How should the biblical story shape our worship? Rev. Michael Glodo talks about the promise of the gospel in the Aaronic blessing and how it makes a difference in the Christian life.

One of my great areas of interest is worship, because that’s one of the prime outcomes or applications of all that we do for students in training them for ministry. And the Aaronic blessing that we find in number six, which is probably the most frequently heard scripture in Protestant worship, is a great example of how the arc of redemption, or the biblical story, should shape our approach to worship, because it tells the story of God’s face, of how God made people with faces and how they had face to face fellowship with him. That face to face fellowship was lost, but then is being restored in his plan of redemption. And so to take the story of God’s face as it climaxes in the Aaronic benediction is one way of looking at the whole of worship.

Faces in the Bible

Saying that the benediction is a climax of worship is something I work out in a book I’ve got coming out soon. It’s called The Lord Bless You and Keep You: The Promise of the Gospel in the Aaronic Benediction. And in that book, I work out or I show how the biblical story is one of how God made us with faces so his face could shine on ours. And in it, I describe how the Aaronic benediction, or any benediction for that matter, at the close of worship is the sealing of that gospel promise. Just as Luther called the Psalms a little Bible, I think we can look at the benediction and worship as a little Bible.

The biblical story is one of how God made us with faces so his face could shine on ours.What happens between creation and consummation is a story of faces. We see Adam and Eve in the garden. They’re hiding literally from the face of God. We see Jacob wrestling with a man at Penuel until he finally subdued and hobbled. He realizes he’s been wrestling with God himself and he named the place “Face of God.” But he only saw the face of God in the dimness of the night. Moses, who asked to see the glory of God, was told “No one can see my face and live.” The best Moses could do was to see God face-to-face in the tent of meeting, but obscured and filled with the glory cloud. So when God’s redeemed people out of slavery from Egypt, consecrated in the opening chapters of the Book of Numbers, are are given this blessing in Numbers chapter six—’the Lord bless you and keep you, the Lord make his face to shine upon you, the Lord lift up His countenance upon you’—you see it’s a restoration of face-to-face fellowship with God through the word of his servant, Aaron. So the Aaronic blessing constitutes this restoration of face-to-face fellowship with God through God’s Word. This makes a tremendous difference in the Christian life, and that’s why it’s appropriate that the benediction is the final word in a worship service. Because there are two ways that this makes a big difference.

How the Face of God Makes a Difference

One is it makes us look at ourselves differently. We spend our lives putting on masks to present ourselves as other than we are, and we spend our lives putting on veils to hide who we really are. And you see in the gospel, where the light of God’s glory has shined in the face of Christ, we can take off the masks and veils. The Aaronic blessing constitutes this restoration of face-to-face fellowship with God through God’s Word.But the second major way that the glory of God in the face of Christ changes things is it causes us to look at others differently. Because from the very beginning, we’re told that every human being is an image-bearer of God. So when we see the glory of God in the face of Christ, we not only look at ourselves differently before God, but we realize we have to look at other people differently. And that’s such a good word. In the day in which I call the cultural climate the anger industrial complex, we’re in our attention economy, where we’re just encouraged all the time to put down and dehumanize other people. Seeing the face of God in Christ will not allow us to do that because we see the face of God in other human beings.