Scotland has a population of some 5.3 million people—and 6.5 to 7 million sheep! Sheep farmers understand the importance of caring for their flock in all sorts of terrain and weather conditions.
That image of a watchful shepherd runs throughout our passage. The leaders of the church are called to “keep watch over you” (v. 17), which is the same verb employed for both shepherds and sentries. Clearly, one of the primary tasks of leaders in the church is to care for the spiritual well-being of Christ’s sheep, and one day they “must give an account” (v. 17) for their work.
Members of the flock also have responsibilities. They must respect their leaders and submit to them, and they must live in a way that their leaders’ work “will be a joy, not a burden” (v. 17). A flourishing church is one whose leaders and members work in cooperation, each being faithful to their own tasks.
Likewise, the entire congregation is called to prayer. The author of Hebrews has written this “word of exhortation” (v. 22) with “a clear conscience” (v. 18) and with obvious affection. He also requests that the community engage in prayerful intercession on his behalf. And the church today should pray not just for its own leaders but also for leaders in churches across the globe.
Finally, Scripture returns us to the shepherd imagery, and to the foundation for the entire letter: Jesus Christ, “that great Shepherd of the sheep.” Through Christ’s death and resurrection, we now have an “eternal covenant” (v. 20). The book of Hebrews ends where it started. Jesus Christ is the perfect sacrifice, priest, and mediator of the new covenant. In Him we are equipped “with everything good for doing his will” (v. 21).
As both priest and offering, Christ has ushered in the new covenant and brought us into a new relationship with our God. As you reflect on our study this month, jot down one or two thoughts you will take with you from this exploration of the book of Hebrews. Then give thanks to God for His work in your life through Christ.