One of the nuances of meaning for the word assess is determining the importance and value of something. The focus of today’s taste of Torah is determining the importance and value of what is known as the Aaronic benediction. The text is Numbers 6:24-26. It reads:
24 “The LORD bless you and protect you;
25 The LORD make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you;
26 The LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace” (NET).
The context of this blessing is the purification of Israel. And why is corporate purification needed? This large scale cleansing is necessary because the nation is preparing to move out toward the destination of their Promised Land. And so in this situation one of the central duties of the Levitical priests was to be a channel of blessing for God’s covenant people. God gave this benediction to the spiritual representatives of the people to offer up for the people what was required for their sanctification, their being set apart for God. The reason being it was God’s will to bless all His people. And the priests were the mediators of this blessing from God to the Israelites.
Now in terms of the literary structure what we have here is a threefold or a three-in-one type blessing. It consists of three segments and each segment contains two parts. In each segment the second part is a specific application of the general request stated in the first part. And so the way that these two parts come together is that desire is expressed for Divine action to result in human benefit.
When the blessings are individually examined in their textual order, it’s apparent they become increasingly emphatic. The first blessing is the most general (v. 24). God’s blessing is His goodness poured out. The priest called on Him not only to provide for His people but to defend them from all evil.
The second blessing is more specific (v. 25). God’s face is the revelation of His personality to His people. In a fire-like manner this revelation radiates His glory; consuming evil, bestowing light and warmth, shining with the intensity of the sun, promoting life while God’s graciousness is the manifestation of His favor and grace in the events of life.
The third blessing is the most specific (v. 26). Lifting up the Divine countenance refers to manifesting power. The priest called on God to manifest His power for His people. And this in turn would produce shalom (peace). And this shalom is not just peace in sense of absence of aggravation. It is the sum of all God’s blessings. It’s a sense of rightness in one’s relationship with the LORD coupled with tangible benefits.
This is the blessing God commanded the Kohanim (Jewish High Priests/descendants of Aaron, brother of Moses) to pronounce. In the Jewish tradition it’s called the Birkat Kohanim which means priestly blessing. And in order to pronounce this blessing, the priests lifted their hands with palms outstretched while facing downwards. This pronouncement of blessing was both a responsibility and a privilege.
Today, as Messiah followers, we have this same responsibility and privilege of pronouncing spiritual blessing . And this is something that’s not only true of a distinctive group of spiritual leaders. It’s true across the entire spectrum of the Body of Messiah. All believers have been redeemed by Yeshua’s blood (cf. Eph. 1:7). All believers have been made “a kingdom and priests to serve our God” (cf. Rev. 5:9-10). Therefore, all believers have access to the presence of the triune God; which means that we can pronounce blessing on one another in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Ruach HaKodesh (the Holy Spirit). Like Rav Sh’ual the apostle Paul we can say, “The grace of the Lord Yeshua the Messiah, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Ruach HaKodesh be with you all” (2 Cor. 13:14 CJB). In essence, that’s what it looks like to be assessing God’s blessing.