You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you! Isaiah 26:3 NLT
As I write my last blog for 2017, my thoughts are focused on the Hebrew word, Shalom. Shalom is often translated ‘peace’, but the peace it talks of is much more than an absence of violence. Every Hebrew word have such a deeper meaning.
Prompting these thoughts have been two recent world events that have had a major impact on me:
Rohingya refugee crisis, the mass migration of thousands of Rohingya people from Myanmar to Bangladesh as they have been driven out by the Myanmar armed forces. Reading the stories of the atrocities inflicted on the people confirms that bad things do happen in the world.
Daryn Kagan says the following about those kind of people: “Bad things do happen in the world, like war, natural disasters, disease. But out of those situations always arise stories of ordinary people doing extraordinary things.”
We have witnessed the humanitarian support to this group of people from many ordinary people doing extraordinary things to restore dignity and hope in the refugees’ lives.
The second event has been the USA’s Presidents recognition as Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and the relocation of their embassy to Jerusalem. The reaction from world leaders, the UN and other groups did astound me. Twenty-five centuries earlier, the prophet Zechariah wrote these words from the Lord, “I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem for battle” (Zechariah 14:2a). As I ponder this Scripture I wondered in my mind: Did the UN just move us one step closer to fulfilling this ancient prophecy?
Returning to my focus of Shalom. Shalom conveys wholeness, completeness, restoration, healing and redemption. Shalom is the realisation of creation as God intended it to be. The task of making peace in a world of brokenness, suffering and disasters can seem overwhelming.
Shalom refers to what we see in creation in Genesis 1 and 2. With the fall, however, Shalom has been vandalised and perverted. Adam and Eve broke the natural order of placing God first when they ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. From then on, sin, pain and selfishness have taken over God’s creation; natural disasters plague the world and creation no longer has direct communication with God.
God desires to bring back shalom order, shalom relationships and shalom rhythm to the world. Throughout Scripture God had individuals and communities that He compelled towards living out Shalom. It is also something we see personified in Jesus through the Resurrection. The end of the book of Revelation shows us Shalom: ‘And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling-place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God” (Revelation 21:3).
I end this year’s blog asking myself this question. What can I do about shalom now to advance God’s kingdom work while I am are here on earth?
I offer three elements to consider: pray, celebrate and work.
First, we must pray for shalom to increase in the world. Jesus taught us to pray in this way: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:9-10, TNIV). We are to pray for God’s will—shalom—to be done on earth as it is in heaven and as it will be when Christ comes again.
Second, we must celebrate shalom presence in the world. A key aspect of shalom is developing a Sabbath rhythm. God didn’t rest on the seventh day because He was exhausted from all His hard work. In fact, Psalms 121 says, “He who watches over you will not slumber.” Rather, God created the Sabbath out of a desire to simply delight in His creation. He wanted to sit back and enjoy the world He created.
Finally, we must work for the restoration of shalom in all our relationships. God calls us to love justice and kindness in order to re-establish shalom in this world. ‘’He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 8:18 CEV). Instead of keeping our God-given blessings for ourselves, God commands us to share freely.
Disasters, like war, natural disasters, disease have consequences that cause brokenness and destruction. We as followers of Christ must seek to actively participate in healing and restoration.
Understanding shalom as God’s original design for creation shows us how to relate to each other, to nature and to God.
Shalom to you all in 2018.