“The LORD bless thee, and keep thee:
The LORD make His face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee
The LORD lift up His countenance upon thee, and give thee peace”
(Numbers 6: 24-26)
One of the duties of Aaron and his priestly line was to bless the people in the name of the Lord: “And the priests the sons of Levi shall come near; for them the LORD thy God hath chosen to minister unto him, and to bless in the name of the LORD; and by their word shall every controversy and every stroke be tried” (Deut. 21: 5). Through Moses His servant, God had instructed that Aaron and his sons pronounce the above blessing – commonly referred to as “the Aaronic Blessing” – upon His people (Num. 6: 22-23).
“Hereby God put an honour upon the priests, for the less is blessed of the better; and hereby He gave great comfort and satisfaction to the people, who looked upon the priest as God’s mouth to them. Though the priests of himself could do no more than beg a blessing, yet being an intercessor by office, and doing that in His name who commands the blessing, the prayer carried with it a promise, and he pronounced it as one having authority with his hands lifted up and his face towards the people” (Matthew Henry).
o The Use of the Aaronic Blessing Today
One may ask, “Should we pronounce the Aaronic Blessing in our churches today? Or should this benediction be confined to the Old Testament priesthood?”
In our Bible-Presbyterian churches, it is a common practice to close the worship service by singing “The Lord Bless You and Keep You”. Moreover, our ministers often dismiss their congregations with a similar benediction. We uphold this practice because we believe that the benediction is a God-ordained blessing upon His children in every age. We note from Numbers 6 that the Lord had given specific instructions to His servant Moses for blessing His chosen people, Israel. As God’s redeemed people, we belong to the Body of Christ. Moreover, having been “accepted in the beloved” as the children of the living and true God (Eph. 1: 6), we are free to enjoy the blessings of salvation and grace through our Saviour: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Gal. 3: 28-29).
We note that the words of the Aaronic blessing were formulated by the Lord Himself. In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus had, in response to His disciples’ request, given them the Lord’s Prayer as a pattern for their petitions (Lk. 11: 1-4). It is not wrong for Christians today to pray the Lord’s Prayer which contains all the basic elements of prayer so long as it is not done in a ritualistic or meaningless way. Some churches recite the Lord’s Prayer during the worship service. Following that same principle, we must not restrict the Aaronic benediction to the priesthood of the Old Testament. It is to be applied as a blessing upon God’s people at all times.
o Elements of the Aaronic Blessing
In the original Hebrew, the number of words increase with each verse. The first verse has three words, the second five, and the third, seven.
“The blessing consists of three distinct parts, and mounts by gradual stages to that peace which forms the last and most consummate gift which God can give His people. From a Christian point of view, and comparing the counterpart benediction of II Cor. 13:14 – ‘The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen’ – it is impossible not to see shadowed forth the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. And the three several sets of terms correspond fittingly to the office of the Three Persons in Their gracious work for the redemption of man” (Albert Barnes).
The simple but meaningful words of this benediction reflect God’s desire to bless His people with His gracious favours. God is the source of all our blessings: “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning” (Jas. 1: 17).
We thank God that He is always ready to minister His grace to His redeemed ones. Those whom the Lord blesses are blessed indeed. Let us count it a privilege to come under His divine favour and to receive His manifold blessings. (… to be continued)