God promised that, when the priest spoke a special prayer, blessings would come on His people. ‘So shall they put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them’ (Numbers 6:24-27). The prayer for blessing was ‘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’.
Praying for God to lift up His countenance upon His people meant praying for Him to have a loving attitude towards them and show His pleasure. Asking for His face to shine upon them meant He would be smiling at them and they’d know His presence coming like the sunshine, bringing protection and good things into their lives, such as children, plentiful harvests and shalom (peace, total well being and health).
The earliest archaeological discovery containing the covenantal name of God (Yahweh) in Jerusalem is a silver amulet containing this priestly blessing. It was found in a Judean tomb dating to the seventh or sixth century B.C.
Psalm 67 is a prayer which is based on this priestly blessing prayer, but it gives us the reason why the people of Israel should want these blessings in their lives. ‘May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, Selah that your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations’(Psalm 67:1-2).
The blessings of God weren’t just for their own benefit. They were intended to bring God’s kingdom purposes on earth. The desire of the psalmist was for all the people of the earth to know God and to praise Him. Israel was God’s chosen nation. But His people were blessed to be a blessing.
The psalmist goes on to say: ‘Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you! Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon earth. Selah. Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you! The earth has yielded its increase; God, our God, shall bless us. God shall bless us; let all the ends of the earth fear him!’ (Psalm 67:3-7).
As we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour we’re adopted into Father God’s family. We become the people of God. We no longer need a priest in the Old Testament sense of the word to pray the blessing upon us. But are we to take up that priestly role in our families, churches and neighbourhoods? Are we also being called to pray for blessing upon our nation and the nations of the world?
Prayer: Loving, heavenly Father, we pray that we can not only receive blessings from Your hand, but that we can truly pray for blessings to come upon our friends, family, church, neighbourhood and the nations around the world. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
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