The Countenance Of The Lord

“The LORD bless thee, and keep thee: the LORD make His face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: the LORD lift up His countenance upon thee, and give thee peace” (Numbers 6:24–26).

This is the priestly blessing pronounced upon the people of Israel by Aaron the high priest. The climax of the blessing is a beautiful reference to the Lord’s countenance and its power. When God’s countenance is lifted up in grace upon us, He gives perfect peace of soul.

It can bring great joy, “Thou hast made Him exceeding glad with thy countenance” (Psalm 21:6). In times of despair, His countenance gives sustenance. “Why art thou cast down, o my soul? . . . I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance” (Psalm 42:5).

In times of confusion, His countenance will illumine the way. “Blessed is the people that know the joyful sound: they shall walk, O LORD, in the light of thy countenance” (Psalm 89:15). But it will also reveal our hidden sins. “Thou has set our iniquities before thee, our secret sins in the light of thy countenance” (Psalm 90:8). As far as the wicked are concerned, however, “the face [same Hebrew word as ‘countenance’] of the LORD is against them that do evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth” (Psalm 34:16).

Now no one can actually see the face of the Lord in His divine essence, for, as God told Moses, “Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live” (Exodus 33:20). Such passages must be understood as the “presence of the LORD,” for this also is a proper translation of the same word. Or perhaps some could even refer to pre-incarnate appearances of Christ, for God can surely “give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (II Corinthians 4:6). HMM

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