How’s that Bible reading going? Do you like nagging? Apparently, we DO when it’s important enough. How many times are you willing to “nag” someone you really love to be careful? Oh, that’s not really nagging when it’s important! So, how’s that Bible reading going? It IS that important!
Some words just belong to God. Without God’s definition and understanding of them they are meaningless. Amen is a good example that we’ve studied before. God’s meaning and use of the word gives us, as God’s people, a totally different sense than any replacement from the world.
If anything, this is even more true with the word peace. It is certainly a word that the world tries to use, but clearly God thinks that the world’s use is incompetent and downright wrong.
In a very unique way, God actually defines peace. In Judges 6:24 as Gideon is called by God and builds an altar to worship the Lord, he names it The LORD is Peace, Yahweh- shalom. As Jesus spends that final night before His death with the Apostles, He tells them Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful. (John 14:27)
Following His resurrection, Jesus appeared first to the 10 (Thomas is missing) and then, later, to the 11 (read John 20:19, 21 & 26). His greeting to them (most likely actually spoken in Hebrew as they all were familiar with the greeting) is peace upon you (plural) or šālôm ‘ălêkem.
The words form the still common greeting in Israel. We might translate it as good day, but it means much, much more. The idea expressed is may you be well, whole, complete as in having the physical and spiritual resources sufficient to your needs.
Think about the importance and urgency of what Jesus is saying. The Lord God is the very definition, the epitome of peace. Only in Him can we really be well, whole and complete. Only the God that IS peace has the physical and spiritual power to supply what we really need.
Before His death, Jesus extended this true peace of God to them (indeed, to us all, through them!) as a blessing. Blessings don’t come any greater or more complete than everything you need! Then the resurrected Jesus, having physically displayed His power as God by raising Himself from death (cf. John 10:18), extends yet again His powerful blessing of peace to His friends. (Be sure to read John 15:13-15 where Jesus makes the point that His disciples are no longer to be called slaves or servants but friends!)
Over 200 times the Old Testament illustrates this word, peace, and most of the time with that special link to God’s definition of real peace. In addition, the Old Testament uses a form of the word for God’s peace to refer to a special peace offering nearly 100 times. And these illustrations add to our understanding of what God’s peace really means.
These offerings are sometimes called fellowship offerings or wholeness offerings as they involved a sacrificial meal shared by the one making the offering, the people and the priests. You will recall how similar this is to the Passover, but, in this case, it could take place at any time of the year.
The peace or fellowship offering was for thanksgiving, at the fulfillment of a vow and/or for a freewill offering. The reasons or excuses for making this offering were broad enough to allow it at any time. Consider that thought for a moment. When is an appropriate time to simply thank God because you love and appreciate Him?
There were regulations for the offering. Cf. Exodus 20:24 (required); Leviticus 7:11-18 (purpose); Leviticus 3:1, 6-12 (the animal used); Leviticus 3:2, 8-13; 17:5-6 (how to prepare); Leviticus 19:5; 22:21 (requirements to be acceptable); Amos 5:22-24 (including a right attitude). After all, people have tried to fool God with fake offerings many times (Malachi discusses this problem, if you recall). So if you really want to thank God and do something to honor Him, you still have to do it the right way.
The peace or fellowship offering was shared. God received the best (Leviticus 3:3, 5, 9, 11, 14-16). The priests received a share as food (Leviticus 7:29-34). The people ate the rest (Leviticus 10:14).
These actions came together to affirm their relationship to God and were a part of their covenant with God at Sinai (cf. Exodus 20:24; 24:4-6) and later with their Kings (cf. 1 Samuel 10:8; 11:15 & 1 Kings 9:25). And they were also part of the seasonal festivals of Weeks (Leviticus 23:19) and Tabernacles (Numbers 29:39).
This was a regular part of many other times for both individual life (Nazirite vows, Numbers 6:14, 17-18; 10:10) and the community of God’s people (New Moon and other festivals, on entering the Promised Land, bringing the Ark to Jerusalem, dedication of the Temple, etc.).
When you think about it, any time was and is a good time to celebrate peace with God and fellowship with Him and His people. Is it any wonder that the Lord’s Supper is called a celebration by Paul (1 Corinthians 5:8) as well as a proclamation or announcement (1 Corinthians 11:26)? For that matter, is it a surprise to any of us that one of the great joys of congregational life is a potluck, a feasting together with brothers and sisters in Christ?
Finally, consider that perhaps the most recognized Christian greeting in the New Testament is the reminder of God’s grace and peace as our blessing. Read….
- Romans 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:3; 2 Corinthians 1:2; Galatians 1:3; Ephesians 1:2;
- Philippians 1:2; Colossians 1:2; 1 Thessalonians 1:1;
- 2 Thessalonians 1:2; 1 Timothy 1:2; 2 Timothy 1:2;
- Titus 1:4; Philemon 1:3; 1 Peter 1:2;
- 2 Peter 1:2; 2 John 3; Revelation 1:4.
May God’s rich grace and peace be multiplied to you!
—Lester P. Bagley