May God be gracious to us and bless us
and make his face shine on us –
so that your ways may be known on earth,
your salvation among all nations.
May the peoples praise you, God;
may all the peoples praise you.
The glorious benediction of Numbers 6:24-26 impresses upon us that God is the source of every blessing: ‘The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORDmake his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.’ In this case, the blessing is mediated through the priests – bringing with it the guarantee that the sacrifice for sin has been successful, confirming God’s love for his people, reminding them that his presence is with them.
That the blessing shaped the faith of subsequent generations is clear from the number of times we hear its echoes elsewhere in Scripture, not least in the opening line of Psalm 67: ‘May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine on us.’ However, here the blessing is sought not for its own sake or even for the sake of Israel, but for all peoples, as seen in the next line – ‘so that your ways may be known on earth, your salvation among all nations’ – expressing the hope that God’s blessing will become a global reality.
Far from an isolated reference, the Psalms are packed with exhortations to Israel to sing of God’s mighty deeds among the nations, summons to the nations to praise God, and promises of a future in which the nations will join Israel in worship. In line with God’s original promise to Abraham, the blessings for Israel were always the precursor of a still greater blessing – for all nations – ultimately fulfilled in Jesus.
The Psalm is of a piece with the rest of Scripture not only in providing a vision of God’s salvation embracing all nations, but in seeing the people of God as those chosen to be instruments of his blessing to others. Through his grace, God brings together a people who exist so that others might be blessed. God’s desire to bless hasn’t changed, and nor has his means of doing so. The Psalm thus enables us to see the arenas of our everyday life as places where God blesses us, calls us to be living proofs of that blessing, and invites us to share it with those around us – in our families, neighbourhoods, and workplaces.
And then, beyond even this amazing privilege, the Psalm reminds us of the ultimate goal of mission – nothing less than the worship of the Lord among ‘all the peoples’. To God be all the glory.