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The Blessing

Artprize portrait of “the nations”

I’ve mentioned before how puzzled (and intrigued) I am with “The Blessing” God gave Aaron and his sons to pray over the nation of Israel.

Seemingly out of nowhere— for chosen ones who fall so short of their calling, God gives the priests of Israel a way of mediating divine favor and generosity with the words,

The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.”’ “So they will put my name on the Israelites, (says the Lord) and I will bless them.” (Numbers 6:24-27)

Lately I’ve been finding echoes of this blessing. For example, Psalm 67 rewords the Aaronic blessing into a desire and a prayer: “May God be merciful and bless us. May his face smile with favor on us.

This time, however, the thought seems to flow through the Jewish songwriter into something far more than a nationalistic longing. This time the blessing sounds even more gracious, generous, and expansive. This time the songwriter actually says,

May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine on us— so that your ways may be known on earth, your salvation among all nations.”

Repeatedly, the lyrics of this ancient song go on to reach out so benevolently far beyond the borders of the sons and daughters of Jacob. This time the desire and prayer for blessing reach out to “people of the whole world” (v 4); “all the nations” (v5); “so that God will richly bless us…and so people all over the world will fear (reverently trust) him (v7).

Seems, at the very least, to be a reminder that the One who wants us to think of him as our God and our Father has a heart to love and to bless far more than us, our family, our group, and our nation.

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