Read: Numbers 6:22-27

Recently, my heart has been captivated once again by these powerful words of blessing God gave to speak over His people.  A new musical setting was recently written for this passage—perhaps you’ve heard it:

 In many places around the globe, Christians from different churches have joined together to sing this song as a way of blessing their nations and demonstrating unity in the face of the COVID19 epidemic.  Believers from every corner of the earth are invoking this ancient blessing.  Here’s a version from Malaysia:

And what a rich blessing it is!  Each of its three couplets carries a unique expression of God’s desire to benefit His people.  Let’s start with the first pair: “The Lord bless you and keep you.”

“Bless”  

We throw this word around with good intentions, expressing our hope that others will experience good things.  But what does it really mean?

The Hebrew word here is בָּרַךְ (baw-rak’), which literally means “to kneel.”  At first that doesn’t seem too helpful, but if you ponder that image awhile, it paints a vivid picture.  We can “kneel” as we give and receive benefits, to and from God and others.  Our kneeling—whether it’s literal or simply in our hearts—acknowledges that whatever benefits are being bestowed all ultimately come from one source: God’s hand.

And those benefits come in myriad shapes and sizes.  בָּרַךְ (baw-rak’) is used 330 times in the Bible and it includes things like:

  • Protection from our own foolishness (1 Samuel 25:32-34)
  • Strength and peace (Psalm 29:11)
  • Fruitfulness (Genesis 1:28)
  • Success in the work of our hands (Deuteronomy 2:7)
  • Health and forgiveness (Psalm 103:1-2)

There’s much more, but you get the idea.  And why does God bless us?  Psalm 67:1-2 says it makes His saving power known among all nations.  In other words, when God blesses us, it causes others to kneel.  No wonder the root meaning of “bless” is “kneel”!

Why don’t you take a moment right now to pause and kneel in gratitude for some of the specific ways you’ve experienced God’s blessing?

“Keep”

Here’s another Hebrew word that paints a vivid picture: שָׁמַר (shaw-mar’) carries the idea of guarding and protecting by creating a hedge of thorns.  

But similar to the word for “blessing,” there are many facets to the meaning of this Hebrew word.  It’s used 440 times in the Bible, but let’s look at just a handful of the ways that God’s hedge of protection might be expressed:  

  • He keeps His covenant with us (Nehemiah 1:5)
  • His care preserves our spirits (Job 10:11)
  • He keeps us as the apple of His eye (Psalm 17:8) 
  • He protects and delivers us in times of trouble (Psalm 41:1-2)
  • He preserves us in all of our coming and going (Psalm 121:8)

What are some of the specific ways the Lord has “kept” you?  Take a moment right now to remember and savor these times of blessing.

~ Kathryn Kircher

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