What is peace in the Bible? Is it the lack of war? Is it a state of mind? The Bible is all about the unfolding relationship between man and God.
Peace in the Bible, is all about that relationship—being at peace with God, or right standing with God. The Hebrew word is SALOM (shalom), often used as a common greeting or blessing. In Greek, the word is EIRENE, which can mean harmony or fulfillment, among several other meanings.
Often we think of peace in terms of not being at war. We desire peace with all nations. But if we do not have peace with God, if we are not in right standing with Him, how can we have peace with each other?
Peace in the Bible is not just lack of war
There have always been wars. Throughout history war has been a constant. The Old Testament, which is just a small slice of history, there are countless wars and skirmishes, all caused by a lack of peace with God.
Obedience to God, following the Ten Commandments, ensures harmony among people and nations. Because, above all things, we are commanded to love God above all else, that will give us the ultimate peace.
The agape love that God has for mankind is seldom completely understood, as self interest overtakes shalom when we turn away and make our own decisions. Time and again, in the Bible, the people of Israel turned away, felt the consequences, then turned back to rekindle the relationship.
They had periods of prosperity, followed by captivity and suffering. When they were in right standing with God, life was good. Crops were plentiful, enemies stayed away. Of course, those periods of peace never lasted long and the kingdom eventually split into two parts, as the original tribes of Israel were estranged.
God calls us to share our peace with others
We hear in church, “peace be with you.” God grants us peace and we are to share that with one another. Often we think of “peace and calm,” a state of well-being rather than a state of relationship with God. God made a covenant with man, who in turn would make sacrifices to display obedience and appreciation.
The ultimate peace through Jesus
God gave us the ultimate sacrifice, the fulfillment of the law and the prophets, through the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. That peace through Christ, however, can be blocked based on our choices and disobedience.
Throughout the Old Testament, there are many events where the people of Israel turned away from God. As a result, His “shalom”/peace was not taken away as much as it was put on hold. His peace “like a river” stops flowing. God’s shalom is a product of, or in a sense a reward for righteousness.
As men and women turn to God and are obedient to His voice, their relationship is “at peace.” The Apostle Paul talked about the consequences of sin, “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 3:23). Death is the ultimate absence of shalom.
Yeshua/Jesus said He “did not come to bring peace to the earth, but a sword.” (Matthew 10:34). He was ushering in the Kingdom of God, calling people to turn back to God, repent and embrace righteousness. God promises an eternity of peace, but first sin must be crushed for good, as Paul writes:
“The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.” (Romans 6:20)
Peace in the Bible is often associated with Jesus
The Lord Jesus Christ is described in the Bible as “the prince of peace.” His coming was heralded by the angels to shouted “peace on earth, good will to men.”
Once again, after centuries of off and on again “shalom,” God reached out and gave man his most precious gift, His son. If man’s heart was warring against God, the Messiah was the ultimate “peace” offering.
God, in that one significant moment, demonstrated that He would give everything to have peace with mankind.
Man draws toward God then pulls away and suffers the consequences
The same relationship with God has continued since the 2000 years since the earthly life of Christ, as man draws to God, pulls away and then suffers the consequences. The major difference, of course, since the arrival of Messiah, Yeshua, Jesus is that God has extended His grace to all.
Christ met all of the requirements of the law. Therefore, there is the promise of eternal life through Christ, an eternal guarantee of shalom/peace. The Apostle Paul would write:
“Grace and peace to you through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Shalom.