John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”
“God cannot give us happiness and peace apart from Himself because it is not there. There is no such thing.”C.S. Lewis
Peace was at the forefront of the American grassroots movement in the 1960’s and 70’s. Driven by the horror of war, the desire for peace began a steady increase in intensity, permeating music, art, and politics.
Church’s began carrying monikers of peace at this time such as the dove and olive branch, symbols arose in mainstream movements intended to unify the people against the purveyors of conflict, and anger and rage was the response of those who meant to bring attention to the fear of another world war.
Any society embroiled in conflict creates a desire for peace among its people. In the 80’s it was the cold war, in the 90’s the gulf war, at the turn of the century the arab spring began to spread throughout the middle east and shaped the climate today. The conflicts are not new, the world has known nothing but war since man fell and sin reigned. Out of conflict, fear arose and men were confronted with the prospect of where to place their trust.
Many kings of old, out of fear of conflict have acted foolishly to ensure the survivability of their kingdom. As the Lord led the children of Israel out of Egypt, great fear and dread came upon the kingdoms who stood in their path.
Deuteronomy 2:25 “This day I will begin to put the dread and fear of you upon the nations under the whole heaven, who shall hear the report of you, and shall tremble and be in anguish because of you.”
As a counter to the constant threat of attack, city states would erect massive walls to repel invaders, they would build cities perched on hills to provide strategic positions against attack, or in later times moats and other forms of protection were set in place to slow down marauding armies or fend off imminent attack.
If only the world had peace…
“We are not at peace with others because we are not at peace with ourselves, and we are not at peace with ourselves because we are not at peace with God”Thomas Merton
During the reign of Hezekiah between the years 715-686 B.C., Assyria was the superpower that ruled the known world and Sennacherib, king of Assyria, came up against all the fortified cities of Judah and took them. We pick up the story in 2 Kings 18:14-16
Then Hezekiah king of Judah sent to the king of Assyria at Lachish, saying, “I have done wrong; turn away from me; whatever you impose on me I will pay.” And the king of Assyria assessed Hezekiah king of Judah three hundred talents of silver and thirty talents of gold. So Hezekiah gave him all the silver that was found in the house of the Lord and in the treasuries of the king’s house. At that time Hezekiah stripped the gold from the doors of the temple of the Lord, and from the pillars which Hezekiah king of Judah had overlaid, and gave it to the king of Assyria.
Because of his fear, Hezekiah acted rashly, in an attempt to pay off Assyria he likewise formed a bond with Egypt as a protective measure. Clearly, Hezekiah had not trusted the Kingdom of Judah to the Lord and as a result of His lack of trust, the Lord brought His rebuke.
Isaiah 30:1-3 “Woe to the rebellious children,” says the Lord,
“Who take counsel, but not of Me,
And who devise plans, but not of My Spirit,
That they may add sin to sin;
Who walk to go down to Egypt,
And have not asked My advice,
To strengthen themselves in the strength of Pharaoh,
And to trust in the shadow of Egypt!
Therefore the strength of Pharaoh
Shall be your shame,
And trust in the shadow of Egypt
Shall be your humiliation.”
The rebuke in Isaiah was one the Lord has issued multiple times to the spineless kings in history. Those who have rejected His counsel and trusted in horses and chariots have found that no measure of these forces are ever enough if the Lord is against you.
The Lord may rebuke now, but His favor is waiting for the response of faith.
Isaiah 30:18 “Therefore the Lord will wait, that He may be gracious to you;
And therefore He will be exalted, that He may have mercy on you.
For the Lord is a God of justice;
Blessed are all those who wait for Him.”
Finally, when Hezekiah realized that he was out of options, he tore his robe in anguish, put on sackcloth and ashes and humbled himself before the Lord. When he was handed a letter from the messengers of the Assyrian king that threatened to destroy the land, he took the letter, laid it out before the Lord and prayed.
“O Lord God of Israel, the One who dwells between the cherubim, You are God, You alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. Incline Your ear, O Lord, and hear; open Your eyes, O Lord, and see; and hear the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to reproach the living God. Truly, Lord, the kings of Assyria have laid waste the nations and their lands, and have cast their gods into the fire; for they were not gods, but the work of men’s hands—wood and stone. Therefore they destroyed them. Now therefore, O Lord our God, I pray, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You are the Lord God, You alone.”
What happened to Sennacherib who despised the Lord and marched his massive army to the walls of Jerusalem? He came up this time not against a weak king who had a hopeless trust in a failed Egyptian kingdom—he came up against the Lord God almighty.
2 Kings 19:35 “And it came to pass on a certain night that the angel of the Lord went out, and killed in the camp of the Assyrians one hundred and eighty-five thousand; and when people arose early in the morning, there were the corpses—all dead.”
Contrived vs. Real Peace
The moral of the story is: Peace cannot be acquired by human reason or strength, it can only be gained by trust in God alone.
“The peace of God is first and foremost peace with God; it is the state of affairs in which God, instead of being against us, is for us. No account of God’s peace which does not start here can do other than mislead.”J. I. Packer
J.I. Packer realized like so many before him where true peace lies—in the hands of our Creator. No amount of preparation is enough, no amount of hoarding of wealth, no strength is strong enough, and there isn’t enough knowledge that can be gained to bring about the peace you desire.
Romans 5:1,2 "Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God."
**True peace starts first in the heart, by faith, in Christ alone. It is through trust in God we find that all of the details in life find their place in Him. As He orders and moves, we find that the details are trivial in respect to the unsurpassing glory by which He reveals Himself.
Adherents to false religion may chant to bring about solace, they may shout to drown out the fear, they might strive after the world in hopes the world will return something of value, but value eludes the one who places their trust in a corrupt and fallen world.
People found true hope long ago…it still exists today.
There was a song I used to sing in the little christian school in which I grew up, it was from Psalm 20 and it was sung by a people thousands of years ago as well.
“Now I know that the Lord saves His anointed;
He will answer him from His holy heaven
With the saving strength of His right hand.
Some trust in chariots, and some in horses;
But we will remember the name of the Lord our God.
They have bowed down and fallen;
But we have risen and stand upright.” Psalm 20:6-8
We would do well to remember that the God who was faithful then, is the same God who is faithful today. Trust is rewarded with Peace, only when that trust is place in the ONE who is trustworthy.