The Gospel of the Blessing (Numbers 6:22-27)

Aaronic blessing

Big Idea: God freely gives us what we need most as a gift, and it will satisfy us for eternity.

One of the most important questions we can ever answer is this: what is the gospel? What is the good news for sinners like us that the Bible gives us? This is a crucial question that each of us must answer personally. We need to understand and receive the message of the gospel. It’s also crucial for us as a church. It’s essential that we’re clear about the gospel.

In 2008, I went to The Dwell Conference in New York City. Tim Keller gave a captivating talk called "Dwelling in the Gospel" about Colossians 3:16. Here’s what he said:

I like to make a thesis, and the thesis is that there's one gospel. One gospel. There is a gospel that we can outline. And yet, in the Bible, in God's sovereign purposes, this gospel never exists in just one form, but tends to exist in several forms.

In other words, there’s one gospel. The Bible is very clear on that in passages like 1 Corinthians 15. But even though there's one gospel, there are several ways that the gospel is expressed in the Bible. The gospel is so rich that it’s like a multifaceted diamond that sparkles in different lights.

I want to suggest that the blessing we just read is, when properly understood, a beautiful expression of the gospel.

Over three thousand years ago, God expressed his heart toward us by giving the high priest of Israel a blessing to pronounce on Israel:

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.
(Numbers 6:24–26)

Every word of this blessing — just 15 words in the original Hebrew — crackles with meaning. Every word of this blessing ultimately leads us to Jesus. This is a blessing that is available to us in Jesus.

Let me tell you three ways that this blessing shows us the gospel.

First: It’s a gift.

You don’t do anything to earn Aaron’s blessing. You don’t take any action to get the blessing. The blessing is simply given by a gracious God, and your only job is to receive it. You don’t earn it. You don't need to maneuver in order to obtain it. The blessing reveals the nature of the gospel: we do nothing to get it except to come to God with empty hands of faith and receive what he’s more than willing to give us.

Friends, Israel back then did nothing to earn this blessing. God took the initiative in saving and blessing them. God made it clear that they contributed nothing to receiving this blessing. God explains to them why he chose them:

It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the LORD loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. (Deuteronomy 7:7-8)

Why did God love them? Simply because he chose to love them. They didn’t do anything to earn God’s love. They just got to receive it.

I used to ask Char why she loves me, and she would give me the most frustrating answer: “Just because.” I think I wanted her to give me all the reasons why I was worthy of her love. One day she explained to me that if she loved me for any of those reasons, then her love would be subject to change. If she loved me for my money, first, I’d be in a lot of trouble, but also — what happens when I lose my money? If she loves me because of my humor, what happens if I stop being funny? But if she loves me just because — not because I’ve earned her love but because she’s chosen and committed to love me — then I’m on much safer ground. I simply get to receive her love. I don’t have to earn it.

Why does God love his people? Just because. We don’t earn his love. We don’t earn his blessing. We never could. But he’s chosen to give it to us anyway. This takes all the pressure off you and me. You never have to worry about trying to be good enough to earn God’s blessing. God gives his blessing to people who aren’t good enough and who could never earn it if they tried.

As Tim Keller said, “The Gospel is good news not good advice. Advice = what we should do. News = report of what was done for us.” Aaron’s blessing sets us straight: we don’t earn God’s blessing. We simply receive it.

Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones was a pastor in London. People would often come to him with problems. Sometimes he would ask them, “How do you know that you’re a Christian?” Many of them would answer something like this: “Because I’m trying hard to be a Christian!”

That would set off alarm bells in his head. What they were saying is, “I think I’m a Christian because of what I’m doing.” He realized that many of them were basing their faith not on their efforts rather than the blessing that God offers that we simply receive.

Friends, have you simply come to God with empty hands of faith and received his blessing, not because you’ve earned it but because Jesus has earned it on your behalf? The blessing comes at a cost, but you don’t need to pay that cost. Jesus already paid the cost. Jesus accomplished everything you need to be blessed. Now you just have to receive what he freely offers.

You don’t have to do anything to receive God’s blessing. You don’t have to be good enough to receive God’s blessing. You simply need to come to God with empty hands of faith to receive God’s blessing.

Aaron’s blessing encapsulates the gospel because it is a gift that we receive and that God graciously gives us through his Son. The gospel, like the blessing, is a gift from God that we simply get to receive.

Second: It gives us what we need most.

The Aaronic blessing gives us many things: God’s protection, wellbeing and wholeness even in the wilderness, and the privilege and responsibility of bearing God’s name. But at the heart of the blessing is God’s gracious face:

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.
(Numbers 6:25-26)

All our lives, we’re looking to be seen, known, and loved by God. We were made to ache for this, to know that God sees us, cares for us, and smiles on us. We long for the divine presence so glorious that not even Moses could gaze upon it. That’s what we need, and it’s the heart of the blessing. We don’t just need protection and wellbeing. We need God’s smile.

