I leaned forward on the hard pew that first time in church, skinny legs swinging as I watched the fatherly pastor place his hands on the heads of the people before him.
“The Lord bless you, and keep you,” he intoned. “The Lord make his face shine upon you, and be gracious unto you. The Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.” (Numbers 6:24-26)
How I longed to be one of those chosen to receive the birthday blessing that week! To have those ancient words spoken over me felt like a sacred privilege.
In Bible times, a formal blessing was traditionally spoken over children by their parents. It called them into a destiny, affirming a spiritual inheritance passed down through the generations. Blessings were also pronounced by a priest, as in the reference above, or by a king, or by God Himself.
I have prayed this blessing over people in hospital beds, in hallways, and in my living room. I have spoken it at the bedsides of my own children.
But no one has ever spoken it over me.
One of the beauties of this season of Covid has been the song “The Blessing” by Kari Jobe, where those same words were put to music. Its popularity quickly grew, with people recording the song in different languages all over the globe. People sang to bless their cities and their neighborhoods. I have sung it in prayer over my own town and over my fractured country. In times of trouble, we all need this kind of grace.
Last night it came on the radio again, but this time I felt that I was the one to receive it. I opened my hands and let the words seep deep down into my soul. I accepted the blessing on my own head.
Those of us who are spiritual orphans have missed out on the feeling of belonging that comes with a spiritual heritage – that blessing that comes with growing up in a family of faith. When we chose to follow Jesus, though, we were adopted into His family and placed under its covering. The blessing of the ancients now rests on our heads as well. We can say along with David the shepherd king, “You, God, have heard my vows; you have given me the heritage of those who fear your name.” (Psalm 61:5)
Blessed are the poor in spirit, Jesus said. Those who mourn. The meek. Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. The merciful. The pure in heart. The peacemakers. Those who are persecuted for His name’s sake.
Blessed are we. Blessed am I. Blessed by the Father who accepts us, welcomes us, lays before us an identity, a purpose and a destiny.
As the song played on the radio last night, I opened my hands and allowed myself to receive. To give over my lack in exchange for His loving attention. To receive the strengthening and comfort of a child who has found a place of belonging in her Father’s house. Of an orphan who has found a home in His welcome. Of a daughter who has found her purpose under His blessing.