Why Have a Benediction?
Why Have a Benediction?
Every week at Redeemer we end the service with what is called the benediction. The word benediction literally means ‘good speaking,’ and refers to God’s pronouncement of blessing upon his people. The minister, acting as God’s representative, lifts his hands and announces the Lord’s final blessing on His people as they depart. The wording for the benediction is normally taken directly from Numbers 6:24-26, where the Lord commands Aaron the high priest and his sons to bless the people saying “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.” Both the Old and New Testaments contain examples of other benedictions that God inspired to be “placed upon” his people. The author of Hebrews, for example, finishes his letter with this benediction: “Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen” (see also 2 Cor 13:14, Eph 6:23-24, 2 Thess 3:16, 18). Why is it appropriate to end a worship service with a benediction?
First, a benediction gives God the last word in the service. From start to finish, our worship service has been an ongoing “dialogue” between God and his people where God has spoken, and we have responded. We have offered up to God our worship, and we have been recipients of his grace which flows down to us. The benediction serves as God’s parting blessing, his last word for us. As one theologian states, “But here, one last time, God addresses his people. Grace has the last word, as the people receive God’s blessings through the minister with raised hands.”
Second, the benediction bestows God’s blessing upon us. The benediction actually does something. After instructing Aaron and his sons to give this blessing to the people, God tells them that when they pronounce this blessing, they are in fact “…putting my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them.” In other words, the benediction is not a pious wish, sentiment, or even a prayer. It is a promise of blessing that God will carry out. God’s name is actually placed upon his people, and we are assured “…of His peace, promises, and His gracious presence as we leave His special presence to return to the world.” We leave worship confident that God is our God, we are his people, his face is shining upon us, and in all things he will be gracious to us. To that, we can only say “Amen! Amen! Amen!”