By F.B. Meyer
"Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do His will, working in you that which is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to Whom be glory for ever and ever. HEBREWS 13.20, 21).
THROUGHOUT this Epistle, the inspired writer has been appealing to man. Through successive paragraphs he has poured forth a burning stream of argument, remonstrance, or appeal, now opening the full peal of Sinai's thunders, and now the wail of Calvary's broken heart, and finally summoning the most honoured names in Hebrew story to enforce his words.
All this is over now. He can say no more. The ploughing and sowing and harrowing are alike complete. He must turn from earth to heaven, from man to God, and leave his converts and his work with that glorious Being whose cause he had striven so faithfully to plead, and who alone could crown his labours with success.
There are many splendid outbursts of prayer beginning these Epistles, but amongst them all, it is impossible to find one more striking or beautiful than this.
THE BURDEN OF THE PRAYER is that these Hebrew Christians may be made perfect to do God's will. The word "perfect" means to set in joint, or articulate. Naturally, we are out of joint, or, at the best, work stiffly, but the ideal of Christian living is to be so perfectly "set" that God's purposes may be easily and completely realised in us.
There is no higher aim in life than to do the will of God. It was the supreme object for which our Saviour lived. This brought Him from heaven. This determined His every action. This fed His inner life with hidden meat. This cleared and lit up His judgment. This led Him with unfaltering decision into the valley of death. This was the stay and solace of His spirit as he drank the bitter cup of agony.
Throughout His mortal life His one glad shout of assurance and victory was, "I delight to do Your will, 0h my God. Yes, Your law is within my heart." And human lives climb up from the lowlands to the upland heights just in proportion as they do the will of God on earth as it is done in heaven. If every reader of these lines would resolve from this moment to do the will of God in the very smallest things - with scrupulous care, counting nothing insignificant, shrinking from no sacrifice, evading no command - life would assume entirely a new aspect. There might be a momentary experience of suffering and pain, but it would be succeeded by the light of resurrection, and the new song of heaven, stealing like morning through the chambers of the soul.
God is love. To do His will is to scatter love in handfuls of blessing on a weary world.
God is light. To do His will is to tread a path that shines more and more unto the perfect day.
God is life. To do His will is to eat of the Tree of Life, and live forever, and to drink deep draughts of the more abundant life which Jesus gives.
God is the God of hope. To do His will is to be full of all joy and peace, and to abound in hope.
God is the God of all comfort. To do His will is to be comforted in all our tribulation by the tender love of a mother.
God is the God of peace. To do His will is to learn the secret inner calm, which no storm can reach, no tempest ruffle.
God is the God of truth. To do His will is to be on the winning side, and to be assured of the time when He will bring out our righteousness as the light, and our judgment as the noonday.
Why will you not, my readers, who have followed these chapters thus far to the last, resolve from this moment that your will shall henceforth say "Yes" to God's will, and that you will live out what He wills and works within? Probably, at the very outset, you will be tested by your attitude to some one thing. Do not try to answer all the suggestions or enquiries that may be raised tumultuously within, but deal immediately and decisively with that single item. Dare to say, with respect to it, "I will Your will, 0h my God." And immediately the gate will open into the rapture of a new life.
But remember that His will must be done in every work to which you put your hands, and thenevery work will be good.
We cannot tell how the mysterious promptings of our will are able to express themselves in our limbs and members. We only know that what we will in ourselves is instantly wrought out through the wonderful machinery of nerve and muscle. And we are quick to perceive when, through some injury or dislocation, the mandate of the will fails to be instantly and completely fulfilled. Nor do we rest content until the complete communication is restored.
But in all this there is a deep spiritual analogy. We are members, through grace, of the body of Christ. The will lies with Him, and if we were living as we ought, we should be incessantly conscious of its holy impulses, withdrawing us from this, or prompting us to that. Our will would not be obliterated, but would elect to work in perpetual obedience and subordination to the will of its King.
Alas! this is not our case. We are too little sensible of those holy impulses. On rare occasions we realise and yield to them. But how many of them fail to reach or move us, because we are out of joint! What prayer could better befit our lips than that the God of peace, the true surgeon of souls, would put us in joint, to do His will, with unerring accuracy, promptitude, and completeness!
MARK THE GUARANTEES THAT THIS PRAYER SHALL BE REALISED. The appeal is made to the God of peace. He Whose nature is never swept by the storms of desire or unrest, Whose one aim is to introduce peace into the heart and life, Whose love to us will not brook disappointment in achieving our highest blessedness, He must undertake this office. He will do it most tenderly and delicately, nor will He rest until the obstruction to the inflow of His nature is removed, and there is perfect harmony between the promptings of His will and our immediate and joyous response.
He brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep. To have given us a Shepherd was much, but to have given us so great a Shepherd is marvellous. He is the great Shepherd Who died, just as He is the good Shepherd Who knows His flock, and the chief Shepherd Who is coming again. He is great, because of the intrinsic dignity of His nature, because of His personal qualifications to save and bless us, because of the greatness of His unknown sufferings; and because of the height of glory to which the Father has exalted Him.
