God Our Peace (Jehovah Shalom)

Judges 6:24

January 30, 2005 | Brian Bill

In the Hobbit, which is Tolkien’s prequel to the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Bilbo Baggins and his friends finally find the riches they were searching for and “talked delightedly of the recovery of their treasure.” But then, almost immediately, the cold dark mountain began to rumble because Smaug, the evil dragon, had now been provoked.  Tolkien perceptively adds this line: “It does not do to leave a dragon out of your calculations, if you live near him.” 

In his book called, “The Pressure’s Off,” Larry Crabb reminds us that we live near a three-headed dragon. The world is around us, the devil prowls toward us, and the flesh lies within us.  It’s no wonder why so many of us are out of whack.  We’re surrounded by the woes of the world, Satan continuously plans sneak attacks against us, and we’re saturated with our own sinfulness.  All of that can create a kind of perpetual chaos in our lives, where we feel pressure, stress, conflict, fear, guilt and even shame.  G.K. Chesterton was right when he said, “Whatever else is or is not true, this one thing is certain—man is not what he was meant to be.”

Ever since Adam and Eve sinned, the human race has not been what it was meant to be.  Sometimes it’s because we have let too much of the world in; other times it’s because we’ve given in to the devil; and other times we’re simply done in by our propensity to sin.  Or, it’s simply circumstances that cave in on us.  Turn with me to the Book of Judges.  This book chronicles a very tough time in the history of Israel.  Judges 2:18-19 summarizes their spiritual situation: “Whenever the LORD raised up a judge for them, he was with the judge and saved them out of the hands of their enemies as long as the judge lived; for the LORD had compassion on them as they groaned under those who oppressed and afflicted them.  But when the judge died, the people returned to ways even more corrupt than those of their fathers, following other gods and serving and worshiping them.  They refused to give up their evil practices and stubborn ways.”  

The very last phrase of this book gives us insight into why things were going south for them: “…everyone did as he saw fit” (Judges 21:25).  And because of that, on seven different occasions we read of God’s people cycling through a period of rebellion which led to retribution from God.  After suffering for some time, they would eventually repent and then be restored to a time of rest and peace.  But then they’d begin the process all over again.  

Let’s look at four ways we can break out of this same cycle from Judges 6.

1. Recognize your woes (1-5).

It was during one of these all-too-common episodes that God called Gideon on the scene.  We find the nation of Israel, in typical fashion, having turned their backs on God once again.  After a time of prosperity, the people had gotten proud and then pushed God away.  That happens in our lives too, doesn’t it?  We receive a few blessings, and then we start to drift away from our spiritual moorings.  Our church attendance becomes spotty, we slow down in our serving, and we end up becoming selfish with our time, talents, and treasures.

The first step to healing and wholeness is always to admit your situation before God

Verse 1 tells us that because they did evil in the eyes of the Lord, a dragon was unleashed in the form of the mighty Midianites.  They were extremely powerful and oppressed the Israelites mercilessly.  The name Midian means “strife.”  Because things were so bad, God’s people had left their homes and were living in holes in the ground, fearing for their lives.  They had no peace at all; in fact, they were falling to pieces.  The Midianites were nomadic people, and would invade Israel every year at harvest time.  Verse 5 mentions that they would come in like locusts and would ravage the land.  As a result, God’s people were stressed out and were living in fear.  

The first step to healing and wholeness is always to admit your situation before God.  Are you in a mess, in distress, or living with stress?  If so, put your woes into words.

2. Request What You Want (6). 

Finally, after seven long years, the Israelites cried out to the Lord for help: “Midian so impoverished the Israelites that they cried out to the LORD for help.”  It’s beyond me why they would linger this long before turning back to God.  It’s as if they waited until they couldn’t take it any longer.  Does that sound familiar?  We know God is trying to get our attention but we hold out, thinking that we can handle it on our own.  Even when God allows bad stuff to percolate through the pores of our life, we often refuse to repent and return to Him.  Friend, God wants to use the tough things you are going through right now in order to get your attention!  

Has it been awhile since you’ve cried out for help?  It’s time to turn to the only one who can help you.

