Notes below based on sermon preached at One Church Home on September 11, 2022
World peace. It is elusive (seemingly beyond our grasp), and some might even say it is illusive (not true or real). Whether we are talking about peace in the world or peace of the world, statistically, and more important, biblically, both are accurate descriptors.
Let’s start with how the world defines peace. From a worldly perspective, peace is usually defined as freedom from various challenging circumstances—war, conflict, violence, dispute, disagreement, worry, stress, distractions, interruptions, and even the pain or toils of life. (When someone dies, people sometimes say the person is “at peace” or “rest in peace.”)
So what is the likelihood of having a world completely free of all those circumstances?
It happened “in the beginning”—when God’s created son, Adam, was ruling in obedience in the Garden before the fall. It will happen again when God’s only begotten son, Jesus, comes back to set up His earthly kingdom. All other time on this earth—from the fall of the first Adam to the return of the second Adam, Jesus—is war.
The Bible includes some 400 references to war—between people groups, with spiritual forces (Ephesians 6:10-20), and within our hearts (Romans 7:14-25).
Since the first written record of a peace treaty nearly 1,300 years before the birth of Christ, thousands of peace treaties have been signed and then broken, and hundreds of millions (some estimates say billions) of lives have been lost in war.
World War I was dubbed the “war to end all wars” because of the great slaughter and destruction it caused—an estimated 18 million lives were lost; machine guns, tanks, aerial warfare, and chemical weapons were introduced; and one of the world’s deadliest influenza pandemics spread globally.
However, not only did it not end wars, the Treaty of Versailles that officially ended WWI set in motion the economic and political crises that would lead to another war even more deadly and destructive, especially to civilians—World War II. Thanks to nuclear weapons and Hitler’s genocide of the Jewish people (the Holocaust), estimated deaths range from 50 million to more than 85 million people.
Of more than 3,500 years of recorded history, only 286 years (8 percent) have been “peaceful” (meaning the absence of war). There have been 14,351 wars, large and small. Historians have defined peace in the world as “the lull in the battle when everyone stops to reload.”
The Global Peace Index (GPI), produced by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP), is the world’s leading measure of global peacefulness, ranking 163 independent countries and territories (99.7 percent of the world’s population) based on measures of their level of peacefulness. So how are we doing? Not so well.
According to the 2021 annual report, the average level of global peacefulness declined, as it has 9 out of the last 13 years. Notably, the most significant regional decline was in North America, with measures falling across all three GPI domains, especially in the United States as it relates to Safety and Security, “where growing civil unrest led to increased perceptions of criminality and political instability, and more violent demonstrations.”
The Gun Violence Archive has recorded 464 mass shootings in the U.S. in 2022 through September 5, with nearly a third of the year to go.
In addition to wars and violence, we are a nation (and a world) plagued by broken families, addictions, anxieties, and stress…oh, and a global pandemic of ever-evolving variants of COVID-19.
Job said, “Yet man is born to trouble (Job 5:7).”
And Jesus said, “In this world, you will have trouble (John 16:33). “
The world is not so different as it was in ancient times. Last week, we saw how the Amalekites repeatedly attacked the Israelites—from Joshua to I Chronicles. It was an Amalekite that killed Israel’s first king, Saul, some 400 years after the Israelites had entered the Promised Land.
This week we saw the same perpetual torment from the Midianites. Midian means “strife.” That describes the life of the Israelites during the seven years leading up to Gideon’s story in Judges. The Israelites hid in caves and in the mountains as their enemies raided their homes, destroying their crops and livestock, leaving them no way to provide for their families.
Judges 6:6 says:
Midian so impoverished the Israelites that they cried out to the Lord for help.
Finally, they began looking for peace in the only place they could ever discover it.
At Ophrah, the Lord reminded Gideon that He, the Lord, had been with the Israelites every step of their journey (Judges 6:8-10). He assured Gideon that He was with him in the present (Judges 6:12), He would be with him in the battles yet to come (Judges 6:14, 16), and He would give Gideon peace.
23 But the Lord said to him, “Peace! Do not be afraid. You are not going to die.” 24 So Gideon built an altar to the Lord there and called
it [Jehovah Shalom] The Lord Is Peace.
Any peace the world purports to offer is, at best, temporary, if not altogether contrived, and it is an empty promise. We are fallen people with sinful natures living in a fallen world, and apart from our merciful God, there is no peace.
No God, no peace.
Know God, know peace.
20 But the wicked are like the tossing sea, which cannot rest, whose waves cast up mire and mud.
21 “There is no peace,” says my God, “for the wicked.”
The prophet Jeremiah sent by God to warn His people of their impending judgment unless they turned back to Him, told them on two separate occasions:
Jeremiah 6:13-14, 8:10-11
“From the least to the greatest, all are greedy for gain; prophets and priests alike, all practice deceit.
They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. ‘Peace, peace,’ they say, when there is no peace.”
In Jeremiah’s time, as it remains today, many promise the remedy for peace, but there is only One who can deliver: the One who is peace.
For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility,
There are some things we need to unpack here.
First is the Biblical meaning of peace.
The Hebrew word most commonly translated as “peace” in the Old Testament is “shalom.” It is derived from a root meaning wholeness, completeness, soundness—and not temporarily, but permanently.
In the New Testament, the Greek word translated as “peace” is “eirene,” which comes from the verb “eiro,” which means “to join or bind together that which has been broken, divided or separated.”
So we have the Old Testament Hebrew word “shalom,” which means wholeness and completeness. In the New Testament, with the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus, we have the Greek word “eirene,” which is a picture of binding or joining together—making whole and complete—that which has been broken or separated. This is the definition of peace from the One who is himself peace.
While the world’s definition of peace is focused on the temporary absence of negative circumstances, God’s definition of peace focuses on adding something permanent regardless of circumstances: His Son.
Through Jesus, we have peace with God.
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
Colossians 1:15, 19-22
15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation…
19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
21 Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. 22 But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation—.
11 Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth… 12 remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.
Jews and Gentiles, we are now one body and have peace with God. As believers, it is ours forever, our position, our standing with God in Christ because of His once-and-for-all sacrifice (our justification). It is objective peace—a fact, not feeling; not a state of mind, but a relationship with God. If that were all, it would be enough.
But there is another peace that is also ours as believers. Through the Holy Spirit, we also have the peace of God. This is subjective peace—the peace we experience and manifest as we grow in Christlikeness (our sanctification).
Understanding the Gospel writes in its series The Names of God:
“The Bible teaches that we were made in the image of God. Though we have fallen short of His standards, there is a way that shattered image can be restored. Through the Gospel, God removes the barriers to a genuine relationship with Him. He gives life to the spiritually dead and reconciles us to Himself so that we have peace with God, a blessing followed by the peace of God in our hearts. Indeed, salvation initiates a transformation that slowly but surely changes us into His very image and likeness. By forgiving the debt of sin that hindered our relationship with Him, bringing us into peace with Himself, God sets a course of total transformation whereby the character of Jesus Christ is replicated in those who have become sons of God by faith. This way, God gives us His peace, settles our hearts in peace, and makes provision for us to live in perfect peace.”
The peace of God is not about temporary freedom or escape from challenging situations; it’s about perpetual freedom in those same situations because He is with us and His peace is in us. He is our Jehovah Shalom.
In John 14:27, Jesus told his disciples:
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.
I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
When Jesus said this to His disciples, it was Thursday night of the passion week. The night before His crucifixion. It is dramatic, disturbing, and distressing if you’ve ever seen a re-enactment. We cannot conceive a less “peaceful” time in the life of our Savior. He knew all that He would face. He knew He would not only be crucified, enduring unbelievable physical pain and anguish, but He would also be separated from His Father and punished for all the sins of all the people who will ever believe through all of human history.
He also knew all His disciples would face in the coming days. They would doubt and be doubted, they would be hated and persecuted, interrogated, beaten, and imprisoned, and some would be killed.
And still, He told them He was leaving His peace with them. He didn’t ask them to find this peace; He gave it to them. And He gives it to us as believers. It is a gift. It belongs to us.
A few chapters later, in John 16:33, Jesus again said to His disciples:
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
The peace that Jesus gives is not the absence of trouble but rather the confidence that He is always there with us, even amidst hardship. The peace of God is not natural, and it is not of this world; it is supernatural, transcendent. It is not our peace. It is His peace in us. He is the LORD, our peace, Jehovah Shalom.
That is who He is, and nothing can change that. But that doesn’t mean we will all know Him that way. Even as believers, we can have peace with God but fail to take hold of the peace of God. We can fail to appropriate His gift. We can also allow it to be stolen from us, especially by the “thieves” of fear, anxiety, and worry.
Remember the first part of Jehovah Shalom? He is Jehovah: He is first our LORD over every aspect of our lives. Only when we walk in His ways—in submission and obedience to Him—can we know God’s peace.
In the story of Gideon and throughout the book of Judges, the people of God lost their peace because they turned away from God. They “did evil in the sight of the LORD” (Judges 6:1). It was a repetitious cycle of sin and rebellion, followed by oppression at the hands of their enemies, and then finally, repentance—a crying out to God for His deliverance which He sent in the form of a “judge.” The role of the “judges” was not to judge the people but to lead them back to God.
As the people of God today, we are not so different. But rather than appointing a human judge, a “Gideon” to deliver us, God sent His Son, Jesus. Not only is He our Deliverer (He has made us free, and we are “free indeed”), as the Son of God and the only man to live a perfect life, He alone is the One qualified to judge us all.
He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he [Jesus] is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead.
22 Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, 23 that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him.
24 “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.
The righteousness of Jesus allows us to forego the penalty of our sin, the judgment we deserve, and to be reconciled—to have peace with God.
And it is our obedience (empowered by the Holy Spirit) that will enable us to also take hold of the peace of God in our daily lives.
Leviticus 26:3, 6
3 “If you follow my decrees and are careful to obey my commands,…
6 I will grant peace in the land, and you will lie down and no one will make you afraid…”
Read verses 3-13 for the fuller promise of conditional blessings.
Righteousness and peace go together.
The fruit of that righteousness will be peace; its effect will be quietness and confidence forever.
But even when we are seeking to follow Him, we are still at war with forces that would seek to steal our peace. Remember that the Greek word for peace is “eirene” which describes the joining together of that which has been separated.
Anxiety is the exact opposite. The Greek word for anxiety or worry is “marimna.” The root means “to divide or separate, to be pulled apart or drawn in different directions.” The image is that of someone attempting to carry the imagined burdens of tomorrow on their shoulders today. Charles Spurgeon said, “Our anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, but only empties today of its strength.”
When we worry, we fail to see or trust God in the future we imagine. Worry demonstrates our distrust in God’s promises and providence. It says that God is not big enough to handle the problems and circumstances in our lives.
We must not allow our minds to be pulled apart or distracted by the circumstances or cares of the world today or the future we imagine tomorrow. And Paul tells us how to do just that. We reject worry, ask God for His help, thank Him for all He has done and will do, and then rest in His peace.
6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
When, by the Truth of His Word and the power of His Spirit, we place our trust in Him, we take hold of the peace He has already given us, and we come to know Him in a new way—as the One who is our peace, Jehovah Shalom.
For further study, read Psalm 85.
Note: all scripture references are from the New International Version. (2011) BibleGateway.com
Questions for reflection or discussion:
In what ways have you been looking to the world to escape trouble or find peace?
What are you facing right now for which you need His peace, His presence as your Jehovah Shalom?
Are there areas in which you need to submit to Him as LORD or seek his forgiveness to take hold of His peace?
How have you allowed the cares of the world to steal your peace? Say a prayer right now, giving those things to God, thanking Him for His promises and His peace.