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“What Makes Peace So Elusive?”

Dec.4, 2011 Ps.85:1-2,8-13/various


From the international news to everyday life, there’s no shortage of disturbing incidents that reflect our world’s lack of peace. One such image this past week was that of a mob storming the British embassy in Tehran and burning the Union Jack (also an Israeli flag was shown being destroyed); the protesters were reacting to British calls for stiffer sanctions against Iran because of its renegade nuclear program.

    Family tensions can be sources of conflict, though they seldom make the news. Couples feud over differences of opinion, like whether new Christmas lights are needed, or how much to spend on gifts this year. Perhaps you make an innocent enough comment on Facebook, but the person takes it the wrong way and ‘un-friends’ you. Or, perhaps you’ve expressed an opinion about something in the community and find yourself attacked by another person with an opposite viewpoint. Peace can be an exceedingly fragile, rare commodity! It’s so precious, yet it can’t be bought with money. Why is it so elusive? Why isn’t there more of it?


The Bible does have a lot to say about the subject of peace; the word occurs some 230 times in the New International Version. Rather than classify and go through them all, I’ve had to restrain myself to what seem to be the most potent passages. I’ve boiled down a sort of ‘top ten’ list of what struck me as the passages most worth memorizing on the subject – actually 15 total. Why memorize? Isaiah 26:3 says God ‘will keep in perfect peace [the person] whose mind is stayed on Thee’ (NASV): verses in memory help you ‘stay’ or ‘anchor’ your mind, your concentration on the Lord, especially when difficulties arise and it seems the bottom’s falling out. And Romans 8:6 holds that “the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace.” Scripture memory provides raw material for the Holy Spirit to use when you’re stressed, to speak God’s reassuring promises back to you.

    So, in the bulletin you can find my ‘short list’ of key passages about peace...Whatever else you get out of this sermon, I hope that some of those verses you will take to heart so that, next time you’re in a fix, the Holy Spirit will help you pull one out of a mental cubbyhole so you can ‘stay your mind’ on God and experience His peace, regardless of circumstances.


As I selected and boiled down from the over 200 references to peace, some 27 passages stood out as emphasizing peace is something that comes from God, it’s His gift or grant. He’s the real source of peace. Leviticus 26:6, “I will grant peace in the land...” God promises the Israelites. Numbers 6:26, in the blessing of Aaron, “the Lord turn His face toward you and give you peace.” Judges 6:24, after an angel appears to Gideon and promises him victory over the marauding Midianites, he builds an altar to Yahweh and calls it “The Lord is Peace”. In 1Chronicles 22 David recalls God promised him “you will have a son who will be a man of peace and rest...His name will be Solomon [man of peace], and I will grant Israel peace and quiet during His reign.”

    In 2Chron 14(6) about good King Asa, it’s said no one was at war with him “for the Lord gave him rest.” Likewise in 2Chron 20(30), “And the kingdom of Jehoshaphat was at peace, for his God had given him rest on every side.”

    Psalm 4:8, “I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.” 29:11, “...the Lord blesses His people with peace.” 147:14, “He [God] grants peace to your borders...”

    Then we have the prophets: Isaiah 26:12, “LORD, you establish peace for us; all that we have accomplished you have done for us.” Jeremiah expresses this hope for Israel after the exile in 33:6, “Nevertheless, I [God speaking] will bring health and healing to it; I will heal my people and will let them enjoy abundant peace and security.” Note the association of ‘healing’ with peace: the Hebrew word for peace, “shalom”, is synonymous with wholeness, completeness, soundness, well-being, one’s welfare, being in harmony or concord with another. Much more than just an absence of conflict! When you ask someone, “Are you well?” in a way in the Hebrew sense you’re asking, “Are you at peace? Are you experiencing shalom?”

    Shalom or peace is closely linked to salvation; so Jesus could just as easily say, “Your faith has saved you” or “Your faith has healed you.” So when we refer to Jesus as our Saviour (Ye-shua = YHWH saves), we’re claiming He is our Shalom, our Peace. This whole area of ‘peace’ is very close to the core of who Jesus is for us!

    But I’m getting ahead of myself. As the Old Testament draws to a close, we see the prophets hold out hope for a Messiah that would bring peace. Zechariah 9:10, “I will take away the chariots from Ephraim and the war-horses from Jerusalem, and the battle bow will be broken.He will proclaim peace to the nations.[including Gentiles too]” And some 700 years before it came to pass, Isaiah 53(5) peers ahead in the Spirit to say how the Christ or Messiah would obtain peace for a world of sinners: “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.”