And that’s exactly what the gospel gives us through Jesus. Spurgeon says:

When the sinner is washed in the blood of Christ, when the sinner is justified through the righteousness of Jesus, then the Lord looks upon him with pleasure. That very man who was an heir of wrath becomes a child of love; and he who must have been driven from God’s presence with “Depart, ye cursed,” is established in Christ’s heart with “Come, ye blessed.”

And then he says this:

If God once makes his face to shine in the sense of his favour, he never takes that favour away. You may not see it; you may think he is angry with you, and in another sense he may be; but legally, and so far as concerns the law and its power of condemnation, there is not a single thought of anger in the mind, or feeling of displeasure in the heart, of God towards any one of those who rest in Jesus.
You are accepted in the Beloved. God seeth no sin in Jacob, neither iniquity in Israel. As he looks upon them in his Son, he sees them without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing.

Right now, you can know that God looks on you, knowing the worst about you, and makes his face shine toward you. This is the blessing that we’ve received in Jesus.

But that’s not all. It gets even better. Not only do we simply receive his smile based on the finished work of Christ, but one day we’ll see God’s face and be deeply satisfied for eternity.

Something happened about six months before Jesus was crucified. He went up to a mountain with three of his disciples, and we read, “And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light” (Matthew 17:2). At that moment, the glory and radiance of Jesus was revealed in his humanity. God’s face literally shone upon them; God the Son literally lifted his countenance upon them.

This is a preview of what we will one day experience. What we’ve longed for all along, we will see with our own eyes. In some ways, this is the entire storyline of Scripture in a moment: sinners are brought back into the glory of God’s presence. This is the whole purpose of the gospel. That’s what you have to look forward to. It’s what’s promised to us in Aaron’s blessing, and given to us through the gospel.

As I said the other week, one day we will see God’s glory fully, and it will deeply satisfy our souls. It will be the most beautiful, soul-satisfying thing we’ve ever seen, and it will make us deeply happy.

One day, we will see the immeasurable riches of our infinite God. We will see Jesus in his glory, and it will be the sight for which we have ached. It will not be satisfying for a moment or two. It will be so profoundly satisfying and beautiful that it will satisfy our souls for eternity. As Jonathan Edwards said, “After they have had the pleasure of beholding the face of God millions of ages, it will not grow a dull story; the relish of this delight will be as exquisite as ever.”

The blessing encapsulates the gospel because it reminds us that the gospel is a gift that gives us what we need most: the shining face of God.

But there’s one more way the blessing encapsulates the gospel. Not only is it a gift, and not only does it give us what we need most, but:

It’s a preview of what’s to come.

There’s a concept in theology called already but not yet. It means that we get to to experience, in a partial way, the realities of the gospel, but one day we will experience it fully. The kingdom of God is already present but not yet here in its fullness.

In this life, you can experience in the protection of God, the smile of God, and a deep sense of wellbeing and wholeness in a partial way. But this is only a foretaste of what will happen when Christ returns. Then you will experience God’s complete protection. Nothing will be able to harm you. Then you will experience the reality of seeing God’s glory in its fullness. Then you will experience a deep sense of wholeness and wellbeing that you will never fully experience in this life.

The blessing isn’t just something that you’re meant to experience here and now. You can experience it significantly now, but you will only experience it fully on the new earth. Aaron’s blessing is a preview of what your eternity will be like one day. Yahweh will bless you and protect you. Yahweh will make his face shine on you and be gracious to you. He will look with favor on you and give you peace.

And so experience it now. Look for God’s peace even in the difficulties and trials of life. But long for that day when you will fully experience the promises given to you through this blessing.

Michael Glodo writes:

Everything that was pronounced to Israel in the Aaronic blessing has been secured, is being given, and will be ours in fullness in what Christ has done, is doing by his Spirit, and will do at the consummation of the ages. Therefore, we receive the blessings of the Aaronic blessing by faith in contemplation of the person and work of Jesus Christ.

God freely gives us what we need most as a gift, and it will satisfy us for eternity.

The Aaronic blessing encapsulates the gospel. It’s a gift; receive it. It gives us what we need most, so enjoy God’s smile on your life today. And it’s a preview of what’s to come, so long for that day when you will experience this blessing fully.

Darryl Dash

Darryl Dash

I'm a grateful husband, father, oupa, and pastor of Grace Fellowship Church Don Mills. I love learning, writing, and encouraging. I'm on a lifelong quest to become a humble, gracious old man.
Toronto, Canada