The Lord our God be with us, as he was with our ancestors; may he not leave us or abandon us. – 1 Kings 8:57
The disciples went out and proclaimed the good news everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that accompanied it. – Mark 16:20
I’ve noticed that some pastors pronounce the benediction by including the word, “May,” before each part: “May the Lord bless you and keep you; May the Lord make his face shine upon you; May the Lord…give you peace.” I’m thinking about this as I read these words.
The Moravian Text email that I receive each day – and which I’m currently using as launch points for these daily blog posts – has it, “The Lord may not leave us or abandon us.” That caught my eye because I read that as though we’re not giving God permission to leave us, as though we’re saying, “You may not go from us.” I looked at various other translations of this verse and believe that it is in fact a faulty rendering. We simply do not give or withhold permission to or from God!
To express an urgent desire is totally appropriate. As we express the benediction as a blessing: “The Lord bless you and keep you…” we are not ordering God to be present or demanding his blessing. It is, however, more than an earnest wish. We who speak these words speak a blessing in God’s behalf. When we call out to God and pray, “May God not forsake us,” we are praying a worthy prayer.