Hi, this is Bill Vanderbush. I am the Pastor of Community Presbyterian Church in Celebration, Florida. There are three prayers in the Bible that God himself actually wrote. Two of them are in Jesus. John chapter 17 is the high priestly prayer. Of course, Matthew chapter 6 is the Lord’s Prayer. That is one we asked Him for and He gave it to us. The one in the Old Testament that I want to point out to you today is in Numbers 6. In our church, and I don’t know if it is a tradition in yours or not, but at the end of every service, we finish with the benediction. The benediction goes like this, “May the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you. May He lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace.”
The benediction is actually in the Bible, starting in Numbers 6:22. It is called the Aaronic Benediction. God came to Moses and Aaron and He said, “I want my priests to ask me to do something for my people.” I want to break down, here, what God is asking us to ask Him to do for other people. The first part is “the Lord bless you.” The word “bless,” here, literally means to bend low and make yourself available to someone. As if a child came up and tugged you by your shirt and as a good father, you bent down on their level to make sure they know they have your full attention. This is the first thing that God asks us to ask Him to do. To bless you.
The second is “to keep you.” The word “keep” is the same word that God told Adam in the garden to keep the garden, to guard it. We are asking God to, “Take responsibility for the possessions of my friends, their life, their family, their well-being.” “The Lord bless you to keep you and cause His face to shine upon you.” Have you ever been loved so much that when you walk into a room somebody’s face lights up? Or maybe you’ve loved somebody that way. What we are doing here is we are asking God, “I want your face to light up when my friends walk in the room. To cause our face to shine upon you.”
The next one is “to be gracious to you”. There is no place in the Old Testament where somebody asked God for grace where He didn’t give it in some measure. He is always willing to give grace to anybody who asks. Oftentimes we don’t see a whole lot of grace released in the Old Testament. I would like to suggest to you that maybe it is because the priests in that day weren’t actually releasing the grace that God told them to release in Numbers chapter 6. What people were releasing over each other was a lot of judgment, a lot of vengeance. That is what you end up seeing. Jesus has to come and clear up our misconceptions about who the Father is and give us permission once again to release His grace.
The next part is “to lift His countenance towards us.” When we shift our countenance it means we shift our perspective. We are seeing things better than we saw them before. Psalm 24, “Lift up your heads, O you gates. Be lifted up you everlasting doors. The King of glory comes in strong and mighty on your behalf.” In the New Testament Jesus said, “Lift up your eyes and look to the fields. They are already ripe unto harvest. Everybody is able, right now, to receive the gospel.” Shifting our perspective is to think better about something than we did before. We are asking God, “Shift your perspective over these people, over my friends, over the people that I love.”
The last part is “and give you peace.” The word “peace” is the word “shalom.” It is the most pregnant word in any language. It means “the complete wholeness of Heaven is manifest upon a person’s life.” My favorite part about the Aaronic benediction is the last part where God says to the priest there, He says, “And so in doing this, you will invoke my name upon my children.” To invoke is to impart. Name is identity. God is saying, “When you pray this, you will impart my identity upon my sons and daughters.”
You say, “I am not a priest, I am not a pastor.” According to the New Testament, you are. As a matter of fact, in Revelation 5 it says, “God has made us priests and kings unto Him.” I pray this week you will see this benediction differently than you have ever seen it before. It will carry more weight, more power, and have more effect and authority in your life. Amen.