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Bible Commentaries

Philpot's Commentary on select texts of the Bible

Numbers 6

Verse 24

Nu 6:24

"The Lord bless you." Nu 6:24

The key to the words, "The Lord bless you," is, I believe, to be found in Eph 1:3—"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ;" for the blessings prayed for in our text would seem to be chiefly spiritual blessings. Not that we are to think lightly of temporal favors. They are left-hand blessings, if not right-hand mercies; they are gifts to be thankful for on earth, if not graces that take to heaven; provision for the perishing body, if not food for the immortal soul. Health, strength, such a measure of worldly goods as shall keep the wolf from the door, and enable us to owe no man anything but love; children growing up to be a comfort to their parents; a kind and affectionate partner; warm and faithful friends; an untarnished name; and a little provision for those dear and near to us, that their tears over our body may not be doubly embittered by poverty and dependence; who shall say that these are not blessings for which God is to be praised? Viewed by the eye of faith, blessings in providence come down from heaven steeped in mercy.

And yet how short, oh, how infinitely short do these temporal blessings, which perish in the using, fall of spiritual blessings, which endure for evermore! A striking proof of this is that when we are privileged to draw near to the throne of grace with some measure of faith and feeling, the heart’s desire is wholly towards spiritual blessings; and the eye of the soul is so wholly and solely fixed upon them, that there is scarcely left place either in the heart or lips to ask for any other.

But look at the personality of the blessing asked—"The Lord bless YOU." And yet when the high priest pronounced the blessing he did not fix his eye upon, nor did he address his speech to, any one individual. It was spoken to the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel; and yet the words were so framed as though the blessing were for each individual. Such are God’s blessings—personal, individual. Gracious souls, sometimes, when they have heard the word with any particular sweetness or power, say, "It was all for me." Well, it was all for you; but are you the only "me" in the place? Might not someone sitting by your side say, "It was all for me?" Don’t think that one alone is to be blessed, and all others excluded. There is enough for each, and there is enough for all.

But there is something so singularly appropriating in the mercy of God when brought into the heart, that it seems as though it were for me, and for me alone. But here is the blessedness of the mercies of God, of the riches of his grace and glory—that one having a part does not exclude the other. It is not like a natural family, where each successive child seems to withdraw a portion of the inheritance from the others; so that, if they had the covetous feelings of grown-up people, the elder might well say to the new-born babe, "We don’t want you, you little robber! Why are you come to take portions with us?" It does not narrow the heavenly inheritance that there are so many to enjoy it; if it did, it would narrow God himself, for God is their inheritance, and in God is enough to satisfy myriads of elect angels as well as myriads of ransomed men. There need be no envy in the things of God; it is excluded by the freeness, fullness, and richness of God’s love.

"The Lord keep you." Nu 6:24

How we need the Lord to keep us! We stand upon slippery places. Snares and traps are laid for us in every direction. Every employment, every profession in life, from the highest to the lowest, has its special temptations. Snares are spread for the feet of the most illiterate as well as the most highly cultivated minds; nor is there anyone, whatever his position in life may be, who has not a snare laid for him, and such a snare as will surely prove his downfall if God does not keep him.

When Elisha sat upon the mountain and his servant was distressed lest his master should be taken away by violence, the prophet prayed the Lord to open his servant’s eyes. What did he then see? Chariots and horses of fire all around about the mountain guarding the prophet. Perhaps if the Lord were to open our eyes as he opened the eyes of Elisha’s servant, we might see devils where he saw angels, see ourselves surrounded by Beelzebub and his legions, as the eyes of the servant saw Michael with the flaming hosts of heaven.

Well, then, may it be the desire of our soul, "The Lord keep me"—keep me in his providence, keep me by his grace; keep me by planting his fear deep in my soul, and maintaining that fear alive and effectual in my heart; keep me waking, keep me sleeping; keep me by night, keep me by day; keep me at home, keep me abroad; keep me with my family, and keep me with my friends; keep me in the world, and keep me in the Church; the Lord keep me, according to his promise, every moment; keep me by his Spirit and grace with all the tenderness implied in his words, "O keep me as the apple of your eye!" My friends, you can know little of your own heart, little of Satan’s devices, little of the snares spread for your feet, unless you feel how deeply you need this blessing—"The Lord keep you." And he will, for we read of the righteous, that they are kept "by the power of God through faith unto salvation;" and that "He will keep the feet of his saints."

Verse 25

Nu 6:25

"The Lord make his face shine upon you." Nu 6:25

The allusion here seems, to my mind, to be to the sun. Sometimes the natural sun has not risen; and the world must need be dark if the sun be still beneath the horizon. So with many gracious souls; it is darkness with them, midnight darkness, Egyptian darkness, darkness to be felt, because at present neither the Day-star has appeared, nor the Sun of righteousness risen upon them with healing in his wings. It will and must be dark with them until the Sun rises.

But sometimes after the sun has risen we see not his face—clouds—deep, dark clouds, may obscure the face of that bright luminary throughout the whole day, and we may not get a single ray from him through the whole period that he is above the visible horizon. So, many of the Lord’s family, after the Sun has risen upon them in the morning of their spiritual life, may pass, perhaps, much of their subsequent time in the dark shadow, until perhaps at evening tide there is light, and a departing ray gilds the dying pillow.

But again, there are sometimes days when mists drive rapidly across the face of the bright orb of day, and yet occasionally he peeps through the breaking clouds. And is not this, in some measure, an emblem of the way in which the Sun of righteousness is continually obscured by the mists and fogs which spring up out of our unbelieving heart, hidden from view by the doubts and fears that, like the vapors of the valley, spread themselves, to our view, over his beauteous face?

Yet there are times when he gleams through the clouds and disperses the mists. When the Lord is pleased to bless the soul and shine upon it with any sweet manifestation, then he breaks in through the dark clouds, but they gather again. It is not in Christian experience one bright summer day. We do not live in Australia or Peru, where clouds and mists rarely obscure the face of the sun. Our spiritual climate is humid, our inward latitude is the chilling north.

"The Lord make his face shine upon you." Is the Lord, then, sovereign in these matters? Can we not lift up our hand and remove the cloud? We have as much power to stretch forth our hand and sweep away the mists that obscure the Sun of righteousness, as we have power with the same hand to sweep away a London fog. How this puts the creature into his right place! And the creature is only in his right place when he is nothing, and God is all in all. How blessed to see the face of the Father; and to see it shine! not covered with lowering clouds of justly-merited displeasure, as sometimes we see in the natural sky an obscured sun looking angrily down, presaging wind and storm. It is indeed true that, when we have brought guilt into our consciences, the face of God is seen to lower with anger. We have brought his just displeasure upon our heads; though not angry with the persons of his people, yet is he justly angry with their sins; and a sense of this in the soul covers his face with clouds—"You have covered yourself with a cloud, that our prayer should not pass through" (La 3:44).

"The Lord make his face shine upon you." And if he makes his face shine upon you, he will make your face shine too. It was so with Moses, when he was in the mount and was holding sweet communion with God. When he came down among the people, the skin of his face shone; the glory of God was reflected upon it. And if the Lord makes his face shine upon you, it will make your face not unlike the face of Moses when you go among the people of God.

"And be gracious unto you." Nu 6:25

How sweet the gospel is! But what makes the gospel sweet? That one word which sheds a perfume through the whole—grace. Take grace out of the gospel and you destroy the gospel; you nullify and overthrow it; it is the gospel no more. Grace pervades every part and every branch of the blessed gospel; it is the life of the gospel; in a word, it is the gospel itself. "Be gracious unto you." In what, then, is God gracious? In a broken law? What does that know of grace? In resolutions of amendment, creature performances, and human righteousness? Can the Lord, will the Lord show himself gracious in these? I have read of a project for extracting sunbeams out of cucumbers. We might as well expect to make sunbeams out of cucumbers as to make grace out of the law; it is cold as cucumbers; there is no sun in it.

