Week Four - Jehova Shalom: The God of Reconciliation and Completeness
Speak now or forever hold your peace.
I come bringing a peace offering.
I could use a little peace and quiet.
Have you ever heard any of the above phrases about peace? Have you ever noticed that our ideas and definitions of peace vary wildly, depending on what we are talking about? If I say, “speak now or forever hold your peace,” peace is defined by your acquiescence on an issue. But if I say, “I could use a little peace and quiet,” peace is defined by a lack of interruption to my day.
What exactly is peace and why do we seem to have so many different ideas about what it means? With so many different definitions of peace, is it any wonder that we struggle to find peace both in our personal lives and in our world at large?
In order for us to experience peace, we must first understand who God is and what His word says about peace.
The Hebrew word for peace—shalom—is repeated 237 times throughout the Old Testament, including in the book of Judges, where it is used as a title, or name, for God. (Strong’s)
“But the LORD said to him, “Peace! Do not be afraid. You are not going to die.” So, Gideon built an altar to the LORD there and called it The LORD Is Peace.” (Judges 6:23-24)
In this passage, we see the Lord speak peace, or shalom, over Gideon to calm Gideon’s fear. We also see Gideon respond to the Lord by building an altar to Him and giving Him the name Jehovah Shalom, or The Lord is Peace.
According to Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, shalom means “completeness, soundness, welfare, or peace.” I love that word “completeness.” It means that with shalom, nothing is lacking—it is whole, content, perfect. When Gideon named the Lord “Jehovah Shalom,” he was calling God the Lord of Completeness, Wholeness, Contentment, and Perfection.
All throughout the Old Testament, we see variations of the word shalom. The Hebrew word shelem (found 29 times throughout Leviticus) means peace offering, sacrifice for alliance, or voluntary sacrifice of thanks. Shillem (found in Deuteronomy) means recompense, retribution, or requital. (NAS Exhaustive Concordance; Strong’s)
The Hebrew people were well-versed in the concept of shalom and they understood that shalom did not just happen by accident. It came through some kind of sacrifice of self, whether voluntarily (as in a peace offering) or as a result of retribution.
While the book of Judges is the only place in scripture where God is given the title of Jehovah Shalom, there are other places in scripture where we see God embody shalom.
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end.” (Isaiah 9:6-7)
Here, the prophet Isaiah is foretelling the birth of the promised Messiah (Jesus), giving Him the title Prince of Peace, and promising the people that there will be no end to the shalom the Messiah brings. Just as Isaiah foretold the birth of Christ, he also foretold his death.
“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5)
In this passage, Isaiah foretells that our shalom will come as a result of the Messiah being punished for our sins. In other words, our peace and completeness as humankind would come through the suffering and death of the Prince of Peace we read about a few chapters earlier.
This brings us to our big idea:
True shalom begins with reconciliation to God.
One of my all-time favorite passages of scripture is Colossians 1:15-23. I encourage you to take a moment right now to grab your Bible and read through the entire passage. It’s a beautiful depiction of who Jesus is. But for the purposes of this study, we are going to focus on verses 19-20.
“For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” (Colossians 1:19-20)
That word “peace” in verse 20 comes from the Greek word eirénopoieó and means to harmonize or to reconcile. (Thayer’s Greek Lexicon; Strong’s) Jesus came to reconcile humankind and bring shalom through his death on the cross. Without Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, shalom would be impossible.
Take a moment to reflect on what we’ve learned so far about shalom. How does the definition of shalom in scripture change the way you think about peace? What is God revealing to you about Himself in these scriptures? How can we experience shalom on earth? What is our responsibility when it comes to living in shalom?
Now that we understand who God is, and what His word says about shalom, let’s explore what scripture says about how we can pursue shalom in our lives. I believe scripture gives us a roadmap for living in shalom, here on earth, in the following relationships: Shalom with God, Shalom with Mankind, and Shalom with Ourselves.
If you are seeking to live a life of peace, Shalom with God is the most important and crucial step. In fact, I believe peace with others and with ourselves is impossible if we aren’t first reconciled to God. Remember our big idea:
True shalom begins with reconciliation to God.
Shalom with God
We know that shalom with God was already provided freely to us through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of our sins. Jesus made the voluntary sacrifice for us and paid our retribution, so that we could have shalom with Him. All that is required of us is to believe in Him and accept His love and forgiveness.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
Next Step: Pray and Accept—If you haven’t yet made the decision to receive God’s gift of shalom, I encourage you to do so now. He loves you deeply and wants to be in relationship with you. Take a moment to pray to Him right now. Acknowledge that you believe that Jesus died to reconcile you to God. Admit that you need Him and that you accept His gift of love, His gift of forgiveness, and His gift of completeness. Make a commitment to follow Jesus and live your life in a way that honors God and others.
If you said this prayer today, congratulations! We know that Jesus and the angels are rejoicing! And we want to rejoice with you, too! Let someone know that you made this decision today! Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Shalom with Mankind
When it comes to the pursuit of shalom in our world, peace amongst mankind is probably the most difficult for us to achieve. Whereas God made shalom with Him easy for us (He made the sacrifice and all we have to do is accept), peace with our fellow human beings requires sacrifice from us.
In Romans 12:9-21, the apostle Paul gives instructions on how to live at peace with our fellow man. Open your Bible and take a moment to read that entire passage right now.
