My wife and I (+ 3 sons by now) have said goodbye to some dear friends and family members for the last 4-5 years. As we were leaving Germany (and thus all we knew), goodbyes were really hard as we did not know when (or if) the Lord would lead us back to Germany. But there were also other goodbyes which were caused by death in the family and those were even harder to take (though the hope to see them again one day in God’s kingdom is very sweet).
In about a year from now it is time to say goodbye to those we came to love here in Chicago. I guess this is just the way it is. Once I heard a team member from a South African youth group saying “change is the only constancy in our lives” and I think he is right!
Let us today take a look how the author of Hebrews is finishing up his letter to those he dearly loves.
22 I appeal to you, brothers, bear with my word of exhortation, for I have written to you briefly. 23 You should know that our brother Timothy has been released, with whom I shall see you if he comes soon. 24Greet all your leaders and all the saints. Those who come from Italy send you greetings. 25 Grace be with all of you.
Some Brief Remarks
Here the author again calls the recipients brothers (cf. also 3:1, 12; 10:19), maybe to following standard as well as a reminder to their familial status in the family of God to which they belong in Christ. He also states that the readers should bear with his word of exhortation and that he only had written briefly to them. He is not there to discourage them, but to encourage and the stern warnings throughout the epistle are part of such.
This word of exhortationrefers to the entire letter. This letter is written in a manner (which has been pointed out by the author at several instances; see especially however the crucial reference tin 1:1) as God speaking to His people. The author is a pastor at heart and admonishes his sheep with the truths of Christ, especially derived from the Old Testament (OT). From this we can learn a lot. Most of us treat the OT as if it is not relevant to the Christian (or at least only some parts). But if we take the words in 1:1 (“long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets”; emphasis mine) seriously we cannot treat the OT in such a way. The OT was and is revelation from God and was the Scriptures for the Lord Jesus as well as his apostles.
See also Luke’s account of Paul and his companions in Antioch Pisidia where the same word for exhortation is used (“After the reading from the Law and the Prophets, the rulers of the synagogue sent a message to them, saying, “Brothers, if you have any word of encouragement for the people, say it”; Acts 13:15).
There are news about Timothy who has been released most likely from prison. The hope of the author is to join together with Timothy and visit the community to which this epistle is written. We do not know for certain if this is the Timothy we know as Paul’s companion and spiritual child. Paul calls Timothy our brother (2 Cor 1:1; Col 1:1; 1 Thess 3:2; Philem 1) – but such a linguistic link does not prove if this is the Timothy we now of.
He then lets the readers greet their leaders (the leaders already got attention in verses 7 and 17) and greets them together with those from Italy. This might indicate that there were Christians from Italywith the author who wanted to encourage their fellow believers in Italy (or contrary, the author is sending greetings out of Italy; the location is uncertain!).
To conclude the series on the book of Hebrews, I will again let Peterson have the last words. He observes that the term grace be with you “is a conventional form of farewell in NT letters (e.g. Rom. 16:20; 2 Cor. 13:13) but is particularly appropriate for Hebrews, with its continual stress on the grace of God shown to us in the Lord Jesus Christ” (in loc.; emphasis mine).
Peterson, David. “Hebrews.” New Bible Commentary : 21st Century Edition, 4th ed. Ed. D.A. Carson, et al. Leicester, England; Downers Grove, USA: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994.