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Advent Week 4

Peace (the angel’s candle)

by

Steven P. Wickstrom

all Scriptures quoted from the ESV

“God can work peace through us only if He has worked peace in us... Those who are in the best of circumstances but without God can never find peace, but those in the worst of circumstances but with God need never lack peace.” - John MacArthur

“God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.” - C.S. Lewis

“A great many people are trying to make peace, but that has already been done. God has not left it for us to do; all we have to do is to enter into it.” - Dwight L. Moody

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:14)

The color of the 4th week of Advent is purple. In the Protestant religion this represents royalty - the coming king. In the Catholic religion this represents repentence and fasting. The candel is purple in color as well. The theme for the 4th week of Advent, peace, comes from Luke 2:14, where the angels announced to the shepherds the message of peace on earth, goodwill to men. But what exactly does the phrase “peace on earth” mean?

The word “peace” brings to mind several definitions. For example, we think of the absence of war or conflict as peace. Another example is when quarreling people make up; they are at peace with each other. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines peace as “a state of tranquility or quiet,” while the Oxford Dictionary defines it as “the state of being calm or quiet.” Calmness or quietness describes the state of being peaceful or having your mind at peace.

Knowing this definition of peace begs the question: How does the Bible define peace? In the Bible, peace is more than just the absence of conflict or a state of rest. Instead, Biblical peace means completeness or wholeness, pointing to the presence of something else.

Peace in the Old Testament

In the Old Testament, the primary word for peace is the Hebrew word, שׁלם - shalom. Shalom is a word that is rich in meaning. It means peace, happiness, friendship, prosperity, health, wholeness and well-being.1 This meaning of wholeness carries over into the word Shalom. In Genesis 43:27-28, Joseph, still unrecognized by his brothers, asked about their health and his father’s health.

Genesis 43:27-28 says, “And he inquired about their welfare (well-being) and said, “Is your father well, the old man of whom you spoke? Is he still alive?” They said, “Your servant our father is well (good-health); he is still alive” (parenthesis and bold text mine). In Hebrew, the word translated as “welfare” (well-being), “well,” and “well” (good health) is all one word – shalom.

Isaiah 53:5 is another verse that uses shalom but is it translated as peace. “But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed”. Isaiah and other prophets preached that peace resulted from a restored relationship with God. When the Old Testament uses shalom in reference to peace, it almost always refers to a relationship with God.2 To have a relationship with God is to have peace. Isaiah 48:18 says, “Oh that you had paid attention to my commandments! Then your peace would have been like a river, and your righteousness like the waves of the sea.” Peace and righteousness come from observing God’s commands and being in a right relationship with him.

It is also important to note that peace was the vital blessing that Israel was looking for in the messianic kingdom. The following scriptures attest to this fact:

  1. Numbers 25:12 “Therefore say ‘Behold, I give to him my covenant of peace,”
  2. Leviticus 26:6 “I will give peace in the land, and you shall lie down, and none shall make you afraid. And I will remove harmful beasts from the land, and the sword shall not go through your land.”
  3. Isaiah 54:10 “For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,” says the LORD, who has compassion on you.”
  4. Ezekiel 34:25 “I will make with them a covenant of peace and banish wild beasts from the land, so that they may dwell securely in the wilderness and sleep in the woods.”
  5. Ezekiel 37:27 “I will make a covenant of peace with them. It shall be an everlasting covenant with them. And I will set them in their land and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in their midst forevermore.”

The Messiah would bring peace to Israel, which included subduing enemies, but more importantly, would bring peace with God. Isaiah 9:6 identified the Messiah as the Prince of Peace (Sar Shalom): “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” In ancient times a prince was not simply the king’s son, waiting for his time to ascend to the throne. Instead, a prince was a man of power and authority over his father’s subjects. In the Old Testament, it was not uncommon for a prince to co-reign with his father (as in the case of Solomon co-reigning with David until David’s death). Isaiah prophesied that this Prince of Peace would come approximately 700 years before the birth of Jesus. When Jesus was born, the Israelites were not looking for the Prince of Peace to restore their relationship with God but instead expected him to overthrow the Roman Empire and rule all the earth from Jerusalem.

When the angels gave the message of peace on earth, goodwill to men, the shepherds would have understood the messianic implication of the message. Moreover, the baby in the manger that the angel told them about would have been no one else than the Messiah himself (Luke 2:11). So it is no wonder that the shepherds rushed off to Bethlehem; the Prince of Peace, the Sar Shalom, had finally arrived.

Peace in the New Testament

Luke, however, did pen the classic verse in Hebrew. Luke wrote in Greek. In the Greek New Testament, the primary word for peace is “Eirene” (pronounced i-ray-nay) (Strong’s G1515). It is the Greek equivalent of shalom. Eirene has a variety of meanings depending upon the context of the sentence. It can mean peace in the sense of health, welfare, prosperity, and every kind of good.3

Paul made it clear that peace (eirene) comes from salvation through Jesus:

  1. Romans “5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
  2. Romans 8:6 “For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.”
  3. Romans 15:13 “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”
  4. 2 Thessalonians 3:16 “Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all.”
  5. Colossians 3:15 “And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.”

Eirene is the direct result of redemption by Jesus Ephesians 2:14-17 says, “For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near.” Eirene consists primarily of a state of conscious reconciliation with God. As Romans 5:1 says, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” The clear implication of all these verses is that peace comes through a right relationship with God. The only way to have that relationship with God is through the salvation that comes through faith in Jesus the Messiah.

Peace in Advent

Peace (eirene) with God refers to the peace of salvation wherein the barrier of sin, which separates people from God, is removed through faith in God’s gracious work in Christ (Eph. 2:14-15, Romans 5:1). The message of the 4th week of Advent is that Jesus came to bring peace with God to every man. First, however, we must choose to accept Jesus as our personal Lord and Savior. God holds out this offer of peace for us to receive, but we must reach out and take it.



References

[1] New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis, ed. Willem A. VanGemeren (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan Pub. House, 1997), 5:139.
[2] Phillip J. Nel, “שׁלם” in the New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis, ed. Willem A. VanGemeren (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan Pub. House, 1997), 4:132.
[3] Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 1994), 519.


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