Paul is illustrating for us that peace with one another comes through love in action: Honoring others above ourselves. Praying for one another. Feeding the hungry. Practicing hospitality. Being humble. Loving our enemies and caring for them.
“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:18)
As far as it depends on you. We can’t control the actions of others, but we are responsible for how we act and for the words we speak. God does not promise us perfect shalom with mankind this side of heaven, but He does command us to live our lives in pursuit of peace. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said:
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” (Matthew 5:9)
That word “children” comes from the Greek word huios and means anyone sharing the same nature as or resembling the character of their Father. (HELPS Word Study). In the same way that God has modeled perfect shalom and offered reconciliation to us, we must also seek to live in shalom with one another.
Furthermore, we are commanded in scripture to help reconcile others to God. In fact, it was one of the last things Jesus said to His disciples:
“Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)
The apostle Paul reiterates this in his letter to the Romans:
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. “(2 Corinthians 5:17-20a)
If we want to be peacemakers and experience shalom with our fellow humans, we must take seriously God’s commandment to share the good news of Jesus with others.
Next Step: Pray and Share—Think of one person in your life who needs to hear the good news of Jesus. Write the name of that person down and commit to pray for them daily. Ask God to open up their heart to hear the good news of Jesus. Ask God to give you opportunities to share His love and shalom with them.
Shalom with Ourselves
Shalom with ourselves can be difficult to obtain. After all, we are our own worst critics. It is often harder for us to forgive ourselves than it is for us to forgive others. The good news is that God has set us free from our shame and guilt.
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 1:5)
I recently heard an analogy about how to train an elephant—if you tie a baby elephant to a rope attached to a stake in the ground, he will not be able to run away. If you continue to tie the baby elephant to the stake, over time, the elephant is conditioned to learn that when he is tied to the rope, he can’t escape. Even after the elephant becomes an adult, he will not run away. Although he could easily walk away and pull the stake from the ground, the elephant has been conditioned to believe that he is stuck.
Is that where you find yourself these days? Even though you know that Jesus has reconciled you to God, do you still live as though you are tied down by the shame and guilt of your past? Sisters, this shouldn’t be! You have been set free from your past and you are meant to live in perfect completeness.
Sometimes, a lack of shalom in our own lives isn’t a result of our sin, but rather, a result of anxiety or depression. The ongoing battle in our minds keeps us from experiencing internal shalom. Other times our lack of peace is a result of our self-worth. Sadly, for many, our self-worth is shaped by cruelty, abuse, or neglect by others. Because of the sin of someone else, we are conditioned to believe that we are worthless. And that can be a difficult lie to overcome.
Ladies, you are image bearers of God (Genesis 1:27) and your heavenly Father knows everything about you and adores you. (Psalm 139:13-14a)
There is nothing about you that your Creator and Father doesn’t already know. Your anxiety that you can’t seem to break free from? He knows. The trauma that you suffered at the hand of another? He knows. That deep depression that consumes you in darkness for weeks at a time? He knows. And in your pain and darkness, he meets you there.
“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7)
“Answer me when I call to you, my righteous God. Give me relief from my distress; have mercy on me and hear my prayer. … In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, LORD, make me dwell in safety.” (Psalm 4:1,8)
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27)
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
Next Step: Pray and Let Go—Take a moment to pray to your heavenly Father. Ask Him to meet you in your pain, in your trauma, in your darkness, in your anxiety, in your shame. Pray that He would give you the eyes to see yourself as the valuable, complete, and beautiful daughter He created you to be. Ask Him for the grace to forgive yourself for the things that are keeping you chained to your past. Imagine yourself at the foot of His throne and release your fear and anxiety at His feet. Imagine his light and his love enveloping you in your darkness and loneliness. Ask God for his perfect shalom to fill you and give you peace.
Friends, our God is Jehovah Shalom, the God of Reconciliation and Completeness! I believe God wants you to experience true shalom in your lives! True shalom begins with reconciliation to God, but it doesn’t end there—it’s a life-long journey of seeking to live in reconciliation and completeness with God, others, and ourselves. I hope you walk away from today’s study knowing how much God loves you and desires for you to live in perfect shalom! Let us pray.
Lord, we read in Your word that You are Jehovah Shalom. You are the God of wholeness, completion, and perfection. You are the God who reconciled us to You through the death of Your Son, Jesus, our Prince of Peace. We thank you for providing a way for us to be reconciled to You. Thank you for setting us free.
God, in the chaos of our world, we crave Your perfection. We long for the peace that only comes from You. Help us to love others the way You love us. Help us to serve others the way You serve us. Help us to sacrifice our preferences, our time, our finances, and our lives for others, the way You have sacrificed for us. May our lives reflect Your perfect peace as we seek to live in shalom with our brothers and sisters.
Finally, Father, we ask for your perfect peace in the innermost part of our souls. That part of us that no one else sees. May we use kindness and grace in the words we speak to ourselves. Give us the eyes to see ourselves the way You see us—beautiful, complete, and enough. Silence the negative self-talk and replace it with the truth of Your word. Quiet the anxiety that leaves us feeling restless and restore our peace of mind. Surround us with Your love and light when all we can see is darkness all around.
Jehovah Shalom, we thank you for the perfect peace that only comes from You. May we live our lives in pursuit of Your perfect peace. In Jesus’ name, Amen.