One of our sons just celebrated his 36th birthday. As I sat looking at his birthday card, searching for just the right words to express all I’m wishing for him in the coming year, the blessing of Aaron from Numbers 6:24-26 came to my mind once again:
The LORD bless you and keep you;
the LORD make his facer to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace. (ESV)
What better words could I find to speak over our son for his birthday?
I’m not surprised that the words of this rich benediction came to mind: they have been ringing in my heart for months, ever since I first heard the song based on this passage which has become so popular lately. In recent months, believers from all around the globe are singing The Blessing over their cities and nations as a unified declaration of God’s goodness in the face of COVID-19. Here’s one version sung by believers from more than 300 local churches throughout Australia:
This song of blessing has also been translated into other languages, including Spanish. Believers from ten different nations throughout Latin America joined together to sing La Bendición – Latinoamérica:
Ever since The Blessing came to the forefront, I’ve been hungry to delve more deeply into the richness of these words. So in this third and final look at Numbers 6:24-26, let’s look at some of the treasure that can be found in the last couplet of this blessing.
Lift Up His Countenance Upon You
What does it mean for the Lord to lift up His countenance upon us? The rich variety of ways these words are translated in different versions of the Bible hints at the wealth that can be found here:
- May the Lord’s approval be resting on you (BBE)
- The Lord turn his face toward you (NIV)
- May the LORD be good to you (CEV)
- May the LORD look on you with favor (GNB)
- May the Lord watch over you (NCV)
- May the LORD turn to face you (ISV)
- May the Lord show you his favor (NLT)
- God look you full in the face (MSG)
Though some unique ideas are expressed in each of these translations, a clear, overall picture emerges: we have not escaped God’s notice. He sees us. He hasn’t forgotten us. Because He has turned His face toward us, we have His full attention. And not only that, His gaze is brimming with His goodness, approval, and favor.
So if God would “look you full in the face” right now, as The Message puts it, would you be able to meet His gaze? Take a moment now to stop and imagine what that might be like. What would you expect to see? Are you anticipating His approval? Would He turn to you with favor, as some of these translations would express it? What does God see when He looks at you? Are you His beloved daughter or son whom He looks upon with great pleasure and delight?
Or would you expect to see disappointment and frustration reflected in His eyes instead? Perhaps you’d expect God to correct or even reject you. Of course, if there’s something in the way—something you need to confess to Him—do it! Repent, and receive His loving forgiveness. Then look Him in the face and see what it’s like for the Lord to lift His countenance upon you.
And Give You Peace
Peace. Safety. Prosperity. Well-being. Health. Wholeness. These are a few of the many aspects of the Hebrew word שָׁלֹם (shâlôm) that is used here. Shalom is like a multi-faceted diamond with myriad ways it can be reflected and expressed.
What would it look like for these various facets of shalom to rest on your life? Which one are you longing for the most?
Although peace is something we all long for, it often eludes us—especially during this season when COVID-19 has caused so much upheaval, uncertainty, and loss in our lives. But in the verse that comes immediately after The Blessing, we can find a clue to receiving the peace God wants to give us:
So shall they put my name upon the people . . . (Numbers 6:27 ESV)
When this blessing is spoken over us, it puts God’s name on us. Names like Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). The God of Peace (Romans 15:33; Philippians 4:9; Hebrews 13:20, etc.). King of Peace (Hebrews 7:2). And as those names rest upon us, His very nature meets us in our places of need.
So let’s speak this blessing over one another, putting God’s name on each other. Let’s invoke God’s heart, His blessing, His name, and His character over one another’s lives.
The Lord bless you
. . . so abundantly that it would cause the nations to kneel in awe.
And keep you
. . . guarded by His watchful eye and a protective hedge of thorns.
The Lord make His face to shine upon you
. . . with all the fullness of His Dayspring warmth and nurturing light.
And be gracious to you
. . . as He stoops low, mercifully extending His kindness to you.
The Lord lift up His countenance upon you
. . . a gaze brimming with love, favor, attention, and approval.
And give you peace
. . . that multi-faceted peace that permeates our lives with well-being.
~ Kathryn Kircher