The prolific author F.W. Boreham was once described as a man who went about his life “scattering benedictions.” The description colorfully puts an image of the beloved minister in my mind.
For some, the word “benediction” signals the end of a church service, the parting words of a pastor with lifted hands sending forth the congregation in the grace and love of Jesus Christ. The word comes from two Latin words meaning literally “good speaking” and is most often translated “blessing.” Benediction is the act or pronouncement of divine blessing upon another person.
To pronounce a person or group of people blessed was in fact given as a commandment to Aaron and his sons, the tribe chosen to serve as priests among the Israelites. The book of Numbers recounts that 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 countenanceupon you and give you peace'” (6:22-26). It is a sublime utterance, blessing as much as it teaches. The hearer is lifted in the name of the Lord, the keeper of creation, the giver of peace, the one who longs to bless us such that it was given as a command. As a father looks at his son and delights to find his own smile, so the Lord’s face is lifted in kind to those made in God’s own image, shining upon those God has called the “apple of his eye.” God’s name is exalted, for it to be upon us is a great blessing, and in it, God is glorified.
But herein lies the potency of benediction. At the end of God’s instructions for the Aaronic blessing, God adds distinctly, “So shall they put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them” (v. 27). Whereas doxology is ascribing praise to God, and prayer is expressing oneself to God, a benediction is a word of blessing on behalf of God. The former rise from the heart of the saint, the other overflows from the heart of God. As author Samuel Chadwick writes, “[T]he benediction does not approach the subject from the standpoint of theology but of experience. It is not concerned with definition, nor does it contemplate the glory of God in the absoluteness of his deity.” Rather, notes Chadwick, it sets God forth as God is realized in the soul.
Scattering benedictions, it seems then, is a high calling. And I would add, it is a mysterious gift given to all made in God’s image. The putting of God’s name upon another soul as we go about life is our tongue’s greatest utterance. It is a hopeful command, a most uplifted effort. As God’s name is set forth, not only is it God who does the blessing, it is God who is the fulfillment of the words we offer. God is the blessing.
Therefore, may the blessing of the LORD be upon you, and may you know the joy of putting the name of God upon others. For indeed, whether hiding or curious or seeking in earnest, blessed are those who rest in the light of God’s face.
Jill Carattini is managing editor of A Slice of Infinity at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.