The Benediction: "May the Lord Bless You"

May the Lord Bless You - The Benediction
Unsplash/Sue Chastain

A benediction is a recitation or blessing spoken at the end of a religious worship service, designed to send followers on their way after the service. It is an invocation to God, asking him for divine blessing, help, and guidance. The benediction is universally used in the Christian Roman Catholic worship services, but is also very common in Jewish worship and for most Christian Protestant denominations.

For most worship services, the benediction is taken from the book of Numbers, beginning with verse 26, in which the Lord instructed Moses to have Aaron and his sons bless the children of Israel with a special pronouncement of security, grace, and peace. This prayer is now commonly known as the Benediction and the Aaronic Blessing.

The short and beautiful prayer, set in poetic form, is likely one of the oldest poems in the Bible. The blessing is packed full with meaning and divides into six parts. 

May the Lord Bless You...

Here, the Blessing summarizes the covenant between God and his people. Only in relationship with God, with him as our Father, are we truly blessed.

...And Keep You

God's protection keeps us in covenant relationship with him. As the Lord God kept Israel, Jesus Christ is our Shepherd, who will keep us from getting lost.

The Lord Make His Face Shine Upon You...

God's face represents his presence.

His face shining upon us speaks of his smile and the pleasure he takes in his people.

...And Be Gracious to You

The result of God's pleasure is his grace toward us. We don't deserve his grace and mercy, but because of his love and faithfulness, we receive it.

The Lord Turn His Face Towards You...

God is a personal Father who pays attention to his children as individuals.

We are his chosen ones.

...And Give You Peace. Amen.

This conclusion announces affirms that covenants are formed for the purpose of securing peace through a right relationship. Peace represents well-being and wholeness. When God gives his peace, it is complete and eternal.

A Timeless Blessing

This priestly blessing continues to be used as part of worship services today in Christian and Jewish faiths. It is often said at the close of a service to pronounce a blessing upon the congregation, at the end of a baptismal service, or in a wedding ceremony to bless the bride and groom.

 

Variations

Different versions of the Bible have slightly different phrasings for Numbers 6:24-26, and which one is used will depend on which version is used by each denomination. ​

The English Standard Version (ESV)

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 New King James Version (NKJV)

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.

The New International Version (NIV)

The LORD bless you and keep you;
the LORD make his face shine upon you
and be gracious to you;
the LORD turn his face toward you
and give you peace."

The New Living Translation (NLT)

May the LORD bless you and protect you.
May the LORD smile on you
and be gracious to you.
May the LORD show you his favor
and give you his peace.

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Fairchild, Mary. "The Benediction: "May the Lord Bless You"." ThoughtCo, Jan. 9, 2018, thoughtco.com/benediction-may-the-lord-bless-you-700494. Fairchild, Mary. (2018, January 9). The Benediction: "May the Lord Bless You". Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/benediction-may-the-lord-bless-you-700494 Fairchild, Mary. "The Benediction: "May the Lord Bless You"." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/benediction-may-the-lord-bless-you-700494 (accessed January 16, 2018).