From Praying the Names of Jesus Week Eight, Day Four
Who hasn't longed for peace, living in a world that is so often full of strife? The Hebrew word for peace, however, means much more than the absence of conflict or the end of turmoil. Shalom conveys not only a sense of tranquility but also of wholeness and completion. To enjoy shalom is to enjoy health, satisfaction, success, safety, well-being, and prosperity. Though the New Testament does not directly call Jesus the Prince of Peace, this title from Isaiah has traditionally been associated with him as the One who brings peace to the world. Furthermore, Paul assured the Ephesian Christians saying of Jesus, "He himself is our peace" (Ephesians 2:14). When you pray to Sar Shalom, you are praying to the One who is the source of all peace. To live in peace is to live in his presence.
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.
Praying the Name
As he [Jesus] approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, "If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace — but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God's coming to you." Luke 19:41-44
For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. Romans 8:20-23
Praise God: For his promised redemption.
Offer Thanks: For the ways you have experienced God's mercy rather than his judgment.
Confess: Any tendency to rationalize your sins.
Ask God: To bring good out of evil, spreading the gospel of peace throughout the world.
Dilip Sivakumar has always made his living from the sea. After spending much of his life on the water, he rarely has trouble navigating.
"Once I see the shore, I see a certain tree, the roof of my house, then I know the currents and I get in," he said. In December of 2004, he and his younger brother were fishing, twenty miles offshore. "We could tell something strange was happening," he said about the sea. Things were so strange, in fact, that this seasoned fisherman had trouble locating his village when he scanned the horizon. "I could see the trees, but I couldn't see any buildings. I thought, Am I lost?" Then the truth set in. His village on the south coast of Sri Lanka had been destroyed.
There was nothing left to find. It had been devastated by the tsunami that had developed in the Indian Ocean, claiming the lives of perhaps 225,000 people.
That day, Dilip lost more than half the members of his extended family.1 Multiply his grief a million and a half times (the number of people displaced from their homes by the tsunami) and you get a tragedy of enormous proportions.
While this region of the world suffered so horribly, the rest of us stayed glued to our television sets, unable to comprehend the extent of the devastation even though we saw the bodies, bloated and decomposing on the beach, even though we heard the cries of those whose children were ripped from their arms by the ruthless seas. The stories continue, horrifying and bizarre. In one village, nine women claimed to be the mother of a lone orphan. The husband of one of the women threatened that he and his wife would commit suicide if they were not awarded the child while another woman threatened murder.2 Finally, through DNA testing, the baby was reunited with his true parents.
In addition to claiming lives, this natural disaster has challenged the faith of people around the world. How could a loving God allow it? Is he angry? Weak? Uncaring? Where is the protection we thought he owed us by virtue of our religious beliefs and practices? Does he even exist?
These questions deserve our respect. The world's grief is strong and deep. But as I have tried to make sense of the tragic circumstances, I have discovered one thing about natural disasters. They are not all that natural, at least in terms of God's original design. Scripture tells us that in the beginning, creation was a place of natural order, peace, and harmony. In fact the word "peace" as it is used in the Bible contains within it the notion of completion. When God's work is complete, things are as they should be.
But sin has spoiled the peace, disrupted life, and caused fractures and divisions within the natural world. As a result our universe, though it is beautiful, has also become treacherous. Life is not as it should be. As St. Paul so vividly put it, all creation groans, awaiting the day when it too will be delivered from its bondage to death and decay. I do not believe that a wrathful God presided over the tsunami in the Indian Ocean. But God may have watched and wept as Jesus wept over Jerusalem when he envisioned the death and destruction his people would one day suffer at the hands of the Roman army. He wept because they did not know what made for peace.
No matter how broken our world is, it is still right to call God loving, still right to hail Jesus as the Prince of Peace. During his life on earth he calmed the storm, walked on the water, healed the sick, and brought the dead to life. These are signs that he intends to restore God's plan for creation, to bring it to completion by inaugurating and establishing the new creation. One day Jesus Christ will enable the lion and the lamb to lie down together, making the world what it should be. A place where there is no more death, no more decay, no more illness or suffering or sorrow. A place where sin cannot be found and peace will reign from sea to sea. Until then, we must help those who suffer and console those who grieve. We must pray for peace and work for peace and refuse to accept a world that is less than it should be and less than it will be. And as we pray, let us remember that Jesus not only brings us peace, he is our peace.
Two of Ann Spangler's most-loved books have been released in paperback: Praying the Names of God and Praying the Names of Jesus.
These books help us understand the biblical context in which these names and titles were revealed, and help us gain a more intimate knowledge of the Father and of the Son.