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Bible Words: Peace

By: Professor Jon Kehrer

After a commissioning by one of God’s prophets, the commander-turned-insurrectionist Jehu makes a beeline toward his former boss, King Joram. Concerned by Jehu’s erratic driving, Joram, the wicked son of Ahab and Jezebel, rides out to meet him, asking, “Is it peace, Jehu?” Jehu answers, “What peace is possible while your mother’s evil practices continue?” (2 Ki 9:22) Those are the last words Joram hears before Jehu shoots an arrow through his heart.

A messenger's words can change everything. They can bring news of life (Gen 43:27) or death (1 Sam 4:17-18). Unsurprisingly, one of the most common ways to inquire of a messenger in the Old Testament was to ask this question: “Is it peace?” (Gen 29:6, 2 Sam 18:32, 20:9, 1 Ki 4:26, 9:11, 17-18, 31)

The word for “peace” in Hebrew is šalôm (sha-LOME). It is a word that can characterize a state of well-being, wholeness, and completeness—the feeling that all is right with the world.

Speaking to a lost and hopeless people, Isaiah describes a future in which God is no longer angry with them (57:16), healing them even though they don't deserve it (57:18). This life-changing message is then declared: "Peace, peace!" (57:19) The messenger proclaims a whole, complete at-rest-ness that will characterize a sinful people now forgiven.

Paul says it this way in 2 Corinthians: God has reconciled the world to himself through Christ (5:19)! Yet for us who are saved, we are given the ministry of reconciliation (5:18). The task of proclaiming God's šalôm falls on us, the ambassadors of the King (5:20).

The world around us longs to know, "Is it peace?" Our message of šalôm changes everything.

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