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Pastor's Perspective December 6, 2013

Pastor's Perspective by J. Ligon Duncan on Dec 9, 2013

This coming Lord's Day, we will (DV) bring to a conclusion our study of the book of Hebrews, looking at the glorious benediction and final words in Hebrews 13:20-25. "20 Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, 21 equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. 22 I appeal to you, brothers, bear with my word of exhortation, for I have written to you briefly. 23 You should know that our brother Timothy has been released, with whom I shall see you if he comes soon. 24 Greet all your leaders and all the saints. Those who come from Italy send you greetings. 25 Grace be with all of you."

This passage contains the author's final prayer for his people, and his prayer is mine for you. Raymond Brown (author of the Bible Speaks Today commentary on Hebrews) says that our God is depicted to us in this benediction as a saving, mighty, compassionate, faithful, and resourceful God. He explains:

The author brings this inspiring letter to a majestic conclusion by praying for those who have listened to his words as they have been read in the Christian congregation. His great longing is that the Lord God will equip them with everything good. His confidence in the God to whom he prays is as important as the things he asks for as he prays.

Only a saving God can equip them with everything good. He is the God of peace. Peace in biblical thought is something far more than serenity; it denotes the quality of salvation God is able to give to his people. He has obtained peace for us through the work of Christ, who brought man's greatest warfare to an end by his victory over sin, death and the devil. By that triumphant conquest we have peace with God and peace with man. It is also distinctly possible that our writer chooses to address the Lord in this way because he thereby prays that any strife or disharmony in this local fellowship (12:14) will be removed by the God of peace, who is able to save his people not only from past transgressions, but also from present failure.

He knows too that because he has a mighty God they will be equipped with everything good. Their God brought the Lord Jesus up from the dead. Such an invincible God can surely answer their prayers. Are their difficulties greater than the problem of raising the dead to victorious life? Nothing is too hard for such a God.

On behalf of these believers, he beseeches the help of a compassionate God, the God who gave his Son, our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep. Throughout his lifetime Christ exercised the caring, compassionate ministry of a 'good shepherd'. He loved the sheep so much that he gave his own life for them and, by his risen power, he continues to guard and protect them. As the 'chief Shepherd' he certainly cares for his under-shepherds and for the whole flock of God. As the great shepherd nothing is impossible for him and no detail too insignificant for his attention.

The writer's prayer is also addressed to a faithful God, for his great redeeming work was accomplished through the blood of the eternal covenant. He has pledged himself in love to his people to pardon their sins (10:15-18) and meet their needs. This covenant God, who is bound to his people in such a strong and eternal relationship, is always true to his word.

Moreover, this pastoral prayer is addressed to a resourceful God. He knows what is good for them and has gifts with which he can equip them. The word used here (katartisai) literally means 'put into a proper condition' or 'make complete'. The readers may have become aware of those gifts of God they needed in their Christian lives in order to be put into a proper condition. Possibly they longed for renewed confidence in Christ's supremacy and sufficiency and the other great truths with which our author has sought to encourage them at this time of doubt and persecution. Whatever their needs, the God of peace would certainly equip them with everything good.

Come expectantly this Lord's Day for a blessing from God and his Word!