YHWH Shalom (The Lord is Peace)
SHALOM is an incredible Hebrew word! Check this out and compare it with what you thought it meant! Most of us, me included for many years considered “Shalom” as a greeting, particularly among Jewish and Christian people. But the word itself is far more than a simple greeting and its meaning is deep and far reaching into the very soul of man.
SHALOM does indeed mean “peace,” but it goes much deeper than the English language allows for interpretation. In Hebrew, “shalom” can be either a noun or a verb. It has the depth that seeks to address your and my health, well-being, our very completeness as a person. It positively and gracefully confronts both our inward and outward being as a person. As a word of action, it addresses finishing and completing something. I am reminded that Jesus said “it is finished” as he died on the cross. There now could be peace between God and man as he completed his work to restore our relationship with God.
In my profession, on the warrior side, I have yet to meet any man who did not seek peace. Some, if not many do so quietly and out of view of the mainstream. That unsettled soul that comes with confronting darkness and fighting battles never quite seems to leave the heart of the warrior and the scars caused by a calling to confrontation and conflict in most, never quite seem to completely heal.
But, as I enter this new chapter of my life and as I seek to understand and live in the deep things of the Almighty God, I am learning that there is a peace that can be had by all of us. There is a completeness that can sooth the aching heart and heal the hurting scars. It’s not an easy journey and I’ve had to find it myself. In time, alone with God, He has led me to these places of peace and harmony. The chaos caused by the warrior life can give way to harmony and a refreshed soul, without missing a beat should the need for violence of action arise in quelling the various forces of evil. This is something that God has offered us and it has been lost through the ages as the church has become a business and occupation run by professional ministers. The power of the Word of God must find its way back into the hearts of warriors if the light is to remain a force in this dark world.
This is a short story about Gideon, you and me. So many times, we struggle with believing that God could possibly see differently than we see ourselves. It interests me that many who see themselves as broken, washed-up, weak or less-than, are many times the very people God chooses and uses to establish His Kingdom beachheads in a hostile world. Conversely, many times, those believing they are strong and mighty are the ones God will in time lower to the level of their reality before Him.
Peace is something we all need and we all seek. From the weakest to the strongest, our minds need rest and our bodies cannot go on without healing and renewal. As I began to ask God to show me about His peace and how I could find it in my own life, my illusions of worldly peace and misunderstandings of what is taught in church were shattered and replaced by a much healthier and balanced understanding of truth. God is peace. He is our peace. YHWH (Yahweh) Shalom, God is Peace. Journey with me down this path to peace.
As I prepare to go to Shiloh Battlefield the first part of April, about the same time of year that the battle was actually fought, I am reminded of the irony of this battlefield’s name. SHILOH means “peace” in Hebrew. Every Civil War historian that studies or reports on the battle of Shiloh comments on this irony, as Shiloh was the first major campaign of the Civil War in the South and would become one the bloodiest battles of the entire war. Casualties mounted above and beyond ALL battles and wars combined for the U.S. at that time. I do not believe that it was a coincidence that the nation was at war and seeking peace and the truth of the facts are not as many are taught in school, but most would agree that this tiny church represented a struggle that would begin a multi-year campaign that would cripple a nation, divide its people and create divisions that would linger even into contemporary times. That tiny church represented a struggle for something that sin and hate precluded the nation from obtaining. But, God provided a way… Here’s a little of that story.
A similar turning point had come for the ancient Israelites when a young man named Gideon found himself face to face with what appeared to him to be an Angel of the Lord. Yet, he doubted and his mind led him for a time as his faith and discernment had to catch up.
