Numbers 6:22-23 - The Blessing of the Lord
Numbers 6:22-23 - The Blessing of the Lord
The Lord said to Moses, Tell Aaron and his sons, this is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them: The Lord bless you and keep you...Numbers 6:22, 23
Still today we hear the high priestly blessing from the pulpit – “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.” This was a rich blessing for the Israelites, for by it they were assured of God’s love and protection and care.
Although there are many riches in the content of this blessing, in this meditation I would like to draw your attention to the words that precede this blessing. The Lord said to Moses, “Tell Aaron and his sons, ‘This is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them...’.” That seems like a convoluted way for the blessing to come – the Lord told Moses to tell Aaron to tell the Israelites and only then comes the blessing. When God gave the law, then He spoke directly to his people from Mount Sinai. Why not also speak this rich and beautiful blessing directly to his beloved people? Why did God pass on the blessing in the way He did?
Firstly, the blessing had to come from Aaron and his sons, that is, the priests. Israel had to learn to receive this rich blessing from the officebearers God had given them. The priests also had to bring sacrifices for the sins of the people. They were the ministers of reconciliation between the holy God and his people. That the blessing had to come from the priests was a constant reminder that this blessing was completely undeserved, it was by grace alone.
In this way, God gave a foreshadow of the coming Messiah. God was preparing Israel to seek and find the fullness of blessing in the great High Priest, Jesus Christ. In Him is the fullness of the ministry of reconciliation – He made the one and only sacrifice for sins – and so in Him is also the fullness of blessing for his people. See then the riches in the last deed our Lord did as He departed from earth:
While He was blessing them, He left them and was taken up into heaven.Luke 24:51
This explains why the blessing came through the priests and not directly from God. But note that God did not speak directly to Aaron either, rather, He spoke to Moses. This additional link shows that the requirement to bless the people was part of the law. The phrase “And the Lord said to Moses” is used more often in the first five books of the Bible to underline that what follows is part of God’s revealed law. That God told Moses to tell the priests to bless Israel shows that the priests were required by law to bless the people of God. The decision to bless the people did not lie with the priests, so that the people had to grovel at their feet in the hope of receiving blessing from them. Rather, they were commanded by law to bless the people of God. It was their legal task, their obligation.
Consider in that light the work of our great High Priest, Jesus Christ. He was born under the law and was perfectly obedient to the requirements of the law. That is why as High Priest He blessed the people after his resurrection. That was no whim on his part, but part of his task as priest. And because He remains our faithful High Priest in heaven today, we know that his blessing on us is guaranteed – it is written in the law.
That is why the apostles could include blessings in their letters for God’s people. Grace to you and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. Blessings for God’s people. Why? Because they knew of the faithful High Priest, who continues to bless God’s people from heaven, in accordance with his task as revealed in the law of Moses.
The high-priestly blessing comes to you Sunday after Sunday. In its New Testament context, this blessing proclaims to you that God will preserve you in the fight against sin and Satan (“keep you”), that God is really interested in where you are at (“turn his face toward you”), that He will continue to be gracious to you, and give you true and lasting peace. And all that is really for us, as certainly as your faithful High Priest continues his work of blessing God’s people from heaven. It is written in the law and our heavenly High Priest is faithful.
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