Digging in Deeper: Hebrews 13:20-25

“Now may the God of peace, who brough up from the dead our Lord Jesus – the great Shepherd of the sheep – through the blood of the everlasting covenant, equip you with everything good to do his will, working in us what is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. Brothers and sisters, I urge you to receive this message of exhortation, for I have written to you briefly. Be aware that our brother Timothy has been released. If he comes soon enough, he will be with me when I see you. Greet all your leaders and all the saints. Those who are from Italy send you greetings. Grace be with you all.” (CSB – Read the chapter)

At long last, today we arrive at our big finish. This has been quite a journey. We are going to end today with a blessing. It’s not a blessing from me, but from the author. As we reflect on where we’ve come, let’s talk about this blessing and where we go from here.

Do you even remember where we started this journey? I mean, yes, it was Hebrews 1:1-2, but I’m talking about the themes and theology we were addressing then. Here’s a link to that first step back on April 26th to remind you. We got started on this journey just after taking a weeklong hiatus for what was our Spring Break. Before then we had been in a grab bag of topics and passages since finishing up the Gospel of Mark a few weeks earlier. Next week, Lord willing, we’ll focus some attention on being thankful. Then we’ll be into the season of Advent in preparation for Christmas. I already have a couple of Christmas songs in mind as we switch gears to looking at some of my favorite Christmas songs on Fridays through the season. I’m looking forward to it.

Back to Hebrews. The author opened the letter by talking about the ways God had revealed Himself in the past. More recently (relative to the author), He had made a change and begun revealing Himself primarily through His Son, Jesus. The next several parts of the letter focused their attention primarily on exalting Jesus as better and more glorious than various parts of the Jewish religious worldview that were highly valued. Jesus was presented as better than the old forms of self-revelation God had previously used. He is better than any of the angels who serve God. And He’s better than Moses who was the single most important person in history for the Jews.

The next comparison took us where we have spent the last few months exploring and examining and around which we have been trying to wrap our heads and hearts. Because Jesus is so much greater than all of these other things, the covenant God made with us through Him is greater than the old covenant of which all these other things were a part. This would have been an enormously difficult idea for first century Jews who had come to accept Jesus as Messiah to grasp. That old covenant had been the primary thing around which they had constructed their entire identities. Without the old covenant, and more specifically the Law, they didn’t have any idea who they were. The author of Hebrews (and guys like Peter, Paul, and John) were offering them a new identity in Christ.

This idea, however, is also difficult for us to grasp. If you are someone who has been around the church for a long time, you’ve probably spent a lot of time marinating your theology in an environment in which there isn’t a whole lot of distinction made between the two covenants. Even where they have been talked about differently, they’ve still been presented in such a way that implies at least parts of them both still apply to modern followers of Jesus. This is often through lessons that teach us about things like the Ten Commandments with the application basically being various forms of reminders that we need to keep them. For the author of Hebrews to tell us that the entire old covenant (which includes the Ten Commandments) is obsolete, passing away, and being replaced by the new covenant, though, doesn’t click very easily with all this other teaching rumbling around in our heads and hearts.

And yet, our embracing the fullness of the new covenant is critical to our very salvation. There is no life to be found in the old covenant. Jesus fulfilled it and it is gone. It never worked to bring us life in the first place. It only revealed our inability to gain the prize of life on our own. Law-keeping has never been an effective means of getting into a right relationship with God. Never. We should pursue the new covenant and the lifestyle it commends with vigor and intentionality, though, if for no other reason than the sacrifices those who have come before us have made in order for us to be able to pursue it in the first place. It takes faith to do this, but a right relationship with God has never come without faith.

Having laid all of this out for us, the author concludes with a benediction which is just a closing blessing. Let’s close our journey by walking through the various parts of this blessing. He offers the blessing in the name of the God of peace. One of the greatest parts of God’s character is that He is a God of peace. This peace isn’t merely the absence of conflict either. This is a wholeness in which wounds are healed and all fears and anxieties are washed away completely. This is a confident sense that all is right with the world around us as well as the world within us. This is the kind of peace our God desires for us, and He is the only one who can bring it to us.

He brought this peace to us primarily by raising Jesus from the dead. His reward for the faithfulness that led Him to the cross in the first place is not only eternal life, but to have been crowned the Lord of all creation. He is not some far off Lord who rules over His kingdom with relative disinterest as He pursues the latest thing to strike His fancy. He is the Good Shepherd. We are His sheep. He knows His sheep as every good shepherd does. He cares for them, actively leading them to water and green pastures, and driving away those forces who would threaten them. He is a Lord worth following. Let us not forget, though, that He came to this position by His spilled blood for our sake. By this blood, God created a new covenant that is everlasting. There will be no end to the life we have in Him.

This brings us to the heart of the blessing. He is calling on God to equip us with everything good that we need to do His will. There’s something to this we dare not miss. We don’t have what it takes to do His will within us. On our own, we fall to sin with depressing consistency. It is only by the power and presence of the Holy Spirit in us that we can do His will. This is a blessing we need. And what is His will? While He is aware of things like what you are going to eat for breakfast or what you decided to put on this morning, His will as we like to think about it is not focused on detail things like that so much as the spirit with which we pursue them and anything else we do. He wants for us to live with a spirit of faithful obedience. He desires for us to be thankful in everything. He wills that we would be in a relationship with Him through Jesus. When we do His will this way, it brings Him great pleasure in much the same way as you feel great pleasure and pride when your kids live their lives in light of the things you work so hard to teach them as right and true. He is indeed a good and loving Father. He is one with whom it is good and proper for us to be in a covenantal relationship. If you have not yet made yourself a part of this new covenant, I would invite you to do so even in this moment. Give over your life to Jesus. He is worthy of that gift, and He will handle it with all the care it is due. More than anything else, you’ll be glad that you did.

So then, as we close out this journey, allow me to do it with the author’s own blessing:

Now may the God of peace, who brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus – the great Shepherd of the sheep – through the blood of the everlasting covenant, equip you with everything good to do his will, working in us what is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

And amen.

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