Worship is a blessing.
The word blessing, if we take it back to its Hebrew form, is Berakhah. It was, at one time, the chief form of prayer in synagogue worship, which gave the blueprint for worship in the early church. Numbers 6:23-27, is often referred to as “The Lord’s Prayer of the Old Testament.” It says:
“May the Lord bless you and keep you.
May the Lord make his face to shine
upon you, and be gracious to you.
May the Lord lift up his countenance
upon you, and give you peace.”
The great theologian Matthew Henry actually exegetes this prayer out to be Trinitarian in its foreshadowing: The Lord is mentioned three times. The first time for protection, connoting God, the Father. The second time his face being gracious, which would point to Christ incarnate showing us mercy on the cross. The final line is a “blessing of peace” which can be easily compared to the Holy Spirit descending onto Jesus at his baptism.
Whether or not you agree with Matthew Henry, these thirty-six words have been recited, set to music, even spoken at dinner tables in Jewish and Christian settings an inestimable amount of times. But it is not the only blessing. In fact Christianity.com identifies twenty-eight blessings from the New Testament alone.
There are many reasons why spoken blessings are important, now more than ever:
First, it points us to our heritage of worship. Blessings have been around as long as believers have. Our worship order stems from this. In fact, the Berakhah in Jewish worship would have even greater significance later as it would become the service of the table in the Christian setting.
Second, it gives finality to any time when the believers are gathered together. A blessing is a very strong signal to an end (or a beginning) to something spiritually significant. When I have travelled to foreign countries, I have found the blessing at the dinner table to a loving moment. The host of the table stands and makes sweet remarks to those seated making them feel at home, at ease, and valued.
But most importantly, twenty-first century Americans need people of blessing in their lives. In this world of polarization, attitudes and conflict, needed are men and women of open blessing. Perhaps in this simple act, a person operating in the power of Christ can return our thinking to civility, kindness and gentleness.
As you think about your worship services at your church, give a blessing. As a congregant that may be by greeting someone with “May the peace of the Lord be with you,” instead of “How ‘ya doin’.” As a worshipper, perhaps praying a blessing, when called upon to pray publicly.
As a pastor or worship leader, remember to ask a blessing for your people before they leave. Help them to have assurance, peace and understanding. With twenty-eight in the New Testament alone, you have a half-year’s supply available. Remember our people need it, they cry out for it, as the refrain from the old Daniel Whittle hymn exclaims:
“Showers of blessing, showers of blessing we need:
Mercy drops round us are falling, but for the showers we plead.”