The Israelites had done all the work just as the Lord had commanded Moses. Moses inspected the work and saw that they had done it just as the Lord had commanded. So Moses blessed them. Ex 39:42-43
The context of this passage is the construction of the first tabernacle in the first year after the Israelites left Egypt. The last project they complete are the priestly garments. Here again, the skilled craftsman are not given creative freedom to design whatever they want for their high priest. Repeatedly in Exodus 39, we see the refrain that each of the various pieces of the priest’s uniform was made exactly according to the design that the Lord had given Moses (Ex 39:1, 5, 6, 21, 26, 29, 31, 32, 42-43).
Then comes inspection time. After Moses had inspected all the work, we read that he blessed the people. One short sentence but very significant in terms of its implications for leaders. What does it mean that Moses blessed the people? Douglas Stuart in his commentary on Exodus says that he said a prayer for them, asking that God would bring benefit to these people. We don’t know the actual words that Moses used, but we do know that it was meaningful and significant to these people. Moses was someone who spoke to God face-to-face, so the people could assume that in blessing them, Moses was speaking for God.
By blessing them, Moses communicated to the people that they had done what was commanded, and that both the Lord and Moses were pleased. He was commending them for a job well done. In other words, he was saying “Thank you” on behalf of God.
Moses could easily have forgotten to say “Thank you.” After all, Moses still had lots of work to do in assembling and consecrating this tabernacle. His job was just beginning now that the materials had been brought to the construction site. God had not yet come down to indwell the tabernacle. Furthermore, this tabernacle was not going to be Moses’ house, but rather God’s house. Moses was not going to benefit from the tabernacle any more than the people. So why should Moses bless the people for something they were doing for the purpose of ensuring that Yahweh would dwell in their midst?But Moses realizes his responsibility as leader and prophet to bless the people for this job well done. He was expressing in words the smile of God’s approval.
This blessing is by no means unique in Scripture. King David does exactly the same thing after the ark is brought back to Jerusalem 2 Sam 6:17-20. Solomon blesses the people after the construction of the temple in 1 Kings 8:13-14. In each of these cases, the leader could have just as easily expected that the people would bless him for all the work that the leader had done in making this event possible.But Moses, David and Solomon realized that leaders need to bless their people when the work is completed and done as requested. They need to inspect the work, and let people know that they are pleased, and that God is pleased.
The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between the two, the leader must become a servant and a debtor.
Yes, we hope that the people who are doing God’s work (e.g. missionaries on the field) will personally sense that God is pleased with them. But they also need to hear the words of commendation from their team leaders and field leaders. Not just a quick “Good job” or “Thank you” but one that is prefaced by a careful observation (or careful listening to a report) of what has been done. Even better, let’s pray a prayer of blessing for those who have faithfully served.