BY PR DR JEREMY CHEW
“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)
To the Greeks of Jesus’ time “peace” is the absence of war. Today we generally understand “peace” as a state of tranquility that is free from worry. Therefore, it is difficult to have peace in present times when the Covid-19 virus seems to encroach upon our lives, or when final exams loom over the weekend.
To the Hebrews, however, peace (or shalom) is more than just the absence of strife. Shalom means wholeness, completeness, welfare, safety and more. Shalom is a state of wellbeing in every sense of the word. More importantly, in almost two-thirds of its occurrences in the OT, shalom describes one’s state of fulfillment resulting from God’s presence. Shalom is a covenant word that expresses God’s faithful relationship with His people.
During the time of the judges, the Israelites were living in constant fear of the Midianites (Judges 6). They were hiding in caves because their enemies could strike them at any moment (v.2). These marauders would come upon the Israelites in huge numbers (v. 5). That was why Gideon had to thresh wheat in a wine press rather than in the open threshing floor (v. 11). Gideon was afraid of his situation, but God was about to change that. Through his encounter with God, Gideon came to understand that God is Yahweh Shalom (meaning: the LORD is Peace, v. 27), and became one of God’s judges to deliver the Israelites from their enemies.
Peace came upon Gideon before the enemies were eliminated. Gideon’s peace did not come from the absence of fear but from being in God’s presence. When Jesus promised His disciples peace in John 14:27, it was hours before His final arrest that eventually led to His death on the cross. He told His disciples that this peace is not the absence of strife (the kind that the world gives), but it is peace that is found in Christ (“My peace”). It is a peace that will be with them despite future life-threatening circumstances.
Today we also live in uncertain times. It could be the exams we are going to sit for, or a test result we are waiting to receive from the clinic, or we could be hiding at home (like the Israelites hiding in the caves) for fear of contracting the Covid-19 virus. One thing is certain: no amount of preparation or precaution we take can give us peace of mind. Only God’s presence alone can give us peace because He is Yahweh Shalom.