We have all heard it, many of us could recite it, and I wonder how many could find it in the Bible? Hidden in the book of Numbers among the many instructions, directions and countless reminders of how God’s people failed to listen we run into a short poetic prayer that spells out a blessing that covers the whole nation of Israel.
24 “‘“The Lord bless you
and keep you;
25 the Lord make his face shine on you
and be gracious to you;
26 the Lord turn his face toward you
and give you peace.”’
I have to admit that when I was growing up and still today as the preacher reads these words as a benediction instead of reverently bowing my head and listening to the words I have my eyes wide open looking up towards the heavens in expectation that I will get a glimpse of that light that is shining down on me. These words to me were an open invitation to experience the blessing of a pure and holy relationship with my Heavenly Father. This blessing spoken by Aaron in his time was to communicate the Lords love and commitment to His people.
This prayer and many others like it is the line of communication that helps us as believers to know the Lord and strengthens our personal relationship with him. Spoken through His appointed people these words encourage and ignite a passion that comes when we truly believe in Him. When I study these words I gain a sense of closeness with my God, He is not standing at a distance or behind a wall, He wants to be right here with me face to face. One bible translation replaces the word shine with smile; can you imagine that smile of our great and mighty God stretching as far as the eye can see? I can and it makes me want to smile. Thank you Father for your goodness to your people.
As I read through many of the Old Testament books in the bible I often struggle with the dynamics of the relationship between God and His people. Let me try and explain.
It is hard for me to relate to the life and experience of the Israelite people as they wandered in the desert having to make sacrifices and offerings (burnt offerings, grain offerings, peace offerings, sin offerings, guilt offerings) for forgiveness when they had broken their covenant with God. As a believer today I have an open line of communication with God through prayer, through the sacrifice made by Christ on the cross I have privilege of coming before God through Christ to ask for forgiveness. I often wonder how my faith would have been different if I was wandering with the Israelites through the desert.
Reading through the book of Numbers gives us a glimpse into the life and actions of the people and it’s leaders. On behalf of the people Moses talked with God, he prayed for deliverance from afflictions and destruction when they all had sinned and turned their backs on God. In the face of difficulty and opposition we have a leader who stood strong and humbly went before the Lord on their behalf. As leaders today we have the privilege of praying for others. So far, it has been my experience that most people no matter their maturity in faith or understanding of grace and mercy continue to look to their leaders for prayer and direction. As a leader this becomes a responsibility that should not be taken lightly. Like Moses we can be leaders who pray for God’s people and in light of the cross we have the opportunity to encourage them to pursue a personal relationship with Him. I am thankful for a loving, gracious and merciful God who sacrificed His Son so that we could have a relationship with Him.
Many things changed for Daniel over his lifetime, there were major shifts in power from one King to another, He was taken from his family to serve in the palace, his life was threatened and yet there was one thing that never seemed to change. As we read through the book of Daniel we can not only find Daniel turning to God when he need help, but chapter 6:10 tells us that “three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before”. For Daniel, praying three times a day was a part of who he was.
Daniel’s prayer in chapter 9 reveals a passion and purpose that should help us understand how we are to humbly come before our God confessing our sins, asking for forgiveness and giving praise to Him. Daniel “turned to the Lord God and pleaded with Him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes”. Have you ever pleaded with God in pray and petition? We may never have donned sackcloth and covered ourselves with ashes as Daniel did but his example calls us to put aside all the distractions and things of life to be on our knees in front of our Heavenly Father.
Three times a day, most likely morning, noon and evening Daniel prayed to God, praising Him, confessing his sins, seeking wisdom and guidance as he was a leader and example to many. As vocational ministry leaders I believe we are called to be like Daniel, we must be set into a life that is centered around prayer. For many of us prayer is often the result or response to something that has happened, and that is OK. I am sure Daniel did the same thing as he worked through his day as things came up. It is his example and devotion to those personal times of prayer that should inspire us. Daniel spent time in his “upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem”; Matthew 6:6 commands us the same thing “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your father who is unseen”. There is never a time when God is too busy to listen, it is the busyness of life that draws us away from the practice of prayer.