Yeshua comforted his disciples in John 14:27, right before his crucifixion, with these words:
Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world give do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. (KJV)
When we look this word “peace” up in the Greek, it is “eirene,” which means peace, quietness, rest. Looking up “peace” in Strong’s in other areas, we have it synonymous with “tranquil” or a state of being calm, which means “free from disturbance.”
May I be honest here? If that is the definition of peace, then I have not had the privilege of having peace my entire walk with G-d. The past two years alone have been ones of relentless attacks from the enemy – both in my family and our family’s business. One thing isn’t even resolved before the next trial comes along. It has been a disheartening two years for me in many ways, and my heart, my mind, my spirit, and my body have been heavily burdened and weighted down with it all.
It has been a season of discouragement, and old habits and attitudes I thought I had long since reined in have come back with a vengeance – my temper being the worst of it all. I have found myself looking at the world with more jaded eyes and disliking it intensely at times.
Strangely enough, I have found the most comfort from the book of Job. It is through the book of Job that I see that I can question G-d about injustice, tribulation, and sorrow. It is through Job that I find that smug counsel is no counsel at all. It is through Job that I find the template of the process that I am going through. Like Job, I find myself worn out from it all and wondering what is the purpose of it anyway.
It is also through Job that I see that sitting in ashes and isolating myself from my source of answers, stewing in my anger and frustration, is also not the way to resolution. I find myself crying out to Adonai that I simply want one day of peace, one day where there is no drama, one day that doesn’t involve yet another conflict. Like Job, I also say, “I have no peace, no quiet, no rest; and anguish keeps coming.” (3.26 CJV)
And I don’t get an answer. In fact, I’m met with even more silence.
It was at this point that I began to ask the Father what exactly he meant by “peace.” I had been looking at peace from my human perspective. Obviously, peace meant more than my feeble definition. I wanted to know what the word meant from Adonai’s perspective. I wanted to go back to the original Hebrew because translations are many times poor representations of what is really meant in the initial language.
From the first page of the creation story in Genesis, we find that our G-d is a G-d of order. Dennis Prager, in his book The Rational Bible: Genesis, says that the natural state of the world without HaShem is disorder and chaos. The Genesis account describes the original state of the earth as tohu and vohu, a Hebrew word pun or phrase that the King James version translates as “unformed and void.” However, this word pun is also used once more in Isaiah in regard to the destruction of Edom, where it is translated as “confusion” and “emptiness.” Prager states that according to Hebrew professor Robert Alter, tohu by itself means “emptiness or futility.”
So, in essence, the state of the world (whether the outside physical world or the internal personal world) is naturally one of chaos and confusion, of emptiness and futility, until the Creator steps in and speaks order into the darkness.
But what does this have to do with peace, you may be asking. From the very beginning, as I looked up the words for peace in Strong’s and researched Hebraic meanings of the words, I began to get a vastly different picture of what peace looked like.
Shalom comes from the primitive root “shalam,” which means to be safe in mind, body, or estate. It is to be made complete and is synonymous with restitution and restoration. Of course, completeness and wholeness are what Adam and Havah had in the Garden, isn’t it? If any two humans experienced true peace, it was them. They walked in one accord with G-d. They spoke with him; they participated in the post-Creation work that HaShem set before them. But that peace, or shalom, didn’t last beyond a broken commandment.
The picture I was beginning to formulate of peace was not so much a calmness or tranquility, but a wholeness. Peace was not a feeling, but an action. Peace seemed to be walking in completeness with HaShem and His will for my life.
Let’s go to the Garden of Gethsemane on the night that the temple guards arrested Yeshua. If peace meant calm and serenity in the face of adversity, then Yeshua wasn’t displaying much of that. He was groaning in his spirit – “Father, please let this cup pass from me!” He was literally sweating blood. The western definition of “peace” certainly doesn’t seem at all evident here, and yet Yeshua said that his peace would be given to us.
You can’t tell me that Yeshua’s gut didn’t clench when he was arrested. You cannot tell me that he did not have a physical, visceral reaction to the thought of what he would go through that night and into the next day. You cannot tell me that he was calm and tranquil in the face of the lashings and beatings and being nailed to the cross. But yet, he said his peace would be for us as well.
