Every Divine Service concludes with the words, "The Lord bless you and keep you, the Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious unto you. The Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace." This is the Benediction, words that God gave to Aaron in Numbers 6. God promised that as the priests said these words over the people, "they shall they put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them." But what does it mean to pray for the Lord's face to shine upon us? It turns out this phrase appears elsewhere in Scripture, including several times in the Psalms. For example, in Psalm 119:135 we read, "Make your face shine upon your servant, and teach me your statutes." In Daniel 9:17, "O Lord, make your face shine upon your sanctuary which is desolate." In Revelation 1:16 Jesus is described like this: "In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength." Or think about the Mount of Transfiguration when the face of Jesus "shone like the sun" as witnessed by Peter, James, and John (Matt 17:2).
Obviously, the Lord's face shining upon us is a good thing! It is a sign of God's favor toward us. We wouldn't want our Lord to look upon us with a gloomy face, or a face of anger, wrath, or even disappointment. The shining face of God upon us is an indication that God is pleased with us and wants to give us His blessing. God's shining face from the Old Testament is completed in Christ. Jesus' light brings us from the darkness of our sin to the light of His mercy. It is Jesus of whom John speaks in 1 John 1:5, "The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it." The shining face of Jesus is shown most gloriously in His disfigured and bloody face upon the cross, where He took the darkness of our sin upon Himself.
When Moses talked with the Lord on Mount Sinai, he came down off the mountain, and his face was shining. The shining face of God had rubbed off on Moses, and his face shone to such a degree that he had to cover it with a veil when he talked with God's people. Similarly, God's shining face is reflected on us, His people, as we live lives of service to our neighbor and bear witness to God's mercy in Christ.