שָׁלוֹם shalom – The Blessing of Peace
22 The Lord spoke to Moses, saying,
23 “Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, Thus you shall bless the people of Israel: you shall say to them,
24 The Lord bless you and keep you;
25 the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
26 the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.
27 “So shall they put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them.”
If you’ve been in church more than twice you have most likely heard these words at the end of the service. They are famously known as The Aaronic Blessing. There’s a reason we use this magnificent prayer in our as a part of our worship life – it is brilliant and filled with blessing for us as individuals and for the whole church. With this passage we take up the study of the word peace, represented by the second candle on the Advent Wreath. It is appropriate to end this study of the word peace with this incredible blessing.
There are a few things to notice as we dig deeper in these well-worn words. First of all, this is God talking. He gives explicit instructions to Moses, who is to pass this along to Aaron (the first priest in the ancient Levitical line of priests) to speak over the people. These are God’s Words – God’s prayer – over His Children. This passage has even been called “The Lord’s Prayer” of the Old Testament.
First, we find the author of these blessings is God Himself. “The Lord” is the only one who is able to grant all of these wonderful gifts to His children. Three times we find the name Yahweh and three times He bestows words of blessings, presence, grace, and peace.
Lift up his countenance. The same word in Hebrew is used for “face” (25) and for “countenance.” When God’s favor lights up His gaze upon us, the result is peace, well-being, wholeness, the integration of all contrary and disturbing elements of life into a harmonious oneness that has its center in God. The Hebrew for this peace is shalom, here seen in its most expressive fullness—not the absence of war, but a positive state of rightness and well-being. Such peace comes only from the Lord.
Roehrs, W. H., & Franzmann, M. H. ©1998. Concordia Self-Study Commentary (p. 107). St. Louis, MO: CPH.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of this prayer is that it is a provision for God’s desire to bless His people. Blessing is His idea, His purpose. It is not something His people must beg for, but it is the outreaching of His grace.
Each line conveys two elements of benediction, and the lines are progressively longer. In the Hebrew text the first line has three words (in the pattern 2 // 1), the second has five words (in the pattern 4 // 1), and the third has seven words (in the pattern 4 // 3). If one does not count the threefold use of the divine name, there are twelve words to the prayer, which suggest the twelve tribes of Israel. The first line literally reads, “May Yahweh bless you and may he keep you.” While these words are directed to the entire community, the pronouns are singular.
Allen, R. B. ©1990. Numbers. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: (Vol. 2, p. 754). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing
As we discussed earlier, true, godly peace is not something we can conjure up with a few deep breathes and some positive thinking, for it is a fruit of the spirit. It is God’s power alone that brings and sustains peace. The best news about this peace is that we don not have to struggle or strive to have it, for like hope, it is already ours.