The Face of the Gospel and the Aaronic Blessing
Or, the neuroscience behind the neglected theology of God’s Joyful Face (pt. 2 of 2)
Maybe one way of speaking the gospel—especially for those crying out for a new family— is, “Become attached to God, just as God is attached to you!”
Or to slightly rephrase these two verses according to attachment theory,
“We must become attached to Jesus just as he is attached to us.”
“We express attachment joy to God because God first expressed attachment joy toward us.”
The Face of God in Aaron’s Blessing
22 The Lord said to Moses, 23 “Tell Aaron and his sons, “This is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them:
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.’
27 “So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.”
The Purpose— v. 27
The purpose of the blessing is that God will put God’s own name on them, and bless them.
The Family Name
To receive God’s name means that you’re part of the family.
The Family Blessing
The blessing of bearing God’s names is the continuation of the blessing that was given to Adam and Eve (Gen. 1:26-28). The blessing that was lost in the fall (Gen. 3). This is the blessing that is promised to come through Abraham, supposed to flow to all nations.
The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.
2 “I will make you into a great nation,
and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing.
3 I will bless those who bless you,
and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
will be blessed through you.” (Gen. 12:1-3
And it is in Jesus Christ that this blessing comes to us.
Jesus, of Abraham’s biological family, has redeemed all people of all biological families, “ in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit” (Gal. 3:14).
And this promised Spirit is the Spirit of adoption, for “God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father’” (Gal. 4:6).
So all the blessings that have been given to Adam and Eve, that were lost, that were promised again to Abraham, have been fulfilled and given to you in Christ through whom we are adopted into the Father’s family—the family that bears God’s name.
This is the purpose of this blessing.
So, what is the content of this blessing?
And why does it matter for us?
Bless You And Keep You— v. 24
This is the blessing of safety, of protection, of keeping and holding.
Family is supposed to be a place of protection, where someone is looking out for you, where someone picks you up when you fall down.
The basic idea of “keep you” is that God is keeping your feet from stumbling, keeping your feet on the paths of life.
To “keep you” is the promise to help you walk on the way, to preserve you on the path, to hold you when you need help. And it is also the promise to protect from those who would attack you.
This family is on a journey together—from the kingdom of death, darkness, sin, and fear to God’s kingdom of life, freedom, and family.
And God promises to keep you safe on this journey.
Make His Face Shine On You and Be Gracious To You— v. 25
The idea of “shining” is really something like
the beaming face,
or the joyful face,
the face where the eyes dancing,
and the mouth is smiling.
This is God’s face toward you in this blessing.
Can you see, even feel, God’s smiling face shining down on you?
And because we experience the joy of this face we can also receive the gift of grace. This is the compassion and mercy and love that endures forever.
Attachment theory and child developmental studies show just how important a joyful face is.
Face-to-face interactions are how we amplify positive emotional experiences, growing our capacity for joy.
And face-to-face interactions are also how we return to joy when we are distressed, upset, or overwhelmed, growing our capacity to overcome distress.
The shining face of our attachment figure amplifies joy, gives us courage to explore, and brings us back from overwhelm to peace.
So the shining face of God is the joy within God’s presence, which gives us the courage to overcome all fear, and brings us peace.
Grace When We’ve Messed Up
The graciousness that is upon us is real even when—as God’s children—we blow it.
When we have failed, there is forgiveness.
When we've messed up, we aren’t canceled.
When we feel lost, there is a way home.
All of this is true because our Father in heaven shines grace upon us.
Turn His Face Toward You and Give You Peace— v. 26
We already looked at the forgotten theology of God’s face, so I’ll just note that we are told a second time in as many verses that God’s face turns toward us.
And when our Father keeps you safe, and gives you grace, when you feel safe with your family, then we can rest and relax.
Or rather, we can receive PEACE.
And this peace is not just the absence of conflict. It is the fullness of life. This is the peace when life with others, with God, and with the world is flourishing.
This is the peace that “will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:7).
This is a peace that Jesus came to offer us. A peace that leads us into the very presence of God.
For Jesus “came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit” (Eph. 2:17-18).
The Blessing of the God’s Face
So today, may the Father’s face turn toward you…
To bless you with all the riches of heaven,
To keep your feet firm on the paths of earth,
To shine toward you a face of joy,
To offer you grace even when you feel shame,
To give you peace even when you feel turmoil…
…So that you might remember you are part of the family.