Tuesday, December 28, 2021

"Aaron's Benediction" - Henry Knapp

 “Bless You!”

Sneezing is a rather common part of life—studies show that on average people sneeze about four times per day (Why someone would be studying this is beyond me…). Happening as frequently as it does, it’s no surprise that there are traditions built up around a sneeze. Often, you will hear someone respond to a sneeze with the words, “Bless you,” short for the prayer, “May God bless you.”

The reason for such a blessing following a sneeze is not known for sure, but there are suggestions. One option is that the sneeze is thought to push your soul momentarily outside your body, and the prayer is a request that God guard your soul against Satan until it can return to the body. Another possibility from medieval times (when one sign of bubonic plague infection was a sneezing fit), is that the church encouraged this prayer for others anytime a sneeze happened, fearing that death from the plague was imminent.

Whatever the origin, “bless you” is a concise, yet powerful, prayer. In that short phrase, we are asking that the Lord would… what? What are we actually asking for when we ask God to “bless” someone? I suspect we all have a general sense of what we are asking for—good things, kindness, mercy, and so forth. Of course, we get that general sense from the Scripture itself. It is God who announces His intention to bless. Indeed, blessing God’s people is an important part of our worship together.

“Benediction” is Latin for “good word” or “good speaking.” When the pastor speaks a benediction, he is blessing the congregation with a final “good word”: a good word intended to wrap up all that has been happening during the worship service, and a good word which should spur us on to godliness, service, and adoration throughout the week. The benediction of a Hebron worship service is sometimes a summary statement of the Scripture, sometimes a charge and/or encouragement, sometimes a passage from the Bible.

The classic benediction in Scripture is in Numbers 6:22-27 where Moses is explicitly commanded by God to bless God’s people with words you might be familiar with: “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord life up His countenance upon you and give you peace.” The essence of this benediction is the announcement of God’s blessing, His grace and peace—all wrapped up with the promise of His very Presence with His people.

A benediction is intended to bless, and so this week in worship we will give a “benediction” to this past year and look forward to the one coming. For many of us, thinking of the past year in terms of blessing will not be very easy—it certainly has been a challenge! But, as we attend to the Word in Scripture, we will, I trust, hear God’s blessings and be able to carry them into the future.

Join us for worship this Sunday as we explore a marvelous Scriptural benediction, Numbers 6:22-27.

1. In verse 22, God directs Moses to bless the people. But the blessing is a request that God Himself do something. Why do you think God desires Moses to verbally say something to the Israelites, instead of God just doing it?

2. Notice that it seems like the blessing itself is in hearing the words. In other words, Moses and Aaron bless the people by saying the blessing to them. Why would hearing the words be a blessings?

3. List out the three couplets in the blessing. There are six elements here, grouped together in three lines. What holds the couplets together? Why join each pair together?

4. What does it mean to ask the Lord to “keep you” (vs. 24)?

5. To “lift up your countenance” means to look upon someone with favor. What would it look like if the Lord “looked on you with favor”?

6. In verse 27, God explains that by giving the benediction, Moses and Aaron will “put God’s name upon them.” What does it mean to have God’s name upon you? Why would this be a blessings?