God’s Word for You
Numbers 6:24b The LORD keep you…
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Monday, July 5, 2021
...and keep you.
Remember that this blessing has three parts, and each part is divided into two halves. Here, the first general blessing was blessing itself, “The LORD bless you,” but in the second half applies this in a special way to mankind with the word “keep” (Hebrew shamar). This is nothing else than the providence of God, the way he maintains the whole of creation, but especially the way that he preserves his people and cares for them day by day. The cause of this providence is God’s love (Psalm 136:1-26, where “his love endures forever” is the cause behind each and every act of God). The object of God’s providence is every creature in his creation (Matthew 10:29-30; Job 12:9-10), and the goal of God’s providence is God’s own glory: “May the glory of the LORD endure forever; may the LORD rejoice in his works” (Psalm 104:31).
The way God provides for us includes three actions from him: preservation, concurrence, and world government. These three interact with one another, but they should not be confused one for the other. God preserves all things, and without his power and his will, the world (that is, the universe) would collapse: “When you hide your face, they are terrified; when you take away their breath, they die and return to the dust” (Psalm 104:29). While this is true of species of animals and of mankind in general (Psalm 147:9), it is also true of individuals and of each of us personally. This we see here in the blessing of Aaron, since God commands his priest and his ministers to bless the people by saying “The LORD keep you,” with the object “you” once again in the singular. This blessing of preservation, the promise that God will provide for our personal needs, is underlined in the singular number of the “you.” This is why we can pray the fourth article of the Lord’s Prayer, “Give us today our daily bread,” with all the confidence of a child asking mother for something good to drink. It will certainly be given, and it will be given according to each person’s unique needs.
The doctrine of concurrence means that God enables his creatures, and especially mankind, to accomplish those things that God wills to be done. Therefore, it is God’s will that seed should be sown, but God has given man the wisdom, ability, and opportunity to sow the seed. Therefore God provides man with a harvest, and it pleases God to use man in both the planting and the harvesting, even though the actual process of the growth of the wheat remains a mystery: “Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come” (Mark 4:27-29). I sometimes compare this teaching to a light fixture connected to a power outlet. Something in man might fail, just as a bulb or a switch in a lamp might fail, but the power is still there, ready to be working in the lamp when it is repaired. And so God is always there to work with us and in us when we look to him in obedience to his will. Perhaps another illustration here is the way that the Lord’s power began to stir in Samson after he was shaved and blinded, when “the hair on his head began to grow again” (Judges 16:22).
When we say “world government,” we do not mean one human government either cooperating with lesser human governments or tyrannizing them. Instead, this is God as the supreme governor and ruler of the world: “The LORD will reign for ever and ever” (Exodus 15:18). He does this first of all with his permission, even extending to allowing sin and evil to work in the world even though he forbids evil and he takes no pleasure in evil; yet he allows mankind freedom, even freedom to sin (Genesis 3:6).
Second, God sometimes hinders certain things. This might be the power of fire over the three men in the furnace (Daniel 3:26-27), the power of the lions over an unarmed prophet (Daniel 6:22), or the hands of the crowd attempting to grasp and kill Jesus in his hometown (Luke 4:29-30). We will see a repeated occurrence of hindrance later in Numbers when a pagan prophet is paid to curse Israel by its enemies, but can’t do it, time after time (Numbers 22:1-24:25).
Third, God gives direction. That is, he guides people to do those things that are in step with his holy will. We see this in the choosing by lot of Israel’s first king, Saul (1 Samuel 10:20-22). There is also the case of the plot against Jesus in order to complete God’s plan of salvation (Acts 4:27-28)—this was done with God’s permission, but not because God condones such evil or that he determined that they would do this to Jesus. As one of our teachers has said, “A distinction must be made between the preparation and instigation of the godless, and the direction of the worst crime for the wholesome goal. Not the former but the latter must be ascribed to God” (Andr. Quenstedt).
Finally, God sets limits for mankind’s powers, passions, and actions as well as those of Satan and the wicked angels. “He is in your hands,” God commanded Satan about Job, “but you must spare his life” (Job 2:6). God told Judah after threats from the Assyrians, “Fulfill your vows. No more will the wicked invade you; they will be completely destroyed” (Nahum 1:15).
There are some other things which fall doctrinally under the heading of God’s providence, such as the answer to prayer, miracles, prophecy, and the end of each person’s (and each creature’s) life, but we have said enough about the way God cares for us by blessing each one of us, and by so carefully and graciously keeping each and every one of us. Through various means, God provides. He helps the poor and the desperate (Job 24:5), he controls nations and weather with supreme power (Job 36:30-31); he provides for beasts, birds, fish and even fools. He works through the righteous man (Ezekiel 18:5-8) and the heroic wife (Proverbs 31:10-31). It is God who richly provides us with everything, even for our enjoyment (1 Timothy 6:17). Praise him and thank him with your life, and ponder even the gift of being able to thank him and praise him; the gift of God revealing himself to us in his holy word (1 Samuel 3:21).
Pastor Timothy Smith