpose.
Praise God! He blesses and keep us. Encourage yourselves and each other with this truth.
Prayer. Bless us, Lord, and make us a blessing; We’ll gladly your message convey; Use us to help people in need, And make us a blessing today.
To be continued.
Used at Belhaven University, Windsor Village Methodist, BridgePoint Bible Church, Christ E. P. Church, Iglesia Presbiteriana Oaklawn, prison ministry, and pastoral counseling. Parts are adapted and expanded from Gordon J. Wenham.
Notes (various translations used): 1 John 5:46,47. 2 See also Revelation chapters 21-22. 3 Gen 14:19,20. 4 Psalm 121:7-8; 1 Peter 1:5. 5 Acts 3:26; John 10:28-30. 6 from hymn by Stuart Townsend (1995). 7 Prov 11:25. 8 Heb 4:16. 9 See Luke 11:5-13.