JEHOVAH SHALOM – THE LORD OUR PEACE
The word ‘shalom’ means ‘peace’ and is used as a form of greeting in Israel, and also as a form of benediction as in, Peace be to your house,’ or ‘Peace be upon you’. It is a word we are familiar with as believers in Jesus and maybe we have used it ourselves as a blessing. The basic idea underlying this word ‘shalom’ is contentment and satisfaction in life, not just as a feeling, but after completing a transaction to each party’s satisfaction, or the payment of a debt, or the reconciliation of a relationship. It appears often in scripture in these ways.
In its purest form it means being at peace with God, knowing that blessing flows from being in that position with Him. The peace we are talking about here is not the absence of war or strife, or the quietness and stillness that comes from being in a pleasant place. It is the absence of war or strife with God, and the quietness and stillness that comes from being in His presence.
As believers we know that our Heavenly Father is the God of peace and that Jesus Himself is our peace, and that the Holy Spirit produces the fruit of peace. So you can see how pivotal this term is to our understanding of the names of God.
The first time Jehovah Shalom appears in the bible is in connection with eternal peace and is found in Judges chapter 6. Joshua had been dead for many years and after his death the Israelites quickly descended into idolatry and disobedience once again. All the time Joshua lived, things went fairly well except that the tribes of Israel did not drive out the enemy as God had commanded them, and so the Angel of the Lord, or Jesus, had to appear before them and remind them of their covenant with God. (Judges 2:1-19) It is interesting that in verses 4 & 5 it talks about the children of Israel weeping. But these were not tears of repentance, they were self centred crocodile tears. Oh I think that they genuinely felt sorry, but at root they wanted to have their cake and eat it. They wanted to be under God’s protection but still go their own way.
Their conviction didn’t last long however, for they still did not let go of their idols. They thought that they could still be protected by God as well as serve their foreign gods.
There is a lesson here for us too. If we are going to be truly at peace with God, then we have to give up our idols, whatever they might be.
You probably know of TV evangelists who have had their sin exposed in public. They wept and they wailed, they confessed their sin and said they were sorry whilst in private they continued in their sin. They wept tears of remorse, but not of repentance. They were sorry that they had been caught out, but were soon tempted back to their misdeeds.
It is not enough to merely weep over ours sins. We have to turn our backs on our sins, walk away from them and not go back. Outward confession of sin means nothing if it does not mean a change of heart.
The book of Judges is such a sad book in many ways. Consider the last words of the book, ‘everyone did what was right in his own eyes’. Judges 21:25 We can learn a lot from this book which can be applied to the church today and indeed to our own lives. Everyone did what was right in his/her own eyes.
There is widespread apathy towards sin in the churches today. I say churches, because the true church is the body of Christ and is a remnant from all churches, the institutions, the denominations which call themselves Christian. People are no longer outraged by the things shoved in their faces every day. TV and films bombard us with sexual promiscuity and adultery. The name of Jesus, the name of God are regularly misused, and most don’t blink an eye at it. Swearing and cursing are rampant and we should be offended. Our consciences are being dumbed down by the enemy and we are letting him get away with it time after time. Do we forget that we have the on/off control in our hand?
We have to declare war on the enemy’s seductive ways in this age. So it was for the Israelites. Time and time again they failed, till they were brought to a terrible place.
Every year the Midianites came and took the crops and livestock from Israel until they were completely impoverished. For seven years these enemies of Israel would come at harvest time and descend like locusts and take the fruits of Israel’s labour. So bad was the annual invasion that the people of Israel took to hiding in caves in the mountains.
This reminds me of the cartoon film ‘Antz’ where the grasshoppers came each year and stole the ants stores and an unworthy champion sorted them out. I wonder if the writers of that story got their ideas from here?
‘And it came to pass, when the children of Israel cried out to the Lord because of the Midianites, they the Lord sent a prophet to the children of Israel, who said to them, “Thus says the Lord God of Israel; ‘I brought you up from Egypt and brought you out of the house of bondage, and I delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians and out of the hand of all who oppressed you, and drove them out before you and gave you their land. Also I said to you, ‘I am the Lord your God; do not fear the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell.’ But you have not obeyed My voice.”
The Israelites were reaping the consequences of their disobedience before God. They were an unholy people, idolatrous and stubborn and hard hearted. God had to teach them a lesson. He will not be mocked.
Oh yes! They acted in a holy way, they wept and prayed, but as soon as they had finished they went back to their idols and to their kneeling before the altars of Baal. In fact throughout the seven years of distress, Gideon’s father Joash, kept an altar to Baal on his property. Why would he do that? Because he and the rest of the Israelites saw the wealth and prosperity of the Midianites and were jealous. So if Baal could let the Midianites have all these riches then they would try to see if Baal would provide the same for them. How foolish! So they became double minded, wanting the best if both worlds. The unnamed prophet of God told them the reasons why they were in this predicament.