Grace, to be grace, must come out of the gospel. It is in the gospel, and out of the gospel must it come; and it does come, excluding all creature righteousness, putting an extinguisher upon all human merit. As the Apostle argues—"And if by grace, then is it no more of works; otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace; otherwise work is no more work" (Ro 11:6). "The Lord be gracious unto you."

But how is the Lord gracious? Perhaps you have had occasion, at some time of your life, to go into the presence of some one in worldly rank far your superior, and you went timid, nervous, and trembling; but you experienced what is called a "gracious reception." Did not that enable you to speak and open your petition? So it is in the things of God. A sense of our lowliness and unworthiness may and does make us tremble and feel timid before the face of the Most High; but when he draws us into his presence, and receives us graciously, as king Ahasuerus received the trembling Esther, extending to her the scepter of his grace, it emboldens the soul to lay its petition at his feet. Nothing will do it but this.

But you feel and say often, "I am so unworthy." Will you ever be anything else? When do you hope to be worthy? When do you mean to be worthy? If you could be worthy tomorrow, where is your worthiness today? Is the old score yet paid? If you venture upon the ground of ’worthiness’ you must have the old score rubbed off before you come to the new. Worthiness! where is it? In man? Never since the day that Adam fell. Righteousness fell in Paradise; when Adam’s hand touched the apple, worthiness fell to the ground, and never since has been able to raise its head. I must not, then, go to God upon the ground of worthiness.

But may I go on the ground of unworthiness? I read of one who did, and met with a very gracious reception. "Lord," said one, "I am not worthy that you should come under my roof; but speak the word only and my servant shall be healed." What did the Lord say of this man? That he had not found so great faith, no, not in Israel. What, also, was the confession of the returning prodigal? "I am no more worthy to be called your son." But this brought out the best robe, the ring for the hand, and the shoes for the feet.

Why? Faith dwells with a sense of unworthiness; they are bosom companions; it dwells in no other but unworthy breasts. Feel spiritually unworthy and you are spiritually believing, for it is faith that gives a sense of unworthiness. You believe you are unworthy; by the same faith that you believe your unworthiness you believe God’s grace. "Be gracious unto you." That melts the heart; law and terrors do but harden. It is grace that softens, grace that melts, grace that constrains, grace that produces, godly obedience.

Verse 26

Nu 6:25

"The Lord make his face shine upon you." Nu 6:25

The allusion here seems, to my mind, to be to the sun. Sometimes the natural sun has not risen; and the world must need be dark if the sun be still beneath the horizon. So with many gracious souls; it is darkness with them, midnight darkness, Egyptian darkness, darkness to be felt, because at present neither the Day-star has appeared, nor the Sun of righteousness risen upon them with healing in his wings. It will and must be dark with them until the Sun rises.

But sometimes after the sun has risen we see not his face—clouds—deep, dark clouds, may obscure the face of that bright luminary throughout the whole day, and we may not get a single ray from him through the whole period that he is above the visible horizon. So, many of the Lord’s family, after the Sun has risen upon them in the morning of their spiritual life, may pass, perhaps, much of their subsequent time in the dark shadow, until perhaps at evening tide there is light, and a departing ray gilds the dying pillow.

But again, there are sometimes days when mists drive rapidly across the face of the bright orb of day, and yet occasionally he peeps through the breaking clouds. And is not this, in some measure, an emblem of the way in which the Sun of righteousness is continually obscured by the mists and fogs which spring up out of our unbelieving heart, hidden from view by the doubts and fears that, like the vapors of the valley, spread themselves, to our view, over his beauteous face?

Yet there are times when he gleams through the clouds and disperses the mists. When the Lord is pleased to bless the soul and shine upon it with any sweet manifestation, then he breaks in through the dark clouds, but they gather again. It is not in Christian experience one bright summer day. We do not live in Australia or Peru, where clouds and mists rarely obscure the face of the sun. Our spiritual climate is humid, our inward latitude is the chilling north.

