The Great Shepherd of the Sheep | Hebrews 13:20-25

The Great Shepherd of the Sheep | Hebrews 13:20-25

God equip us to do His will. Indeed, He must equip us to do His will, or we will not have the desire or ability to do so. He equips us, and He also works in us to do that which is pleasing in his sight. The sacrifices of praise, which we studied last week, are God’s will for us and are pleasing in His sight whenever we do walk in them. Acknowledging His name and doing good to others are the sacrifices of thanksgiving that we now give to God. Sounds easy enough, right? Loving God and loving our neighbor is so simple to say, but so impossible to actually live. Thankfully, God does not leave us on our own to accomplish these commands. He Himself actually enables us to do them.

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, 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.

I appeal to you, brothers, bear with my word of exhortation, for I have written to you briefly. You should know that our brother Timothy has been released, with whom I shall see you if he comes soon. Greet all your leaders and all the saints. Those who come from Italy send you greetings. Grace be with all of you.

Hebrews 13:20-25 ESV

In Numbers 9:22-27, we find a particularly prized responsibility of the Levitical priests:

The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, Thus you shall bless the people of Israel: you shall say to them,

The LORD bless you and keep you;
the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

So shall they put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them.”

That priestly blessing is repeatedly and alluded to many more times throughout the Old Testament, especially within the Psalms. Psalm 67 is one of my personal favorites. And even in the New Testament, we still have allusions to this priestly invocation. The epistles typically open with a variation of this greeting: “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 1:7). Often called benedictions, David Calhoun explains their significance, saying:

The Reformers noted that the benedictions of the Bible were more than the traditional way of parting; they were prayers of intercession. Furthermore, they were prayers of intercession by a messenger (such as Aaron, Melchizedek, Balaam, and Simeon) sent by God to proclaim that God had indeed granted the blessing promised in the benediction. The benediction was more than a general prayer of intercession; it was concerned with that spiritual blessing that God gave to Abraham and to his seed forever. That blessing was handed down from generation to generation in the temple and, later, in the church. In Christ Jesus ‘the blessing of Abraham’ had come to the Gentiles, wrote Paul in Galatians 3:14. Calvin explained that the benediction is God’s word in a special sense; it is a proclamation of grace, spoken by God’s ministers, by the power of God’s Spirit, and received by the people of faith. More than a prayer, it is a sermon. According to Calvin, the blessing God gives is himself.


In our final passage of Hebrews, we find one of the most marvelous benedictions in all of Scripture, but of course it should not surprise us that the book that has been continuously calling us to set our eyes upon Jesus would conclude with such heavenly words of blessing.

Grace be with You All // Verses 22-24

Since verses 22-25 are a postscript to the sermon-letter itself, let us take a glance at them first before focusing squarely upon the great benediction given in verses 20-21.

I appeal to you, brothers, bear with my word of exhortation, for I have written to you briefly. Here the author calls his whole letter a word of exhortation. Throughout our study, I have said that Hebrews is primarily a written sermon that was sent out as a letter, and this description supports that thought. An exhortation is a charge or command to do something, and sermons ought to always be an exhortation in some form. Yes, the author has given us theological teachings of unfathomable depth, yet Hebrews is not simply a theological treatise or essay. The author wrote these words to urge us to do something, not merely to transfer knowledge into our minds. Particularly, his exhortation has been to consider Jesus and to look Him as we run with endurance the race of faith that is before us. And just as the author has repeatedly emphasized God’s act of speaking to His people, the appeal to bear with this exhortation is a call to listen carefully to what was said, to pay close attention to the words that we have just heard.

We may find it humorous that the author calls these thirteen chapters of a sermon brief, but I find this to be a wonderful vindication. Hebrews takes about 40-45 minutes to read, and since my sermons consistently hover around that same timeframe, I have biblical justification for saying that my sermons are brief!

In all seriousness, anyone who has ever taught deeply through a book of the Bible knows that the author is not exaggerating in the slightest. John concluded his Gospel by saying of Jesus’ earthly ministry: “Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written” (John 21:25). If that is true of Jesus’ earthly ministry, how much more of His heavenly ministry that has been the focus of Hebrews? John Brown wrote: “I have delivered nearly one hundred lectures of an hour’s length on this Epistle; and yet I am persuaded I have but very imperfectly brought out those ‘treasures of wisdom and knowledge’ which are contained in these brief terms” (726). Although Hebrews speaks briefly on Christ, we could each spend the remainder of our lives only studying this book, and we will still say with Brown that we have only imperfectly discovered its treasures.

In verse 23, the author informs his readers that Timothy has been released from prison and apparently hopes to see the readers along with the author. This is the only reference to Timothy’s imprisonment in the New Testament.

Verse 24 urges the readers to make the author’s greetings known to the whole church. The greeting of those who come from Italy may be read in one of two ways. If the readers were in or near Rome, then these were Italian Christians who were currently wherever the author was. If the readers were in Jerusalem or anywhere else outside of Italy, then these were Christians in Italy where the author must have been. It is likely that we will never definitely know which is correct in this life.

The God of Peace & Our Lord Jesus // Verses 20

Circling back to the great benediction in verses 20-21, we find the three major sections within it. First, in verse 20, the author invokes the God of peace and proceeds to give a snapshot of how He has brought us peace with Himself through his Son, our Lord Jesus. Second, in verse 21, we find what the author is calling upon God to do for us and work in us. Third, verse 21 concludes the benediction with a doxology ascribing all glory to our God.

Now may the God of peace Even though “our God is a consuming fire” (12:29) and even though the holiness of His presence caused Isaiah to cry out in terror, He is the nevertheless the God of peace. Indeed, the peace that God brings is not simply the cessation of strife; rather, it means being complete, whole, and being well. I think R. Kent Hughes is right to see a parallel here with Jeremiah 29:11, “which reads literally, “‘For I know the plans I am planning for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for shalom and not for calamity, to give you a future and a hope’” (based on NASB). Significantly, this promise of shalom was given to God’s covenant people at the beginning of the Babylonian captivity when it appeared that the seas of the Gentile world had inundated God’s people for good” (471-472).

Where these Jewish Christians not facing the prospect of something just as terrifying? The sword of Rome was readying to strike them down. They could run back to Judaism to escape, but they would be abandoning Him who sits in the heavens and laughs at the plotting of nations and conspiring of rulers. Just as God sustained His people while in Babylon, so would He sustain them while in Rome. Indeed, here in the 21st Century we have the wonder of hindsight to behold that Babylon and Rome are nothing but history, while God’s people continue to endure as His kingdom continues to expand. Thus, this was no empty promise of peace.

Indeed, we can take comfort in the God of peace, whether in life or death, because He is the God who raises the dead: who brought again from the dead. The very worst that befall us in this life is death, which is a great enemy of mankind. Yet although we must all still die, Christ’s death and resurrection has removed the sting from death. It is no doubt still an unpleasant and sobering reality, but Christians do not need to fear death, for the One who conquered death through death is not ashamed to call us His brothers. And because He is our Savior, His resurrection is the security of our own resurrection. As Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:20-23:

But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.

This resurrected Savior is also the great shepherd of the sheep. God’s people are the sheep, which is imagery used throughout Scripture in places like Psalms 23 and 100.

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