The words "brought again" are very expressive. They contain the idea of "brought up." More is meant than the reanimation of the dead body of Christ. There is included, also, His exaltation by the right hand of God, to be a Prince and a Saviour. And, surely, if our God has given us such a Shepherd, and raised Him to such a glory, that He may help us the more efficiently, there is every reason why we should confidently count on His doing all that may needed in us, as He has done all that was needed for us.
He will certainly respect the everlasting covenant, which has been sealed with blood. God has entered into an eternal covenant with us to be our God and Friend. That covenant, which does not depend on anything in us, but rests on His own unchanging nature, has been ratified by the precious blood of His Son.
As the first covenant was sealed by the sprinkled blood of slain beasts, so the second was sealed by the precious blood of Christ. "This is My blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins." Thus spoke our Saviour on the eve of His death, with a weight of meaning which this Epistle was needed to explain.
And is it likely that He who has entered into such a covenant with our souls - a covenant so everlasting, so divine, so solemn - will ever go back from it, or allow anything to remain undone which may be needed to secure its perfect and efficient operation? It cannot be! We may count, without the slightest hesitation, on the God of peace doing all that is required to perfect us in every good work to do His will.
THE DIVINE METHOD will be to 'work in us'. It is necessary first that we should be adjusted so that there may be no waste or diversion of the divine energy. When that is done, then it will begin to pass into and through us in mighty tides of power.
"God working in you." It is a marvellous expression! We know how steam works mightily within the cylinder, forcing the ponderous piston up and down. We know how sap works mightily within the branches, forcing itself out in bud and leaf and blossom. We read of a time when men and women were so possessed of devils that they spoke and acted as the inward promptings led them. These are approximations to the conception of the text, which towers infinitely beyond.
Have we not all been conscious of some of these workings? They do not work in us mightily as they did in the Apostle Paul, because we have not yielded to them as he did. Still, we have known them when the breath of holy resolution has swept through our natures, or we have conceived some noble purpose, or have been impelled to some deed of self-sacrifice for others.
These are the workings of God within the heart, not in the tornado only, but in the zephyr, not in the thunder alone, but in the still small voice. Every sigh for the better life, every strong and earnest resolution, every determination to leave the nets and fishing-boats to follow Jesus, every appetite for fellowship, every aspiration heavenward - all these are the result of God's in-working.
How careful we should be to gather up every divine impulse, and translate it into action! We must work out what He works in. We must labour according to His working, which works in us mightily. We must be swift to seize the fugitive and transient expression, embodying it in the permanent act.
It does not seem so difficult to live and work for God when it is realised that the eternal God is energising within. You cannot be sufficiently patient to that querulous invalid, your patience is exhausted, but God is working His patience within you. Let it come out through you. You cannot muster strength for that obvious Christian duty, but God is working that fruit in your innermost nature. Be content to let it manifest itself by you. You are incompetent to sustain that Christian work, with its manifold demands, but stand aside, and let the eternal God work in and through you, to do by His strength what you in your weakness cannot do.
The Christian is the workshop of God. In that mortal but renewed nature the divine Artisan is at work, elaborating products of exquisite beauty and marvellous skill. Would that we might be less eager to give the world ourselves, and more determined that there should be a manifestation through all the gateways of our being of the wondrous in-working of the God of peace! Then we might say, with some approach to the words of our Lord, to such as demand evidences of His resurrection and life, "How do you say, prove to me the resurrection of Jesus? The words which I speak, I speak not of myself, but my Saviour, who dwells in me, He does the works."
THE RESULT will be that we shall be well-pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ. Our good works can never be the ground of our acceptance or justification. The very best of them can only please God through Jesus Christ. Our purest tears need washing again in His blood. Our holiest actions need to be cleansed ere they can be viewed by a holy God. Our best prayers and gifts need to be laid on the altar which sanctifies all it touches. We could not stand before God for a moment, save by that one sufficient substitutionary sacrifice, once offered by Jesus on the cross, and now pleaded by Him before the throne.
At the same time, our Father is pleased with our obedient loyalty to His will. He gives us this testimony, that we please Him, as Enoch did, who walked with Him before the flood. And it should be the constant ambition of our lives so to walk as to please Him, and to obtain from Him a faint echo of those memorable words which greeted our Saviour as He stepped into the waters of Baptism, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased."
To Him be glory for ever and ever! Directly the soul is right with God, it becomes a vehicle for God, and thus a revenue of glory begins to accrue to God, which ceases not, but augments as the years roll by. And the time will never come when the spirit shall not still pour forth its glad rejoicings to the glory of Him to Whom is due the praise of all.
If your life is not bringing glory to God, see to it that at once you set to work to ascertain the cause. Learning it, let it be dealt with forthwith. Hand yourself over to God to make you and keep you right. And thus begin a song of love and praise, which shall rise through all coming ages, to the Father who chose you in Christ, to the Saviour who bought you with His blood, and to the Spirit who sanctifies the heart, one adorable Trinity, to Whom be the glory for ever and ever, Amen.