One of the greatest benedictions in the scriptures comes at the end of the Epistle to the Hebrews. After a number of dense arguments around the superiority of the New Covenant, a call to hold fast to those promises, warnings for not doing so, and some practical out-workings of those truths, we receive the author’s final blessing and desire for his readers. As we receive this blessing, may our faith be strengthened to take up the call laid out in this marvelous book.
Now may the God of peace.…This is the same God of peace who sent Jesus to make peace with rebels and bring us to himself. He established the new covenant where Jesus is the faithful High Priest after the order of Melchizedek, the King of Salem (peace).
Who brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus…This was the ultimate display of power. Not only is it a display of power because God raised Jesus from death to life, but this event was the culmination of promises made centuries beforehand. As we’ll see later in the benediction, this power matters because it’s the same power at work in us.
–The great Shepherd of the sheep…Not only is he all powerful, but he is a gentle and kind Shepherd who defends us and protects us. He is the shepherd who brings us rest (chapter 4).
Through the blood of the everlasting covenant…When I read this as a benediction I often put this phrase earlier (The God of peace who….by the blood of the eternal covenant…brought up from the dead…). This allows the hearer to connect the means by which Jesus was brought up from the dead. Jesus’ perfect sacrifice on the cross broke the power of sin’s curse because the curse of death was not warranted for the spotless lamb of God. This blood of the New Covenant is more superior covenant than the blood offered in the Sinai covenant, and fulfills better promises (Chapter 8-9).
Equip you with everything good to do his will…Remember, this is the same God that raised up Jesus. That all-powerful, promise-keeping, death-defying God is the one equipping us with everything good to do his will. What is “Everything Good”? Probably the power and new covenant heart that is necessary to actually do his will. We cannot do it in our own strength.
Working in us what is pleasing in his sight…This amazing work of God actually allows us to come before him and be pleasing. He equips, and he works in us, and because he does it, our work is pleasing to him.
Through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. All of this happens through the person and work of Jesus. He makes it all possible, and it’s all for his glory. If it wasn’t, God would be an idolater, and thus not God! We are the undeserving recipients of God’s glorious grace that magnifies him through saving sinners. What a glorious gift!
When the church has historically read benedictions the people often open their hands in a posture of receptivity. May we receive this blessing this Christmas season with open hands. We cannot give that which we haven’t first received! As we receive and internalize God’s love for us and his power given to us, may he accomplish his work in us and through us for his glory.