"The Lord make his face shine upon you." Is the Lord, then, sovereign in these matters? Can we not lift up our hand and remove the cloud? We have as much power to stretch forth our hand and sweep away the mists that obscure the Sun of righteousness, as we have power with the same hand to sweep away a London fog. How this puts the creature into his right place! And the creature is only in his right place when he is nothing, and God is all in all. How blessed to see the face of the Father; and to see it shine! not covered with lowering clouds of justly-merited displeasure, as sometimes we see in the natural sky an obscured sun looking angrily down, presaging wind and storm. It is indeed true that, when we have brought guilt into our consciences, the face of God is seen to lower with anger. We have brought his just displeasure upon our heads; though not angry with the persons of his people, yet is he justly angry with their sins; and a sense of this in the soul covers his face with clouds—"You have covered yourself with a cloud, that our prayer should not pass through" (La 3:44).

"The Lord make his face shine upon you." And if he makes his face shine upon you, he will make your face shine too. It was so with Moses, when he was in the mount and was holding sweet communion with God. When he came down among the people, the skin of his face shone; the glory of God was reflected upon it. And if the Lord makes his face shine upon you, it will make your face not unlike the face of Moses when you go among the people of God.

"And be gracious unto you." Nu 6:25

How sweet the gospel is! But what makes the gospel sweet? That one word which sheds a perfume through the whole—grace. Take grace out of the gospel and you destroy the gospel; you nullify and overthrow it; it is the gospel no more. Grace pervades every part and every branch of the blessed gospel; it is the life of the gospel; in a word, it is the gospel itself. "Be gracious unto you." In what, then, is God gracious? In a broken law? What does that know of grace? In resolutions of amendment, creature performances, and human righteousness? Can the Lord, will the Lord show himself gracious in these? I have read of a project for extracting sunbeams out of cucumbers. We might as well expect to make sunbeams out of cucumbers as to make grace out of the law; it is cold as cucumbers; there is no sun in it.

Grace, to be grace, must come out of the gospel. It is in the gospel, and out of the gospel must it come; and it does come, excluding all creature righteousness, putting an extinguisher upon all human merit. As the Apostle argues—"And if by grace, then is it no more of works; otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace; otherwise work is no more work" (Ro 11:6). "The Lord be gracious unto you."

But how is the Lord gracious? Perhaps you have had occasion, at some time of your life, to go into the presence of some one in worldly rank far your superior, and you went timid, nervous, and trembling; but you experienced what is called a "gracious reception." Did not that enable you to speak and open your petition? So it is in the things of God. A sense of our lowliness and unworthiness may and does make us tremble and feel timid before the face of the Most High; but when he draws us into his presence, and receives us graciously, as king Ahasuerus received the trembling Esther, extending to her the scepter of his grace, it emboldens the soul to lay its petition at his feet. Nothing will do it but this.

But you feel and say often, "I am so unworthy." Will you ever be anything else? When do you hope to be worthy? When do you mean to be worthy? If you could be worthy tomorrow, where is your worthiness today? Is the old score yet paid? If you venture upon the ground of ’worthiness’ you must have the old score rubbed off before you come to the new. Worthiness! where is it? In man? Never since the day that Adam fell. Righteousness fell in Paradise; when Adam’s hand touched the apple, worthiness fell to the ground, and never since has been able to raise its head. I must not, then, go to God upon the ground of worthiness.

But may I go on the ground of unworthiness? I read of one who did, and met with a very gracious reception. "Lord," said one, "I am not worthy that you should come under my roof; but speak the word only and my servant shall be healed." What did the Lord say of this man? That he had not found so great faith, no, not in Israel. What, also, was the confession of the returning prodigal? "I am no more worthy to be called your son." But this brought out the best robe, the ring for the hand, and the shoes for the feet.

Why? Faith dwells with a sense of unworthiness; they are bosom companions; it dwells in no other but unworthy breasts. Feel spiritually unworthy and you are spiritually believing, for it is faith that gives a sense of unworthiness. You believe you are unworthy; by the same faith that you believe your unworthiness you believe God’s grace. "Be gracious unto you." That melts the heart; law and terrors do but harden. It is grace that softens, grace that melts, grace that constrains, grace that produces, godly obedience.

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Bibliographical Information
Philpot, Joseph Charles. "Commentary on Numbers 6". Philpot's Commentary on select texts of the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jcp/numbers-6.html.