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Numbers 6:24-26

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Numbers 6:24-26, YHWH bless you and keep you; YHWH make His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; YHWH lift up His face upon you and give you peace.

In this blessing, for God’s face to shine upon His people is presented as the supreme blessing they can receive. However, in Ex. 33:20, YHWH tells Moses that no one can see God’s face and live. So, how is it that—in this priestly blessing—the face of God shines upon His people and, rather than bringing death, it gives them Grace and Peace?

I would suggest that one answer is that Numbers 6:24-26 is not only a blessing, but is a prophecy as well. As such, though it is spoken over Israel at many times in her history, the actual shining and uplifting of YHWH’s face to which it refers is a specific instance…a specific moment in space and time, from which—just as a beacon raised on a hill will give light to an entire valley—grace and peace shine from the uplifted face of YHWH to illumine the entire span of human history.

And what is this moment referred to in the benedictory prophesy of Numbers 6? Ultimately, it must be the resurrection-illumined cross of Jesus Christ. When the incarnate Word, hanging upon the cross as sin-bearing substitutionary lamb, receiving in Himself the cursed death of His people—when this one lifts up His face—then the unveiled countenance of YHWH shines in grace and peace upon His people.

And the uplifting of YHWH’s face in the flesh of Jesus Christ is grace and peace (rather than incineration and death), NOT because His glory is veiled, or His majesty is tempered, or His holiness is denied, but because the full and undiluted excellence of YHWH God is, in this moment, being declared *precisely in* the act of sin-bearing, of wrath-absorbing, of life-giving for the sake of His enemies…And this is not an alien expression of His holiness, it is, rather, the supreme and crowning manner in which it is expressed within this fallen world.

Only when the glory of God’s face shines in the face of the One whose face is marred for our sin and raised for our justification does the shining of that face bring, not death, but grace and peace and life everlasting.