We are familiar with the Aaron’s blessing found in Numbers 6:24-26
“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.”
When Billy Joe pastored our first small Methodist church one of my favorite portions during the Sunday morning service was the benediction. It was such a comfort to go out with this blessing ringing in my heart, surrounding me with His presence as I charged forth into the week ahead.
Many times as a harried mother of 4, Sunday was not the most restful day of the week. My husband was the pastor, so he usually left early to prepare for the day at church, which meant no help getting ready for the big day of the week. “The Sunday Morning Service.” By the time I walked into the quietness of the sanctuary I had fed hungry mouths, found missing socks, retrieved shoes from the toilet (literally!) and wiped snotty noses. Yet we proudly walked to the front row with hair combed, clean clothes and even bows in our hair.
I sat in a pew with three wiggly bodies (one in the nursery, PTL!), critiquing my husbands sermon (Oh yes, I did! Sorry BJ), and checking the faces of the congregation to see who might have been offended that week. ‘Did I turn on the crockpot with the roast inside?’ ‘Did I turn off the coffee pot?’ I’m afraid I didn’t receive very much insight into the word. But at least I was able to sit for a while. That pretty much summed up my ‘worship at church’ during this new season of my life.
All too quickly, BJ was finished and I had missed the main point. Again.
Then came the Benediction.
“The Lord bless you and keep you.”
My spirit would leap up passed the confusion of my mind and the tiredness of my body, like a dry, thirsty entity to grab hold of those words. “The Lord Bless you and KEEP you.” Like a warm blanket, these words took on tangible meaning in my heart. The Lord Himself would keep me, surround and protect me. Protect me even from the fear and anxiety of being a young pastor’s wife. You see, BJ went to school to become a pastor, but unfortunately there was no school for a pastor’s wife, and my fabricated image of who I should be was skewed. I had expectations of myself that were unrealistic and certainly not demanded by the precious people in our church. Yet I could not see it at the time and I lived with great anxiety and fear of being found out that I was NOT who they thought was.
“The Lord make His face to shine upon you.”
His face. Not the faces of the needy, the offended or even the friendly faces. His face. His smile, His delight, His pleasure. To know and feel His acceptance and love, even though I felt I was the least to deserve it.
“The Lord lift up His countenance upon you.”
His Countenance. This word also means his face, but in my heart it meant more. His presence, His light. His protection. It was a though this very word meant He looked up to the rest of the world and said, “This is my daughter and I am pleased with her.” Amazing validation, which opened my heart to the clincher, the last sentence in this extraordinary blessing.
“And give you peace.”
Shalom. More than a quietness. The fullness of the word Peace. Everything brought back into the full restoration of the Father’s original intent. Nothing missing, nothing broken, all whole again. Shalom, Peace. Rest for your soul. And strength for the journey ahead.
Today, I am reminded again of those wonderful, frightful, early days in ministry. I have shifted in so many areas of my life over the years. And throughout, His blessing has never changed. It has grown richer and deeper in my heart, and still brings that warm comfort and peace to my soul.
My hope for you, whether you are a young believer or a seasoned prayer warrior, is that you too would remember, embrace and walk in the fullness of this blessing. Aaron’s blessing.