The Lord Bless You and Keep You (Numbers 6:22-27)

The Blessing

Big Idea: God is active in your life, both providing you what you need and protecting you from evil.

You’ve probably heard of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

In 1947, Bedouin teenagers were tending their goats and sheep. One sheep wandered, as sheep do. The search for that sheep led him to a dark cave.

He approached the mouth of the cave. They threw stone inside. To his surprise, he heard something shatter. Crawling through the entrance, he came face-to-face with enormous clay pots larger than him.

He and his friends sold some of what they found to a dealer in ancient artifacts. Over the course of ten years, treasure hunters and archaeologists discovered many more scroll fragments in ten caves near the original site. These scrolls are the largest and oldest body of manuscripts relating to the Bible. It’s one of the greatest archeological finds. For instance, it contains the Great Isaiah Scroll, an intact copy of the book of Isaiah found in Cave 1. The Isaiah Scroll is more than a thousand years older than our next oldest Hebrew manuscript of Isaiah, and it demonstrates how faithfully the Hebrew Scriptures have been preserved.

The Dead Sea Scrolls are amazing, but they’re not the oldest documents ever found. In 1979, an archaeological team discovered scrolls that date all the way back to 600 BC. This is the oldest surviving text from the Old Testament. The team called this discovery “one of most significant discoveries ever made” for biblical studies. Written on this scroll are these words:

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)

In other words, the oldest document we have of any part of Scripture is this blessing. These words are three thousand years old. It’s one of the oldest poems in Scripture. And yet these words are still widely used today, usually at the end of church services. A couple of years ago, during COVID, they became the basis of a viral song you might have seen on YouTube.

These ancient words have lots to say to us today, and I want to look at them with you and what they mean for us over the next few weeks.

A Blessing for the Wilderness

First, here’s a little background on this blessing.

It’s in the book of Numbers. Numbers describes Israel’s wanderings in the wilderness in between Egypt and the Promised Land. It’s a journey that should have taken two weeks, but it took almost 40 years because of their sin.

In the early part of the book, the nation gets ready to depart on their journey. During their preparations, God gave a very helpful set of instructions to help them prepare. And as part of those instructions, he told Aaron, the high priest, to use these words to bless the people of Israel.

In other words, this is a blessing from God himself for the wilderness. As they go through the wilderness, they will need protection and blessing. The wilderness is not an easy place. People needed a blessing.

One thing to notice is the placement of the blessing. It’s in Numbers 6, which prescribes a vow for a select group of individuals. But then God gives this vow not for a select group of individuals, but for everyone. This is the highest blessing, but it’s not a blessing for extra-holy people. It’s a blessing for everyone. The words are “are expansive and gracious, and they are inclusive of the whole community” (Ronald Allen). It’s interesting. The pronouns are singular. This is a blessing for all of God’s people, but it’s addressed to individuals in particular.

Surrounded by thousands of other pilgrims, individuals might feel lost in the vast crowd. With such a deliberate, repeated emphasis on the personal nature of these blessings, these travellers had no reason to doubt the concern of a loving God for each one of them. (Raymond Brown)

This is a blessing for all of God’s people, but it’s a blessing for you in particular. Matthew Henry says that “we may take the blessing to ourselves, as if our names were inserted.”

Think about this. God our Creator wants to bless his people. This is his agenda for us. This is a blessing for you as you live in the wilderness on the way to what God has promised.

The thing we need to realize is that God’s blessing is unlike the blessing anyone else can give. When we bless someone, we are wishing them well. We’re hoping something for them. When God blesses someone, as Tim Keller says, “He doesn’t just wish the good. He achieves the good.” Or, as Spurgeon said, “When we bless God there is nothing more than well-saying and well-wishing; but when God blesses us, it is well-doing.”

When God says, ‘Bless you!’ there are infinity and immutability in it. There can be no limit to the goodwill of the infinite God. Our gifts are like a handful of pence. God’s gifts are so rich that I dare not liken them even to silver or gold. When Jehovah blesses, it is after the manner of his sovereign Almightiness. (Spurgeon)

When God blesses us, it goes beyond words. God’s blessing always accomplishes what it means.

But this isn’t a blessing that appears only once. It’s also echoed in Psalms 67 and 121. It also introduces some of the key theme of Scripture, as we’re going to see in the next few weeks. This is an important blessing.

And so, every day, Jewish tradition says that Aaron offered this blessing on the people after the offering of the morning sacrifice, when the lamb had been slain and consumed upon the altar. It was given in the wilderness, in the temple, and later, in synagogues. Today it’s used in churches all around the world.

