Lent Devotion for February 23
"The Lord said to Moses…"
Reader: “Tell Aaron and his sons…"
Response: "…to bless the people of Israel"
SCRIPTURE: Numbers 6:22–27
22 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.”
Reader: "This is the truthful word of the Lord.”
Response: “Thanks be to God.”
This passage of Scripture is one of the most familiar and loved passages in the Old Testament. It is known as the Aaronic blessing. It is God’s blessing to His people and is still used in Jewish and Christian worship today. Note that the name of God is invoked three times, “May the Lord…” The repetition of God’s name reminds us of the source of protection, grace, favor, and peace. Think of the situation the Israelites were in in the desert. They trusted God for protection from enemies, for health, food, water, and guidance. Aaron was the High Priest and his sons and members of his family also served as priests. They were held in esteem as they also served as judges, physicians, and teachers of the Law. The priest’s blessing brought great comfort. In looking at the text more specifically, you’ll note the first blessing has to do with health, wealth, and fertility. Blessing in the Old Testament was often evidenced in producing offspring. Protection was totally in God’s hands. The idea of God “smiling” on you, or as it is translated sometimes, turn His face toward you or make His face shine upon you is significant. For in ancient cultures, turning your face toward someone was read as giving approval and turning your face away was the opposite, giving your disapproval. Sometimes it is translated “may the light of His countenance be upon you.” All work toward the same end. God’s presence with His people in the desert was in the pillar of fire at night and cloud in the day. This blessing is an affirmation of God’s love for His people. Our God is a relational God.
In 1979, excavators recovered two small silver scrolls from a rock-cut tomb near the Old City of Jerusalem. They were dated from the late 600’s or early 500’s BC and contained words almost identical to this beautiful benediction of Aaron. (Note: New Living Translation Study Bible, p.259)
“The Lord Bless You and Keep You” by John Rutter (Watch on YouTube)
O everlasting God, let the light of Thine eternity now fall upon my passing days, O holy God, let the light of Thy perfect righteousness fall upon my sinful ways. O most merciful God, let the light of Thy love pierce to the most secret corners of my heart and overcome the darkness of sin within me. O gracious God, in Thy kindness let the light of Thy countenance bring me to confession and repentance, that I may recognize my deceitful heart. I live for Thy smile. Amen.
- John Baillie from A Diary of Private Prayer, p.99, adapted Dan Sharp