The Advent of Peace

For the past few weeks, we at Everyday Theology have reflected on the various themes of advent. In this post, we will reflect on the theme of peace. Peace must be understood in relationship to God’s covenant with his people, the way in which his people broke the covenant, and the way in which God takes initiative to restore the covenant with his people. God provides peace through the Messiah. A careful reflection on the Old Testament understanding of peace is foundational for a New Testament understanding.

Peace Defined

The Old Covenant people of God understood peace in relationship to covenant[1]. The Hebrew word for peace is shalom (שָׁלוֹם‎). This term refers to “completeness, soundness, welfare, peace”. [2] Shalom is a word which represents wholeness or completeness. The Bible teaches that humans became broken or lacking wholeness after the fall in Genesis 3. While God’s image or the imago dei was broken and maligned, it was not lost on humanity. (Read Matt’s post on the Imago Dei to learn more.) One goal of redemption is to restore Shalom between humans and God.

Misunderstandings of Peace

Peace in the biblical sense is not an absence of war like we often think when we hear the word. Covenant peace is not the absence of trials, as some who affirm a prosperity Gospel, might believe. Biblical peace results from confident trust in the only sovereign, all-powerful, and personal redeemer. Peace must be understood in light of the suffering servant, Israel’s messiah. Consider these words from Isaiah the prophet.

But he was pierced because of our rebellion, crushed because of our iniquities; punishment for our peace was on him, and we are healed by his wounds” (Is. 53:5).


This post is developed around four questions derived from the above passage. These questions provide fertile ground for us to cultivate peace this Christmas. Let’s consider the first question that arises from the Isaiah passage.

What was punishment for?

Peace – shalom – comes about in a different manner altogether. I almost titled the blog post “Peace Through Punishment” for a reason because this is the way the shalom of God comes to believers in Jesus Christ. According to the prophet Isaiah, our peace comes about through punishment.

In the 53rd chapter of Isaiah’s prophecy, we are introduced to the suffering servant. This suffering servant is one of the main prophecies about Jesus in the Old Testament, specifically dealing with his crucifixion. In verses 1-4 of chapter 53, Isaiah describes the lowly nature of Jesus awfully like how John describes him. Isaiah says that he was “despised and rejected of men,” while John says he came to his own and his own received him not (John 1:11).

Isaiah calls him a “man of sorrows,” because of what he says in verse 5: “…he was pierced because of our rebellion, crushed because of our iniquities” (Is. 53:5). The reason Jesus was a man of sorrows is because of the necessary punishment for our sins. What was punishment for? Our sins! Our sins were the only cause for this punishment, which leads us to the next question…

Why was punishment even necessary?

If there was a necessity to punish someone for the sins of humanity, we must look further and ask the why behind the punishment altogether. I love the way Spurgeon describes the nature of our sinfulness:

There is no hope of eternal life for any man unless sin be put away. This disease never exhausts itself so as to be its own destroyer.”[3]

In this specific sermon, Spurgeon explains how our sinful natures are more than just a negative effect of something in our lives – sin is a disease and there is no cure. Sin has taken hold of us. Sin became our master in the Garden of Eden, and this master cannot be overtaken by human agency. This is because of what happened all the way back in Genesis 3 – Adam and Eve, as representatives of humanity, disobeyed God’s command and brought sin into the very makeup and fabric of all human beings.

Yet, Spurgeon explains all of this reason so well – there is no hope of eternal life for any man unless sin is put away. In other words, our sin has put boundaries on what we can do for our own peace. Because of sin and its effects, we cannot foster true peace in our lives. The reason punishment is necessary is because we could not bring back peace to ourselves by ourselves – we need someone else to do it.

This leads us to a third question…

How was our peace broken?

We hinted at it a little in the previous question, but if you go back to Genesis 3, we find the reason why we do not have true peace. Adam and Eve walked with God in perfect communion and unity in the Garden of Eden. During this relationship, God tells Adam and Eve the conditions of living in the Garden by commanding them to not eat from one specific tree. Of course, this is exactly what they did after being tempted by the devil himself.

Yet, the curse that was brought against humanity did more than make human beings a little ugly or a little bit mean – it cursed our very nature. This disobedient act took human beings away from communion with God. It took away our peace. It took away our shalom. Now, we live in this world with no peace whatsoever.

This leads me to the fourth and final question…

How can we have peace again?

This leads me to the most important phrase of this entire verse: “punishment for our peace was upon him.” The suffering servant, Jesus Christ, was stricken and smitten for our peace – for our shalom. Notice how Isaiah uses the language of substitution here – our punishment was placed on the Savior, Jesus Christ! The way in which your peace and my peace has been won was through punishing the Lord Jesus. Isaiah explains how shalom comes to those who have been cursed by sin’s effects – your punishment has been taken by someone else.

Conclusion

Ours is a world of brokenness, chaos, division, and death. Amid all the pain, many people are searching for hope, for something to anchor their lives to. People are searching for peace. Could it be that one reason we lack peace is that we look for it in all the wrong places? Peace does not exist outside of a relationship with God through Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit.

I am compelled to see the gospel here and present it to you: notice the end of verse 5, “and we are healed by his wounds” (Is. 53:5). Do you want to have peace this Christmas season? Do you feel as if your peace has been taken from you during the holidays? It might be that you have drifted from the God who wants to give you His peace. Draw near to God and he will draw near to you. You can be reconciled to God and have the Messiah’s peace through faith!

This peace is the unexplainable salvation we experience in knowing that Jesus Christ was our substitute on Calvary to pay our sin debt and make us right with God if we will place our faith in Him for salvation. Remember, shalom means things like peace, welfare, completeness; but it also means salvation. The punishment that brought us salvation was upon Him!

Your salvation will bring you peace because it is only understandable when you realize that someone took your punishment in your place on your behalf. That person is Jesus Christ – He won your peace by taking your punishment. Therefore, He is called the Prince of Peace! His punishment brings you peace if you will respond in faith!

Concluding Prayer from the Lectionary

God of timeless grace, 
you fill us with joyful expectation. 
Make us ready for the message that prepares the way, 
that with uprightness of heart and holy joy 
we may eagerly await the kingdom of your Son, Jesus Christ, who reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen.


[1] Consider Isaiah 54:10, Numbers 25:12, Ezekiel 34:25, Ezekiel 37:26, and Judges 6:24 for more on the “covenant of peace.”

[2] Francis Brown, Samuel Rolles Driver, and Charles Augustus Briggs, Enhanced Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1977), 1022.

[3] C.H. Spurgeon, “Healing by the Stripes of Jesus” A Sermon on January 1, 1888, spurgeon.org, accessed December 4, 2021, https://www.spurgeon.org/resource-library/sermons/number-two-thousand-or-healing-by-the-stripes-of-jesus/#flipbook/.

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