Summary: Jesus Christ…not just God’s shining face, but God’s shining hour!
Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, thou that leadest Joseph like a flock; thou that dwellest between the cherubims, shine forth.  Before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh stir up thy strength, and come and save us.  Turn us again, O God, and cause thy face to shine; and we shall be saved.  O Lord God of hosts, how long wilt thou be angry against the prayer of thy people?  Thou feedest them with the bread of tears; and givest them tears to drink in great measure.  Thou makest us a strife unto our neighbours: and our enemies laugh among themselves.  Turn us again, O God of hosts, and cause thy face to shine; and we shall be saved.
Numbers 6:24-26 (KJV)
The Lord bless thee, and keep thee:  The Lord make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee:  The Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.
The world was waiting for a Savior.
The Israelites, God’s chosen people, had been ordained to keep God’s Law, but they had veered so far off course, due in part to their disobedient co-mingling with heathen cultures, that God had spewed them out of His mouth and turned His face from them.
They had dishonored God and caused Him to turn away. They were now in captivity…a nation possessed. Indeed, the WORLD was in captivity…we lay captive to SIN. Our exodus FROM God had been a long and painful journey, from Adam to Malachi, seared by many historically recorded acts of disobedience. And now the world had hit rock bottom.
ROCK BOTTOM is a painful experience. It’s a separation that leaves you feeling so completely alone that you feel abandoned, separated…detached. If any one individual’s rock-bottom experience is painful, imagine the anguish of an entire nation that had hit rock bottom in their relationship with God!
The world was in complete turmoil, though they knew it not. Even the successive kings of God’s chosen people didn’t know how to get God’s people to refocus their attention on their Creator, even though He had been their Way-maker and their Battleaxe. We hear the utter despair in the song of Asaph, one of king David’s three chief musicians who presided over the sacred choral worship services. Asaph was charged to write a hymn of celebration and praise for the people while they were enslaved. But how do you celebrate a nation in captivity? How do you celebrate a nation held captive to sin?
Asaph, discouraged over the plight of his world, writes: thou that dwellest between the cherubims, shine forth… come and save us. Turn us again, O God, and cause thy face to shine; and we shall be saved.
Can’t you hear the desperation in Asaph’s song of praise. Shine, Lord! Let your face shine forth. Please, let your face shine on us! Asaph knew his people were held captive by more than their neighboring nation…they were held captive by sin…sin so great that it had provoked God, and caused Him to turn away.
Such was the plight of all humanity. And our only solution for our condemned predicament would have to come from God. So Asaph cries for God to turn toward them and let them see His shining face once more.
Asaph’s chosen words were not new. For centuries, at the close of every worship service, the Levite priests had uttered a solemn benediction that called for God’s shining face. They would pray, The Lord bless thee, and keep thee, The Lord make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: The Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace. Three times they would repeat the name "Lord" or "Jehovah", unknowingly expressing the great mystery of the Godhead—three persons, and yet one God. And for centuries they would make the same three requests of God…"bless and keep us"; be "gracious to us"; and "give us peace." They wanted to see God’s shining face.
God’s shining face…
Hadn’t God shone them His shining face when He set them free from their Egyptian captives?
Hadn’t God shone them His shining face when He fed them with manna from heaven?
Hadn’t they seen His shining face in every battle’s victory, from the Canaanites and Amorites all the way to Sennacherib?
And still they sinned.
God knew that another victory would, at best, render short-lived obedience once again. The world was in a dilemma. The cycle of sin had to be broken. But how?
So, on His mercy seat God sits, the Good Shepherd of a wayward people. We could neither expect the comfort of his love, nor the protection of his arm, because mankind was separated by sin and disobedience from God. How then could we partake of his converting and saving grace?