When I was a little boy, I remember sitting patiently in church with my parents. At the end of the service, the pastor would dismiss the congregation with a benediction. It was from Numbers 6: 24-26, and it goes like this: “The Lord bless you and keep you; The Lord make His face shine on you and be gracious to you; The Lord turn His face towards you and give you peace.” (NIV)
I’m guessing you know the one. It’s still widely used today in many places of worship, but as a fidgety youth who was more interested in counting stain glassed windows than paying any real attention to the service, the words never bore fruit! I had the verses memorized and would often recite the words to myself along with the pastor. Now I’m going to make a confession here, so please be gentle with your rebuke! Forty-five years later, any serious meditation on that portion of scripture has still been lacking. There always seemed to be more enticing nuggets to chew upon. But that changed a few weeks ago when I was reading a short devotional at bedtime. And you guessed it. The accompanying bible verse was Numbers 6:24-26!
Can you relate to this? Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night and a verse of scripture you read the night before smacks you hard inside your brain? It’s interesting how as Christians we can be filled with head knowledge of God’s word, but we’re sometimes lacking in heart knowledge until God puts it there. What really stuck with me that night was the third part of this scripture, The Lord turn His face towards you and gives you peace, part. The more I thought about it when I should have been sleeping, the more I conjured up in my mind what seemed like a scene from a movie. Only this motion picture had me in it!
In the last while, I’ve had every reason in the world to not have peace in my life. My wife has been ill, our house sprung a nasty leak, and then a few days later my job unexpectedly ended. Those are peace crushing events! Yet Jesus did say in John 16:33: “In this world you will have trouble.” Thankfully He also said, “Take heart! I have overcome the world.” (NIV). So as a result of life’s ongoing calamities, I’ve been eagerly looking for peace and might I say; a boat load of it! Can you relate?
What I can’t get out of my head is this, so I’ll try to paint you a picture:
Act 1, Scene 1
Thousands crowded the streets, each trying to reach the Savior, each with a plethora of baggage weighing them down. Jesus walks at the head of the line, His feet tired and dirty from a long day of travel. I’m at the rear of the pack, my heart breaking and longing for a glimpse of the One who could set me free. But I’m too far back for Jesus to ever notice me. At that moment, the entire mass of humanity stops and splits down the middle like the parting of the Red Sea. And there stands Jesus, his back facing me. Stunned, I watch as he Lord turns His face towards me. I look around to see who He’s staring at, then realize His eyes are on me! Jesus has somehow seen my plight, my sin, my exhaustion from life’s constant beating.
Act 1, Scene 2
Jesus doesn’t stop there. He walks towards me and stops, His beautiful eyes still locked to mine. I see His lips about to move and wonder what the Lord of heaven would ever say to the likes of me. I’m thinking perhaps a loving rebuke or word of encouragement. Speechless, the crowd is hush; all eyes on me and the One who would pay the ultimate sacrifice for my sins. Then Jesus puts his hand on my shoulder and speaks these simple, hugely powerful words, “I love you Paul. In me you will have peace.”
A moment later, He smiles, turns and resumes His journey with the mob in hot pursuit. I’m suddenly left alone on the dusty street, but my encounter with Jesus has left my heart exploding with joy, and yes, life giving peace!
End of movie. (Yes it was a short one!)
Now those few verses in Numbers 6 have new meaning for me when I’m facing life’s challenges. When chaos ensues, I’ll stop for a moment and envision the Lord turning His face towards me and giving me a divine dose of peace. This verse also comes to mind: “Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous to be shaken.” (Psalm 55:22 NIV)
Difficult situations in our lives can appear overwhelming and threaten every fibre of peace we so vigorously try to protect. But might I suggest this: When trials come, place yourself in the movie scene I just described. Imagine Jesus turning His face towards you and filling your heart with a peace that transcends all understanding. Our lives are all about Jesus. He already knows our pain and is totally able to calm our troubled hearts. Moving forward, let Him speak these words of comfort to you: “Peace I leave with you: my peace I give to you.” (John 14:27 NIV)
Praise God for Jesus!
I think I’m ready for Act 1, Scene 3!