    So, centuries later, Christ was born; but the Jewish people on the whole did not recognize Him as the predicted Messiah. Jesus lamented to Jerusalem, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace— but now it is hidden from your eyes.” To His disciples, those who were receptive, Jesus could say in John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.I do not give to you as the world gives.Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” And 16:33, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.In this world you will have trouble.But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

    We are seeing that peace, in the Biblical sense, has to come from God, it’s HIS doing, His gift. In Ephesians 2(14f) Paul describes how Jesus “is our peace”, destroying the dividing wall of hostility between Jew and Gentile; He abolished in his flesh the law with its regulations, thus making peace. In Colossians 1:20 God was pleased “through him to reconcile to himself all things...by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” That’s the secret or key to peace right there, what Jesus was doing on skull-hill, absorbing all the enmity and wrath that our sins legitimately draw to make us a deserving target. That immense mercy is the motor that makes forgiveness and reconciliation possible between us and God, and consequently between us and others (including those who’ve wronged us). Because peace is God’s gift, we receive it by faith: Romans 5:1, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ...”


When peace is mentioned in the New Testament, it’s predominantly associated with ‘grace’, God’s unmerited favour granted to undeserving sinners on account of Jesus’ giving of Himself for us at the cross.He is the perfect sacrifice atoning for or paying our debt. So 17 times we find ‘grace and peace’ paired in what became the ‘typical’ Christian greeting and benediction as the inspired writers created the New Testament. Romans 1:7, “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ”; basically the same greeting in 1Cor 1(3), 2Cor 1(2), Gal 1(3), Eph 1(2), Php 1(2), 2Thess 1(2), Philemon 1(3). Sometimes this is shortened to just “grace and peace to you” - 1Thess 1(1). Three times it’s expanded to include ‘mercy’ in the middle - grace, mercy, and peace: 1Tim 1(2), 2Tim 1(2), and 2John 1(3). In both his letters Peter expands it by saying, “Grace and peace be yours in abundance” (1Pet 1:2; 2Pet 1:2).

    So, what’s this saying to us? 17 times the classic Christian greeting is “grace and peace” in some form, not ‘hello’; what’s that imply? Do others we meet and live with perceive us as people of ‘grace and peace’ - or ‘grab and poke’ instead? Perhaps elbow and shove in the shopping line-ups, or ‘grab that parking spot first’ when the lot’s jam-packed at the mall? Do we communicate God-bestowed grace and peace in our interactions with others?

    Jesus didn’t say much about peace per se, but He did command something rather unique. Luke 10:5f, “When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; if not, it will return to you.” Isn’t that rather novel? As if ‘peace’ is something we bring with us to convey, that as Jesus’ ambassadors we can let ‘rest’ on folks in a place if they’re receptive.

    So, in Christ we can bring ‘grace and peace’ rather than ‘grab and poke’. Not knives and forks that cut and jab, but spoons that scoop up people when they’re at risk of dissolving in a puddle! A Christ-follower slipped away from a Christmas party early in order to go be a friend to her co-worker whose verbally-abusive husband had recently left and wasn’t coming back; that’s an example of choosing to be an agent of ‘grace and peace’.


The Bible cautions that we’re unlikely to experience peace if we’re giving ground to the Enemy by coddling sin in our lives. This is the interference of sin, or we might call it ‘sin-terference’. 2Kings 9:22, “When Joram saw Jehu he asked, "Have you come in peace, Jehu?" "How can there be peace," Jehu replied, "as long as all the idolatry and witchcraft of your mother Jezebel abound?"” There the sin of idolatry and witchcraft was blocking peace.

    Psalm 85:8, “I will listen to what God the LORD will say; he promises peace to his people, his saints— but let them not return to folly.” Don’t turn to folly, to foolishness, not listening to God, if you want the peace He promises. Proverbs 14:30, “A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.” Here envy is in sharp contrast to peace in its effect on us. In the recent local play “The Best Present of All”, the main character ‘Jennifer’ experienced much more peace when she quit being consumed by envy for both a new mountain bike AND iPhone for Christmas. Isaiah 48:22 and 57:21 put it concisely: “‘There is no peace,’ says the Lord, ‘for the wicked.’” Wickedness and peace just don’t go together! Isaiah 59:8, no one who walks in crooked or unjust paths will know peace. And in 1Peter 3(11), to “turn from evil” parallels to “seek peace and pursue it.”

    So, if you’re longing for peace in your life, first ask the Holy Spirit to highlight any sin or blind spots that might be preventing you from knowing the peace a perfectly righteous God can give.


The corollary of the ‘sin-terference’ principle could be that peace comes packaged with righteousness; when with God’s help we get rid of sin and turn from evil, we let Christ’s righteousness become evident in our life. Often in the Scripture references to peace, righteousness is closely associated.

