Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: “May they prosper who love you. May peace be within your walls, and prosperity within your palaces.” For the sake of my brothers and my friends, I will now say, “May peace be within you.” For the sake of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek your good. (Psalm 122:6-9)
The Hebrew word Shalom, which is commonly translated “peace,” is used about 250 times in the Old Testament. The King James Bible translates Shalom as peace almost two hundred times, and the remaining usages are translated in different ways. Any good Bible dictionary will provide quite a bit of information on the use of Shalom in the Bible; it is a significant term for those who love the Word of God.
I find the basic meaning of Shalom to be fascinating. The term speaks of completion, wholeness, unity and of restored relationships. The word actually presumes that something was previously fractured, divided and broken – and then, for one reason or another, put back together. This gives me a better understanding of Shalom – the repairing or fusing together of that which was broken apart.
Aside from the above Psalm, one of the classic uses of Shalom in the Hebrew Scriptures is found in the Aaronic benediction (Num. 6:24- 26) where God commanded Moses to pronounce a blessing on Aaron and his sons – the final blessing invoking Shalom.
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.
I must admit, though, that my favorite use of the Hebrew word Shalom in the Old Testament is found in Isaiah chapter 9:6-7, where the promised Messiah and Son of David is given a litany of prophetic names: wonderful counselor, mighty God, everlasting father and the Prince of Peace (Shalom). Additionally, the prophet adds the following statement, which clearly identifies this individual as the Messianic son of David:
There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness From then on and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this.
I love this passage because it speaks of the very nature of our Messiah – that He is the Prince of Peace. This promise, encapsulated in a name, also reminds me that God’s ultimate goal for our very fractured, broken, divided and sinful world is Shalom.
We are a microcosmic example of God’s ultimate goal for the world. The Shalom He creates in our hearts gives us hope for the greater Peace to come.
I still remember waking up the morning after I received Jesus as my Messiah. Like many people, I thought that the day I accepted Jesus that there would be trumpets and the sun would burst through the clouds (I was in North California!) And I also imagined that from that moment on, I would have complete rest and peace in my heart; that I would no longer be tempted by sin and my new life would be glorious! But that was not quite the case.
I quickly realized that though I had been forgiven and saved from sin, that perfect peace would elude me all the days of my life – until the Lord returns and establishes His kingdom. Yet I did sense a tremendous difference in my soul. I knew that God loved me and my sins were forgiven through the death and resurrection of my Jewish Messiah – the Prince of Peace. I was filled with joy and strength to live righteously as never before.
I know that using words like peace, joy, love and others of this nature might seem trite and pedantic. It is hard to describe what happens when we receive the Lord. But Jesus saved me completely and transformed my life, and I am still at a loss for words to adequately describe what He has done for me.
I know that Shalom I have in my soul today is just a taste of the true Shalom that our loving God has prepared for this fractured world. I know this ultimate Shalom is coming, but today we can experience His Shalom to a limited degree today by receiving Jesus as our Messiah and Lord. This partial Shalom we experience when we accept Yeshua points us to something greater.
I am sure you have heard it said that there will be No Peace in the Middle East – or anywhere else on earth – until Jesus, the Prince of Peace returns to rule on his rightful throne. I believe this with all my heart, and I know it is true because in part this is what happened in my life. I am only one person among billions and one Jewish person among almost 14,000,000 – so I am well aware of my own personal insignificance. But this only makes what Jesus did for me so much more magnificent and beautiful.
Although I am small and insignificant and certainly unworthy of His mercy in every aspect of my life, the Prince of Peace came to this broken world and died for me (and for you, too!) Today He sits at the right hand of the Father, waiting for just the right moment to return, visibly and physically and in all His heavenly glory, to reclaim His sin-cursed creation.
The Current Israel/Gaza Cease-Fire
The current cease-fire between Israel and Gaza will of course be imperfect. It may or may not last. And peace will never bring back the lives that were lost, nor undo the damage that was done to families, properties, businesses and to individual relationships between Jews and Palestinians (see stats from the war). It is certainly going to be a long road to what will hopefully be a more lasting peace, and the cease-fire is perhaps just the beginning.
We do need to be realistic about the prospects for an enduring peace. And we do need to do what the Psalmist declared, to pray for the peace of Jerusalem.
May I offer two suggestions about how to do this?
First of all, let’s try not to be cynical about these first baby steps towards a cessation of hostilities. We all understand that there are deeper underlying issues that might never be solved in our lifetime or anyone else’s lifetime – but we must still pray for peace. Every Palestinian mother and every Jewish mother wants the same thing for their children: a good life, family, education, prosperity and so much more. Try not to let the insidious agendas of Hamas and other radical, militant jihadists discourage you from praying for peace – and, where possible, to work towards it.
Secondly, pray that both Israelis and Palestinians and even the most radical members of Hamas might find spiritual peace by receiving Jesus as their Messiah. It is only when we accept the Prince of Peace as Lord of our lives that we understand that true and lasting Shalom is possible.
This is a peace that begins one person at a time, and it not political, but rather spiritual. We need to pray for and support the efforts of those sharing the good news of Jesus the Messiah in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank, and throughout the war-torn trouble spots in the Middle East – especially at this time in history.
It is only when we know the peace of the Messiah in our hearts that we have faith to believe that greater peace is possible. We understand that lasting peace will never come through the hand of man, and we can learn to live with this. But knowing that one day we will live in a world absolutely filled with Shalom might encourage us to try and make the peace man provides last just a little longer.
Shalom, as elusive as it seems right now, is our divine destiny.