In Numbers 6:24-26, we find the blessing that God commanded Aaron to speak over the Israelites. This is how it goes:
The Lord bless you
and keep you;
the Lord make his face shine upon you
and be gracious to you;
the Lord turn his face toward you
and give you peace.
What a beautiful blessing, and actually, within these few verses there is a lot of theology. Let me try and unpack some of it, so that we might more deeply understand the nature of this blessing.
The Lord bless you and keep you – God is able to make our life good, to satisfy us and protect us from harm
The Lord make his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you – God is kindly disposed towards us, and his very essence of grace is communicated to us
The Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace – God is responsive to us, he notices us, and he is able to calm our troubled hearts.
I know this last one from personal experience. It is in our nature to be somewhat anxious in the face of uncertainty and stress. On the stress chart, I’ve racked up quite a few points recently. Changing job and changing house are somewhat stressful, even if positive moves.
The most meaningful experience I have had of God’s gift of peace was at the time my father was dying of pancreatic cancer in 2002. I had flown home from California, shortly after the diagnosis which was that he had a few weeks to live at best. As I was trying to sleep, my mind kept being flooded with the thought, “My dad is dying in the room next to me” and I was unable to sleep. Finally I rolled out of bed onto my knees, and called out to God, with something like these words: God, I can’t carry this. The burden is too heavy. Please give me your peace.
And He did. My heart was comforted and my anxiety drastically reduced as I felt God confirming what I already knew: that he knew my Dad, and that my dad was one of his. My dad had undergone a dramatic conversion over 10 years earlier when, in a jail cell, recovering from a drinking binge (he was an alcoholic then) he had a vision of Jesus reaching his hand out to him, and he had grasped Jesus’ hand. From that point on he was a changed man, and he never drank alcohol again. I knew that Jesus was real to him.
So, I got back into bed, and was able to sleep and experience the truth of this verse from Philippians 4:6-7:
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
God knows us. He is responsive to us. He is willing to give us deep peace, if only we would ask.
Wishing this experience of peace for you today. May the Lord turn his face toward you, and give you his peace.