“Oh come, let us worship and bow down;
Let us kneel before the LORD our Maker.”
Twelfth and last in a series–
The (Aaronic) Benediction
The so-called Aaronic Benediction (literally: “to speak well of”) is named such because Aaron, Moses’ brother, and his sons were the designated priests for Israel. Therefore, it was to Aaron and his sons that the Lord gave these special words with which to bless the Children of Israel.
The LORD bless you and keep you;
The LORD make His face shine upon you,
And be gracious to you;
The LORD lift up His countenance upon you,
And give you peace.
(Numbers 6:24-26, NKJV)
“The LORD bless you and keep you.”
The LORD is the Giver of every blessing “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights” (Jms. 1:17). Every temporal and spiritual blessing is here included.
But the Benediction also adds “And keep you.” The word “keep” means to watch over, guard, protect. You “are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation” (1 Pet. 1:5). And what is the “power of God”? The Apostle Paul tells us, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16). In other words, the LORD watches over, guards, and protects us as we make our way through this world of sin.
“The LORD make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you.”
What is the “face” of the Lord? The word translated “face” in the Benediction is quite properly translated “presence,” as in Exodus 33:14: “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” Thus, in the Aaronic Blessing the Lord promises us that His presence will be with us every minute of every day, filling our lives with His gracious light of life and love.
“The LORD lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace.”
The same word translated “face” (and in other places translated “presence”) is here translated “countenance.” To lift up one’s countenance or face upon someone is to look upon that one with love, compassion, grace, and favor.
Thus, our LORD wishes to assure us that for the sake of Christ there is peace between us and God. He sees us as His holy children in Christ Jesus. Now our conscience can no longer accuse us. We are ready to meet our Lord whenever our time of grace is finished.
The three parts of the Aaronic Benediction seem to quite naturally emphasize the Trinity: the Father who pours out every blessing upon us, keeping and preserving us as His children; the Son through whom God’s face shines upon us in forgiveness; the Holy Spirit by whom we are moved by faith to recognize God’s gracious favor and thus enjoy peace of heart and soul.
It would seem that every Christian would wish to remain in church through the end of the service and receive this very meaningful blessing from the LORD. Leaving early should happen only in extreme emergencies.
The threefold “Amen” concludes the service–again to emphasize the Trinity.
Though the formal order of worship service does not call for it, we usually conclude with a final hymn before the silent prayer.
A prayer of thankfulness to our Lord for this opportunity to worship Him is very fitting.
Hallelujah! Let praises ring!
Unto our Triune God we sing;
Blest be His name forever!
With angel hosts let us adore
And sing His praises more and more
For all His grace and favor!
Singing, ringing: Holy, Holy,
God is holy, Spread the story
Of our God, the Lord of Glory! (TLH 23:4)
–Pastor Em. L. Dale Redlin
(This concludes the series. We thank Pastor Redlin for this instructive series of articles on the traditional “page 5” order of worship. — Editor)