Jehovah Shalom, the Lord is Peace
In August 2013 I climbed my first big hill by bicycle. The peak, Mt. Josephine, is located in the Sawtooth Mountains on scenic Highway 61 in the northeastern corner of Minnesota, about 5 miles from the Canadian border. It was a steep 1000 feet of elevation climbed over the course of only one mile. After arriving at the top of the hill and past a wall of rock, I was able to look south and gaze out for miles across Lake Superior as I caught my breath. The lake was more like an ocean with its waves and vastness, even a huge barge off in the distance. If I looked to the other side of the road I could see Teal Lake to the north. In stark contrast to the seemingly limitless Lake Superior, I could see the small lake in its entirety, it’s shores completely surrounded by green trees. Its water was like glass, the warm sun reflecting off of the still, blue water; no boats, no houses, no waves. Peace.
Jehovah Shalom means “the Lord is peace.” We first see this name for God appear in Judges chapter 6. Here we meet Gideon, the youngest son in the weakest family of the smallest tribe of Israel. At that time Israel is being oppressed by Midian and they need to hide their crops from the enemy.This is where we see Gideon—threshing wheat in a winepress—hiding from the Midianites.
The angel of the LORD appears to Gideon and calls him a “mighty man of valor” and instructs him to “go in this might” and save Israel from Midian. This calling seemed extreme and Gideon doubts. His heart immediately goes to his standing in his family, as the youngest, and in the community, as a member of the smallest clan. In fact, he doubts so greatly that he is the one chosen to save the people that he requests a sign from the angel, and the angel gives him a sign by making fire from a rock and burning up a meal.
When Gideon realizes he has actually been in the presence of the angel of the LORD, his reaction is one of sheer panic. But the Lord speaks again saying to him, “Peace be to you. Do not fear; you shall not die.” Gideon responds in worship by building an altar and naming it, “The LORD is Peace”.
Jehovah Shalom, The LORD is Peace. In the midst of chaos and oppression, Gideon was looking for peace. The winepress provided a bit of peace. It was hidden and out of sight. Being a son in a small family, a part of a small tribe provided some peace. Gideon was not looking to be called by the Lord to save the nation, but the LORD called and the LORD would provide.
We should give Gideon a bit of a break for all of his peace seeking—he doesn’t know the end of the story like we do. He doesn’t know how the LORD fulfilled his promises to his people through Jesus Christ. But we do. Jehovah Shalom, The LORD is Peace.
So often we seek peace gazing at lakes after a tough climb or taking refuge in our own winepress (ie: social distancing in our homes) from a virus that is sweeping through the world (and that is not a bad idea). However, our pursuit of peace in the ever–changing circumstances of our world always fall short of real peace. Teal Lake could be developed, the trees surrounding it replaced with lake houses, it’s still waters rippled by boats. Our houses may not keep us safe, and, in fact, could create other tensions or reveal other weaknesses in our character. Being confined to our homes with our kids for weeks on end could very easily result in a lack of peace.
Gideon didn’t know where to look for real peace, but, Christians, we do. We have the LORD. We have documented acts of his faithfulness in Gideon’s story and in so many others throughout scripture. You and I as believers have the Holy Spirit living within us. We have experienced the transforming work of the Holy Spirit and we did not die. We know the LORD. Much like Gideon’s fear of the Midianites, we have fears that drive us into hiding and yet the LORD has called us out on mission. In this time of uncertainty, don’t settle for temporary peace that can be changed or compromised. Settle for the LORD who is at hand, who gives and takes away, who sets kings and rulers in place and removes them. He is the LORD who keeps his promises, no matter the circumstance. Jehovah Shalom.
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