Week Twelve, Day Four
Shalom is a Hebrew word, so much richer in its range of meanings than the English word "peace," which usually refers to the absence of outward conflict or to a state of inner calm. The concept of shalom includes these ideas but goes beyond them, meaning "wholeness," "completeness," "finished word," "perfection," "safety," or "wellness." Shalom comes from living in harmony with God. The fruit of that harmony is harmony with others, prosperity, health, satisfaction, soundness, wholeness, and well-being. When you pray to Yahweh Shalom, you are praying to the source of all peace. No wonder his Son is called the Prince of Peace.
So Gideon built an altar to the LORD there and called it The LORD is Peace. (Judges 6:24)
PRAYING THE NAME
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
"May those who love you be secure.
May there be peace within your walls
and security within your citadels."
For the sake of my brothers and friends,
I will say,"Peace be within you." (Psalm 122:6-8)
Reflect On: Psalm 122
Praise God: For his sovereignty over the nations and rulers of the world.
Offer Thanks: For the peace we have enjoyed as a nation.
Confess: Any lack of faith in God's power to bring peace.
Ask God: To create a lasting peace in the Middle East.
Several years ago, I spent a week in Jerusalem, touring the city, praying in its churches, and visiting its holy sites. Walking its ancient walls, one day, in sight of the Mount of Olives, I began to pray, asking God to bless the city with peace, as the psalmist instructs. As I prayed, Christians, Jews, and Muslims mingled in the densely packed streets below. I could hear men shouting, carrying on an endless argument about who knows what. The air was thick with fumes from the buses that rumbled along outside the wall. I found it hard to pray, hard to believe that this noisy, smelly, fascinating city would ever find peace, hard to believe that Jerusalem means "city of peace."
A few days earlier a Jewish man had been stabbed by a Muslim extremist as he walked through the butcher's market, his blood mingling with that of the animals slaughtered there. That week the Greek Orthodox Patriarch was injured in a riot while leading a procession near a house in the Old City that had been taken over by Jewish extremists. Their actions had set off a territorial dispute within the city. As I walked through the narrow streets shortly after the riot, I could smell tear gas mingled with incense.
Dissension, it seems, is a way of life in Jerusalem. And it isn't just Jews and Arabs who are at war. Ultraorthodox Jews fight with other Jews about regulations regarding food, dress, and Sabbathkeeping. Some Jewish women have been stoned and spit on because of how they dress. One woman, dressed in a short-sleeve shift cut above the knee, returned to her parked car to find the tires slashed, the doors covered with a film of eggs, and a flyer taped to a nearby wall proclaiming the message that "Parking in Immodest Dress Is Forbidden."
Unfortunately, some of Jerusalem's Christians are no better. At times the Israeli police have had to break up fistfights between monks from various sects arguing about the care and control of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, one of Christendom's holiest shrines. It's a mess, a shambles, a shame. What if Jesus were to walk through the streets of Jerusalem today? It's not hard to imagine him weeping over it as he did two thousand years ago.
But there are worse stories—far worse—such as the recent report of an Israeli helicopter firing five missiles into a car containing an Hamas official and his two bodyguards. All three of the bodies were burned and bloodied beyond recognition. Enraged by what they had just seen, a group of Palestinian men gathered around the vehicle, dunking their fists in the blood and soot and then raising them in the air, threatening revenge and chanting, "God is great."
We shake our heads at the madness, wondering where it will end and fearful because the problems of this region of the world have now become our problems, though we little understand them. Today as you read the news about the Middle East, do something more than simply shaking your head and turning the page. Take a moment to pray for the peace of Jerusalem and for the people who live there—Jewish, Muslim, and Christian. Plead with Yahweh Shalom that there will be a new openness to the gospel, the only true hope for peace. Try to make this prayer your habit whenever you listen to the news. And remember that peace in Jerusalem is what will make peace in the rest of the world possible.
For more from Ann Spangler, visit her blogspot on Christianity.com. Be sure to check out Ann's newest book, Praying the Attributes of God: A Daily Guide to Experiencing His Greatness.