The weekly Bible study that I attend finished our study of the book of Hebrews this week. Amen! I'm not sure why that book has seemed so tedious to me. I am happy to move on to our final study of the year, the book of James.
That being said, the author of Hebrews has a rather nice benediction in his/her letter that really struck a chord with me:
May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, eqip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. -- Hebrews 13:20-21
There are 3 phrases here that I want to briefly touch on.
The God of peace. How often do we forget that our God is a God of peace? His desire is for us to live peacefully with one another and be at peace with ourselves. Through the reconciling work that Jesus accomplished on the cross, we are able to experience that peace in all areas of our lives; that peace that surpasses all understanding. We must claim it, everyday, lest we allow the "weeds" of life to encroach upon our peaceful garden.
That Great Shepherd. I love the word picture of Jesus as the Shepherd. No, I have never raised sheep, but my limited knowledge confirms that it requires a patient, tender-hearted and devoted person. "My sheep know my voice." "I lay my life down for my sheep." In his own use of this metaphor as recorded in John's gospel, Jesus identifies himself as a shepherd who takes an intense, personal, individual interest in his sheep -- even to the point of giving his life for them.
May he work in us what is pleasing to him. No, he is not an assembly line or cookie-cutter God. And he doesn't follow my plan for self improvement. He is working something individually in each of us, according to who we are and what he desires for our lives. To believe otherwise is to place God in a box. And we all know what a bad idea that is.