An Inspired Prayer

Hebrews 13:20-21
There are many points of profound interest in these well-known verses. In the first place they embody a prayer, and, what is more, an inspired prayer, so that we may take up the words with the fullest confidence, knowing that we are but echoing God's gracious will concerning us. Moreover, in this prayer there are, needless to say, no superfluous words, and every word tells. Sublime and all-important doctrine is linked with gracious supplication. Such is the general scope of the passage.
The next thing to note is the character under which God is spoken of. He is called the God of peace. That is how we are directed specially to think of Him in this prayer. We have other epithets elsewhere. God is spoken of as the God of hope (Romans 15:1313Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost. (Romans 15:13)), the God of love and peace (2 Corinthians 13:1111Finally, brethren, farewell. Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you. (2 Corinthians 13:11)), the God of all comfort (2 Corinthians 1:33Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; (2 Corinthians 1:3)), the God of patience and consolation (Romans 15:55Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus: (Romans 15:5)), and again the God of peace (Romans 15:3333Now the God of peace be with you all. Amen. (Romans 15:33)). Incidentally it may be remarked that God is never called the God of faith. Nor does it demand any special spiritual judgment to sec that with no propriety could such a term be applied to the Infinite, the Almighty, the Omniscient, the Omnipresent. It is different with the other characterizations. For the God who bids us be patient exceeds in patience, the God who bids us love is Himself love, and what can compare with His peace and His joy, yea, with His hope-His gracious expectation, if we may reverently so put it? But faith—ah, that applies to the creature only, who without it cannot please his Creator. But this by the way. Here, in the verses before us, we are directed to think of “the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep"-of the peace that that gracious Shepherd made by the blood of His cross.
It is interesting to note the order of the words, and hence of the thought, in the original. “Now the God of peace, who brought again from among [the] dead the Shepherd of the' sheep"-that is how it runs. Then the apostle says, “the great One,” for there are under shepherds; and finally, after saying “in virtue of [the] blood of an everlasting covenant,” he adds “[even] our Lord Jesus” (ver. 20).
Now this collocation of the words plainly shows that the Shepherd character of the blessed Lord is the most prominent thing here. The sweetness of this is too apparent to need any laboring of the point. “The good Shepherd” (for all who have any acquaintance with Greek are aware that the adjective is emphatic by a device that is one of the numerous felicities of that most admirable tongue) gave His life for the sheep; “the great1 Shepherd” is brought again from among the dead by the God of peace. Then the apostle tells us that the great Shepherd is, needless in one sense to say, the Lord Jesus. But His lordship is not the most salient feature of the passage. Yet this is a truth of which all genuine believers are rightly most tenacious. “Ye call me Master and Lord, and ye say well, for so I am” (John 13:1313Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. (John 13:13)), said the Savior just before He suffered. Even so; but now one aspect of truth, now another is in strong relief in the inspired word, and that according to the manifold (πολυποἰκιλος—literally, variegated) wisdom of God.
The expression “God of peace” naturally suggests the well-known passage in Philippians about the “peace of God.” The former, of course, goes further, intimating that, as we have virtually said, peace is so characteristic of God that He can be called the God of peace. But the latter phrase the “peace of God"-(and how much more is it than a mere phrase, describing, as it does, a blessed reality) is strikingly beautiful. The other day I was reading an article in one of the most outstanding of weekly journals, called “Gentle Bigotries,” and some verses were quoted descriptive of the gentle bigotry (or rather what would seem to a careless outsider as bigotry) of one who must have been a saint of God. It spoke of her as living in a small paradise of her own, and so safely housed that
“Nor day nor night had power to fright
The peace of God that filled her eyes.”
What more admirable description could be given of a believer in Christ, having “peace with God” (Romans 5:11Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: (Romans 5:1)), letting “the peace of Christ” rule in the heart (Colossians 3:1515And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful. (Colossians 3:15)), and “filled with all joy and peace in believing” (Romans 15:1313Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost. (Romans 15:13))? And it struck one that this most desirable end must have been attained because the God of peace was working in her that which was well-pleasing in His sight.
But to proceed. We read next of the power in virtue of which our Lord was brought again from the dead. It was “by the blood of an everlasting covenant.” Oh, the amazing potency of these words, of whose profound meaning we can, as it were, but touch the fringe! The readers of this magazine, less than most perhaps, need to be reminded of the abiding efficacy of that sacred, that cleansing tide, the precious blood of Christ. But none can fathom the counsels of eternity. There are, as we know, somewhat parallel passages in the New Testament, equally sublime, equally unfathomable. Elsewhere the Savior is spoken of as “raised from the dead by the glory of the Father” (Romans 6:44Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. (Romans 6:4)), even as “by the eternal Spirit he offered himself without spot to God” (Hebrews 9:1414How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? (Hebrews 9:14)), where the power of the blood of Christ is strikingly enforced. It purges the conscience; it lays the basis of an eternal covenant of another day, into the antecedent blessings of which we meanwhile are brought who now believe. And in the power of that blood so charged with blessing for man did God raise our Lord from the dead. Undoubtedly, also, the Lord ascended by His own inherent right and power. “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:1919Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. (John 2:19)). And more than this. The corn of wheat might have abode alone, and never died at all. But then, where had we come in? “Without shedding of blood there is no remission” (Hebrews 9:2222And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission. (Hebrews 9:22)).
A word on the expression “make [you] perfect.” There are various senses, as we know, in which perfection is spoken of in the New Testament. There is perfection of standing, which is absolute, and the same for the humblest believer as for the apostle Paul, there is the sinless perfection that cannot obtain while we are here below, and there is at least one other perfection, that of full growth, which would seem to be alluded to in the passage we are considering. But the term perfect (τέλειος) or “full-grown,” is really not used in our text. “Make perfect” is here but one word, and might be rendered “adjust.” For that is the literal force of the word, shading off, as here, to the idea of making, complete or perfect. The same word is found in Galatians 6:11Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. (Galatians 6:1), where it is rightly rendered “restore” (see Authorized and Revised Versions, and also J.N.D.'s). There is implied, as one has said, the supplying of whatever has been defective, the repairing of whatever has been decayed. And all this, of course, for the paramount reason that God's will must be accomplished in His children.
Lastly, it is interesting to note that the word rendered: “working” is not the same as in the familiar passage in Philippians, where we read that “it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:1313For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. (Philippians 2:13)). There God is said to be the One who energizes the believer, the Holy Spirit being, of course, the power. Here the word used is that which habitually means to create, and the result, rather than the process, seems to be the leading thought of the apostle. Each word is surely appropriate in its place. And it is well to note also that even here in Hebrews, where, as it appears, results are the chief point, yet the means cannot be left in the background. It is “through Jesus Christ.” And so with a due ascription of praise to Him who is Lord of all ("to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen”), the beautiful prayer closes.
R. B.