3. Receive His Word (7-21). 

I love verse 7 because it shows that when we cry out to God, He will respond.  In this case, He sends an unnamed prophet to remind them of their history and heritage and then he delivers the message that God expects total surrender and full devotion in verse 10: “I am the Lord your God; do not worship the gods of the Amorites…but you have not listened to me.”  While God wants us to ask for help, He wants us to receive His Word, even if it hurts.  This prophet is used by God to get them to see the depths of their depravity.  Their main problem was that they had totally forgotten God…and they needed to admit that.

I love what happens next.  Gideon was threshing some wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites.  The Hebrew word used here expresses the idea of hiding.  A winepress was made out of stone and was built underground.  When someone would thresh wheat they’d normally do it out in the open so that the wind could blow away the chaff.  But Gideon is afraid of the Midianites and so he’s whacking the wheat with a stick in an underground bunker, which may have looked liked the hole Sadaam Hussein was hiding in before his capture.  The mighty Gideon is a hero in hiding.  He’s defeated and discouraged, filled with doubts and fears.  He’s afraid of what was “out there” and he was also terrified “in here” (inside him).

Verse 12 tells us that the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon and said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.”  This time God doesn’t send a prophet, or even an understudy angel; He sends the “Angel of the Lord,” which most commentators believe is the preincarnate Christ!  By the way, in the Hebrew, this phrase, “The Lord is with you” is the root to the name “Immanuel,” God with us, which was the name used for Jesus in Isaiah 7:14 and Matthew 1:23.  

After being called a mighty warrior, Gideon questions God out loud, wondering why a bunch of bad things have happened to his people.  Verse 14 reveals that God “turned to him,” which literally means that He rotated, looked at Gideon and said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand.  Am I not sending you?”  Gideon responds by saying that his resume isn’t very impressive.  He comes from the smallest tribe, the weakest link in his clan, and he’s the youngest in his family.  

How dare we demand answers from God when we won’t even do what He has already revealed to us

God confirms His priorities with His presence in verse 16, “I will be with you.”  Gideon is given a commission but is also promised the companionship of Immanuel.  By the way, did you notice that God never answered Gideon’s questions?  That could be because the answer was obvious, or more likely it’s because Gideon’s obedience is more important.  What a good reminder for us.  We often pepper heaven with our complaints and our questions while we cross our arms and do nothing.  How dare we demand answers from God when we won’t even do what He has already revealed to us.

Gideon then has the gall to ask for the first of several signs just to be sure.  He wants the Lord to wait for a few minutes while he runs off and bakes some bread and throws a goat on the grill.  The meal is placed on a rock as an offering for the angel and then is consumed by God’s holy flames.  With the divine fire of acceptance falling upon Gideon’s offering, he responds the only way he can…in worship.

4. Respond in Worship (22-23).

When Gideon realizes that He is in the presence of the Almighty, he cries out in verse 22: “Ah, Sovereign Lord!”  He is using the names Adonai and Yahweh.  He has finally come to the point of submitting to the Sovereign LORD.  But now Gideon is very nervous because he realizes that he has been in the presence of God himself and he’s afraid that he will be struck dead.  The words of Exodus 33:20 are probably ringing in his ears: “You cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.” 

In verse 23, the LORD said to him (notice now that it is the LORD, not the Angel of the LORD), Peace!  Do not be afraid.  You are not going to die.”  I think we underestimate the impact these words had on Gideon.  He and his people had not known peace for seven long years.  They were all afraid and worried about dying every day.  And now Gideon had casually conversed with Adonai Yahweh, daring to question and complain to the King of Heaven.  God could rightly vaporize him just like he did to the meat and the bread in verse 21.  But the Lord instead pronounced peace.  Gideon was about to experience peace with God, with himself, and with others.  

Don’t miss this.  To a man who had not known peace in a long time, this was the premiere promise.  He was bursting with joy because of this blessing and therefore he wanted to mark the occasion so he would never forget.  Look at verse 24: “So Gideon built an altar to the LORD there and called it The LORD is Peace…”  This is the first, and as far as I can tell, the only time that we see this combination of names: Jehovah Shalom.  The Great I Am is Perfect Peace.  This is the third name of God in our series.  God is Elohim, the Creator of All.  He is Adonai, the Lord of All.  And He is Jehovah Shalom, the God of Peace.

