LIGHTING THE CANDLE
Thus, you shall bless the Israelites: You shall say to them, “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.” So they shall put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.
“I miss seeing your face!” How often I have said those words during the long weeks and months of pandemic. While wearing a mask has been helpful for remediation, it has been sad not to see faces. I miss the smiles and expressions! The experience of seeing masked faces gives me new appreciation for the words of benediction in today’s scripture: “the LORD make his face to shine upon you…the Lord lift up his countenance upon you…”
For the ancient Hebrews, to ‘make one’s face shine’ was idiomatic for smiling at someone (Job 29:24; Psalm 104:15). And it was that smile, that lifting up of the countenance, which would bring light to someone’s life. Thus, the psalmist prays for the Lord to smile and shine on him, and by that, to bless him: “May God be gracious to us and bless us, and make his face to shine upon us” (Psalm 67:1). Yet again, the psalmist pleads, “Let your face shine upon your servant; save me in your steadfast love” (Psalm 31:16). In the book of Proverbs we see that for a king to smile on someone would mean the greatest blessing: “In the light of a king’s face there is life” (Proverbs 16:15).
In today’s beautiful blessing, often pronounced in churches, we see that it is God’s purpose to smile on us and to bless us. For us to know that God does smile upon us is to know His will to bless us and to give light to our lives.
Note that the prophet Malachi closes out the Old Testament with God’s promise to shine on us the light of Jesus: “the sun of righteousness shall rise, with healing in its wings” (Malachi 4:2). Jesus is “the true light, which enlightens everyone” (John 1:9).
In the culminating book of the Bible, the Revelation of Jesus Christ, the apostle John experiences the blaze of Jesus’ light: “his face was like the sun shining in full force” (Revelation 1:16). So we shall see God “face to face” in the full light of His grace (1 Corinthians 13:12)! There will be no more night, for the Lord will be our light, and we shall reign forever and ever with Him (Revelation 22:5). It is God’s desire to smile upon you, and to bless you, and to keep you so that you reflect His light, even in dark times.
PALMS DOWN/PALMS UP
Oh Lord, fill us with the joy and confidence that comes from knowing your purpose to bless us and keep us. Help us to expect to be blessed, not because we have earned it, but because of Jesus. Fill us with delight in knowing that one day we shall see you face-to-face and forever live in the light of your smile. Amen.