So, the years after Joshua died, Israel had some very difficult days and the Bible says that the next generation (sounds somewhat like the Millennials of our time) turned to other gods and away from the One God Yahweh. Here’s what it actually says:
Yet they would not listen to their judges, but they played the harlot (some translations say “they went whoring”) with other gods, and bowed down to them. They turned quickly from the way in which their fathers walked, in obeying the commandments of the Lord; they did not do so. (NKJV)
A side trail that could be followed here clearly shows the path of many of our young people and our own generation. Two paths and a crossroads there… The first, fathers and parents are not properly training their children in the ways of the Lord and are given to pluralism and post-modern culture and thinking. Churches are more concerned with entertainment than preparing young people and families for the spiritual battles of our time. There is no foundation in this, so it crumbles when the waves come against it. (Jesus’ words)
The second is that in this world, the pull and sway of carnal living is so strong that the young mind in its development and rebellion simply leave what they know to be true in search of “independence” and a perverted kind of “freedom” that does not last. A path that leads to destruction every time. Today, it seems the prophetic words of Paul in 2 Timothy, chapters 3 (three) and 4 (four) are more true now than ever. The medium of the internet and social media have escalated this to an unprecedented level. This second possibility is something I am learning more about first hand all of the time and have deliberately engaged so as to determine how we rescue our young as they fall to the siren’s songs.
But, even in all of this, I’m also learning that there can be PEACE and that we can weather any storm that comes our way. So, after a time of struggle, the Lord came to this young man named Gideon. Interestingly, Gideon was a smuggler of sorts and had engaged in milling grain unlawfully to help feed his family and likely the people of Israel under the terrorist rule of the Midianites.
He saw the angel sitting under a large oak tree! It was a great time of trial and suffering for the people of Israel. Great turmoil and oppression resulted from Israel’s struggle to maintain their walk with the Lord. But, the angel greeted Gideon (not all young people choose the broken road) and told him that the Lord was with him and then called him a “mighty man of valor.” Hmm… Interesting. At least it is to me! Valor? Mighty man?
God obviously saw something in Gideon that he didn’t see in himself. Gideon asked the angel how God could be with them when they were suffering so. He also challenged the angel’s description of him as a mighty man of valor by reminding the angel that he was young and the least of his father’s house. He was probably the youngest brother and also probably not fully developed into what would be considered a “warrior.” None the less, God saw his potential and called him out for what he is – not what Gideon thought of himself.
The story is an incredible story and you may want to consider reading it for yourself. You can find it in the Bible in the book of Judges, Chapter 6. There’s a lot of good stuff on both sides of this chapter worth exploring, but as it relates to peace, God had chosen Gideon to lead in battle. He had to convince Gideon that He was really God and that all this was actually real. Gideon tested God – you might remember the story of the “fleece.” If not, again, you may want to read the entire account.
In short, Gideon doubted God and it was only after a series of engagements with God that he suddenly realized that he was in the presence of a holy and righteous God Who had come to Him. Aren’t we all like that to a degree? I am for sure. I look back over my life and sometimes I just can’t get my head rapped around the idea that God cares about me as a person – much less that He would or even could know who I am in the vast and massive expanse of the universe He created. But somehow, He does know who I am and He does care for and love me. He has directly intervened in my life so many times over the years that it becomes impossible to deny Him as Lord.
So, as Gideon’s eyes opened, you sense quickly a humble repentance as he says, “Alas, oh Lord God!” Wow! It’s been like that for me a few times over the years. Instead of God thumping Gideon on the head or scolding him, the way so many pulpits today seem to do, God said to Gideon, “Peace on you Gideon; fear not; you will not die.”
So many people today dealing with anxiety, fear, depression and anger. But God has already provided a way of escape from these emotions and traps that threaten and capture us. God is Peace and He is ready and willing at any moment to allow His peace to enter our hearts and minds. It can be a struggle at first, but I know now first hand that when Gideon built an alter and called it YHWH Shalom, that he too, had come to the understanding that God was his peace and that God would make him complete, whole and healthy inwardly and outwardly. He knew and then experienced that God would be with him as he carried out his mission. And, so it was, Gideon served God in his life, in his relationships and in combat.
I wish I had understood the deep waters of YHWH Shalom when I was younger. But, it’s a journey. You and I can both know peace no matter what we have done, seen, experienced or what we will experience in our future. God is Peace and He will be peace for you and me when we turn to Him.
For further reading on peace and how Jesus imparts God’s peace to us, also see John 14: 27, 2 Thessalonians 3: 16, Philippians 4: 6-7. There are also numerous references to God’s peace in the Psalms. You won’t be disappointed!