We all like a good conclusion. When we are reading a book, watching a movie, or listening to an album, we like to know that the end will satisfy us. A bad conclusion is simply and utterly unsatisfying. This is a criticism often leveled at books and movies. Some authors cannot seem to get the conclusion right and they leave the reader simply unsatisfied. In our post-modern era, there are trends to have no conclusion at all; the end is not really an end. We often refer to these as “open-ended endings.” This is a little different than a bad conclusion; the difference is that no conclusion at all can often attract an audience to formulate their own conclusions, but it can also be incredibly confusing. What about worship, though? How should worship conclude? We certainly do not want a bad conclusion, effectively leaving God’s people with a sense of lacking. And, we do not want an open-ended conclusion, leaving the congregation uncertain as to how they should interpret the end of a worship service. The reality is: there is a biblically ordered ending to a worship service that neither leaves the congregation unsatisfied nor confused. We call this God-ordained worship conclusion the Benediction.
The benediction is most simply “the utterance or bestowing of a blessing.” There are two prominent benedictions we see in the Bible and receive at the conclusion of our regular Lord’s Day worship. The first one is found in the Old Testament, in the Book of Numbers, and is often referred to as the “Aaronic blessing.” This benediction 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.” The other benediction, often called the “Trinitarian Benediction,” comes from 2 Corinthians 13:14, in the New Testament. It reads: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” Both of these blessings are intended to mark the end of the worship service.
Please note two important factors about these. First, it is a blessing from the LORD. In the Aaronic blessing, the LORD is blessing the people. When you read LORD in all caps like that, it refers to our God’s proper name; the name He revealed to Moses in Exodus 3. His name is YHWH (Yehweh). This is the proper name of God given to God’s special people, those whom He has chosen to covenant within a special relationship. When we read the Trinitarian Blessing, we see the same God but revealed in a fuller manner. He is the same LORD, but 2 Corinthians 13:14 reveals that He is a triune God; the LORD is the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. In both cases, it is none other than the LORD, the triune God of heaven and earth that blesses His people. Second, it is a blessing from the LORD. This makes it different from other parts of our worship service. When the worship service begins, the Lord calls us to worship through a Bible text. At the assurance of pardon, the Lord speaks to us words of pardon for our sins. But, at the end, the Lord is not calling us, nor is He pardoning us. In the benediction the Lord is blessing us. Ryan M. McGraw wrote: “By it (the benediction) the people who have gathered together in God’s name and with his presence among them depart with the assurance that God has indeed been in their midst and that he intends to bless his people.” What a blessing it is no know that when we are preparing to leave the service that He is not content to leave us without telling us that He has been with us in the service and the He will continue with us after the services close!
So, when this coming Lord’s Day worship service is nearing its end, you do not have to guess whether God has been with you or will continue to be with you. The Lord says it Himself. The benediction is not a bad conclusion; what could be better than the Lord confirming His past, present, and future blessing in our lives. Neither is this a confusing or open-ended conclusion; the Lord Himself brings the service to a close in a most certain and comforting way. Do not miss this! Do not let you mind wonder at the end of the service! The Lord has one last thing to say to His people before they leave!
“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.”