THE LORD BLESS YOU AND KEEP YOU Part 1 of 2
by John Lowe
Title: THE LORD BLESS YOU AND KEEP YOU
Text: “The LORD bless you and keep you.” (Numbers 6:24)
Call to Worship:
Behold, bless the LORD, all you servants of the LORD...Lift up your hands in the sanctuary, and bless the LORD (Ps.134:1–2).
At the beginning of the twentieth century, we didn’t have any ancient copies of the Hebrew Scriptures. The oldest existing copy dated back to about A.D.1000.The critics of God’s Word, therefore, questioned the accuracy of the translation of the Bible. But, in 1949, the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered, pushing back the date of our oldest existing Hebrew Scriptures by 1,000 years. When these Scrolls were compared to more recent translations, the translations proved to be very accurate. Then, in 1979, an even older fragment of a biblical text was discovered by Dr. Judith M. Hadley of Villanova University in a burial cave in Jerusalem’s Hinnom Valley. Two tiny silver scrolls were found. It took several years for Israeli scientists to clean and unroll them, but when they did, they found the oldest known fragment of Scripture, dating back to the time of David, Israel’s second king. Inscribed on those scrolls, which are now in the Israeli Museum in Jerusalem, is our text for today, which has been given the name—the Aaronic Blessing. Aaron was the one who announced it to the people, and that is how the Aaronic Blessing got its name.
Let’s begin the year on a positive note, with a timely blessing and a timeless benediction. Numbers 6 gives various instructions to Israel’s priests. In verses 22–27, they are told how to bless their people. We call this the Priestly Blessing, or the Aaronic Blessing or Benediction. Aaron, Israel’s chief priest was to pronounce it on ancient Israel. But in a special way, it’s for you and me at the beginning of this New Year. Let me read these verses to you; Numbers 6:22-27.
22 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying:
23 “Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, ‘This is the way you shall bless the children of Israel. Say to them:
24 “The Lord bless you and keep you;
25 The Lord make His face shine upon you, And be gracious to you;
26 The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, And give you peace.” ’
27 “So they shall put My name on the children of Israel, and I will bless them.”
This is first of all—A BLESSING IN TRIPLICATE.
Notice the threefold use of God’s name: The Lord...the Lord...the Lord... This represented the fullness of God’s blessing. He was blessing and blessing and blessing again. It reminds us of the threefold angelic song in Isaiah 6: “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty.” The triple use of the word intensifies the reality of what the Lord is saying. As Ecclesiastes puts it: “A three-fold cord is not quickly broken.”
But there may be a greater significance to this triune pronouncement. The Israelites didn’t understand the doctrine of the Trinity as we do, but the Book of Numbers wasn’t written just for them. These passages were written for God’s people of all ages. They were written for you and for me. You and I actually know more about the Trinity than they did, because we have the advantage of several thousand years of history. We can look back in time at the Cross, and we have the New Testament.
We can look through the lens of fulfilled prophecy, and the revelation of Jesus Christ; we know the result of the Cross. It seems natural for us to understand that the three-fold blessing of Numbers 6 suggests the Trinity.
Compare this blessing with the Apostle Paul’s Benediction found in 2 Corinthians 13:14. “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. He concluded this letter with a benediction where he not only invokes the fullness of God’s blessings on behalf of the Corinthian believers, but also in passing, provides one of the clearest expressions in the New Testament on the doctrine of the Trinity. The deity of the Son, of the Father, and of the Holy Spirit are acknowledged by virtue of their relation to one another. The unique personality of each is implied by the independent activity referred to in the threefold operation of grace, love, and communion. Paul’s benediction sounds very much like Aaron’s Blessing. And, you know something, I think that Paul must have been a Southerner, since he used the phrase “you all.” Some feel that the Aaronic Blessing should be read with the Trinity in mind: God the Father bless you and keep you. God the Son make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you. God the Spirit lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace.
This then is a blessing in triplicate, and it is also a—A BLESSING FROM CHRIST.
While the blessings are from the Triune God, the Blesser Himself is the Lord Jesus. This was a priestly blessing, given by Aaron to the people of Israel in his capacity as the high priest of Israel, representing God. According to Hebrews 5, Aaron was a foreshadowing of Christ, our Great High Priest.
Our Lord’s last act of ministry before returning to heaven was to bless His followers. This blessing is found in Luke 24:50–51.
50 And He led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them.
51 Now it came to pass, while He blessed them, that He was parted from them and carried up into heaven.
His nail-pierced hand is lifted over the heads of His children in continual blessing, even today. The ascension of Christ occurred near Bethany, on the eastern side of the Mount of Olives. He ascended in His physical bodily form, and Acts 1:11 assures us that “this same Jesus which is taken up from you into heaven shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.”
Christ’s return will not be in a secret spiritual form as some cults want us to believe, but He will return bodily. Christ had a blessing to give His disciples and they worshiped him. Jesus is entitled to our worship, because He is Almighty God, the eternal, omnipotent Creator of the universe.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ begins by angels announcing good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people, and it ends with disciples who are filled with great joy watching the Lord ascending up to heaven. Just like those of old, we should be ready to carry this joy to others all around us. Let us imitate our Lord, who “came to seek and to save that which was lost” (Lk 19:10). There is no reason to be silent! When we experience joyful worship, we will have little problem giving the world a joyful witness.
Notice that “He lifted up his hands, and blessed them.” He did not go away in unhappiness, but in love. He left a blessing behind him; he lifted up his hands, as the high priest did when he blessed the people of Israel. He blessed them as Jacob blessed his sons. Jesus blessed His disciples as one having authority, announcing the blessing which He had purchased with His own blood.
There is yet another quality to this blessing; it is—A BLESSING WITH AUTHORITY.
It is the Lord Jesus Christ who pronounces on His children the richest gifts of God. He constantly holds His nail-scarred hands over our heads saying, “The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you. The Lord lift up His countenance upon You and give you peace.”
If we could realize that, what a difference it would make every day. That’s why we say, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.” That’s why we say, “This is the day the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it.” Christ conveys this blessing to us with authority. This wasn’t just an expression of goodwill or a simple prayer.
In Old Testament times, Aaron, endued with the authority of Almighty God and using the Divine Name and the appointed words of God Himself, conveyed God’s blessings on the congregation.
It was a blessing in triplicate, a blessing from Christ, it was given with authority, and it was also—A BLESSING ACCORDING TO OUR NEEDS.
I can say that, because the SIX COMPONENTS of this blessing correspond to our needs: