As I write this Kernels of Truth, there is currently a conflict going on in the Middle East between the nation Israel and the political and military organization, Hamas. This obviously fosters thoughts of peace among many, and the desire for this war to come to a peaceful conclusion. I will not address the political ramifications here of that, other than to unashamedly declare my support for the nation of Israel and pray the blessing of God continues to rest upon them. (“I will bless those who bless you…”)
What I do want to focus on is the universal desire for peace and the sometimes-misplaced searching for some kind of peace. During the Christmas season we hear about and sing about peace. In some ways it is a peaceful time of year when we consider the Christmas spirit that affects a lot of people. In other ways, it is the most distraught and disruptive time of year, because if we are not careful, we get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the shopping for gifts and lose sight (if only a small amount) of the reason for the season. But peace from God is not reserved for the Christmas season only, while it does occupy a place front and center in much of the holiday season.
The prophet Isaiah proclaimed that,
“For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace There will be no end…”
This is the prophecy of the entrance of real peace into the world. Seven hundred years after the writing of this prophecy by Isaiah, the Prince of Peace was born, almost covertly, in the city of Bethlehem, and everything then and forevermore changed in that moment. Isaiah prophesied it was the reign of Jesus and His kingdom that would bring peace to the earth. The angels, while announcing the birth of Jesus, declared to the shepherds,
“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”
When Jesus spoke of peace, He differentiated between His peace and the supposed peace of others. He told the disciples He was giving them His peace – not the kind the world gives. He then encouraged them by telling them to not let their hearts become troubled or afraid.
When we observe the peace that the world gives, it doesn’t look anything like what Jesus brings. The peace of the world is at best an external one, with no real inward influence. The peace Christ is the giver of is an internal reality that defies external circumstances. The peace the world offers is an unstable and short-lived one and relies on outward conditions – the peace that Christ gives is lasting and durable and does not go away in the face of difficulty. Commentator John Gill wrote,
“The peace which Christ gives, cheerfully carries His people through all the difficulties and exercises of this life.”
The angels declared “peace on earth with whom God is well pleased.” It is not the good will of men, but the good will of God; God’s favor upon His people. Theologian John Phillips said this –
“God announced an amnesty and made an offer of peace to a lost world.”
So, what exactly is this peace Jesus is the Prince of? I remember, as a child of the 70’s, we talked a lot about peace back then, and we had all sorts of symbols to communicate our desire for peace. Everything we did and promoted was simply an external source. The Old Testament word for peace, which many are familiar with, is “shalom.” Shalom isn’t simply the absence of conflict, although it does involve that. But rather, this “peace” is a completeness in our being; a wholeness that can only be reached by the work of the Prince of Peace. There is also an element of welfare and safety as it relates to God-authored peace. So, the peace that Jesus gives is the wholeness and completeness the entire human race is seeking, much of the time in all the wrong places.
When we get to the New Testament, we find a similar word, which is “Eirene.” We would define this word as having harmonious relationships between God and also His kids. “Eirene” brings with it the idea of a calmness and tranquility, from within rather than without.
This starts with our having peace with God. Romans 5 teaches us that we have peace with God, and we have it through our relationship with Jesus Christ. The reason we have this peace is that while we were still enemies of God, we were reconciled to God. The dividing wall of sin, which would seek to thwart our peace with our Maker, was removed by the death of His Son. From the time of the Garden, we have been separated from full fellowship with the Father, with the sin of humanity being that dividing wall. However, Jesus has removed that wall and brought us to the Father, being the Reconciler between God and the human race. Now, on this side of the cross, we experience fellowship with the Lord, without the encumbrance of sin and judgment. We are at peace with God.
There is also the matter of maintaining a life of peace with our fellow human travelers. When the apostle Paul got to the end of his second letter to the Corinthians, this is the message he wanted to leave with them.
“Be joyful. Grow to maturity. Encourage each other. Live in harmony and peace. Then the God of love and peace will be with you.”
It is difficult, and probably impossible, to experience a close relationship with God the Father – the God of love and peace – if we are not living in harmony and peace with one another. And the initiative rests with us, as the writer of the Letter to the Hebrews states,
“Pursue peace with all men.”
We are not to wait for others to seek peace with us, but we are to “pursue” it first; realizing that we are all instructed to make that pursuit, and if that occurs we will run right into one another in peace. Paul also states in Romans 12 that we are to live peaceably with everyone, as far as it depends on us. Jesus Himself instructed us that if our peace is broken with a brother and sister, we should, even before we come in worship to the Lord, pursue the restoration of that peace by being reconciled to them. There should be no relationship that is out of joint…that is painful to the whole body.
The peace that comes from God, through the person of Jesus Christ, is one that is real, applicable, and influential in our lives. God scolded the leaders of the day through the prophet Jeremiah because they addressed the brokenness of His people with superficial, non-substantive promises of peace, when in fact there was no peace because of disobedience and idolatry. The world system would seek to draw our attention to sources of peace that will not produce in our lives at all, and worse, distract us from the real and only source of complete peace – Jesus our Lord.
There is a relationship between the government of God and the peace that remains and continues. If we are to live with this abiding peace, which the Bible tells us cannot be comprehended, we must recognize the Lordship of Jesus and submit to His government – in other words, be subjects in His kingdom. This is why Jesus said that if we really do love Him, we will obey all His commandments. This is why, in what we call The Great Commission, we are told to teach the new disciples to obey everything that Christ has commanded us. This is not because Jesus has an ego problem, or is insecure in His position of King. It is because He knows this is where we function best and where we can abide in that peace that will guard our hearts and minds (Philippians 4:7). Remember the Bible teaches us that the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace. If we will follow the instruction of Colossians 3:15 and let the peace of Christ rule our hearts, then we will truly find that place of inner contentment and wholeness that we all so desire.
If we are going to truly find a place of rest in Him, we must trust Him inexplicably. These words from Isaiah 26:3-4 are eternally lasting and unshakable promises to you and me.
“You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in You, all whose thoughts are fixed on You!”
“Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock.”
Who else or what else can you put your trust in? Think about it; if God can’t be trusted and He doesn’t honor His word, we are doomed anyway. But we know that He is a God who does not change and is immovable. So, I encourage you to put your full trust in Him, and view everything we are tempted to rely on as the shifting sand that it really is. It is here that you will be able to rest in the peace from God, regardless of your circumstances.
During this season when we celebrate the coming of The Prince of Peace into the earth, let’s embrace that Prince fully and live our lives governed by that peace; as referenced earlier, letting His peace be what rules our hearts, instead of the turmoil, uncertainty, and anxiety. I pray that your Christmas experience this year will be one where you can slow down a little and allow the peace of God to overtake you and bring you true joy. And as the apostle Peter wrote in his second letter,
“May grace and peace be multiplied to you through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.”
It is in the knowledge (experiential knowledge) of God the Father and Jesus our Lord, the Prince of Peace that we find grace and peace multiplied to us every day of our lives.
From the prophet Micah,
“But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Too little to be among the clans of Judah, From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel.”
“And He will arise and shepherd His flock In the strength of the LORD, In the majesty of the name of the LORD His God.”