THE GOSPEL IN NUMBERS: The Threefold Blessing
THE THREEFOLD BLESSING"The Lord bless you and keep you--the Lord make His face shine upon you, and be gracious unto you; the Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace." Numbers 6:24-26.
How gracious is our God in Christ! His mercy overtops the heaven of heavens. Throughout the Bible-page, at every turn, it beams forth in fresh rays. Behold a signal instance. He speaks in these verses, and blessings drop from Him, sparkling as the morning dew--large as Jehovah's heart.
The tribes are now prepared to move. The guiding pillar will soon conduct them into desert-paths. Doubtless they go encircled with all pledges of support. Their cup of favor mantles to the brim. But God still multiplies new stores of comfort. He adds--He superadds--vast bounties. He tells, that all, which heaven contains, shall fall in showers upon their heads.
With this loving mind He thus instructs the priests. "This is how you are to bless the Israelites." The act is ordered. "You shall bless." The distinct form of blessing is supplied. "This is how you are to bless." He wills to give. Is not this grace? He wills, that the vast amplitude of His gifts be evidently seen. Is not this grace on grace?
Mark the broad channel of their course. "The Lord bless you, and keep you; the Lord make His face shine upon you, and be gracious unto you; the Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace." The bounteous God thus opens wide the treasures of His bounty-house--and tells the people, 'All these riches are for you.'
Believer, come now and listen to these sounds, as you sit calmly on your Gospel-heights. You see it is the office of the priest to bless. This introduces Jesus to the eye of faith. He is 'the Church's blessing Priest'. The only priesthood is wrapped up in Him. The earthly office, ministered by men, long since expired. When His own hands brought His own life a victim to the altar-cross, all 'typical' functions were fulfilled. But now on heaven's throne He ministers. There He presents the ever-fragrant incense of His blood. There He portions out the covenanted mercies. Thence freely He outpours them. He came--He lived--He worked--He died, that He might bless. He gave Himself--the price of blessings. He rose--He took His seat on high, that He might reign a Priest, forever blessed, and forever blessing.
Is there a child of Adam's needy race, who covets blessings from the courts of heaven? Let him approach. There is one open way. No fiery sword drives from it. No--a gracious hand is ever beckoning--and gracious invitations call. Hasten to Christ. He is the home of blessings.
Do any ask, When did Aaron's sons thus bless the people? On what occasion were these sounds proclaimed? The Spirit gives not a distinct reply. It is conjectured, that when the morning lamb was offered, the happy worshipers were thus dismissed. If so, when they drew near to gaze on emblems of the dying Lord, these notes hymned peace round their departing steps. It is ever true, that no poor sinner can look up to Christ, without receiving harvests of delight. Who can approach, and not retire with overflowing cup?
If the foregoing thought be right, the sons of Israel once only in each day rejoiced in this blessing. It only fell as morning-manna. But now, around the Gospel-camp, the sound unceasingly is heard. There is no moment, when the believer may not be thus cheered. Christ--his Priest--is always near. In every place--in every work--he may realize His voice, and hear the constant music of the mighty blessing, "The Lord bless you, and keep you; the Lord make His face to shine upon you, and be gracious unto you; the Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace." The heavenly voice is never mute. The heavenly sun knows no eclipse.
Next, the terms are aptly chosen to solace individual hearts. Observe--these blessings are not given, as a general store. They are not cast, as handfuls to a crowd--where some may gather much, and some return with none. Far otherwise. They single out each separate child of faith. They call each one alone, and say, Here is a blessing for your own bosom-need. Each one, apart from all his fellows, takes for himself a full supply.
These lineaments pervade our Gospel. It proclaims special grace. It brings home direct comfort to each soul. The true believer comes apart from men; he leaves the maze of general mercies; he feels, Christ "loved me, and gave Himself for me," as if redemption centered all in me. He lives in heaven, and prays at God's right hand, and fits a bright throne, for me, as if I were His only care. I see my own name foremost on His breast. To me the words come especially, "The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine upon you, and be gracious unto you; the Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace."
But if there be this special mercy in the singular address, is there not threefold mercy in the triple voice? With tender love Jehovah is thrice named. Blessings are multiplied--again--again--again. Faith quickly grasps the significance. Three glorious persons form the glorious Godhead. Doubtless they are one in undivided essence--one in coequal majesty--one in the singleness of unchangeable decree--one in the boundlessness of love--one in the exercise of might--one in accomplishment of plan. But there is Trinity in this mystic Unity. One Deity is three in office.
But the whole heart of the Triune Jehovah yearns over the redeemed. They all concur to save. They all combine to help. They all unite to bless. Surely the Threefold Blessing sounds this truth.