Although it was offered by Aaron, and later priests and pastors, “it comes originally from the Lord’s heart and hand” (Spurgeon). If you want to know God’s heart for you, then you only need to look at this passage.

We need this blessing, and this blessing is for all of God’s people who are in the wilderness on their way home.


Today I want to focus on just the first and shortest line of this blessing, just three words in the original Hebrew: “The LORD bless you and keep you” (Numbers 6:24).

This is the simplest of the three lines. This blessing builds. It starts like a trickle but then builds to a flow. But even at the beginning, there’s still so much here as it begins. Each of the three lines has the LORD as its subject. God is doing the action here. He’s doing all the work. We just receive. And in each line, the LORD does two things. In each of the lines, the first thing that the LORD does is move toward us; the second is that he acts for us. So here, the LORD moves toward us to bless us.

What does he do as he draws near? He begins with a general blessing: the LORD bless you. This is broad and includes things like descendants, property, fruitful land, good health, long life, and more. But then he gets very specific and says, “The LORD keep you.” You can summarize this in one word: protection.

God had already told Abraham, “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield” (Genesis 15:1). Now, God tells Aaron to offer them the blessing of his protection as they go through the wilderness and all its dangers. They faced hunger and thirst, enemies, animals, and themselves. God offered them protection from all of these. God has the power to preserve and protect us no matter what we go through. God is your omnipotent defender. He will give you what you need and protect you from harm. He knows exactly what you need, and he knows how to protect you from the dangers in your life.

I mentioned that this blessing is repeated a couple of times in the Psalms. The Psalm that unpacks this part of the blessing the best is Psalm 121:

I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the LORD,
who made heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
The LORD is your keeper;
the LORD is your shade on your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.
The LORD will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.
The LORD will keep
your going out and your coming in
from this time forth and forevermore.

What This Means

Let me talk to you for just a few minutes about what God’s protection does and doesn’t mean in your life.

Here’s what it means: God is active in your life, both providing you what you need and protecting you from evil. God is the one who has promised to help you. He takes a personal interest in you, and watches over you. The LORD is present with you wherever you go. Nothing at daytime or at nighttime escapes his notice. Whatever you do, wherever you go, God is watching over you.

The God who created this universe, the God who created all things, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of Moses and David and Daniel is the same God who knows you by name. He knows your address. He saw what time you woke up this morning, and he knows what you ate for breakfast. He knows what stresses you out, and he cares. God knows every detail of your life. Not only does he know it, but he cares. He’s interested in you. And he’s promised to go into your future with you, and he’ll never let you down.

God is at work in the universe guiding all things to his ultimate purpose, and he cares for you. I love how John Piper puts it:

A nail sinks into a board because God planned for a hammer to hit it. A student makes an A on a test because God planned for the student to study. A jet flies from New York to Los Angeles because God planned for fuel to be available, wings to stay put, engines to thrust, and a pilot to know what he is doing. In none of these cases do we say that the cause was pointless—the hammer, the studying, the fuel, the wing, the engine, the pilot. Neither is prayer pointless. It is part of the plan.

Friends, this morning I want you to know that God is that involved in your life. He is intricately involved in every detail providing for you, caring for you, protecting you, loving you. This is one of God’s great blessings that every Christian gets to enjoy.

Nothing will ever happen to you outside his loving care for you. Nothing. The one who gave his Son for you will also give you all good things (Romans 8:32).

That’s what God’s protection means: God is active in your life, both providing you what you need and protecting you from harm.

Now here’s what it doesn’t mean: It doesn’t mean that you won’t go through hard things that you don’t understand. This is not an exemption from suffering and mystery. God gave this blessing to his people because they would go through suffering and experience things they didn’t understand.

Greg Laurie explains it like this, “Here is my point. God could have kept them from the trial. God could have somehow airlifted Israel from Egypt to the Promised Land. He didn’t keep them from it. He clearly kept them through it.”

God’s people always suffer. But God promises to always be with his people as they suffer. He doesn’t exempt them from trial, but he promises his presence in the trial. He will be with you too. To quote John Piper again: “God is sovereign over. . .suffering, which means it is not meaningless. It is not wrath. It is not ultimately destructive. It is not wanton or heedless. It is purposeful. It is measured, wise, and loving.”

We may not understand everything we go through, but we can know that God is actively providing for us and protecting us in everything.

So, receive this blessing today. If you are in Jesus, God has given this blessing that reflects his heart for you. It’s backed by all his power, and it’s for you as you travel through the wilderness: The LORD bless you and keep you. May you know that God is active in your life, both providing you what you need and protecting you from evil, and may this give you assurance even as you go through the wilderness. God is with you, and he will give you everything you need.

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