Peace, Perfect Peace
Mr. Leslie S, Rainey, the editor’s uncle, returned last summer from his years of service in Nairobi, Kenya. With his wife, Grace, he currently makes his home in Bermuda.
While I was living in the land of Israel I was greatly impressed with a word that was on everybody’s lips. It is the word, “Shalom,” which we know as “Peace.” The first time I heard the word was the day of arrival in the port city of Haifa. Before the ship docked and the passengers disembarked we heard the beautiful words, “Shalom, Shalom,” coming from the lips of many of the people as they welcomed home loved ones to Israel. On that day it meant a lot to me, and still does until this hour. What does it mean? I believe it is a word that enshrines hidden depths of meaning and conveys the thoughts of rest, well-being, quiet, prosperity, not only in the realm of the physical, but also in the spiritual. Oftentimes a coin loses its luster and even its lettering becomes blurred by means of use, yet the value of the coin remains. So the word “peace” and its meaning may be blurred or vague to many, yet thank God, it still sustains its intrinsic value. How good it is to turn to the Word of God and see what saith the Scriptures.
In the Old Testament Scriptures we observe the word in three remarkable places: the Law, the Writings, and the Prophets. In the Law the word peace is associated with a King. In the Psalms it is linked with a city. In the Prophets it is used in connection with a Saviour or Redeemer. In the Law (the first five books of Moses) we note the first mention of peace — Melchizedeck, who is called the King of Peace (Genesis 14:18; cf. Hebrews 7:2). The psalmist refers to Jerusalem as the city of Peace (Psalmn 122:6). The prophet speaks of the Messiah as the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6).
The King of Peace
In the first book of the Bible the word peace is found in the name of a mysterious personality without recorded beginning or ending of days. About all we know from the study of Genesis 14, Psalm 110, and the Epistle to the Hebrews in the New Testament is that the King of Salem is a type or figure of One who was to come. We know nothing about his earlier history. All we know is that he appears on the scene after the notable victory of Abraham and brings refreshment to the battle-scarred Abraham and his helpers in the war. If it were not for the book of Hebrews in the New Testament we would certainly be unable to explain the significance of this man who is known as the King of Peace. In that epistle we learn that the writer has in mind the people of God. In a wise and masterful way he proves that Jesus Christ is the fulfiller of the Old Testament prophecies — the One who is greater than the prophets, priests, and kings of a past dispensation. In simpler language, Melchizedek, the King of Peace, was a figure of the One who alone was able to bring refereshment, rest, and redemption to the sons of men all over the world.
The City of Peace
What other city in the world is like Jerusalem? It is the city of prophet, priest, and king; scribe, scholar, and saint; the city of the temple, of David, the city of peace. While there are many wonderful cities in the world, for none are we specifically called upon to pray except Jerusalem (Psalm 122:6). For three millennia of history the Holy City has been revered in the hearts and minds of men. How well it has been stated by another: “From the time of King David, Jerusalem became not only the capital of the Judean kingdom, but, through the building of the temple, also the heart of the Jewish religion. Ultimately it also became the holy city for Judaism’s daughter religions, Christianity and Islam. During the Judean kingdom, Jerusalem may never have had more than 30,000 inhabitants. And yet it proved strong enough to defy the boasts of Sennacherib, and internally important enough for the kings ultimately to aim at centralization in it of all sacrificial worship.
It was in the streets of Jerusalem that the great prophet of Israel preached, delivering to the populace and its rulers those immortal messages which were to shape the destinies of mankind forever after. Even Amos, the Judean shepherd preaching in the northern kingdom, spoke of the Lord’s roaring from Zion and His voice being heard from Jerusalem. Occupied by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 B.C., Jerusalem was thoroughly destroyed. And yet, it was precisely then that it began looming as an ideal and a dream to the exiles in Babylon, and thus played an ideological role which went far beyond its actual role in earlier history.
How important to recall the words of the psalmist as he expressed the hopes and longings of the exiles by the rivers of Babylon: “If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy” (Psalm 137:5, 6). Though the city is three thousand years old it is still a beautiful city but down-trodden (Luke 21:24).
In the future Jerusalem is seen as delivered. In the book of Ezekiel we observe the glory of God departing from the temple and the city. There was no glory in the temple of Zerrubbabel nor that of Herod. When Pompey entered the holy of holies at the siege of Jerusalem, he exclaimed, “I find in it nothing.” Israel’s house had been left desolate. Later on in the same book Ezekiel describes the return of the glory of God to the city of Jerusalem. In the day when the Messiah’s feet stand upon the Mount of Olives, Jerusalem will be cleansed, its people restored, and the glory of Jehovah shall cover the earth as the waters cover the sea (Zechariah 13:1; Isaiah 62:1-12) . In spite of the fact that at the present Jerusalem is a divided city, we rest upon the Word of God and await the fulfillment of the promise, “He maketh peace in thy borders” and “Thou shalt see…peace upon Israel” (Psalm 147:14; 128:6).
The Giver of Peace
Finally we come to the book of the prophet Isaiah and here peace is enshrined in the Prince of Peace, Sar Shalom. Isaiah’s language is beautiful and majestic as he presents the Messiah as a Sign to the nation (chapter 7); as the Star Shalom (chapter 9); as a Shoot out of the Palestinian soil (chapter 11); as a Stone (chapter 28); as the Shadow of a great rock (chapter 32); as a Shepherd (Chapter 40); as a Servant commissioned to carry out the work of redemption (Isaiah 42-50 and especially chapter 53); and in the closing chapters of the book as Sovereign of the Universe. How marvelous the title, “The Prince of Peace,” in these days of wars and rumours of wars. When the Messiah takes up the reigns of government, He will be the nation’s peace. In His government there will be no limit as to its extent, eternal or universal. His rule is based on the everlasting covenant made with the throne of David. While the word peace is familiar in the land of the Bible, it is certainly not an enjoyed experience there. As a nation Israel is beleagured by Arabs on every side, blocked, boycotted, and bitterly hated, yet the people struggle on for life and liberty. A stable peace for the peoples of the Middle East is a problem not only for Arabs and Jews — it is properly the concern of a world that no longer can risk even a small war. It is the policy of the Western democracies, the Soviet bloc, and the neutralist states to preserve peace in Israel, but the question is, how can this peace settlement be achieved? The answer is not with countries, conferences, or concessions but in Christ. As long as men’s hearts are as they are and nations are alienated from the God of peace, we shall know little peace in the heart, home, or country.
True peace is found in the Person of Christ, the Sar Shalom of the Bible. Peace is associated with a King, a city, and a Redeemer. It is the legacy of the Lord Jesus Christ received by faith in His finished work (Romans 5:1). Peace is a possession experienced and enjoyed by a mind and heart at rest with and in God (Isaiah 26:3; cf. Philippians 4:6, 7). Peace is the goal towards which all history moves under His controlling hand (Zechariah 9:10). Peace will be the seal of God when Christ reigns in righteousness from the eternal and capital city of Jerusalem. Meantime it is our solemn responsibility to pray for the peace of the city of Jerusalem and anticipate with undimmed hope of the glorious destiny and design of the God of Peace. Oh, the blessedness of simply resting on the Word of God and proving:
Stayed upon Jehovah
Hearts are fully blest;
Finding, as he promised
Perfect peace and rest.