Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Blessing and Curse

The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn His face toward you and give you peace” (Numbers 6:24–26).

When God set up the Tabernacle and the priesthood at Mount Sinai, He instructed Aaron as High Priest to bless the people. The Aaronic Benediction, as it is called, consisted of “putting” God’s name upon the Israelites (Numbers 6:27). It was not simply a matter of saying, “May God bless you,” but was a powerful act of placing God’s blessing on the people. Those who rejected the blessing would receive an equally powerful curse.

The Aaronic Benediction consists of three statements, each of which has two parts. The first statement says that God will bless and keep Israel. These two parts are amplified in the second two statements. The blessing side is expanded in the phrases “make His face shine upon you” and “turn His face toward you,” while the guarding side is expanded as “be gracious to you” and “give you peace.” The first side of each of the three phrases has to do with God’s presence, while the second side of each phrase has to do with His protection.

On the cross, Jesus underwent the wrath of God as our substitute. He experienced the opposite of blessing, the curse of the covenant. We can understand the curse as the opposite of the Aaronic Benediction. In terms of the first sentence, the equivalent curse would be: “The Lord curse you and remove all protection from you.” The cursing side of the judgment would be expanded to mean that God’s face would not shine on Jesus and would not be turned toward Him. We saw this on the cross when the hill of Golgotha was shrouded in darkness for three hours, and as Jesus cried out in desolation, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46).

Similarly, the guarding side of the blessing would be inverted by God’s (a) removing protection, (b) being wrathful instead of gracious, and (c) withdrawing peace from Jesus and going to war against Him instead. On the cross, Jesus was exposed to all the torments of hell.

Remember that the three-fold Aaronic Benediction is described as putting God’s name on the people. Accordingly, the three-fold Curse involved removing God’s name from Jesus so that He no longer enjoyed God’s presence and God’s protection.

Totally separated from all the blessedness of the Father, Jesus became a curse for us so that someday we will be able to see the face of God. Memorize the Aaronic Benediction, making sure you grasp the two sides of each statement. In addition, talk with your minister about what it means for him to say it as a benediction.