I am indebted for this mornings message especially to Jeff A. Benner, & Neihemiah Gordon, Hebrew scholars, for their insight & understanding of the Hebrew text. I referenced 2 other sources but as they only substantiated the 1st two I am fairly confident of a good understanding of our source text this morning.
Like many churches throughout the ages we often sing a version of Numbers 6:24-26 [RSV]: The LORD bless you and keep you: The LORD make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you: The LORD lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.
It is beautiful but it is a great deal more than pretty words. When I first looked at this teaching I was enchanted but figured it was one of those esoteric things that was interesting but not really pertinent. Then 2 things happened:
- The 1st was completely unexpected. For weeks this prayer began circulating in my thought life. I woke @ night with the words running through my mind. They were the first words that came into my mind in the morning. I found this prayer becoming a constant, subconscious stream throughout my day. Any time I stopped & paid attention the words The Lord bless you & keep you immediately rose to the surface. I figured I was being asked to pay attention.
The second thing arose out of a conversation KGV & I were having about Faith. This is a Faith church. We practice the Word by Faith. We pray the Word in Faith. We lay hands on the sick by Faith ~ but I don't often preach about Faith & there is a good reason for that, one I have understood but not articulated: Faith comes by hearing, & hearing by the word of God. Romans 10:17
You see our Faith is in God but it is limited by what we know of God, who we understand Him to be, so the more we know Him as He desires to be known the greater our Faith will become. While it may seem I teach on a wide variety of subjects, in reality I have only one goal in mind: that God be known, that we might make Him known.
When we come to Numbers 6:24 we come to one of the most amazing revelations in the entire bible. Here we find the only prayer that God Himself prayed & taught. We understand that what is known as The Lord's Prayer was not really a prayer. Rather it is an outline based on the Jewish Amidah & meant to be personalised, not rattled off in rote form.
But turn to Numbers 6:26. This is the Lord speaking: Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying "Speak to Aaron and to his sons, saying, 'Thus you shall bless the sons of Israel. You shall say to them:
Everything that follows is what God desires for His people but we immediately run into a problem with our English translation, beautiful though it may be. Many of the concepts expressed are abstract concepts in English: bless, keep, gracious, countenance, peace. Hebrew is a concrete language, rather than abstract, & so each of these words has a concrete meaning that would have been understood by the first hearers. In Greek thinking a blessing is just words but in Hebrew a blessing is actions because what we do is more important than what we think.
Before we begin looking at these concepts I want to consider another aspect of this blessing in the Hebrew because it is fun & I think God gets great pleasure from hiding these little snippets in scripture for us to find.
Firstly there are 3 lines in the original Hebrew. That is the number of the Trinity but watch how God multiplies His blessing in the original. There are 3 words in the 1st line in Hebrew, 6 in the second line, 9 in the 3rd line. There are 15 Hebrew letters in the 1st line, 20 in the 2nd, 25 in the 3rd. Each line begins with the Name of God, meaning, This God will do for you... Five is the number of Grace [God's unmerited favour]. Three & it's multiples represents completion, significance. We get 3 fives ...Grace multiplied... Keep that in mind.
As each line begins with the Name of God it then does something very specific. Every time the word you is used, it is used in the singular sense, not the plural. This is a very personal prayer. It is addressed to each person individually, not to corporate masses. With no changing of textual meaning you could insert your own name: The Lord bless Ganeida & Keep her... etc It is that personal. This is the Great I AM speaking very specific things into your life. This is His known & revealed will for you.
So what is God actually saying?
The 1st thing is the name. We have studied the Names of God so we should remember that name reveals character. In essence God is saying know my character, know who I am, take my character to the people & teach them. This, in effect, is what Jesus said in Matthew 28:19~20: "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." We cannot teach what we do not know so there is an onus on us to know God, know Him intimately, know Him not just as Lord & saviour but as a friend & a brother. We are not to falsely represent the Name of God.
Even today, when a Jewish priest blesses the people, he will lift his hands, palms downward, thumbs touching, the fingers of each hand split in two parts, to form the letter *shin*, an emblem for Shaddai ~ one of the names of God ~ & so His name rests over the people as they are blessed. You will see this when we watch Jonathon Cahn chant the blessing in Hebrew.
The Hebrew word for bless is barakh which means to kneel down, as in one who brings a gift. That might seem a little strange, the God of the universe kneeling down to bring us gifts but remember Jesus taught us to address God as Abba, father... so you have a picture of a Father kneeling down to present a gift to His beloved child. This does not turn God into some sort of puppet at our beck & call, rather it is a picture of James 1:17: Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.
The desire of God's heart is that we approach Him as beloved children whom He can shower with good gifts.
The next word is keep: shamar. It is derived from the root word for thorn & literally means to guard, to protect, & would have reminded the people of the thorn hedges shepherds erected to keep their flock safe @ night. Originally our English word *keep* would have had a similar meaning from the castle keeps.
Paniym is face, literally faces. It can mean presence, or the wholeness of a person. For us it invokes the idea of being completely filled with the presence of the Holy Spirit who reveals all of God to us.
Or, meaning to shine, conveys the idea of separating light from darkness & bringing order to chaos; enlightenment, illumination.
Hhanan, gracious. In Hebrew thinking it means *to provide protection*. Think Proverbs 18:10: The name of the LORD is a strong tower; The righteous runs into it and is safe. We are back to the Name.
Nasa: lift up. If we keep the flow of ideas we have the righteous running to the Lord, their strong tower, like a child running into the arms of a loving daddy & being scooped up & held safe.
Siym: to set something in place, to establish
& shalom, as we know, means to make whole or complete, nothing missing, nothing lost, nothing deficient, all that is needed.
And so we are actually praying very specifically that the God of the universe, the great I AM, cover us with His name as He kneels down to present us with the gifts of His protection, His presence, giving us illumination to bring order out of chaos & establish us so that we are whole & complete in Him. That is a very wonderful prayer. It is a very concrete thing to ask for. May it be so.