For the Love of God, Volume 1/November 18
From Gospel Translations
1 Chronicles 11—12; Hebrews 13; Amos 7; Luke 2
THE BENEDICTION OF HEBREWS 13:20-21 invites prolonged reflection. Some observations:
(1) The thrust of the prayer is twofold: first, that God would equip “you” (the Christian readers) “with everything good for doing his will”; and second, that he would work “in us what is pleasing to him” (13:21, italics added). In other words, there is a tremendous emphasis on doing God’s will, on living in ways that are pleasing to him. Although the prayer is for Christians, the entire focus is on God and what pleases him. The most important prayer for Christians is that they do God’s will, that God will work in them what is pleasing to him.
(2) The change in person from you to us does not mean that the first petition is only for the readers and the second is only for the author. The us is almost certainly inclusive, i.e., embracing both the author and his readers, and thus, implicitly, Christians everywhere. The switch from you to us may well be motivated, at least in part, by a desire to avoid giving the impression that the author is praying for others to do the will of God without praying the same thing for himself.
(3) God is referred to as “the God of peace” (13:20). The reference is not primarily to psychological peace. The fundamental peace at issue (as chaps. 9—10 presuppose) is peace with God—the reconciliation of guilty rebels to their Maker and Redeemer. The author petitions the God who reconciles sinners to equip them to be conformed to his will.
(4) This God “brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus” (13:20). At one level this is a fairly constant New Testament theme: God raised up Jesus from the dead. But this passage stipulates that God did so “through the blood of the eternal covenant” (13:20). The reference is to Jesus’ blood, to Jesus’ death, which inaugurates the new covenant (as chaps. 8—10 make clear)—and this new covenant is not some temporary expedient but “eternal” in its binding authority. At first it seems strange to think of God raising up Jesus through Jesus’ blood, through Jesus’ death. But the point is probably that the eternal covenant inaugurated by Jesus’ successful death, his completed sacrifice, his perfect atonement, expressed in his triumphant cry “It is finished!”, is the covenantal bedrock that means it is right for God to raise up Jesus and vindicate him.
(5) Jesus himself is “that great Shepherd of the sheep.” Many images flood to mind. God himself promised to shepherd his people; indeed, he would send the Davidic king to exercise this role (Ezek. 34). Above all, the Good Shepherd gives his life for the sheep (John 10; see the meditation for March 20). Small wonder the prayer is offered “through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever” (13:21).