Do you ever struggle finding the right words to say? Its surprising how often it really is difficult to know how to express congratulations or sympathy. Every year before Mother's Day you will find me and dozens of other men rifling through scores of cards trying to find one that says "just the right words".
I also struggle responding to compliments, in part because I'm from a large, blue collar family that couldn't cheer-lead us on every occasion. We weren't neglected. We were expected to do our best whether we had a fan club or not. Nowadays as people leave services some say, "Wonderful sermon" or "Thank you for that message", etc. I understand "Thank you" and "You're welcome" are fine replies, but always felt they were inadequate. Sometime ago I settled into responding "Praise the Lord". To my mind it satisfied a theological itch and didn't feed my ego. It is God's word, so praise Him. It is the Gospel of Christ, so praise Him. Application bringing joy to the saint is the work of the Holy Spirit, so praise Him. I'd say for 15 years my reply to those compliments has been "Praise the Lord".
But what if we had no point of reference to know what to say? When I consider Numbers 6 24-26 I am comforted by the Lord's ministry to ministers. Aaron and his sons had been appointed to serve as the high priest of Israel in Exodus 28 and 29 while the LORD was giving instruction on building the tabernacle. They were serving this office while the first books of the Bible were being given through Moses. Meaning there was no precedent of what to say. When Aaron stood before the assembly, I'm certain he was a wiser man than I am, but also can't help but feel a sense of what it felt like the first time my pastor called on me to pray in a service.
Whether any sense of that existed or not, I cannot know. But what I do know is what the Lord did. He ordered Aaron and his sons to say specific words in blessing the congregation of Israel: 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.
In the the New Testament, Paul begins his letters with this salutation: "Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." (See Rom 1:7, 1 Cor 1:3, Gal 1:3, etc.) I believe this apostolic salutation was adopted from the high priestly blessing. Even John begins Revelation with "Grace to you and peace from Him who is and who was and who is to come." It is the right thing to say. Grace is what we need from God. Peace is what we want with God. The Lord gave a point of reference in the priestly blessing, and now we know what to say. What a comfort for Him to command "You shall speak my words to them." Ezekiel 2:7.
Today, when my children are leaving for school, or as I dismiss the congregation after a special time of worship, or even when I conclude this post, the Lord has given the perfect words to say: 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 . . . Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Thank you Lord for Numbers 6:24-26!!