One of the great privileges of pastoral ministry is pronouncing a benediction before the congregation. The benediction is not a mystical performance in which a pastor invokes his own authority or his own position to bless the people, but a time in which he stands before the congregation and brings them a blessing from the Lord. This is why benedictions tend to be drawn directly from Scripture. The pastor simply conveys God’s words of blessing.
But consider this. Where there are benedictions—good words from the Lord—there must also be maledictions—bad words. As God gives words of blessing to the people to whom he shows favor, he gives words of curse to those who remain in willful rebellion against him.
I once sat transfixed as R.C. Sproul preached on the curse motif in the Old Testament (this was at Together for the Gospel 2008). He spoke of the well-known benediction that we all love.
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.
He spoke of the hope this benediction offers, the hope and confidence of never-ending peace under the loving gaze of a good God.
Sproul spoke also of the supreme malediction, the ultimate curse from God, the very opposite of that great blessing. That terrible malediction might go something like this: