The Lord said to Moses, 23 “Tell Aaron and his sons, ‘This is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them:
24 “‘“The Lord bless you
and keep you;
25 the Lord make his face shine on you
and be gracious to you;
26 the Lord turn his face toward you
and give you peace.”’
27 “So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.” –Numbers 6:22-27
I’ve heard this blessing a thousand times, but I hadn’t paid much attention to the text around it. Probably because it’s usually all you hear. People say this as a blessing, “The Lord bless you and keep you…” but they don’t talk about why they say it. I mean, I always assumed that was just because, you know, it’s a nice thing to say. It’s pretty. It has nice sentiment. And all those things are true, but there’s more to it than that.
It’s not just a nice blessing to say to someone. It’s not like telling someone to “Have a Merry Christmas!” or “Happy New Year!” It’s so much more. It’s even more than telling someone “God bless you,” although that is nearer to it.
- It’s a command. It’s not something we say say because we like it, it’s something God told the leaders of Israel to say to and over the people of Israel.
- It’s more than well-wishing, it’s a blessing. It’s a blessing God told the priests of Israel to speak over, to give to the people of Israel.
- Along those lines, because it is a blessing that we give to others, that makes it a gift. Don’t you just love that God has given us something that we can give to others, that will cost us nothing other than a little faithfulness?! It’s like when you were little and your dad gave you some money so you could buy your mom a birthday gift. It cost you nothing, but you had the joy of giving it… and it pleased your daddy (because he was part giver in that, too) and your mommy (cause she got to receive something from both of you).
- It is a stamp, a mark—the mark of Jesus. This is perhaps my favorite part about this. We get to mark people with Jesus’ name, and it has nothing to do with whether or not they are seeking Jesus at the time. It was the priest’s job to intercede for their people and to stamp them with the name of Jesus. (And we, as Christians, are a royal priesthood. And God puts people on hearts that He wants us to speak this blessing over, that we might put the name of Jesus on them so that He will bless them. How awesome is that?!)
- Finally, it is a promise. When we put God’s name on someone’s head, God promises that He will bless them. I think of Samson whose parents gave Him to Jesus. They put the name of Jesus on him, and Jesus blessed him with strength and success…even in his rebellion and sin. And ultimately, Jesus blessed him with a return to Himself. None of this was really Samson’s doing. It occurred before he was old enough to choose. His parents gave him to the Lord. They prayed for God’s blessing over him. They marked him with the name of Jesus. And Jesus was faithful to bless what was marked with His name. Samson was simply rebellious for most of that, receiving the blessings of God anyway, because God is faithful to His own.
I always liked this blessing before, but now I see it as a sacred thing of great power for good. It’s something I’m more serious about giving to other people as God commanded me to do—not only out of obedience, but also out of great desire to see my friends who may not know Jesus come to know Him. What better way than to mark them with the name of Jesus and to give them the gift of God’s blessings?