Exhortation from 5-2-10
“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1). “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27).
Every week, we end the service in the same way. I lift up my hands facing the congregation and pronounce the benediction – “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace.” That benediction is not a prayer, it is a pronouncement. So, you don’t have to close your eyes or bow your head. Traditionally it’s received with open hands and that posture is significant.
The benediction is a pronouncement and the people of God have generally received it with open hands as a visible sign that the pronouncement means something. It is a statement of fact, not just wishful thinking. If I extend my hand to give you a piece of bread, you reach out to get it. If, however, you doubt the existence of the bread or simply don’t want it, you can keep your hands by your side.
Now, the exhortation is not, “Extend your hands in the benediction.” That’s not my point at all; I’m simply using this occasion to explain a common (and, I think, good) practice. The point I want to make is in the benediction itself.
At the end of our worship, God blesses us. And He doesn’t bless us in some intangible, abstract fashion. He gives us something. He gives us peace, and we need to receive that peace as if it’s a gift we can see with our eyes. We need to reach out and grab it because God really does give it to us each week.
Here’s the exhortation. Last week, before you left here, God gave you peace. He pronounced it over you. What have you done with it? Did you reject it in unbelief when it was pronounced? Did you squander it on your “to do” list? Did you leave it at work? Family squabbles? Did you exchange it for indulging in a pet sin? Where did you leave it? What have you done with the peace God gave you?