When we offend a person, his face is not toward us as at other times. It was so with Laban towards Jacob; and if we have in any way incurred a friend’s or superior’s displeasure, we watch instinctively his countenance. Is it down or up? Does it wear a frown or a smile? Is it looking upon us with the eye of affection, or are the eyes averted? We can tell in a moment if we know the countenance. Thus is the blessing asked, "The Lord lift up his countenance upon thee," as a kind and affectionate parent upon an obedient child, as a fond husband upon a loving, devoted wife; for such is God to his children—Father and Husband. And do we not, as children, often provoke him to look upon us with frowning brow, or rather, not to look upon us at all, to "hide his face," as we read, "that we cannot see him?"
The prayer then is, "The Lord lift up his countenance upon thee," with a smile upon it; free, open, forgiving, merciful, and mild, that thou mayest advance therein.
When a disobedient child comes home and sees its father’s face not towards it as before, it shrinks away; there is no pressing forward to get upon the knee, no throwing the little arms round the neck and snatching a kiss, but a shrinking away through guilt and shame.
So it is in the things of God. When conscience tells us how in this and that instance we have disobeyed, been inconsistent, transgressed, and done amiss, when we go into God’s presence there is a hanging back, a shrinking away, through fear of an ill reception. But oh, the change in the child when the frown disappears and the smile succeeds; when the little one is taken once more into the arms and the tears are kissed away! How much more so in the things of God when he kisses away the tears of the disobedient child, as in the case of the returning prodigal! There are no kisses like those kisses of forgiveness, of mercy, and of restoring grace.
"And give thee peace." Oh, what a blessing! As Hart says, "I’ll lay me down and sweetly sleep, For I have peace with God."
It is this that makes the pillow easy in life, and will alone make that pillow easy in death—peace with God through Jesus Christ, peace through the reconciliation, peace through the blood of sprinkling, "the peace of God which passeth all understanding." Many covet great things, high things. But what said the Lord to Baruch? "Seekest thou great things for thyself? seek them not."
Ministers often seek great gifts, great eloquence, great knowledge of mysteries, great congregations, great popularity and influence. They are wrong in seeking these so-called great things. Let them rather seek real things, gracious things, things that will make their souls blessed here and hereafter.
The blessing that the gracious soul most earnestly covets is peace; for this is the sweetest honey-drop in God’s cup. It is true that it does not make the heart overflow like joy, nor to dance with exultation like the first beaming in of the rays of hope, nor melt it down like the visits of love; but it is in some respects sweeter than all, because it so settles down the soul into sweet assurance; it is the realisation of the Saviour himself, for "he is our peace," and may thus be called the crowning blessing.