Judges 6:11-24 a
‘Now the Angel of the Lord came and sat under the terebinth tree which was in Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, while his son Gideon threshed wheat in the winepress, in order to hide it from the Midianites. And the Angel of the Lord appeared to him, and said to him, ‘The Lord is with you, you mighty man of valour!’ Gideon said to Him, ‘Oh my Lord, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all His miracles which our fathers told us about, saying, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the Lord has forsaken us and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites. Then the Lord turned to him and said, ‘Go in this might of yours, and you shall save Israel from up the hand of the Midianites. Have I not sent you?” So he said to Him, ‘O my Lord, how can I save Israel? Indeed my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.’ And the Lord said to him, ‘ Surely I will be with you, and you shall defeat the Midianites as one man.’ Then he said to Him, ‘If now I have found favour in your sight, then show me a sign that it is You who talk with me. Do not depart from here, I pray, until I come to You and bring out my offering and set it before You.’ And He said, ‘I will wait until you come back.’ So Gideon went in and prepared a young goat, and unleavened bread from an ephah of flour. The meat he put in a basket, and he put the broth in a pot; and he brought them out to Him under the terebinth tree and presented them. The Angel of God said to him, ‘Take the meat and the unleavened bread and lay them in this rock, and pour out the broth.’ And he did so. Then the Angel of the Lord put out the end of the staff that was in His hand, and touched the meat and the unleavened bread; and fire rose out of the rock and consumed the meat and the unleavened bread. And the Angel,of the Lord departed out of his sight. Now Gideon perceived that He was the Angel of the Lord. So Gideon said, ‘Alas, O Lord God! For I have seen the Angel of the Lord face to face.’ Then the Lord said to him, ‘Peace be with you; do not fear, you shall not die.’ So Gideon built an altar there to the Lord, and called it The-Lord-is-Peace.’
Jesus came to see Gideon, as the Angel of the Lord.
(We don’t know if the unnamed prophet was actually a ‘Christophany’, ie., an Old Testament appearance of Jesus or not. I tend to think that the prophet was just as the word says, an unnamed man of God endowed with the gift of prophecy, also remembering that though idolatry was rife there was always a remnant of Godly people.) Why did God visit Gideon as the Angel of the Lord in the person of Jesus?
Gideon didn’t seem like a worthy man to be used by God, did he? Hiding away like a coward, doing nothing to stop,the Midianites for seven years. Just like all the rest. He didn’t even object to his father’s pagan altar. Yet Jesus called him a mighty man of valour. Funny how God chooses seemingly unsuitable people to do His work.
Who did Gideon think this Angel of God was? He didn’t seem to me to be suitably impressed. He didn’t fall down before Him in worship, he just complained. Why? Because he had a really wrong idea about God.
Jesus was not moved, He didn’t answer Gideon’s complaints. He just told Gideon to go and save Israel from the Midianites. God wasn’t about to change His mind, Gideon was the one who had to change his thinking. God in Jesus was humbling Gideon and empowering him by His Holy Spirit for the huge task that lay ahead of him.
One moment Gideon was a complaining coward, the next, a mighty warrior of God.
Yet Gideon seemed to have no idea of the fact that God was standing before him, and didn’t yet know that the empowering had happened. He still wanted to know who it was who was telling him all these things. His answer is astounding, ‘Show me a sign!’, as if the mere presence of Jesus was not a sign in itself. God is so patient with Gideon here, who was behaving in rather a ridiculous way.
Gideon even got God to wait for him while he prepared a huge meal. What was he thinking? Maybe he needed time to absorb all that had happened or maybe he thought that if he closed his eyes, when he opened them again it would all be a dream and the Angel of the Lord would be gone.
Anyway, our lovely Jesus patiently waited till, Gideon brought the food and then told him to put it on a stone and pour the broth over it.
Now bear in mind that Gideon, for all his doubts, had very carefully prepared this food. He must have wondered what Jesus was doing there, messing up his lovely meal, I state of eating it. And then, all became clear, Gideon was given his sign as the food was consumed by fire from the rock when Jesus touched it with His staff and then disappeared from Gideon’s sight.
Too late almost, Gideon realised his mistake. What had he done? He suddenly knew that he had been face to face with God and knew he should die, for no one can come face to face with God and live. Then God spoke to his heart, ‘Peace be with you; do not fear, you shall not die.’
So Gideon built an altar of remembrance and called it, the Lord is Peace. Jehovah Shalom!
Gideon’s attitude to God was casual, unbelieving, doubtful.
Our attitude can be the same. We are apt not to fear and reverence God as we should. There is a popular soft image of God in many churches today and from that watered down view comes permissiveness. We hear of churches where things are accepted that should not be, in fact everyone does what is right in their own eyes.
When Gideon realised just who he had been talking to, he was filled with fear. He knew then that Israel was reaping what it had sown as a nation of people. Sin and disobedience had caused the trouble and distress. It wasn’t until he got to that place of understanding that God was able to give him leave.
Not till he was in a place of repentance and acknowledgement of sin, not just the nation’s sin, but his own.
God’s peace -Shalom- cannot be earned nor is it given to everyone who calls themselves Christian. Multitudes of regular churchgoers do nor have Shalom.
Many often go through times of distress quoting the words of peace without actually experiencing shalom.
We each have to recognise God for who He truly is. Perhaps God has led us into these teachings on the Names of God so that each one of us can have a fresh revelation of His power and might.
We use grand words like, omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent, yet do we really believe that He is all these and more? He is speaking to us, pleading with us not to take Him for granted.
Let each one of us pay attention to what God is saying to us, get rid of our idols, turn our minds to Him and thus truly experience and know His peace in our lives, whatever comes against us to try and steal away our love of God and His desire that we should know Him completely as Jehovah Shalom, the Lord our Peace.
May you know His peace.
Next time Jehovah Shammah, the Lord is there.