As I said before, the Hebrew root word from which shalom comes means complete or whole. This seems to imply that Yeshua’s peace is not a feeling, but the ability to walk our path in completeness with HaShem, no matter where that path may take us. Just as he did. By the power of his blood, he has restored the covenant relationship mankind had with HaShem in Gan-Eden and again at Mt. Sinai. He has restored the completeness of heart and spirit with G-d that was once ours. The path of peace is wholeness, of being in one accord with the Father.
In fact, the word “shalom” is derived from one of the names of G-d. Judges 6:24 tells us that Gideon built an altar to HaShem after he saw the angel of Adonai face to face and called it “Adonai-Shalom.” Isaiah 9:6 tells us that Messiah will be called “Sar Shalom,” the Prince of Peace. According to Cornelius Plantinga in his book Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be: A Breviary of Sin, “The webbing together of G-d, humans, and all creation in justice, fulfillment, and delight is what the Hebrew prophets call shalom. We call it peace, but it means far more than mere peace of mind or a cease-fire between enemies. In the Bible, shalom means universal flourishing, wholeness, and delight…”
An article by Susan Perlman on the Jews for Jesus website brought some further points home to me. The word we use for shalom – peace – comes from the Latin “pax.” Romans thought of pax as a cessation of hostilities between the conquered and the conqueror. This peace was elusive because it always depended on who was in the position of strength or superiority. Rabbi Robert Kahn distinguishes between the Roman idea of peace and true shalom this way:
One can dictate a peace; shalom is a mutual agreement
Peace is a temporary pace; shalom is a permanent agreement
Peace can be partial; shalom is whole
Peace can be piecemeal; shalom is complete
And yet, I still struggle. There are still the trials and tribulations I find myself going through. But I’m beginning to change my perspective on those as well. Perlman says that when things are bigger than our own life experiences, we tend to reduce them to understandable dimensions. “The danger in doing this is that when we translate G-d’s acts, we are, by our limited understanding, diminishing who G-d is.” By focusing on what is going on in the physical world around me, I have failed to grasp the spiritual dimension of what HaShem is bringing me through.
I have always considered this life boot camp. I believe we are being prepared for greater things than we can ever imagine in the world to come. But we do not strengthen ourselves through passive living. It is the struggle, the adversity that propels us forward to greater things. It is the struggle that gives us strength, endurance, and perseverance. These trials are lessons in the trenches, and if I’m to survive, I need to learn the lessons that HaShem is trying to teach me.
He has not promised us tranquility and a care-free life – he has promised us he will surround us with safety for our hearts and our minds if we remain connected to him. Again, the root word for shalom means safety in mind, body, or estate. Deuteronomy 32:10-11 says, “He found his people in desert country, in a howling, wasted wilderness. He protected him and cared for him, guarded him like the pupil of his eye, like an eagle that stirs up her nest, hovers over her young, spreads out her wings, takes them and carries them as she flies.” Think about that -- he is like the eagle that stirs up her nest. He stirs up our lives, shaking loose the dust and debris that surrounds us. He pushes us further and further out of the nest.
Then he takes us up and carries us.
That is the protection that HaShem promises. That is the peace that surpasses all understanding. It is standing in the midst of the whirlwind in completeness with Adonai, wholly confident in his ability to bring us through anything on our path. Tranquility comes not from the absence of outer strife, but from the absolute trust and certainty that our G-d loves us, sees us, and spreads out his wings and covers us with his shalom.
Isaiah 26:3 says, “A person whose desire rests on you, you preserve in perfect peace, because he trusts in you.” In Isaiah 53:5 it says that “He was wounded for our transgressions: he was broken for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and with his stripes we are healed.” And finally, I Corinthians 15:3 says, “He was chastised for our reconciliation.”
Peace is about relationship with G-d, in covenant, becoming more and more like Messiah daily. The sages say there can be no permanent peace until Messiah comes. He has come as the Suffering Servant to bring us into reconciliation. He will come as the Conquering King to bring us home.
And then we will know true peace.