    Psalm 85:10 has this beautiful word picture, “righteousness and peace kiss each other.” Prov 16:7, “When a man’s ways are pleasing to the LORD, he makes even his enemies live at peace with him.” How much more direct can you get than Isaiah 32:17, “The fruit of righteousness will be peace; the effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence forever.” 54:13, “All your sons will be taught by the LORD, and great will be your children’s peace.” Here, peace is in parallel with being ‘taught by the Lord’: are we letting God’s teaching direct our life?

    One of the most famous Christmas-related prophecies is found in Isaiah 9:6-7, a key summary anticipating what the Messiah or Christ would be like. Note the linking of governing and peace, righteousness and peace: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.” If you want peace in your life, let the Lord govern you to develop His righteousness. Don’t expect His peace if you’re resisting His governing!

    In the New Testament, Paul makes a profound observation in Romans 14:17: “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit...” Philippians 4:9, “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me— put it into practice.And the God of peace will be with you.” Are you putting obedience into practice? Then the path is open for God to grant His peace. 1Thessalonians 5:23, “May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” As you grow in sanctification, holiness, you will sense God’s peace.

    Hebrews 12:11, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful.Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” Peace is one of the rewards for discipline, along with righteousness; if we won’t practice self-control, we’re undercutting any chance of enjoying true peace.(see also 2Tim 2:22; James 3:18)

    Ask for God’s help to grow in righteousness and self-discipline. It’s difficult to make real changes and find peace without Him. Sports broadcaster Harry Kalas once introduced a Philadelphia Phillies baseball player, Garry Maddox, with these words: “He has turned his life around - he used to be depressed and miserable; now he’s miserable and depressed.” (!)


Relationships on the human level often lack peace because our ego gets in the way. Since the Fall of Adam and Eve, we’re basically selfish creatures; we secretly want to ‘be like God’ so wind up banished and isolated, like Cain plotting murderously against Abel out of envy and relentless shame and comparison (Genesis 3:5; 1Jn 3:12). So a major factor in finding peace has to do with aligning our rebellious will in proper relationship to God. Job 22:21, “Submit to God and be at peace with Him...” (Yet how our culture rankles against that ‘submit’ word!) Psalm 37:11, “But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy great peace.” Who? The meek? We hardly know the meaning of the word. Concise Oxford has “humble and submissive; suffering injury etc.tamely.” Without Jesus dying that way for us, redemption wouldn’t be possible. To be ‘meek’ isn’t exactly honoured in the media; how many ‘meek’ stars do you know?

    Isaiah 26:3, “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.” Peace comes in trusting God, letting Him be in charge. Acts 9:31 recalls a time when the early church “enjoyed a time of peace” - how? “Encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it grew in numbers, living in the fear of the Lord.”

    Paul wrote in Romans 8:6, “The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace...” Dare we let God control our mind? Are you concentrating, reading the Bible, memorizing and meditating on verses, humming lyrics to Christian music, to give His Spirit some active ‘real estate’ in your head? I really enjoy my MP3 player – now when I have to drive somewhere, I have John Piper or Ravi Zacharias or some author of a recent Christian audiobook speaking to me as if they were sitting right there in the passenger seat. What a privilege!

    Unselfish toward God; peace is also majorly enhanced when we’re submissive not bully-ish toward others. 2Corinthians 13:11, “...be of one mind, live in peace.And the God of love and peace will be with you.” Not ‘everybody thinking their own way’ but ‘be of one mind’. Colossians 3:15, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.And be thankful.” Let Christ’s peace - what?! RULE, govern; we’re ‘called’ to peace as members of a single body. And listen to the unselfish adjectives in James 3:17, “But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.” Kind of hard to start a row with someone who’s considerate, submissive, and impartial!

    If you long for peace, be God-submitted instead of selfish; not “I” but “M-E-E” - short for “Make Every Effort”. Eph 4:3, “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” Hebrews 12:14, “Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy...” 2Peter 3:14, since we’re looking forward to the day of the Lord’s coming, “Make every effort to be found spotless, blameless, and at peace with Him.” M-E-E, don’t exert your EGO but your EFFORT to live in peace with the Spirit and others.

    Watch that selfishness doesn’t sabotage you! Trying to make a big impression doesn’t promote peace, but can be our undoing. A newly promoted army colonel moved into his new and impressive office. As he sat behind his big new desk, a private knocked at his door. The colonel said, “Just a minute - I’m on the phone.” He picked up the phone and said loudly, “Yes, sir, General, I’ll call the President this afternoon.No, sir, I won’t forget.” Then he hung up the phone and told the private to come in. The colonel asked, “What can I help you with?” “Well, sir,” the private replied, “I’ve come to hook up your phone.” (!) Let’s pray.