So they shall put My name on the Israelites, and I will bless them."
blessing of the people has less consideration bestowed upon it than any other of the stated ordinances of Divine service. It is seldom made the subject of discourse from the pulpit; divines seldom treat of it in their books; there is reason to fear that it seldom gets its due place in the minds and hearts of the people. The Benediction occurs in Scripture in several forms. Of these, two are in most frequent use in our Churches: the "Apostolic benediction" in 2 Corinthians 13:14, and the "Aaronic benediction" in the text. Properly these are not two benedictions, but only two forms of one and the same. The benefits expressed are, in substance, the same. The principal difference is that the thrice-holy Name, and the benefits of God's salvation, are declared more plainly and articulately in the later than they could well be in the earlier form. There is nothing expressed in the apostolic benediction which was not implied in the Aaronic. "What mean ye by this service?" When our children ask this question, what are we to reply?
I. IT IS A PROCLAMATION OF THE NAME OF GOD. In blessing the people Aaron was to "put the name of the Lord upon the children of Israel" (verse 27), thus constituting them his witnesses. Compare Micah 4:5. This design is plain in the case of the apostolic form. Every time that form is used in the Church, it is as much as to say, Let all men know that the Name called upon in this place is the name of the Father Almighty, and of Jesus Christ his only-begotten Son, and of the Holy Ghost. The older form fulfilled the same purpose for the older time. There lurked in it a suggestion of the Trinity, to be brought to light in due time; and for the time then present, it loudly proclaimed at once the Unity and the personality of God - a proclamation sorely needing to be repeated in our time also. There is a philosophy walking abroad, which invites us to substitute for the living God, whose name is Love, an impersonal "tendency that makes for righteousness." It is the old Pagan substitution of nature for God. In opposition to it and to all similar error, the Aaronic benediction is a standing witness, that the God in whom all things live and move and subsist, is the LORD, a personal God, who can think upon us, and be gracious to us.
II. A DECLARATION OF THE BENEFITS GOD HAS LAID UP FOR THEM THAT SEEK HIM. If you would understand its true intention, you must bear in mind that the benediction is not spoken to men indiscriminately. It is for the Israel of God; for those on whom Christ's name is called, and who walk in his name. It is a solemn and authoritative declaration of the relation which subsists between him and them; and of the benefits flowing therefrom.
1. "The Lord bless thee, and keep thee," q.d. The Lord is the keeper of Israel. He will care for thee. He will keep thy land and thine house; he will preserve thy going out and coming in, and will guard thy life; he will keep thy soul. He will deliver thy soul from death, thy feet from falling, thine eyes from tears. Compare Psalm 121, where the Church, opening its heart and drinking in the benediction, turns it into a song, "Jehovah Shomer."
2. "The Lord make his face shine upon thee and be gracious unto thee;" q.d. There is grace in God's heart for thee. He has given proof of this times without number. To many a man stained with sin and utterly cast down, be has said, Live; has taken him by the hand, and brought him near, and made him glad with his loving countenance. The best commentary on this, also, is to be found in the Psalms. A glance at the references in the margin will show that the benediction - and especially this particular member of it - was welcomed in many hearts in Israel, and was responded to with peculiar ardour. From it the Church borrows the refrain of the eightieth psalm (verses 3, 7, 19). Peculiar interest attaches to the form which the Church's response takes in Psalm 67: "God... bless us, and cause his face to shine upon us; that thy way may be known on earth, thy saving health among all nations: "q.d. Not for our own sakes alone do we beseech thee to make us glad with thy face, but that we, being sanctified and gladdened, may bear thy name to the nations who know thee not.
3. "The Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace." Take this member and the foregoing, and what do they amount to but this, "Grace be to you, and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ" (Romans 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:3, etc. etc.). There is a look of God which fills with dismay, and makes men call to the mountains to hide them from his presence. But there is a look of God which fills the soul with peace. The Lord can, with a glance of his eye, say to the soul, "I am thy salvation:" he can so lift up his countenance upon us as to give us rest.
III. A CALLING DOWN OF GOD'S BLESSING ON THOSE WHO SEEK HIM. A Benediction is a Beatitude. It is also a Prayer. But it is more than either or both of these. To speak of the latter only, every benediction is a prayer, but every prayer is not a benediction. Into a benediction there enters an element of authority not found in every prayer. Joseph's sons may very well have prayed for Jacob; but we cannot fancy the lads putting their hands on the head of the venerable patriarch and blessing him. "Without all contradiction, the less is blessed of the better" (Hebrews 7:7). The case of Jacob may remind us, that it was not the priests only who blessed the congregation. Moses did it; David and Solomon did it; any aged saint may bless his younger brethren. So, also, the minister of the gospel, when the Lord calls him to preside in public worship, may bless the people in the name of the Lord, in the assured hope that the Lord will indeed bless them, and keep them, and give them his grace and peace. - B.
Put My name upon the children of Israel.
The Evangelical Preacher.I. THE NAME OF GOD PUT UPON HIS PEOPLE INDICATES GOD'S LOVE TOWARDS THEM.
II. THE NAME OF GOD PUT UPON HIS PEOPLE INDICATES THE RELATIONSHIP IN WHICH THEY STAND TO GOD. Not only His friends, but His children.
III. THE NAME OF GOD PUT UPON HIS PEOPLE INDICATES GOD'S PROPERTY IN THEM
IV. THE NAME OF GOD PUT UPON HIS PEOPLE INDICATES THEIR CONFORMITY TO GOD'S WILL.
V. THE NAME OF GOD PUT UPON HIS PEOPLE INDICATES THE RESEMBLANCE THEY BEAR TO GOD.
VI. THE NAME OF GOD PUT UPON HIS PEOPLE INDICATES THE ASSURANCE THEY HAVE OF FINAL UNION WITH GOD.
(The Evangelical Preacher.)
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