The Power of the Word

[22] The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, [23] “Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, Thus you shall bless the people of Israel: you shall say to them, [24] “The LORD bless you and keep you; [25] the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; [26] the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.” (Numbers 6:22–26)

Most readers know verses 24 through 26 as a benediction for worship services. Long before it was included in Lutheran liturgy, this Scripture passage was called the “Aaronic Benediction.” God’s Word impacts us well beyond worship services. 

Serving as a hospital chaplain, I once provided spiritual care for a woman in her late 40s who was unresponsive. Her sister, whom I will call Jane, faithfully sat by her sister’s side all day and most of the nights.

During my visits I learned that the sisters were raised Lutheran. When I offered to contact their home church or churches, I was told neither had a home church. It seems many years had passed since either had darkened the door of a church. 

My last visit I knocked on the hospital room door and got permission to enter. Jane was in in tears, holding her sister’s hand. A nurse shook her head at me, indicating Jane’s sister had died. As the nurse left the room, Jane said, “I didn’t know what to do. She was dying. I knew she was dying. I held her hand and said the only thing that came to mind:

‘The LORD bless you and keep you; [25] the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; [26] the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.’ ”

Jane said that, as she said the words, her sister’s eyelids fluttered and then her sister squeezed her hand. Then, her sister died. As happens in grief, Jane was worried about whether it was appropriate for her to say those words. Who was she did speak the words a pastor should speak? 

I reassured her that the words were more than the benediction from the hymnal of her childhood. Those words are God’s own words, given to strengthen and comfort God’s people. I said I’m not sure I could think of a more fitting Bible verse for that moment. 

One could rightly argue this is a great illustration of the wisdom of using a set liturgy for worship services. However, it is more important to acknowledge that this is first and foremost the Word of God. And God works through His Word as God sees fit.  

(A Second Look devotions are written for the congregations of the Ohio District LCMS.)


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