Whose Blessing is it?3 min read

Little children quickly learn that when the pastor raises his hands and offers the benediction, its almost time to go. Even adults sometimes forget what is really happening in those few closing moments of worship.

It had been over two years since Moses told Pharaoh, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel says: ‘Let my people go!’” Now Moses had called the Israelites to the Tent of Meeting in the Desert of Sinai to receive the Lord’s instructions for their life together. At that time Aaron, the brother of Moses, acted as the chief pastor under the supervision of Moses. Aaron’s sons assisted him as he directed the worship life and the care of the people. In Numbers 6:23-26 we are told that the Lord told Moses:

“Tell Aaron and his sons, ‘This is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them: “The Lord bless you and keep you; The Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; The Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.”’”

These words make up what is commonly known as ‘The Aaronic Benediction.’ These ‘good words’ conveyed to the people at the close of almost every worship service are not to be confused with the command: “Let my people go!”

Something very wonderful and powerful is happening in that moment. Notice what the Lord tells Moses in the very next verse (27): “So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.”

Are you aware of the fact that when the blessing is pronounced this is not just the good will of the pastor being expressed? The LORD is ‘putting his name on us.’ These are not just kind words. The LORD is at work, and to remind us of this the pastor raises his hands as if reaching heavenward, signaling that blessings are about to be showered from on high.

This same dynamic is found throughout the worship service. When he pronounces the Absolution this is not just a pastor considering our transgressions and telling us that everything will be alright. The LORD is covering the load of our sins with the precious blood of Christ. When the pastor cradles an infant in his arms before the baptismal font the awesome thing that takes place is not seen in the loving action of the pastor but rather in the activity of a great and holy God who is receiving that little one into his family, promising grace and forgiveness for sin and actually granting that child eternal life in His Kingdom.

Again, notice: ‘The LORD bless you …” (Not Aaron, not the pastor, but THE LORD!) Whether we talk about our physical or spiritual life, our social or family life, the holy God is the source of all that is good. (James 1:17)

Knowing that, and believing that, makes us eager to receive his blessing.

“The LORD make his face to shine upon you.” According to Scripture, a face turned toward us signals that someone is taking joy in us. A face turned away is a sign of disapproval. As much as we deserve it, our Lord does not turn away from us. He looks upon us with love and compassion.

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About the Author

Rev. Harry C. Henneman served St. John Lutheran Church in Center Point, Iowa; the Iowa State Prison; Immanuel, St. Clair; and Trinity, Clinton Township until his retirement in 2002. During his time as an Emeritus Pastor, he served as a part-time Assistant to the President of the Michigan District under President Emeritus Rev. Dr. C. William Hoesman and Rev. Dr. David P. E. Maier. (Emeritus). He and his wife, Dottie, are the proud parents of three children and three grandchildren. Rev. Henneman was called to his heavenly home on August 25, 2020.

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