Why do the Mars Hill teachers often end their teaching with the same blessing?
First of all, that is a great question. In case you haven’t noticed, I (and most of the other teachers) will end their teaching speaking a blessing over the people. The most common blessing comes from Numbers 6:
“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 countenance upon you and give you peace” (Num. 6:23b–26 ESV).
This passage contains a directive from the LORD God spoken directly to Aaron, Moses’ brother and the first High Priest of Israel. Notice that there are basically three phrases in this passage that all begin in a similar way.
“The Lord bless; the Lord make; the Lord lift.”
This reminds us that it is always God that initiates with us. We are incapable of anything on our own. The blessing itself is a recognition of our supreme need for God to move in our lives and to bring about long lasting and eternal fruit. It all starts with HIM! God initiates, we respond.
However, the second clause of each of the three phrases tells us exactly what it is we need God to do for us. We need His blessing and protection; His favor and His grace; His presence and His peace. Let’s look at how each of these are paired together and what it means for us.
Bless and Keep. All blessings come from God and they are all sustained by Him. God is good and His love endures forever.
Glory and Grace. The Glory of God is what we long for and what we live for. It is because God is gracious that we are able to experience even a limited understanding of His glory!
‘Grace’ describes the attitude that issues in kindly action of a superior party to an inferior one in which the inferior has no claim on the superior. Humanity cannot earn his grace by obedience; that would be a form of compensation. Nor can God’s grace be annulled by one’s unfaithfulness. God extends his graciousness out of his steadfast covenant love and self-determined will to bless whom he desires (Exod 33:19).
Presence and Peace. When Jesus died on the cross one of the things that he secured for those who would trust him in faith, believing in him, is that they can once again enter into the presence of God. No longer would we need a priest like Aaron to intercede for us. Because the righteousness of Christ is applied to us through faith, we are able to go to God as our father… As a child walking into the presence of favor and love, we are able to go to our Heavenly Father and present our request, to share our heart, to confess our sins, and to bask in His presence! And this is what brings us peace! Peace is what all of our hearts long for. Peace is knowing that we are loved despite the fact that we are fully known. Peace is knowing “I don't have to work harder, I don't have to live better, I don’t have to ‘fake it till I make it’.” Jesus has done enough!
However, this doesn't mean that I continue to just live for myself... that would be a tragedy! To know and experience that kind of love and then to deny its power in my life to change me for the better would be a tragedy! To be shown that kind of love and to be invited into that kind of relationship and then to live from that day forward to glorify myself!?! Tragedy of tragedies!
Psalm 67:1–2 provides an extension of this theme of the Aaronic blessing found in the Book of Numbers and it provides for us what should be the end result of experiencing God's blessing:
May God be gracious to us and bless us
and make his face shine upon us,
that your ways may be known on earth,
your salvation among all nations.
So, the blessing that God gave to Aaron to share with the people, that we continue to share with the congregation in our day and time, is a beautiful and profound reflection of God's intention towards His people. He wants to bless them. He wants them to experience His presence. He wants us to experience His grace and His protection. He wants us to know and experience the peace that our heart and soul longs for in this world. And that experience and that blessing should overflow in our expression of understanding and gratitude for that grace… and it is displayed in the way we live to extend His glory in the places of influence in which He has placed us and, ultimately, to the ends of the earth!
So, next time you hear one of the pastors share this great blessing, or any other form of blessing, take a moment to reflect on God's good intentions toward you and your response to such an amazing grace and peace!
- Jackson Hester