Heed--heed again the heaven-sent form. "The Lord," Jehovah the Father, "bless you and keep you." Again--"The Lord," Jehovah the Son, "make His face shine upon you, and be gracious unto you." Again--"The Lord," Jehovah the Holy Spirit, "lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace."
Our souls are now prepared to press the juice of these rich clusters.
1. Open the hand wide. The FATHER comes to fill it. "The Lord bless you, and keep you." The first word is large, as God is large. It gives so much, that it leaves nothing ungiven. It floods the cup, so that no other drop can enter. It shows a prospect, in which there is no vacancy. "The Lord bless you." May He, who speaks, and it is done; who wills, and it must be; who holds all power in His hands; who sits on the high throne of universal rule, may He bless you!
WHEN? Now and ever--throughout the moments, which are and shall be--when you go out--come in--sit down--rise up--through all your living space, and when the last breath flutters on your lips.--"The Lord bless you."
WHERE? In every place, in which you tarry, or to which you move; in the closet--at home--abroad--in still retreat, and in the busiest haunts--in the publicity of open work--and in the sanctity of holiest spots.--"The Lord bless you."
HOW? By causing all things to minister to your true good--by crowning your lot with all real happiness.--"The Lord bless you."
Perhaps the soul, conscious of weakness, finding SELF to be a broken reed, and seeing many perils all around, sighs specially for protection. Be it so. Protection here is stretched out, as a shield--help is extended, as a sustaining arm. It is added, "and keep you." From WHAT? From every foe's injurious assault--from every secret dart--from every direct attack--from self--from men--from evil's legion--from the world's smile and frown. HOW? By the shelter of His shadowing wings. HOW LONG? Until all need is past, and danger's region is quite left behind, and heaven's safe haven is attained. Happy believer--thus blest--thus kept of God!
2. JESUS comes next. "The Lord make His face shine upon you, and be gracious unto you." The greatest change on nature's brow is when light dawns. Gloom dwells beneath the pall of night. When clouds cast their thick shade, dark chilliness prevails. But with returning beams the landscape sparkles, the groves are melody, the fields are joy. It is so with the soul. Sad are the hours, which are not bright with Jesus. Then sins affright, and wrath dismays, and all the future is despair. There is no misery like the absence of His look. But when His face again is seen, the heart is happiness, the lips are praise. This blessing promises the shining of His face--not a brief ray, but the full blaze of concentrated love. Heaven's fullness is to see Him face to face. Heaven's foretaste, is to catch this pledge of His smile. "The Lord make His face shine upon you."
Here, too, a precious pearl is added. It is GRACE. The words proceed, "and be gracious unto you." What wonders are wrapped up in grace! Its birth is in the heavens--its fruit upon the earth. It looks on those, in whom no merit dwells. It sees them lost. But still it loves, and pities, and relieves. It drew salvation's scheme. It named salvation's sons. It raised the cross, and led the Savior to it. Apart from Christ--it has no being--and no admission-door to its beloved work. But now, through Christ, its visits come on sanctifying wing. The graceless become gracious, because grace works. The gracious become glorious, because grace triumphs.
3. The blessing voice still speaks. "The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace." Can they, who have received so much, need more? But more is wondrously given. The truly blest have all the blessings of a Triune Jehovah. Hence the SPIRIT'S favor is moreover pledged. Some covet earthly honors and applause. Some seek the bursting coffer and the large estate. But what is earth, and all its contents, compared to this possession? The Spirit's countenance converts the soul from death to life, and raises it from hell to glory. He shows its utter need, and its recovery in Christ. He teaches the vile loathsomeness of sin--and the just punishment of hell. He then reveals the God-man slain--the shelter of His wounds--the mantle of His righteousness. He points to welcoming arms. He testifies, that none can perish at the cross. When He lifts up His countenance, the mists of ignorance, the clouds of unbelief, melt off--and SELF is seen, that it may be abhorred--and Christ is seen, that He may be embraced and loved. Then peace will surely follow. There is no peace in soul-blindness, in distance from Christ, in unsubdued iniquity, in wallowing in nature's mire. But when the Spirit joins the soul to Christ--when He renews the nature, and sows seeds of godliness; then peace--abundant peace--peace always, by all means, establishes glad sway.
Reader, seek Christ--adhere to Him--abide in Him--make Him your all--then will this Threefold Blessing be your crown. Hear it once more. "The Lord bless you, and keep you; the Lord make His face shine upon you, and be gracious unto you; the Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace."
It is the gift of gifts--the prize of prizes--the Father's full protection--the Savior's smiling grace--the Spirit's countenance and peace. Reader, do you ask, Can such transcendent property be mine? Pause--think. Why is it thus revealed? God speaks these blessings, not to mock, but to fulfill. Can they be mine? Oh! cast yourself without one fear on Christ, and you will quickly know.
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