What is the high point of worship? The preaching of the word? The singing? What if there is an even higher pinnacle—a moment where God speaks, not so much to tell us something, but actually to do something? To speak with the same creative force with which he said “Let there be light.”
What if we missed it because we weren’t listening, we weren’t hearing by faith, and so missed the power of what happened?
The sermon finishes—final psalm—Who will I speak to, what’s for lunch, need to see so and so about… “…and the fellowship of Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.”
The Benediction—It’s not a prayer. It’s not a wish. It’s not even the minister speaking. God is.
We didn’t finish dealing with the worship service in our last article—there is yet more flowing from the fountain of grace—more to be drunk by faith.
Listen to the first great congregation benediction in Numbers 6:22.
‘The Lord said to 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 on you
and be gracious to you;
the Lord turn his face toward you
and give you peace.”’
“So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.”’
It’s an authorised statement by Aaron and his sons, a statement of intent from God through the mouth of his ministers. Note the certainty of action on God’s part – “And I will bless them.”
A blessing was seen as an active speaking of reality. This is the way it will be. Not even ‘will be’ – ‘is’! Isaac speaking of his blessing of Jacob in Gen 27:33 states, “I have blessed him – and he shall be blessed.”
It is a pronouncement – like at a wedding “I now pronounce you husband and wife”.
Something is happening. And we miss it if we don’t think on it.
It is clear from the Psalms that the Old Testament people of God thought much about their benediction. (Look for echoes in Ps 4, 80, 89, 119, 121, 122, 123, 125, 128, 130, 134 and others. Psalm 67 is based entirely upon turning the Aaronic Blessing into a prayer.)
They meditated on it. Chewed it over by faith. They worked it into the fabric of their joys, desires, trouble and pain.
Ryan McGraw writes, “These examples not only demonstrate the importance of the Aaronic Blessing in Scripture, but they show how God’s people are to respond in faith to the pronouncement of this benediction.”
That’s what we need to do. To hear these benedictions, grasp them with both hands and drink the truths into our lives.
One writer says of the benediction in 2 Cor 13:14, “It is as it were God’s answer to the people’s worship. He says “You have offered me your worship and now to as many of you as have done so in spirit and in truth – you do not serve me in vain, you shall have grace, mercy and peace.””
Take these words “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all”—Hear with the ears of faith the pronouncement of God.
1. Believe that you are blessed with the Son’s Gifts to you
Hear the Son’s generosity to you—like hearing your name called out on a list of prize winners. You have been undeservedly awarded all he has to give—his perfect record, his absolute forgiveness, his status as a son of the Father, his place in his Father’s house—all yours.
Better than that his greatest gift is himself—we get him, never leaving us, never forsaking us. As you leave the worship service, God the Son says to you, “All that I am and have is yours for this week ahead, and forever.” Do you believe this?
2. Believe that you are blessed with the Father’s Love for you
Often our great problem in the Christian life is that we keep trying to earn the Father’s love. Although we are sons, we live as slaves. We forget that he delights in us. We feel so inadequate and undeserving. Our sin burdens us.
And what we need to hear is this incredible statement from the Father to his children, “I love you. I have loved you with an everlasting love.”
Do you hear that each week? The same sense is found in the phrase “The Lord make his face shine upon you.”
Each Lord’s day, you leave your Father’s house with your Father’s kiss on your cheek. He says to you, “Remember you are my son/daughter and my love is with you this week, in your work, in your struggles, in your sickness, in your fears, in your failures, in your loneliness, in your happiness. In everything.”
3. Believe that you are blessed with the Spirit’s Presence with you
And as you leave the place of worship, laden with the Son’s gifts, assured of the Father’s love, you do not leave the presence of God. The Holy Spirit assures you that you have his companionship in all your comings and goings.
He says in effect “I am with you, to teach you, to assure you, to help you to glorify the Son, to help you grow in holiness.”
Do you sometimes leave the Lord’s Day with a sense of foreboding at the week ahead—the day has been like an oasis to your soul, but reality looms. If so hear the pronouncement of God, “We are in this together. You have my fellowship in all you do as you leave here.”
What a difference it would make if we drank deeply from this fountain each time we heard the benediction pronounced over us. Turn your face upward as the minister blesses—drink it in. Let your heart be saying, “Thank you God, I believe, help me overcome my unbelief.”