January 28, 2023
“The Lord spoke to Moses: 'Tell Aaron and his sons how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them: The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine upon you...'”
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“The Lord spoke to Moses: ‘Tell Aaron and his sons how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them: The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the Lord look with favor on you and give you peace. In this way they will put my Name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.’” Numbers 6:22-27
This blessing, with which the Lord commanded Aaron to bless the people, is known as the “Aaronic” Blessing. In Jewish culture, it is also known as the Birkat Kohanim or “Priestly” Blessing.
Here’s an interesting item for all Star Trek fans. Remember Spock’s “Live long and prosper” sign? Well, if you do it with both hands and join the thumbs together, you’ll form the gesture that rabbis make while giving the Priestly Blessing. Who would have thought that in a galaxy far, far away, William Shatner and Leonard Nemoy would be Jews, copping the Priestly Blessing down to the hand sign? I’m sure many a Jewish geeky pre-teen giggled at the Semitic space reference back in the ’60s!
What I find most interesting is the idea of “putting God’s Name on the Israelites.” In ancient Near Eastern culture, the family was everything. When people had children, the boys were celebrated over the girls. I’m not saying that’s the way it should be. It’s just that it was important to have boys because boys carried on the family name.
The Third Commandment: Do not take the Lord’s Name in vain.
Almost every time I have heard the third Commandment taught from a pulpit, it has been explained as a command against cursing or swearing. While it is never a good idea to use dirty language or invoke the Lord’s name in some demeaning manner, I’m not sure that’s precisely what the Third Commandment is about.
The Third Commandment literally translates: Do not receive/use the Lord’s Name in vain.”
When we see the Priestly Blessing in light of the 3rd Commandment, we understand the importance of honoring and respecting the fact that the Lord was transferring His Name to the people. The people who accepted the blessing were literally receiving God’s Name and committing to being His inheritance. Followers of Jesus understand the concept of being adopted or co-inheritors with Messiah (Romans 8:17). It is another way to comprehend the vast richness of blessing bestowed to those to whom God gives His Name.
Let’s not receive it in vain.