hymns, (verses 1, 2 & 4) – check
scripture for the day – check
responsive reading – check
sermon – check
offering – check
Finally, we would get to the benediction and I took my cues from the adults. Mentally way ahead of the preacher, the ladies would have their purses in hand, gloves on, dresses smoothed, and chewing gum almost out of the foil wrapper (now a days we just go ahead and chew in church). I really didn’t understand the reason for the benediction other than it was our audio prompt that grandma’s house was just a prayer away.
The preacher would recite the same poem week after week. It seemed like nothing more than a nice way to tell everyone it was time to go. Years later, I would realize that it wasn’t just any poetic phrase. It was an ancient priestly blessing that God gave Moses and Aaron to speak over the children of Israel. For the next three weeks, I want to walk through this blessing. It is just 3 verses long, but it is far from an afterthought. It is chocked full of promise.
The first four words of verse 24 is a request for divine favor. We can’t mistake favor with meaning that everything will go our way. When Moses and Aaron asked Pharaoh to let the Israelites go, it resulted in some very unfavorable working conditions. Sometimes hardships come as the result of doing God’s work. When adversity comes, don’t assume you have fallen out of God’s favor. You may be experiencing trouble for doing good.
The next three words in this ancient blessing – and keep you – speak of God’s protection. God’s protection can take many forms and it is limitless. This is the same type of protection we see described in Psalm 17:8.
Have you ever wondered what exactly is the apple of your eye? Think of it like your pupil. You protect your pupil when you blink. It is an automatic reflex to protect what is precious. To drive home the meaning, David also writes “Hide me in the shadow of your wings.” This is symbolic of a mother bird protecting her chicks. We must not conclude that we have fallen out of God’s protection if we experience troubles. God protects us by leading us through difficult circumstances. Ultimately we have eternal protection from the consequences of sin through faith in His son Jesus Christ.
I didn’t understand the reason or the meaning behind these words when I was a child, but today when I hear these words of blessing spoken over me, I am reminded that God wants to bless me and protect me. No matter what it looks like circumstantially, these promises are always true for his children.
Today’s Prayer – Lord I want every ounce of your blessing. I don’t want to forfeit any bit of it by rushing on to the next thing in life. Help me not to mistake hardships for your favor being removed. I know you are always for your children. Keep me, as you draw me close into the folds of your protective wings.
Next week we’ll take a closer look at Numbers 6:25!