24 The Lord bless you and keep you;
25 the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
26 the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace. – Numbers 6:22-27
The second line of the blessing says, “The Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you” (v. 25). I’m going to skip over the first part for now and come back to it. But the second part of this second line is a request that the Lord be gracious to us. Grace is God’s unmerited, free love that does good things for us we do not deserve. You cannot earn grace because once it is earned it is no longer grace. Grace is free and as sinful creatures we don’t deserve anything good from our Creator. Imagine a kingdom with rebels seeking to the overthrow the king. If in the midst of their war preparations and attack on his throne the king feeds and clothes them and promises them clemency if they renounce their rebellion, that is grace. They don’t deserve to be fed. They don’t deserve to be clothed and they certainly don’t deserve clemency. But the king gives it because he is gracious. In this blessing we are seeking God’s grace – that he would do good things for us we do not deserve.
The third line says, “The Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace” (v. 26). Again I will skip the first part and come back it to it. The final request of the blessing is for the peace of God. This is peace with others – freedom from war and conflict. This is peace with ourselves – freedom from anxiety, worry and guilt. And it is peace with God – freedom from wrath and the privilege of being sons and daughters of the King.
Now let’s come back to the first part of verses 25 and 26. “The Lord make his face to shine upon you” and “The Lord lift up his countenance upon you.” I pair these together because the word for “countenance” and “face” is the same word. So it literally reads, “The Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you. The Lord lift up his face upon you and give you peace.” So what does it mean for God to make his face shine upon us? And what does it mean for him to lift up his face upon us?
God shining his face upon us is connected to salvation. “Make your face shine on your servant; save me in your steadfast love” (Psalm 31:16). “Restore us, O God; let your face shine, that we may be saved” (Psalm 80:3, also v. 7, 19). God’s shining face brings salvation because it means that we see the glory of God: the goodness of God, the grace of God, the mercy of God and the love of God.
Verse 26 isn’t very different than verse 25. Instead of making his face shine, it requests God to lift up his face upon us. They almost mean the same thing and there is much overlap. But in this case we are not merely asking to see the glory of God’s face, which will save us, we are asking that his face be turned toward us in such a way that we would feel his pleasure. This is more than God saving us; it is God taking pleasure in us, enjoying us.
We can see this sense of God being pleased with us when we see that for God to hide his face means that he is angry. “Then my anger will be kindled against them in that day, and I will forsake them and hide my face from them, and they will be devoured. And many evils and troubles will come upon them, so that they will say in that day, ‘Have not these evils come upon us because our God is not among us?’ And I will surely hide my face in that day because of all the evil that they have done, because they have turned to other gods” (Deut 31:17-18). When God lifts up the light of his countenance, that is, his face, upon us it shows that he is not angry with us, but is pleased. He is looking on us for our good.
God wants to bless you. He wants to keep you. He wants to make his face to shine upon you. He wants to be gracious to you. He wants to lift up his countenance upon you. And he wants to give you peace. Look at verse 27, “So shall they put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them.” By blessing the Israelites, the priests were putting the name of the Lord upon the people of Israel.
The name of God symbolizes the whole of who God is. And by putting his name upon the people, he is declaring that these people belong to him. They are his. We see the culmination of this in Revelation 22:1-5.
1 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. 3 No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. 4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5 And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.