Monday, November 2, 2015

The Promise of Shalom

Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, And a branch from his roots will bear fruit. The Spirit of the LORD will rest on Him, The spirit of wisdom and understanding, The spirit of counsel and strength, The spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD. And He will delight in the fear of the LORD, And He will not judge by what His eyes see, Nor make a decision by what His ears hear; But with righteousness He will judge the poor, And decide with fairness for the afflicted of the earth; And He will strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, And with the breath of His lips He will slay the wicked. Also righteousness will be the belt about His loins, And faithfulness the belt about His waist. And the wolf will dwell with the lamb, And the leopard will lie down with the young goat, And the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; And a little boy will lead them. Also the cow and the bear will graze, Their young will lie down together, And the lion will eat straw like the ox.  The nursing child will play by the hole of the cobra, And the weaned child will put his hand on the viper's den. They will not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountain, For the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD As the waters cover the sea. Then in that day The nations will resort to the root of Jesse, Who will stand as a signal for the peoples; And His resting place will be glorious. Then it will happen on that day that the Lord Will again recover the second time with His hand The remnant of His people, who will remain, From Assyria, Egypt, Pathros, Cush, Elam, Shinar, Hamath, And from the islands of the sea. And He will lift up a standard for the nations And assemble the banished ones of Israel, And will gather the dispersed of Judah From the four corners of the earth. Then the jealousy of Ephraim will depart, And those who harass Judah will be cut off; Ephraim will not be jealous of Judah, And Judah will not harass Ephraim. (Isaiah 11:1-13)

A Really BIG Idea
The Hebrew word for “peace” is “shalom”.  Shalom is used most often as a greeting in Hebrew culture, even as its equivalent “salaam” is the greeting in Arabic.  To express “peace” to someone is to express one’s intent to not do violence and to give peace of mind to another.  However, “shalom” in the Hebrew sense is much more than what “peace” means in English.

            “Shalom” in the Hebrew Bible is used for the well-being of all of one’s physical needs, such as having sufficient food, rest, shelter, health, longevity, and even a good death, without pain.  Shalom also reflects one’s social needs, such as participating in a supportive community and being accepted by that community.  Shalom also has to do with one’s relationship with God, such as God approving of one’s actions and of God forgiving our sins.  Shalom also has to do with the well-being of a community, such as security, justice, a lack of disasters and reconciliation between those separated by anger.  And lastly, shalom applies to the destruction of all those who want to destroy shalom.  So when we speak of “peace” biblically, it means a complete well-being, physically, mentally, socially and spiritually and justice within one’s community.

            And where does shalom come from?  People can create some aspects of shalom, but ultimately, shalom comes from God.  As it says in Judges 6:24: “Yahweh IS shalom”.   In the New Testament, we find that the peace and justice of God is found through Jesus alone.  God gives this shalom to his people, yet we must enact this peace in the world through these gifts of God:

  • through the faith of Jesus (Romans 5:1)
  • through the Spirit (John 14:26-27),
  • through the word of Jesus (John 16:33),
  • through prayer (Philippians 4:6-7),
  • and through his people (I Thessalonians 5:13)

Promise of Shalom
Yet it seems that God has withheld his peace from the world.  The world is filled with disease and destruction and mental illness and hatred.  If the source of peace is God, why has he withheld it?

            First of all, God did promise shalom very specifically:

Psalm 37:11-- the Anawim will inherit the land and will delight themselves in abundant shalom
Psalm 119:165-- Those who love the law have great shalom
Isaiah 9:6-7-- The coming king will be the Prince of Shalom, there will be no end of the shalom he brings
Isaiah 57:19-21-- Peace to him who is far and near, but no shalom for the wicked
Luke 2:14-- Glory to God in the highest and upon earth peace among men who are favored

            From these verses we can see a few things:  First, that God doesn’t provide peace immediately.  He doesn’t wave a magic wand and amazingly peace appears.  Rather, God’s people have to go through a period of waiting in trials without peace before He gives shalom.  Secondly, God, in these promises, say that his peace will come through one individual—His emperor who will establish shalom among his people. 

And lastly, we see that shalom is not offered to everyone in the world.  We quote the passage, “Peace on earth” as God’s promise, yet that promise is not to everyone, but those who are given God’s grace.  Frankly, not everyone is ready for God’s peace.  The people who are opposed to peace for some of the world cannot have peace.  Nor can the people who are opposed to God, since the Lord is central to God’s shalom.  And those who are opposed to God’s king, the Prince of Shalom—Jesus— will also not be able to experience God’s peace, for they reject God’s means of bringing shalom.  

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