Numbers 6:22-27 (Part 1) – Sunday Morning Worship, How Do You View It? A Get-to or a Have-to?

Posted: July 17, 2016 in Book of Numbers
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Numbers 6:22-27 (Part 1)

The Priestly Blessing

Growing up as a preacher’s kid and in church every Sunday, I heard this benediction (the good word) at the end of many a church service from my father, the preacher, to his congregation at whatever church he was assigned to at the time. My dad would usually, during the final hymn, would walk his way to the rear of the sanctuary, and at the end of the song, he might say a few words to tie out the sermon and the last hymn and then he would pronounce the benediction. He would often quote Numbers 6:22-27 as the benediction to the crowd. He would then tell the crowd that they were dismissed and he would exit into the vestibule (the small lobby area between the front doors of the church and the doors to the sanctuary). There, he would speak to as many parishioners as he could as they were exiting the church. It was classic, small town in the South church. As a kid, I just never really paid attention to what he said. I knew that there were things that had to happen before church was over. Dad had to preach. The choir had to lead the congregation in the last hymn and dad had to say the benediction. The benediction meant that church was over and we could go to lunch somewhere nice, as was the Southern Sunday tradition, and then on home for pro football afternoons, where mom would do laundry and dad would begin watching football games and eventually fall asleep in his recliner (preaching on Sunday is physically and emotionally draining thing that takes a lot out of you) for his Sunday afternoon nap. The cycle would begin again with an early supper and then back to church for youth meetings and anything else that was going on at church on Sunday nights.

 

These were my Sundays growing. There was a system to it. There was a cycle to it. There was a rhythm to Sundays that you could count on. The benediction was the ending of the church service. You could count on it. It was the last line item in the bulletin in the order of service for that Sunday. One of the dangers of a standard order of service in church is that we may sometimes lose the meaning of each thing that is done. You just robotically do the responsive readings without thinking about what they mean. It is like when we get ready to go to work in the morning, there is a routine that we follow and it has become so routine and we have done it so robotically that sometimes you cannot even remember if you washed your hair or not. Traditional church could be that way. All the recitations and responsive reading and the predictability can become so monotonous that you cannot even remember later what responsive readings were chosen.

 

“New church” as it sometimes called was a reaction to the perceived staleness of traditional church. It was a reaction to the robotic nature perceived of traditional church. However, even though we do not have bulletins with a published order of service (only the tech team has the order of service), we do have our same way of doing things too. For example, at my church which is part of the “new church” movement, you can count on certain things happening a certain way. We have an opening song by the worship band. It is followed by the greeting by one of three elders who are not the preaching/senior pastor. After that, we typically have two songs, followed by the “giving talk” by another of the three non-preaching elders. A song is then sung by the worship band as the congregation brings their offerings to front of the church. Then we have what is called a “bumper video” that introduces the theme of the sermon series that we are in (as the band arranges the stage for the preaching pastor in the darkened stage). Then, we have the sermon, a final song, and the benediction, of sorts, though we do not use an old fashioned word like benediction. Although, we may change it up here and there, this is the typical pattern of our worship services in our modern worship style at my church.

 

Whether you go to a traditional church or to a new modern worship style church, God ordained a closing good word or benediction at gatherings of His people. It is biblical for there to be a benediction, the good word for the sending forth of the flock. In Numbers 6:22-27, we have the way the Lord prescribed for the priests to send forth God’s chosen people from any public gathering (most of which were worship services). Many of us have heard this benediction many, many times in our church life and we don’t really pay attention to what it means. Let us, over the next several days, examine this benediction for what it says about God and why He wanted it said at the conclusion of gatherings of His people:

 

22 The Lord said to Moses, 23 “Tell Aaron and his sons, ‘This is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them:

 

24

“‘“The Lord bless you

    and keep you;

25

the Lord make his face shine on you

    and be gracious to you;

26

the Lord turn his face toward you

    and give you peace.”’

 

27 “So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.”

 

 

A blessing was one of asking for God’s divine favor to rest upon others. The ancient blessing in these verses helps us understand what a blessing was supposed to do. It has five parts to it. These five parts in this blessing conveyed hope that God would (1) bless and protect his people, (2) smile upon them (be pleased with them), (3) be gracious to them (show them mercy and compassion), (4) show his favor toward them (give them His approval), and (5) give them peace (not just the absence of conflict but a contentment and joy of knowing that we are in God’s favor). We will look at each of these points over the next couple of days. But for today, let us remember we should approach worship and all of its component parts with our mind engaged.

 

As we sit here on Sunday morning awaiting our time to go to worship services, let us not make it a tradition or a routine. Let us pray to God to open our eyes and our ears and approach the worship services we are about to attend with prepared hearts not just ones who go to LifeSong Church, or First Baptist Church, Duncan, or First Baptist Church, Lyman, or NewSpring Spartanburg, or WellSpring Taylors or any of the hundreds or thousands of churches in the Upstate of South Carolina or anywhere in our nation or world with a blind, roboticness of this is what we do on Sunday. Let us go with prepared hearts that are ready for worship. Let us consider the words of the songs we sing (whether the songs are traditional or modern) and study in our mind what these songs tell us about our God and our relationship with Him. Let us consider the words of the greeting and not be checking our cell phone as the preacher speak the greeting and gives the announcements (and then later ask leaders of the church why they never heard of an event that they were supposed to be a part of). Let us consider the words of the giving talk and how God commands us to put Him first in our finances (and how that changes our perspective on how we manage our money). Let us consider the words of the sermon and not just drift off into a daydream as to the fact that you are hungry and ready for lunch). Let us consider the invitation to a closer walk with Christ. Let us then consider the words of the sending forth into the world and what that means to us as Christ followers in a darkened world. Let us not consider the benediction as that last hold up before we leave. Let us be a people that do not leave service during the last hymn so that we can grab the kids and get a head start on the Sunday lunch traffic! Let us be a people that is primed and ready to worship God! Let us be a people that eats up everything that happens in our worship service. Let us see worship services as our refueling for the week to come. Let us be sad that the worship service is over. Let us soak in every word. Let us not see church as something that we GET to do and not as something we HAVE to do.

 

Now, go forth to worship and really, really worship God today. Amen and Amen.

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