[forthright] Parting Words

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From: "Forthright Magazine" <forthrightmag@...>
Date: Fri, 02 Jul 2004 15:32:32 -0300
Forthright Magazine
http://www.forthright.net
Straight to the Cross

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COLUMN: Heavenly Connections

Parting Words
by Tim Hall

"I don't know why I ever married you!" shouted Tom
as he slammed the door behind him. He and Lisa had
been arguing again, and morning fights seemed to
be growing more frequent. Still, as Tom drove to
work he regretted saying those hurtful words. It
was bad enough to say those things, but for them
to be the last words she would hear from his lips
for several hours was just wrong. He vowed to call
her from work to apologize.

Parting words seem to have a power unlike other
things we might say. When friends part for
prolonged periods, they strive to speak words that
will leave a lasting impression of their emotions.
The final words of a dying loved one are given
almost sacred status, repeated often among family
members. When individuals go separate ways, the
last words spoken will usually replay in our minds
for days and weeks to come.

In Numbers 6:23-27, God dictated to Moses the
words he wanted to ring in people's hearts as they
departed from the tabernacle (later, the temple).
"This is the way you shall bless the children of
Israel" God said (New King James Version). The
words that follow are said to have been recited by
the priests following the daily morning worship
throughout the generations.

Here is what God wanted people to hear as they
left the place of worship: "The Lord bless you and
keep you; the Lord make His face shine upon you,
and be gracious to you; the Lord lift His
countenance upon you, and give you peace."

Much could be said about each part of this
benediction, but suffice it to say that it is a
blessing imparted by God Himself. By saying "the
Lord" three times, the priests affirmed that God
was the one responsible for blessing. If God was
smiling upon them (the meaning of "make his face
shine upon you"), surely goodness and mercy would
follow them all the days of their lives.

Even God's final words of instruction to Moses in
that passage bear reflection: "So they shall put
My name on the children of Israel, and I will
bless them" (v. 27). While many might use the
Lord's name in vain, God emphasized that his name
be used properly. Let no one leave the impression
that God is capricious and vindictive. Rather, let
them make clear that God longs to bless his
people, if only they will let him. Let this be the
parting impression people are given every time
they leave the house of God.

How we need this portrayal of God! Many in our day
stereotype Christianity as a revocation of
happiness. Many Christians have bought into the
stereotype and show no visible signs of joy as
they carry out the "duties" of their religion.
God's priests today (i.e. every Christian - 1
Peter 2:5, 9) should consider carefully the
impression they leave on others, the way God's
name is placed upon those who glance curiously at
our faith.

For every faithful Israelite, there came a day
when each would visit the house of worship for the
last time. Whether by reason of age, illness, or
accident, they never again made that journey to
the tabernacle. But when they left for the last
time, the parting words heard from the priest (if
he fulfilled his God-given responsibility) were
words of blessing. "Our God is truly a wonderful
God!" would be the natural response of all who
heard.

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