Let’s unpack the blessing found in Number 6:22-27.
This blessing is directed to the people of God – Israel. The ironic thing about the blessing being on Israel is that Israel are those who strive with God and prevail. Israel was Jacob, who wrestled with God and what did he ask for before he would let the heavenly being go? He asked for a blessing (Gen 32:26). How ironic is it that God blesses those who can be so resistent to him? At this point they may not have made that connection but I think it is still a thought provoking point, that though we wrestle and strive with God, he is still willing to give us a blessing.
The structure of this blessing is a progession. In Hebrew the first line has 3 words, the second line 5 words, and the third line 7 words.
Line 1 – “The Lord bless you and keep you.”
We tend to think that blessing is all about benefits. That is not the primary way that blessing was thought of in their day. Blessing was about a relationship. The benefits are only the result but are not primarily important. The relationship is primary. The Lord not only blesses them but he also keeps them. This term has to do with keeping watch over his people and preserving them from danger. So not only do we have a special and favorable relationship with God that results in numerous benefits but God is also preserving from harm and destruction. This shows that being blessed by God fills us up with the good and keeps away the bad and it is entirely based on a relationship that we have with him as his people, Israel. That is all couched in a relationship.
Line 2 – “The Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you.”
This is an expression of intense favor. When the Lord in all his glory reveals himself to his people, not only is the relationship that initiates the blessing upheld, but his people are looked upon with favor. The word for grace here has the same etymology as the name “Hannah.” Naming your daughter Hannah in the OT was the same as naming her “Grace” today. Grace is the favor of God. There is that hymn about how God loves us and it has the line, “Grace and favor. Grace and favor.” That really like saying, “Grace and grace. Grace and grace.”
Line 3 – “The Lord lifts up his face upon you and give you peace.”
There is a repetition here of the face of God. When the Lord lifts up his face toward you it is a sign of divine favor/grace and when he withdraws his face it is a sign of divine disfavor (Deut 31:18, Psalm 30:8, 44:25, 104:29). Not only that but God will give us peace/shalom. That is not just absence of war but wholeness in all areas of life.
6:27 – “So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.
To receive the name of the Lord as his people is to be blessed. It is to be identified as his special possession. We have come full circle because like we said at the very beginning the primary focus of blessing is relationship and not abundance of possessions. When we pray and thank God for all our blessings we normally mean our homes, our cars, our things. They were thankful primarily for the blessing of having a relationship with God and bearing his name first and foremost. The rest are all secondary.
In the broader context of Numbers 5-7, the blessing is the basis of purity and why the people will hold to the covenant demands made on their lives. These three lines provide the blessing of God and his commitment and obligation to make good on his side of the covenant. God is committed to watching over his people, to show us favor, and to give us wholeness in all areas of life. We are committed to living lives of purity because we are in a relationship with God. Let us thank God “for blessing us” in our prayers with a whole new understanding of what that really means.