The Significance of Shalom

The Lord said shalom to Gideon when He could have shamed him.  Gideon in turn, had his whole view of God changed so he made a memorial to Jehovah Shalom.  You’ve no doubt heard the word “shalom” before because it’s probably the most well-known Hebrew word, but for many of us, we don’t fully understand the depth of its meaning.

Since there is no single English word that communicates the richness of Shalom, we need to study some synonyms to grasp the broad spectrum of its meaning.  The general idea is of completion and fulfillment and brings with it the sense of wholeness and harmony in relationships, especially with God.  For Gideon to hear shalom from God meant that he was at harmony with the Holy One.  Shalom also signifies a sense of well-being on the inside, and on the outside, and is used to describe health, happiness, quietness of soul, tranquility, prosperity and security.  Isaiah pictures this beautifully in Isaiah 48:18: “If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river…”

Shalom is used as both a greeting and for a goodbye and everything in between.  It is the best blessing of one’s life and is the apex of the great high priestly benediction in Numbers 6:24-26: “The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.” 

Jehovah Shalom Slays the 3-Headed Dragon

Peace is ultimately wrapped up in a Person and is fully realized in the coming of Christ who came to share shalom with us.  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.”  The peace that the Prince of Peace provides is far different than anything we can find in the world.  Warren Wiersbe points out that the world bases its peace on its resources, while God’s peace depends on a relationship.

In fact, in John 16:33 Jesus said that the world will actually be against us: “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.”  Jesus taught that peace is found in Him alone.  And through the Savior the 3-Headed Dragon of Disobedience, Distress and Discord can be slain.

1. The Dragon of Disobedience. 

The Bible is clear that we are in conflict with God because of our sin.  Ephesians 2:3 declares that we are actually “objects of God’s wrath.”  Mankind has always been at odds with the Almighty, ever since Adam and Eve decided to disobey.  We were at war with Him, that is, until Jesus came to bring peace.  Isaiah 53:5 tells us very clearly why Jesus went through what He did: “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.”  Did you catch that?  He was punished in order to bring us into a relationship of peace with Jehovah Shalom.  

If you have not yet appropriated what Jesus did on the Cross, I have some bad news for you.  Scripture says that you will never find peace.  Isaiah 57:20-21: “But the wicked are like the tossing sea, which cannot rest, whose waves cast up mire and mud.  ‘There is no peace,’ says my God, ‘for the wicked.’” You won’t be at rest until you receive the Redeemer.  You’ll be cast to and fro by the waves of life and you’ll be stuck in the mud and mire of sin.  

That’s the bad news.  Now let me give you the good news.  Luke 1:79 declares that Jesus would “guide our feet into the path of peace.”  When He was born the heavenly host proclaimed that He would bring peace to men on whom his favor rests” (Luke 2:14). 

According to Romans 5:1, when we put our faith in Christ, we are justified and “have peace with God…”  Colossians 1:20 says that Jesus made peace through his blood, shed on the cross.”  The Greek word for peace means to “join together and to bind what is broken.”  Jesus longs to put what is broken back together.

Are you at peace with God right now?  Don’t put it off because you may not have another chance.  Perhaps you’ve seen the bumper sticker that says: “No God, no peace; Know God, know peace.  Properly understood, the New Geneva Study Bible says that “shalom is the symphony of life made meaningful through a right relationship with God.”  Don’t you want Jehovah Shalom to look at you, like he did to Gideon, and say, Peace!  Do not be afraid.  You are not going to die.”  If you want to be at peace with God, and have Him slay the dragon of disobedience, then turn to Him and say something like this: “Elohim, Adonai, and Jehovah Shalom.  You have created me but I have not been allowing you to be Lord of my life.  I am not at peace because I am a sinner.  I confess that I’m tossed to and fro and right now I repent of the way I’ve been living.  Thank you for making a way for me to be at peace with you through the blood of Jesus, shed on the cross.  I gratefully receive what you’ve done for me and by faith I ask you to forgive me for my sins.  

Gideon built an altar to memorialize his encounter with Jehovah Shalom.  If you decided today to receive your pardon from God that brings peace, I encourage you to do something to put it in your memory so you will never forget.  You may want to tell a friend or write it down or come up and tell me after the service.

