“The LORD bless thee, and keep thee:
The LORD make His face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee
The LORD lift up His countenance upon thee, and give thee peace”
(Numbers 6: 24-26)
It is a common practice in our Bible-Presbyterian churches to sing “The Lord bless you and keep you” at the end of a worship service. Ministers often also dismiss their congregations by pronouncing the above Aaronic blessing.
We note that the name, “LORD” or “JEHOVAH” is repeated three times in the benediction. Some commentators believe that this expresses the great mystery of the Trinity and the respective offices of the Father, to “bless thee, and keep thee”; of the Son, to be “gracious unto thee”; and of the Holy Spirit, to “give thee peace.”
o The LORD – Our Covenant-keeping God
God had promised under the Abrahamic Covenant that in Christ the Messiah, all who believe in Him would be blessed. This truth is reiterated by the apostle Paul in his epistle to the Galatians: “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Gal. 3: 26-29).
“Abraham believed in that Messiah, and was distinguished for his faith in Him Who was to come. If they believed in Christ, therefore, they showed that they were the spiritual descendants of Abraham. No matter whether they were Jews or Gentiles – whether they had been circumcised or not – they had the same spirit which he evinced, and were interested in the promises made to him. … All are on a level; and all are alike the children of God, and in the same manner, and on the same terms that Abraham was” (Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible).
Let us look at the blessings of the Lord in the above benediction:
o “The LORD bless thee, and keep thee” (v 24)
Here the Lord promises to bless us and to keep us from sin and all evil. The word “keep” in the original is to “hedge about (as with thorns), guard, generally to protect” (Strong’s Hebrew Dictionary). When the Lord keeps us, no one can prevail against us: “What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Rom. 8: 31). We thank God that in Him alone, we can rest safe and secure.
“The Lord keeps them by His power, He preserves them by His grace, He holds them with His right hand; guides them by His counsel, keeps their feet from falling, and brings them safe to glory” (John Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible).
o “The LORD make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee” (v 25)
In this second verse of the benediction, the Lord looks upon us with delight and blesses us with His gracious favour which includes, among other things – “the manifestations of Himself, communion with Him, clearer discoveries of His love, of interest in Him, and an increase of spiritual light and knowledge of His Gospel, and the truths of it, and of His mind and will” (ibid). Just like the sun that shines upon the earth to brighten, warm and renew the face of it, the Lord cheers us with His sweet favour and providential care.
o “The LORD lift up His countenance upon thee, and give thee peace” (v 26)
In this verse, we see the Lord’s delight in His children, and desire to do them good. He promises to give us peace that nothing earthly can disturb. David the psalmist experienced this peace even though he was surrounded by fear on every side. He could sleep soundly because he believed that God would keep him safe: “I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, LORD, only makest me dwell in safety” (Ps. 4: 8).
Are we troubled or anxious? Are we overwhelmed by life’s trials? Let us commit our cares to God. He promises us His peace “which passeth all understanding”: “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. 7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philp. 4: 6-7).
The Lord delights to bestow His favour upon His people. When we next sing, “The Lord bless you and keep you”, let us direct our minds to His lovingkindness and grace. Let us thank God for our Saviour Who shed His precious blood on Calvary’s cross to save us. Now as “the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus”, we are able to enjoy the blessings of the Abrahamic covenant (Gal. 3: 26). Let us appreciate God’s rich gifts and tender mercies. May we respond by loving the Lord and doing His will. Amen.