Whether in church or synagogue, we often hear this special blessing in worship in our own time. It has ancient roots in the Hebrew Bible. I fear we too often let the words pass by without savoring and being enriched by their deep and gorgeous meaning. Let’s look deeper and understand the extraordinary nature of the blessing that God gave the priests to bestow upon us.
We studied the blessings and curses at the end of Leviticus. In essence, we came to the conclusion that the language of blessings, perhaps metaphorically, yet most deeply, conveys a contentment and a strength that come from nearness to God and living in the ways of God.
“May God bless you and keep you.” God instructs Moses that the priests are to invoke God’s name on behalf of the people and through them we learn that God blesses us and guards us.
“May God shine the Divine countenance on you and be gracious to you.” The Ultimate Sovereign, in audience with us, shows us favor and gives us access to the light of the Divine face. We could see this light as the light that enlightens our thoughts and lives. It gives us the wisdom to understand God’s ways, especially in justice, righteousness, mercy, and loving kindness. And it gives us the comfort and support of God’s grace.
“May God lift up the Divine countenance toward you and grant you peace.” This could be understood as God’s brightening in the connection with us and delivering to us a sense of ever-lasting well-being.
We live in covenant with God, committed to God’s ways. God blesses us, keeps us, illuminates our way, is gracious to us, and gives us the greatest gift of all – a wholeness through companionship with the Divine that blesses us during and after all that confronts us in and after our physical lives.