What in the Word: Peace
If you have been a Christian for many years, it is likely you have encountered the word shalom. It is a Hebrew word that has entered into Christian music and vocabulary.
WENDY JACKSON, HEAD OF SEMINARY, UNIVERSITYAUSTRALIASep 20, 2021, 6:46 AM
If you have been a Christian for many years, it is likely you have encountered the word shalom. It is a Hebrew word that has entered into Christian music and vocabulary. You may have heard it used as a greeting or even sung in the chorus “Shalom, my Friend”.
Shalom is frequently translated as “peace” in our English Bibles, where it is used to indicate friendly relationships between individuals (see 2 Samuel 3:21–23; 15:19), as well as a peaceful coexistence between nations sometimes bound by a peace treaty (see Joshua 9:15; 1 Samuel 7:14).
The outcome of peace is also anticipated by shalom. When nations experience peace, widespread trade is possible, and agriculture can flourish, reducing the risk of famine and poverty. Consequently, we note the presence of shalom was expected to be accompanied by economic prosperity (see Proverbs 3:2), security (see Isaiah 39:8), and joy (see Proverbs 12:20). These associations hint at a wider meaning of shalom than simply the absence of strife and war.
The word shalom is derived from a verb that can mean “to complete or make sound”; therefore it has connotations of wholeness and completeness as well. Consequently, we also find the Hebrew shalom also referring to general well-being (see Psalm 35:27; Exodus 18:23), as well as health and welfare (see 1 Samuel 25:6; Psalm 38:3; Esther 10:3).
Shalom is valuable and thus to be both pursued (see Psalms 34:14; 37:37) and a focus of prayer (see 122:6). However, it is not available to everyone. Scripture declares the wicked are denied shalom (see Isaiah 48:22, 57:21). Instead, shalom is given to those who demonstrate obedience and righteousness (see Psalm 119:165; Isaiah 32:17; 48:18).
Nevertheless, it is not our actions that bring about shalom. It is a gift of God. It is He who makes a covenant of shalom (see Numbers 25:12; Isaiah 54:10; Ezekiel 34:25) with His people. Sin disrupted the shalom of God’s creation, and it is only He who can renew it. Indeed, God Himself is described as Shalom (see Judges 6:24), and it is through Jesus Christ that we can attain the peace, wholeness, completeness, and health that is embraced in the idea of shalom.
This expectation is expressed in messianic prophecy. In Isaiah 9:6–7, one of the titles for Christ is the “Prince of Shalom.” Isaiah also predicts this Messiah, who is Himself Shalom, will bring about shalom. “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace [shalom] was on him, and by his wounds we are healed” (53:5, NIV).
Christ’s incarnation and suffering mean we can experience shalom. When we enter into a faith relationship with the Prince of Shalom, this wholeness, peace, and wellbeing can be ours. We can rejoice in the promise that He “will keep in perfect peace” those who trust in Him (see 26:12).
With that said, what is experienced now is not the fullness of shalom. All creation is not yet in harmony. The Old Testament prophets pointed forward to a time when complete shalom will be known—a time where nothing will destroy the peace of the kingdom of God (see Isaiah 11:9). At this time, predators like wolves and lions will coexist in harmony with cattle and sheep (see Isaiah 11:6–9), and God’s rule will extend across the whole earth (see Zechariah 9:10).
While we wait for this glorious fulfillment, Christians are called upon to seek peace in their relationships (see Matthew 5:9; Romans 12:18; Hebrews 12:14) and call others to experience the shalom that can be found only in Christ.
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