2. The Dragon of Distress. 

Many of you have already made sure that the first dragon was slain in your life when you were born again.  Guess what?  It’s still possible to live in disobedience and therefore be in distress as a Christian, isn’t it?  If you’re in a sin cycle right now, cry out like Gideon did by:

  • Recognizing your woes
  • Requesting what you want
  • Receiving His Word
  • Responding in worship

Now, let’s admit something.  You might not be living in gross sin but you’re in distress because you’re worried about something.  Or maybe you’re filled with anxiety about the future.  I came across a survey that was done by Walter Cavert in which he discovered that only 8% of the things people worry about are legitimate matters of concern.  Listen to this.  The other 92% were either imaginary, never happened, or involved matters over which people have no control.

I think all of us would admit that we waste a lot of time in worry.  And yet, it can paralyze us.  The Greek word for worry means “to draw in different directions and to be distracted.”   I can think of at least two ways to get rid of distress.

First, identify what is torpedoing your peace, and then cry out to Jehovah Shalom in prayer and ask him to specifically slay this dragon.  Give him your worries and your concerns and your anxieties and your fears.  That’s what Philippians 4:6 says: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” The word for “prayer” here means to focus on the character of God by adoring His attributes and His names.  Friend, when you’re fraught with worry, get alone with God and worship Him for who He is and what He goes by.  It’s amazing how meditating on the magnitude of God will put even your problems into perspective.  The word for “petition” refers to making specific requests.  If you’re worried or anxious, tell God what it is exactly that is pulling you in different directions.

We’re told to not be anxious about anything because according to verse 5, the Lord is near.  But when we do stress out, we need to purposely pray with a dose of thanksgiving and present our worries to the Lord.  Then and only then, will we experience the inner peace we long for according to verse 7: “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  In Mark 4:39, we read how Jesus rebuked the wind and the waves and everything became “completely calm.” Jehovah Shalom can still speak these same words to our restless hearts when we’re tossed by the seas of stress and winds of worry, if we’ll but ask Him to do so.

Second, go to the Word of God and meditate on passages like Isaiah 26:3 that promote peace: “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.” The word shalom is actually used twice in this verse.  God will keep us in shalom shalom when we allow His Word to work within us.  Psalm 119:165: “Great peace have they who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble.”  If you’re having a hard time sleeping at night, claim the promise of Psalm 4:8: “I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.”  If you’re a born again believer and sometimes worry that God is against you, claim the promise of Romans 8:1.  I shared this verse with a sister just this week and it helped her a lot: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

3. The Dragon of Discord. 

Perhaps you’re at peace with God today, and for the most part, you’re experiencing personal peace, but maybe you’re at war with a fellow believer or a family member or a co-worker or a neighbor or a friend.  Jesus pronounced a blessing upon those who do the hard work of making peace in Matthew 5:9: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.”  James 3:18 promises a reward to those who get rid of discord: Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.”

As far as you know, have you done what you can to be at peace with others?  Romans 12:18: “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

Romans 14:19 reminds us that this is not always easy; it takes effort to extinguish animosity: Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.”  2 Corinthians 13:11 seems to indicate that God’s presence is somehow more real to those who pursue peace: “Be of one mind, live in peace.  And the God of love and peace will be with you.”  And when we allow Christ to be leader of our lives, we will be disgusted by discord because we know that we are members on the same team.  Colossians 3:15: “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.”

A father was trying to read a magazine but was bothered by his daughter who kept asking him what the United States looked like.  On the back of his magazine he found a map of the country and so he tore it up into real small pieces and told her to go in the other room and put it together.  He thought this would keep her busy for a long time so he could finish reading his magazine.  In less than five minutes, his daughter was back with the map completely put together.  He was surprised and asked her how she did it.  She replied, “It was easy.  On the other side of the paper is a picture of Jesus.  When I got Jesus back where He belonged, then our country just came together.”  

As we put Jesus where He belongs in our life, our community, our church, and our world, we will come together as well.  Let me close with a blessing from 2 Thessalonians 3:16: “Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way.  The Lord be with all of you.”  And may you know the names of God more deeply and personally as you experience Jehovah Shalom this week.  Amen.

Do you have any thoughts or questions about this post?