5 February 2011Hebrews 13:15-21
"Now may the God of peace, who brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, make you complete in everything good so that you may do his will ..." (vv. 20-21)
Whilst we might not consider a letter which is ten or more pages to be short, in the verse which follows today's reading (Hebrews 13:22) the writer claims to have "written to you briefly"! This last chapter seems to be full of apparently unrelated thoughts and suggestions; things not to be left out before closing the letter. So the reader is reminded:
- Keep on praising (verse 15): life may not be easy, but through the sacrifice of Christ on the cross, we are able to make the much lesser sacrifice of continually offering praise to the name of God.
- Do not neglect to do good: the general exhortation to "do good" (verse 16) is alongside a specific instruction to share; this is another form of sacrifice we can engage in and so please God.
- Obey your leaders: not, in order to make life easier for them, but because they take responsibility for you, and will give an account of you (verse 17). The faithful disciple should give their leader cause for rejoicing, not for sighing!
- Pray for us: a humble request from a respected leader who recognises that no-one is above the need for prayer in order to maintain that "clear conscience" (verse 18).
Having made these points, the writer closes the letter (or
almost closes it, one or two late thoughts do pop up in the
inevitable PS!) with a rich, poetic blessing. The language is
fulsome and ambitious because the faith of the writer is similarly
bold, putting implicit trust in the blood of the eternal covenant,
which he has spent 13 chapters trying to explain. This God who was
able to bring back Jesus from the dead can make disciples "complete
in everything good", thus making it possible for them (and for us)
to do the will of God, to live lives which are pleasing in the
sight of God and so to bring glory to God in Jesus Christ for ever
Amen! Be encouraged to remain as faithful disciples, Hebrews tells us, because perfection is on its way!
Have you ever been able to praise God in hard times? If you have, how has that affected you?
Think about those who may see themselves as your "leaders" (verse 17) - do you cause them to rejoice or to sigh do you think? Does that matter?
To what extent is the target of being "complete in every good thing" on your agenda, or do you think of it as an impossibility in this life?