Why Do We Do That? – The Benediction
Taken with permission from Christ Church Presbyterian, Evans, GA.
The benediction is another element of Christian worship that reaches back through the millennia into the earliest records of God’s interaction with His people. In the Old Testament book of Numbers we find the first recorded benediction, commanded by God and assigned to the priesthood:
And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: “Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying,
‘This is the way you shall bless the children of Israel. 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 lift up His countenance upon you, And give you peace.”’
“So they shall put My name on the children of Israel, and I will bless them.”
This practice, instituted by God Himself, carried over into the temple worship, then into the synagogues and, through the early church, to us. Benedictions are always scriptural, because they are not the Pastor’s words to us, but God’s words to His people. When the Pastor, as God’s representative in worship, raises his hands and pronounces the benediction (bene = good;
dictio = speaking) he is giving us “good words” from our heavenly Father as we go out from worship to serve Him for another week.
And why does the Pastor raise his hands when he pronounces the benediction? In Leviticus 9:22, we find that “Aaron lifted up his hands toward the people and blessed them.” And in the New Testament, we see Christ Himself blessing His disciples shortly before His ascension: “And He led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed
them” (Luke 24:50). While it is not demanded, it is well and good for the people to lift their heads (instead of closing their eyes as for a prayer), looking with expectation to the messenger. Likewise, it is appropriate for the congregation to raise their hands (palms up) to symbolize their waiting expectantly for this good word from their Father in Heaven.
If you’d like to dig a bit deeper you’ll find other Biblical benedictions in 2 Corinthians 13:14, Ephesians 3:20-21 and numerous other places.