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 toward you and give you peace. – Numbers 6:24-26
Blessings and benedictions are common throughout the world and come in many different forms.
We often encourage others in their goals and offer short greetings to those we meet. We wish others peace and prosperity and ask God to protect those we love. We bless people when they sneeze and hear people (even those who have no interest in God) use the phrase, “God Bless You” in their daily lives.
Pastors and preachers frequently end their sermons with some sort of benediction, and we traditionally conclude our letters and messages with some sort of final blessing or salutation.
Most blessings are simple sayings that communicate kindness and goodwill to those they are directed towards. In the Bible, however, we learn that God’s blessings carry far more spiritual significance than just a casual greeting or obligatory saying.
God’s blessings are filled with His favor, His promises, His power, and His presence. And we see in Scripture that God loves to bless His people. There is enormous power in the blessings of God. In fact, in the Old Testament, God provided instructions for how his priests were to bless the nation of Israel.
Today, those instructions provide an incredible template for how we should bless others and an explanation of why God’s blessings are so powerful even still.
What Does ‘May the Lord Bless You and Keep You’ Mean?
Here, we find God’s heart for His people on full display.
In the words of Aaron, who led the priests and Levites, the nature of God’s blessing to every person was revealed.
“The Lord bless you and keep you.” (Numbers 6:24)
It’s clear from these words and the countless examples provided in the Old Testament, that God would never abandon His people nor break covenant with them, even if they walked out on Him or betrayed their end of the bargain.
As the prophet Isaiah wrote, “I (the Lord) have put my words in your mouth and covered you with the shadow of my hand— I who set the heavens in place, who laid the foundations of the earth, and who say to Zion, ‘You are my people.’” (Isaiah 51:16)
“I (the Lord) will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the Lord your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.” (Exodus 6:7)
This was the nature of the covenant God had made. They were His people and He was their God. He would “keep” them in the shadow of His wings and never let go. No matter what (Psalms 17:8).
The blessing continues:
“The Lord make His face shine on you, and be gracious to you. The Lord lift up His countenance on you, and give you peace.” (Numbers 6:25-26)
According to Matthew Henry, this blessing communicates the heart of God in its promise to protect His people from evil (2 Thessalonians 3:3), pardon them from their sin (Micah 7:18), and provide peace in the midst of chaos (Philippians 4:7).
As the sun shines upon the earth, so God’s face would shine on His people to enlighten, comfort, and renew them. Likewise, the Lord would lift “His countenance” on His people as a father looks upon his children or we are inclined to greet a friend we’re glad to see.
The bottom line is, God delights in His people and takes pleasure in their presence and well-being.