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God’s Word for You

Numbers 6:26a God’s favor

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Thursday, July 8, 2021

26 The LORD look on you with favor…

This phrase makes a reference to the Lord’s face just as the earlier one, “The Lord make his face shine on you” did. Here, despite our English phrase, the Hebrew says: “The LORD lift up his face to you.” Many older readers will remember the older, “The Lord lift up his countenance upon you.” The phrase also occurs in the Jacob account, when Jacob is about to meet his brother Esau after many years and sends gifts ahead to him, thinking, “When I see him, he will ‘lift up his face to me’” (Genesis 32:20). The phrase means to pay attention in a non-hostile way, to be kindly, to be inclined, and therefore in our translations: “May God look on you with favor.”

Of course, it’s an anthropomorphism to speak of God turning his face, just as it is when we speak of the Lord’s hand doing mighty things (Psalm 118:15-16), or anything else that pictures God (apart from Christ) in human terms. But that’s why our translations shift the phrase toward “look with favor” or “act kindly toward.” This kindness of God is always undeserved, but something done purely out of Gods’ gracious love, just as when the new king of Babylon released the prisoner Jehoiachin and gave him kingly honor “higher than those of the other kings who were with him in Babylon” for the rest of his life (Jeremiah 52:31-34; 2 Kings 25:27-30).

Think of this favorable attention from God in the many ways that God looked after Adam. God placed the man in a special garden (Genesis 2:8), which cannot have been a small space. Since God commanded the man and his wife to be fruitful and multiply there, there must have been space enough for a family, a community, and a whole nation to live in happy obedience to God’s favorable command. God gave him work to do, since without work mankind is not satisfied; we become irritable and restless, we become violent and destructive, and we are always blessed with constructive work to accomplish (Genesis 2:15). God blessed Adam by showing him the animals with their mates in order to illustrate the need and desirability of finding a suitable wife (Genesis 2:19-20), and then God formed the woman taken from the man’s own flesh, a part of him, which Adam called the “best part” (bone of my bones, flesh of my flesh, Genesis 2:22-23).

This favorable inclination even continued after Adam fell into sin. Hiding and cowering in the bushes, Adam heard the Lord calling, “Where are you?” as if he didn’t know perfectly well. God was inclined to act like a father playing hide and seek with his children, seeing their feet sticking out from under the curtains, hearing their giggles in the hallway clothes hamper, ignoring the squeak of the cupboard door as it creaks shut. “Where are you?” God did not come to obliterate his creature; he came to lead the man and his wife to repentance, to be saved. This is the favorable inclination of God toward us all, toward each of us, since we see that once again, as always in this blessing, God says this “to you” yourself, and not merely to an uncertain mob. He looks with favor upon you, personally.

For the third time, the Lord’s special name “the LORD” is used. It would be difficult or even impossible to subdivide the doubly-threefold blessing of this benediction so that we could say that one part is the work of the Father, another the work of the Son, and still another is without a doubt the unique and solitary work of the Holy Ghost. It’s better to understand that the favorable work of God outlined in the benediction is the constant work of the Triune God at all times. Each Person of the Trinity is distinct, yet each Person communicates continually and constantly with each other Person. So while we can distinguish the work of the Persons in matters such as the incarnation of Jesus and the act of salvation on the cross, in this general benediction we cannot make such distinctions. But so much the better, perhaps, since it means that without a doubt each person of the Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Ghost, is favorably inclined toward you, gently calling you to repentance and renewed faith and trust, constantly calling you to behold the cross of Jesus Christ and lay your sins there, for your salvation is there. You, you personally, are loved by God, saved by God, and called by God through the gospel to everlasting life.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith

About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.

 

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