Peace on earth
We have entered another year and the grim spectre of war strides across the face of the earth. We look back on a year filled with conflict, strife and turmoil with its consequent misery and suffering and the prayer on many lips is, “Give to us peace in our time, O Lord.”
The beloved physician Luke, in his Gospel, describes the greatest panorama of all ages. With the heavens for a screen, filled with the heavenly hosts, and the Judean Hills peopled with flocks attended by affrighted shepherds as an arena, a glorious message was proclaimed and a fervent and comforting benediction pronounced. The message which was to change the whole course of human history reads, “For unto you is born, this day, in the City of David, a Saviour which is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11). The benediction which follows declares, “Glory to God in the highest, and, on earth, peace, good will toward men” (v. 14).
For nearly twenty centuries the Gospel of Grace has been preached to an erring and sin-ridden people and we seem no nearer to that goal than when it was first promised. “Man’s inhumanity to man” continues to make “countless thousands mourn.” Never, in the affairs of human relationship has greed, avarice and unbridled ambition reached such abyssmal depths. Surely it behooves us to stop and consider our ways and seek out God’s answer to man’s perplexity.
Nearly 3000 years ago the prophet Isaiah made this startling revelation, “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulders and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace” (Isa. 9:6). Here was Peace in Prophecy; God speaking through His prophet foretold the means whereby peace would be brought to a warring world.
To the ordered mind the question must be, “What has delayed the implementation of this promise?” May we suggest that the answer lies not in the failure of God to fulfil His promise but rather in man’s failure to comprehend the plan and purpose of God in the face of the creature’s intransigent opposition to God’s overtures of mercy. It ever has been and still is God’s eternal desire to gather together a people unto Himself where peace and joy shall reign from sea to sea and where He can dispense His bounty without stint or measure.
Some 750 years after the Old Testament Prophet made his declaration its fulfilment came to pass. God came in the person of Christ Jesus to reconcile the world unto Himself, a world that had been alienated from Him by wicked works. The Babe of Bethlehem who became the Stranger of Galilee trod this earthly scene and it was on the waters of this very lake Peace in Power was displayed. Mark records this event in the fourth chapter of his Gospel. Christ wearied by the strain and heat of the day lay asleep in the hinder part of a ship. When a storm arose whipping the waters into angry waves the disciples cried out in fear, and the One, in Whom all peace is invested, arose and stilled the troubled deep with the words, “Peace be still.” For a moment Christ’s Deity shone through the veil of humanity. Little did the awe-struck disciples realize that those very waves that tossed the frail craft about, threatening to engulf its precious cargo, were spoken into existence by the very One Who stilled the tempest.
Jesus Christ came in direct obedience to the will of God and that obedience led Him to the Cross. On a lone gray hill, outside Jerusalem’s walls the final chapter of man’s redemption was written. Speaking of that momentous event, the Apostle Paul said, “For it pleased the Father that in Him should all fullness dwell; And having made peace through the blood of His Cross, by Him to reconcile all things unto Himself” (Col. 1:19-20). The Psalmist epitomized it in these words, “Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other” (Psa. 85:10). With an untimely darkness enshrouding Golgotha’s Hill, the Lord of Light and Glory, raised His voice to Heaven in one triumphant utterance, “FINISHED” and the event toward which all of God’s purpose pointed reached its culmination as Christ bowed His head and dismissed His spirit. Here indeed was Peace Perfected.
Thus was the story of peace unfolded. God has not failed. Man has. He has completely forgotten or deliberately ignored the opening words of the benediction. “Glory to God.” Man’s failure to give God the glory has left him mired in the slough of self-reformation which can never bring him peace. Until man returns to God and bows the knee and gives Him the glory there can be no universal peace.
‘Ere He left this “vale of teams,” the Lord speaking to His own had this to say, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you; not as the world giveth give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27). With these words ringing in their ears they went forth to witness the sad and seeming tragedy of Calvary. They endured persecution and affliction and some went home to Heaven to claim a martyr’s crown. Down the long corridor of time saints of every age and nation have met death with a peace the world knows nothing about. They understood and knew God’s peace.
To each and every one who know Christ as Saviour and Lord the gates of peace swing open upon a vista of “green pastures” and “Still waters.” He has said, “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee, because he trusteth in Thee” (Isa. 26:3). This is Peace Promised. Its author and guarantor is God. May it be ours to lay hold on Him and on His promise.
In closing let us remind our hearts of another benediction that the writer of Hebrews left with those scattered abroad. They were being persecuted from the world without and from those who had once been their leaders in the Jewish faith. This benediction was to encourage them to go forward in the new faith with the full revelation of God’s purposes as fulfilled in Christ Jesus. “Now the God of peace that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that Great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do His will, working in you that which is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ; to Whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”