Looking for a Good Word?
February 22, 2018 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments
Posted in: Pastoral Encouragement
My three older sons are competing at a speech and debate tournament this week. We have spent many hours working on each of their ten-minute speeches, evaluating the best words and best presentation to use to communicate their message. Good speeches do more than communicate information; they make an impact. Words have power.
Ever since God used words to speak all of creation into existence, speech has been a powerful tool. Words create, define, interpret, and explain everything around us. The Gospel is a message, words about specific events and facts in history, that deeply transforms lives when received. God makes us new creations through hearing words about Christ’s death and resurrection.
Since God’s Word is so powerful to create and transform and make new, “we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard” (Heb. 2:1). We have the responsibility (and privilege!) to be attentive to the message God has proclaimed to us in order to receive his abundant and all-sufficient grace in our lives. God’s Word is powerful!
What happens, though, when we are inattentive? Even neglectful? God still has us covered.
As God is leading his people out of Egypt, he gave specific instructions to Moses about having Aaron and his sons (the priests) speak a blessing over the people. We read in Numbers 6:22-27 –
The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, "Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, Thus you shall bless the people of Israel: you shall say to them,
The LORD bless you and keep you;
the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.
"So shall they put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them."
Known as the Aaronic Benediction, God commands his word of blessing to be pronounced over his people. God knows that his people are forgetful and frail. God knows that his people will stumble and be unfaithful. God knows that his people will be inattentive and neglectful. So he directs his appointed ministers to speak His Word over the people and “put my name upon the people.” A benediction is no mere nicety to communicate warm feelings. It is God’s sustaining, unfailing grace for a needy people.
Three things stand out about a benediction:
- Rooted purely in God’s gracious initiative. To distinguish between a benediction, a doxology, and a prayer, we must note which direction the words are administered: from earth to heaven or from heaven to earth. A benediction is from God to his people. It is not a prayer. And it is not a word of worship for God. God initiates his kindness for the people.
- Centered on covenant relationship. Ever since God initiated his covenant with Abraham he had been promising his people, “And I will walk among you and will be your God, and you shall be my people” (Lev. 26:12). In the benediction, God further established such a promise… blessings of sustenance, presence, grace, and peace.
- The words are performative. God promises to be identified with his people through a benediction (“put my name upon the people”). The words of the benediction create and sustain that covenant relationship. God promises to bless his people through the benediction. Words have significant impact.
If you, like me, struggle to be consistent in being attentive to God’s word, be encouraged, God has you covered. He has given directions for his good and effectual word to be spoken over us.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all!