The Peace of Messiah
Lately, the world has been occupied with the coronavirus. It has taken a front-seat position in all of our lives. It has interrupted our daily and weekly routines. Everyone has been talking about it, and understandably so. But in due course, the current crisis will end and life will move on. We will become preoccupied with other trials that will rise in its place, both public and private, large and small. In spite of every external threat and concern, we as believers have been given access to a peace which transcends circumstance.
Throughout the Bible, God reveals to us that He is interested in peace. In Hebrew the word is shalom, and it can encompass the concepts of safety, health, contentment, and relationship depending on the context. As in English, the term shalom can denote the physical state of peace as opposed to war, as well as a feeling of assurance or contentment. I’d like to focus on the latter sense here because this kind of peace can be found in God even in situations that seem to be anything but peaceful.
God gave Aaron special instructions about how he and his sons were to bless the people of Israel. It’s a blessing that many of us are familiar with: “The LORD bless you, and keep you; the LORD make His face shine on you, and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up His countenance on you, and give you peace” (Numbers 6:24-26). From this passage we see that peace is a gift from God, and it is closely associated with His presence. God blesses His people by revealing to them His countenance, His face. Some of us may experience feelings of peace or confidence while in the company of an especially trusted friend. There is no one more trustworthy than God and He wants us to experience firsthand the peace that is a result of His face shining on us.
The prophet Isaiah teaches us that God gives His peace to those who fix their thoughts on Him. Isaiah 26:3-4 says, “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock.” Note the connection between peace and trust: when we trust God, He gives us the peace to continue trusting Him. The more we think about God, the more we will see His faithfulness. The more we comprehend of His unfathomable goodness, the smaller our own difficulties and concerns will appear.
Isaiah 32 talks about a time when the forsaken places in Israel are springing to life because of the return of God’s Spirit. “Then justice will dwell in the wilderness and righteousness will abide in the fertile field. And the work of righteousness will be peace, and the service of righteousness, quietness and confidence forever” (verses 16-17). Here we are instructed that peace is an outworking of righteousness, and it is paralleled with quietness and confidence in God. At times we may have trouble finding physical quietness, but even when we are surrounded by chaos we can maintain a quietness in our soul. We can uphold our confidence in God that He is faithful and He is in control.
Isaiah 48:17-18 also connects peace with righteousness or right behavior: “Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: ‘I am the LORD your God, who teaches you to profit, who leads you in the way you should go. Oh that you had paid attention to my commandments! Then your peace would have been like a river, and your righteousness like the waves of the sea.’” Similarly, Psalm 119:165 says, “Those who love Your law have great peace, and nothing causes them to stumble.” God’s commandments are an expression of His character. They are designed to be a safeguard for us. The result of righteousness is peace because we are content in God’s will. When we obey God out of love for Him, we acknowledge that He knows what is best for us and we rest quietly in this confidence.
It should be noted that there also exists a false peace, an attempt to artificially create it outside of God. For example, Jeremiah condemns his contemporaries, the false prophets: “They heal the brokenness of the daughter of My people superficially, saying, 'Peace, peace,' but there is no peace.” The false prophets that Jeremiah is talking about failed to actually bring real peace, God’s peace, into the situation. They simply tried to encourage the people that nothing bad would happen, that God’s judgment wouldn’t fall on them. The false prophets were saying, “You shall not see the sword, nor shall you have famine, but I will give you assured peace in this place” (Jeremiah 14:13). This was a lie, an attempt to whitewash the problem and pretend it didn’t exist. For those without God, there can be no true peace. “But the wicked are like the tossing sea; for it cannot be quiet, and its waters toss up mire and dirt. There is no peace,’ says my God, ‘for the wicked’” (Isaiah 57:20-21).
The Prince of Peace
God’s nature remains the same from the beginning of the Bible to the end. His desire is that His people will have peace, and He sent Yeshua, the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6), as an expression of that desire. Yeshua’s work is to reconcile people to their Creator and restore the relationship that has been ruined because of our sin. Through His shed blood we can enter God’s presence and experience contentment by knowing Him.
In John 14, Yeshua is teaching His disciples and encouraging them in anticipation of His impending arrest, trial, and crucifixion. In this troubling time, He wants to leave His disciples with some real encouragement that will be able to get them through the difficult days ahead. He says to them, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid” (John 14:27). How can Yeshua make this promise to His disciples? How exactly can they have this peace? He explains this a bit earlier in the chapter: “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you” (John 14:16-17). The Holy Spirit will indwell the believer and give them, among other gifts, peace and strength. Yeshua says, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you” (John 14:18). Just as we saw in the passages from the Torah and Prophets, it is the presence of God and an intimate relationship with Him that gives us peace.
Paul knew this peace. It was a comfort to him even during times of violence and uncertainty. When he instructs believers to not be anxious, this hardly comes from a place of inexperience or naivety. There were numerous times when his life was in danger, but through it all he was able to know peace. How? In Philippians he says, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Messiah Yeshua” (Philippians 4:6-7). One way we can access the peace of God is through prayer and thanksgiving. Likewise in Colossians he links thanksgiving with peace: “Let the peace of Messiah rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful” (Colossians 3:15). We can acknowledge troubling circumstances in our lives and yet choose to dwell on the blessings instead, leaving everything that we can’t control in God’s hands.
Paul continues in Philippians 4:8-9, “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” This is similar to what we read in Isaiah 26. When we set our minds on God, we are less focused on ourselves and our problems. We can feel His love and experience His peace as we meditate on these things and try to walk in His will.
This hardly exhausts what the Bible has to say about peace, but there is plenty here for us to implement in our lives. God wants us to know peace because true peace is a result of our knowledge of the God of peace. He wants us to know peace because He wants a close relationship with us, and we as believers should likewise desire to always be growing closer to Him. It seems fitting to conclude with the words of 2 Thessalonians 3:16: “Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all.”