There is this song. It has been playing on repeat in my head lately. I have loved it since the first time I heard it, but recently it felt more signifiant. When my friend, Lara, sings it during worship at church, she stretches out her hand, and I bow my head as if she is singing over me. Last Sunday, as that exact scenario occurred, I wanted to crawl to the stage to receive a blessing from her, yet not exactly from her. She would merely be the deliverer of a blessing from God alone. And I found myself longing to receive it and to give it. I stretched out my own hand, closed my eyes, and tried to recite names in my head as quickly as they would come to me. Bless him... and him.. and her... and him... and her... and on and on.
The words of the song are derived from a few verses in Numbers:
The Lord said to Moses, “Tell Aaron and his sons, ‘This is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them: “‘“The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.”’ (Numbers 6:22-26)
Here is what I glean from these verses.
God's blessing is for our good. At times, it may include happiness or wealth or comfort, but it is much bigger than those.
If we are kept by God, then we are not being held by our hurt, frustration, bitterness, pride, wants, or anything else.
God's face shines on us not because of who we are or what we do, but because of Jesus in us.
He generously offers mercy and compassion to us.
God will turn his face toward us, smiling, his eyes lighting up with approval of our lives.
And he gives peace like no other. Shalom. Total satisfaction, completeness, an abundant life.
Then verse 27 says: “So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.”
Check that out. God gives permission to Moses and Aaron to place his name and blessing on specific people, and he [the Lord] will fulfill it. He will do it. God will bless them.
I really do love this idea of speaking a blessing on a specific person. The word bless is used so many times in the Bible, but it feels a little abstract to us. God's blessing is not the same as well wishes. It is not merely receiving what we want or hope for. Sure, it may come in the form of a surprise pay raise - or also a layoff. God's blessing is his favor, his presence, his affirmation of love. It is God saying, I am for you. Think about that. Imagine God looking you right in the eye and saying, I am for you. Whatever comes today, this week, next year, I am for you. It may not be easy, or pleasant, or even what you hoped, but I am for you. I am not leaving; I am not turning my back; I am not against you. I am for you.
In Genesis 27, brothers Jacob and Esau are both vying for a spoken blessing from their father. They each want the coveted blessing owed to the firstborn son, but only one can receive that specific favor. Jacob tricks his father into giving him what is intended for Esau. When Esau arrives later and the ruse is uncovered, Esau weeps openly as he says to his father, Isaac, "Do you have only one blessing, my father? Bless me too, my father!" In a brief eight verses, Esau requests a blessing from his father four times. Four! He has such a desire to be blessed by his father and accepted by his mother, that he begs and weeps for it. This grown man still has a need to be loved, accepted, favored, affirmed, and blessed by his earthly father and by God.
I desire that also. Don't you?
In Mark 10:16, Jesus "took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them." In Luke 24:50, Jesus "lifted up his hands and blessed" his friends as he was sending them out into the world to do great things. Oh how I imagine myself in that scene. I want to be the child or the friend whom God blesses! I want the dearest people in my life to place their hand on my shoulder and God's blessing on my life. And I want to do that for others. For my husband and my children. For my friends and my family. For the neighborhood kids and their teachers. For my colleagues and my patients. God's Spirit resides in me, and I have the power to speak his name over the people he brings into my day. What an opportunity and what a gift.
I want to say, "God loves you so much (John 3:16). He has created you for a purpose (Ephesians 2:10). May you be able to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is his love for you (Ephesians 3:18). He will give you so many good things (Matthew 7:11), including life to the full (John 10:10). May he strengthen you for whatever he leads you to in this day (Philippians 4:13)." Some people may graciously receive a spoken blessing, but I don't always have to say all the words. I can simply place my hand on your back, smile, and say, "Bless you, friend."