Are benedictions just pious sounding words with which we end a religious service? While the benediction is being pronounced do you find yourself collecting your belongings and thinking about who you will talk to when it’s over? Pastor, do you know why you pronounce a blessing at the end of the service?
Mark E. Ross in a recent article in TableTalk (p62-3, July, 2012) gives good counsel regarding the benediction. I have shortened the longer article but the words remain Mr. Ross’s:
“Blessing from the Lord”
“Blessing as an act of God goes back to the creation of the world, when our Creator blessed the living creatures and our first parents so that they might be fruitful and multiply. God also blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy that it might for us as it was for him: a day of rest and refreshment in the enjoyment of all that God has made and given to us.
“God has also provided that blessing for his people be given through human agents, and scripture gives numerous examples. Chief among these are the blessings given through the Lord’s appointed priests. The best known of these is the special formula given to Aaron and his sons when Israel set out from Sinai to march into the wilderness; Numbers 6:22-27.
“These words are familiar because they are a regular part of Christian worship in many places, often spoken at the close of worship services, weddings, funerals and other special gatherings. But the very repetition that makes them so familiar, as well as their placement at the end of the service, can easily dull us to their significance and cause us to take them for granted or treat them with indifference…
“Yet the words were spoken to Israel as powerful words of blessing. They formula is framed with statements of its purpose and effect: “Thus you shall bless the people of Israel…So shall they put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them.” This blessing is, as James Phi8lip has said, “is not the mere expression of pious hope” (Mastering the Old Testament: Number, p88). It is not a prayer offered by the priest on behalf of the people. It is not, therefore, a word to God from us, or from one of us on behalf of all. It is a word from God to his people, a royal proclamation spoken through is appointed representative, declaring that the Lord’s blessing is given….
“While the New Testament puts an end to the Aaronic priesthood, it continues the benediction. Our Savior gave such a blessing as he ascended into heaven (Luke 24:50-51). Nearly all the New Testament Epistles close with an Apostolic benediction. As minister have succeeded the Apostles as the preachers of God’s Word, so they are appointed to proclaim God’s word of blessing. Like all spiritual blessing they must be received by faith. But when spoken to believers, the blessing empowers and sustains, refreshing faith and renewing hope, confirming God’s promises to us so that we can meet life’s challenges. Don’t leave church without it.”