When I was in seminary, I fell in love with the Hebrew language and culture. Jesus was born Hebrew. (the original name for the Jewish people based on descendants of Abraham who was called eivyrim “the one from the other side.”
Jesus was Jewish as were the 12 disciples and their families, and Paul who wrote most of the New Testament. I believe are missing something, if we don’t learn about and embrace this as part of our heritage as believers.
The more I learned about the Hebrew Bible (Our Old Testament) the more I realized how important it is to understand the Scriptures from this lens. There is richness, layers and nuance to the Scriptures when we look a them in the originals languages.
Read Psalm 31:16
Read Numbers 6:24-26
David penned Psalm 31 while he was on the run, being persecuted and hunted by Saul. It is a mixture of prayers and praises, words of confidence in God as well as desperate need.
In Psalm 31: 16 David cries out… let Your face shine on me, and save me in your unfailing love.
These words echo Numbers 6:24-26, the ultimate blessing (barocha) spoken by God over His people. To understand what David is asking, we have to look at Numbers 6:24-26, the Priestly Blessing.
While in seminary, I studied these verses and the nuances of their meanings. The idea of God’s face –His presence, love, desire, delight- turned toward me, captured my heart and gave me a sense of belonging, of being known and loved by Him and has deepened my walk and communion with God.
In Numbers 6:24-26, God tells Moses; “Tell Aaron and his sons, to bless the people of Israel with this special blessing.” (NLT)
These words of blessing are spoken in the singular tense. While they are spoken over all the people of Israel, they have a very personal application.
David knows this blessing that kept and comforted the people of Israel. It was said by the priest every morning and evening over the Israelites as they brought their sacrifices to the tabernacle, and later the temple. It is spoken by parents over their children at the beginning of the Sabbath, and used as a benediction… the last word at the end of a service.
I want to focus on the last part of the blessing:
What does it mean “The Lords face will shine upon us and He will lift up his countenance up on us?”
These are “parallel verses” using repetition to underscore their meaning and the importance of this blessing.
These are words of love, tenderness, not condemnation, but utter delight in us.
I remember one Christmas Eve years ago; we were with my siblings and our families. Our daughter Kate was playing the piano the center of attention…she was the first grandchild or niece to born into my family and had captured their hearts. It was a nostalgic moment- the piano she played was the same one our mom played for years in our childhood home. I looked around the room as all their eyes were on her, sparkling with delight, wonder and love… and I thought “Wow! That is my kid! She is amazing!” Tears of joy filled my eyes, my heart full of emotions, pride, love, gratitude- all shining on my face, turned toward her in wonder.
When I read and unpack these verses, I imagine God’s face turned toward me with the same delight and love.
- face (panah)- figuratively used here meaning His presence
- shine (or)- give light to, enlighten, illumine,
- Light is essential to Life. Light dispels the darkness, brings growth and sustains us.
- God’s face/Presence shines on us: giving us Life and continuing to bring what is needed for growth.
- gracious (chanan) yearns for, longs for, unmerited favor, is merciful, compassionate, favorable, Inclines/bends toward
- countenance: (panim/paneh) face, covering, presence, implies favor, relationship, having access to, under the eye or oversight of, attend to/give attention to, most general and encompassing word for “in the presence of”
- lift up His countenance: picture the beaming face of a parent as he lifts up his beloved child in joy and utter delight
The very presence of God is turned toward us and shines on us… giving grace, peace life, meaning and security. What blessing could be greater?
Picture Gods presence, face, tender and unfailing love INCLINED toward you- leaning, bending toward you.
What feelings do this stir in your heart?
What images come to mind?
What difference does living in the words and images of this blessing make in your daily life?
Michael Card is one of my favorite Christian artists. He puts scripture to music in a unique and profound ways. His music has carried me through difficult times, accompanied me during joyous ones and contributed to my growth in faith and understanding of The Word.
Here he sings the Barocha:
- Read Exodus 33:14-16
- God promises Moses blessing and rest as the Hebrews begin their journey to the Promised Land, but Moses wants more. He asks God to give them His Presence, as the most essential of blessings.
- Exodus 34:29
- Moses’ face is radiant from being in the presence of God on Mt Sinai.
- Matthew 17:2
- Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration: 3 disciples experience what it is like to literally have the face of God shining on them.
Torah Recourse Institute: a site for Messianic Jews as well as Christians: has an in depth and interesting article about The Priestly Blessing: Numbers 6L24-26, which form the basis for David’s prayer in Ps 31:16.
Daily Lectionary Readings:
Jeremiah 18:18-20; Psalm 31:5-6, 14-16; Matthew 20:17-28
If you want to read through the New Testament during Lent (about ½ hour a day)
Read on Day 15: Luke 13-18