“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.” Numbers 6:24-26
My favorite part of the worship service at the church of my youth was the end. Not because it was over, but because every single week the pastor would raise his hands and pronounce a powerful blessing over the congregation. Most of the time he would use the words of the Aaronic benediction found in Numbers 6:24-26. By the time I was a teenager I could recite this passage from memory. It was after college that I began to wonder what these words meant and why they are said at the end of almost every service.
I began to study and discovered something more than I had ever expected. God commanded Aaron to bless the Israelites using words they would all recognize from just after they had fled Egypt. God was giving Moses instructions to bring His people to the promised land and Moses wanted reassurance that God was leading the way. The Lord’s response to his request was “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” Ex. 33:14 The phrase “My Presence” can literally be translated as “My Face”. So, when God commanded Aaron to bless the Israelites using the words “face shine upon you” and “turn his face towards you” He was reminding His people that He was “present”. He was saying, “you are OK my children, I am here, I will keep you safe, I am present, you do not have to worry, have peace.”
Whenever I hear or read this passage from Numbers I substitute “My Presence” for “face”. I love the idea of the Lord’s face representing His presence. As He turns His face towards me I sense that He is present and that we are connected in relationship. I recently made a link between the power of the Lord’s presence or face to bring His children peace, and the power of a parent’s presence or face, to bring their child peace.
The “still face” experiment (see video above) is a demonstration of the power of presence to bring peace. When the mother is fully engaged and responsive to the child, the child is calm, playful, and feels safe. As the mother literally turns her face from the child, she becomes scared, confused, and upset. I can’t help but draw the parallels between how the Lord relates to us, and how we relate to our children. The Father promises, “My Presence” will go with you, and I will give you rest.” I can be confident that the Father is always with me protecting, loving, and connecting.
I am struck by the importance of my being present with my children when I am home. It is so tempting to check out after an exhausting day at work. To prop them in front of a tv show or video game, to read the paper, surf the net, or watch the game. It is important as parents to bless our children with our true, undivided presence. It is important to shut out all distractions whether external or internal to focus powerfully on our children. When we turn our faces towards them connecting our heart with theirs we have the power to bring them peace.