The Face of Blessing

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” (Num. 6:24–26).

- Numbers 6:22-27

We have been looking this month at some of the metaphors for God that are revealed in the Old Testament and how they are fulfilled in the New Testament. Having spent some time looking at these characteristics of our covenant Lord, we will now devote some time to examining what it means to live in a way that pleases Him. In other words, we are going to be looking at what it means to live coram Deo — before the face of God — in a way that is pleasing to Him and conscious of His sovereign glory.

The various writers of Scripture often describe God using anthropomorphic language — language that speaks of God, metaphorically, as possessing a physical body and so forth. This language is used in many different ways, and this is no less true when the Bible makes reference to the face of God. Many times, the Bible talks about the Lord setting His face against someone or something in a way that means He has determined to destroy or judge it (Lev. 20:6; Jer. 21:10). Yet that is not what we are talking about when we speak of living before the face of God. Instead, living before the face of God means knowing and living in gratitude for His blessing.

No one can hide from the Creator (Ps. 139:7–8); thus, we are always before the face of God in some sense. Still, the Bible speaks of a special way of being before His face that means He has set His approval upon us. It is a horrible thing for the Lord to hide His face, for that means His awesome wrath is about to fall upon the disobedient (Deut. 31:16–18). On the other hand, the blessing of God shining His face upon us is an indescribable benefit and guarantees that His Spirit is working among us (Ezek. 39:29). When we imagine the beaming face of the proudest parent, we get but the barest glimpse of what it means for the divine face of blessing to shine upon us.

Aaron’s blessing is one of the most important benedictions in Scripture, and the fact that God’s face would be on His people as pronounced in this blessing demonstrates how the ancient Israelites prized the blessing and favor of their covenant Lord (Num. 6:22–27). This face of blessing shines upon all those who are faithful to His covenant, and if we walk in His ways, we can be assured of His pleasure, even when things seem to be falling apart around us (Ps. 24).

Coram Deo

It is impossible for us to be good enough to earn God’s pleasure; that is why faithfulness to His covenant means giving up our attempts to earn His favor and relying on Christ alone for salvation (Gal. 3:15–29). If we are truly in Christ, we will enjoy this divine face of approval forever. Though we may feel His discipline and it might seem as if He has turned from us, He only chastises us to keep us from falling away and never returning.

Passages for Further Study

Psalm 27
Hosea 5:15
2 Corinthians 4:6
Revelation 22:1–5

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