by Jim Hutchens
A benediction is “the invocation of blessing, especially at the end of a worship service; to bless or speak well of.” (The American Heritage Dictionary). The most familiar benediction/blessing of both Jews and Christians is found in Numbers 6:24-26.
“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.”
It is familiar because we hear it pronounced repeatedly by rabbis, pastors, and religious leaders. The question is – does it really work? Is a person or a group actually blessed when this benediction is pronounced over them? Does one in fact experience God’s favor and grace after receiving this benediction? Is it effective? Or is it just what religious people say? Do things seem about the same as before the blessing was pronounced? Who can really say? How can we be sure one way or the other?
One way to be sure blessing will be forthcoming is if the words are actually pronounced accurately the way God said they should be pronounced. First, however, let’s look at the context of this blessing which God gave to Moses and how it relates to Christians.
Numbers 6:22 says, “And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, ‘This is the way you shall bless the children of Israel. Say to them…’” Then the actual “The LORD bless you” benediction is given. The question immediately arises – Is this only for Israel or are Christians now included?
The Apostle Paul gives an outright, unequivocal answer, “If you are Christ’s (belong to Messiah), then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:29). Paul had already declared in Romans 11:11 ff. that followers of Jesus have been “grafted in” to the Olive Tree of the Israel of God. So we may say with Scriptural authority – the blessing of Numbers 6 is to be pronounced on believers in Jesus.
Now we must consider one of the great tragedies of the Judeo-Christian experience which is – the Name of God is neither spoken nor written correctly in our English Bibles. Here is what God told Moses at the Burning Bush, “…thus you shall say to the children of Israel, the LORD … this is My name forever, and this is My memorial to all generations” (Genesis 3:15). In other words, God said, “Moses, here is what you are to say. I am telling you what My Name is. Here is my name and it is to be my name forever.” So, what’s the problem? What’s the great tragedy?
The tragedy is that we have NOT used the very name God said to use. We have pronounced God’s name “LORD” or “The LORD.” That is not his name. That is a title one of many titles used of our God. However, His name is Yahweh. No one would ever know God’s real name from English translations of the Bible. Whenever you see LORD, all in capital letters (and you only see it in the Old Testament), that is the English translation of the Hebrew word Yahweh. Yahweh is his name and LORD is his title. And God further instructs in Numbers 6:27, “So shall they put My name on the children of Israel, and I will bless them.”
In other words, to be assured of the blessing of God, it is absolutely essential that the name of Yahweh be placed on those who are being blessed. Some have translated LORD as Jehovah. But there is a general consensus among Bible scholars and interpreters today that the actual name of the God of Israel is Yahweh. So why then don’t we use the name God gave for his people to call him? Good question.
Long ago, rabbis and sages of Judaism determined that Yahweh should not be used out of fear that the 3rd commandment might be broken, “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.” However, the scholars who compiled The Encyclopedia Judaica state, “the true pronunciation of the name YHWH was never lost. Several early Greek writers of the Christian Church testify that the name was pronounced ‘Yahweh’” (Vol.6, p.80). However, out of misguided reverence, Rabbinic Judaism has replaced the name Yahweh with Adonai (Lord, without capital letters) or HaShem, “The Name.” Unfortunately, in a desire to reverence the name of Yahweh, the people who would otherwise be blessed, have been cut off from the power and blessing that God promises, when his Name is properly invoked to bless his people.
Sadly, this tragedy of not using the name of Yahweh has been perpetuated by much of Christianity, as seen in the English translations of the Bible. Many pronouncements of the benedictions and blessings of Numbers 6 have gone unrealized because the name of Yahweh has not been invoked to bring about the blessing.
Recognizing the difficult times in which we live, and knowing it will get worse before Messiah comes, it is imperative that we call on God for His blessing in the Name which He determined we should use the name of Yahweh. Let us pray then;
“Yahweh bless you and keep you;
Yahweh make His face to shine upon you,
and be gracious to you,
Yahweh lift up His countenance upon you,
and give you peace.”
When we pray this way when we put the name of Yahweh on those we are praying for – we have the sure and certain promise that His blessing is on the way!