Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Mar 12 2019 - Numbers 6:22-27 – The priestly blessing

We spent three days in the Book of Leviticus; we shall now spend ten in the Book of Numbers. Numbers, as its name suggests, begins with all manner of statistics relating to the Israelites whom Moses was leading through the wilderness and towards the Promised Land. Much of the book is then a narrative of their wilderness wanderings. But the narrative is preceded by these wonderful words given to the priests for them to pronounce over the Israelites:

The LORD bless you and keep you;
the LORD make his face shine on you and be gracious to you;
the LORD turn his face towards you and give you peace.

The Lord concludes his words to Moses by saying, "So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them."

God joins himself so closely to his people that, like a husband with his bride, he puts his name on them; he is their God and they are his people. The priest does not have power to confer blessing; God is the one who has promised to bless his people and to make them a blessing – this is what God promised Abraham. The priest is to both pray for and pronounce the blessing of God upon his people.

Let's have a look at the elements of this blessing. It begins with prayer for God's blessing and protection; "The LORD bless you and keep you." The Israelites, as we have seen and shall see, are a people prone to rebel against God and to wander away from him. All too often they provoke him to anger and to judgment. But God longs to surround his people with his protective arms and to pour out his blessing upon them. God instructs the priest to pronounce these words which are an expression of his own heart of love towards his people.

This is then followed by, "the LORD make his face shine on you and be gracious to you." Here again are words of encouragement for a rebellious people. Their only hope is the grace of a forgiving God who, even when rejected and hurt by his people will look towards them with a smiling face rather than a frown.

"The LORD turn his face towards you and give you peace", again expresses God's desire not to turn away from his people but come to their aid. He is one who will not wage war on them despite their provocations but will give them peace.

The coming of the Lord Jesus Christ sweeps away the special priestly caste from among the people of God. Yet there is one who has been appointed as our Great High Priest. Jesus has entered heaven on our behalf and intercedes for us with the Father. He is the one in whom God has turned his face towards us, shown us the treasures of his grace and has owned us as his own. He is the source of all of our blessings and has promised to keep us safe until we are brought to be with him in glory. He is our peace who has broken down the wall of all that separated between us and God. These words therefore are words which Jesus himself pronounces over us.

And in Christ we are also made a priestly people. These are words that we can confidently pray over and for one another. Moreover, God has made us his own that we might mediate his blessings to a rebellious world. We can use these words in heartfelt prayer for God's blessings to flood and transform our needy world.

Holy God, we give you thanks that it is your purpose to bless your people, and through them bless this world which you have made. Thank you for the blessings of grace and peace that are ours in the Lord Jesus Christ. Even as he is faithful in praying for us, so may we be constant in praying for one another and for those who do not yet know you.

Peter Misselbrook