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25 & 26 November 2023 (Pastoral Page) SHALOM

By Dr Peter Lim

It has been almost 80 years since World War Two ended. Unfortunately, armed conflicts have continued unabated in different parts of the world – the war in Ukraine is almost two years old; the Hamas’ shocking attack on Israel in early October has prompted the expected reprisal from Israel. Since 9/11, hostilities have become more sinister with the emergence of terrorist fanatical groups like the ISIS. From their ranks have emerged modern kamikaze suicide bombers who have created untold havoc and suffering with their misdirected heroics. Like everywhere else, Singapore is not immune from such heinous attacks. We have been constantly reminded by the authorities that we have to be prepared and stay vigilant against such atrocities. Against such a backdrop, universal peace must surely be an elusive dream.

In the war-torn Middle East where armed hostilities never seem to end, peace has special significance. This is reflected in the usual greeting of “peace be upon you”. For the Jews it is Shalom Aleichem and for the Arabs it is As-salamu alaykum. Actually, shalom means a lot more than just peace. It entails “completeness, wholeness, health, peace, safety, soundness, tranquillity, prosperity, perfectness, fulness, rest, harmony and the absence of agitation or discord” (Strong’s Concordance, 7965).

Since the Fall of Man, peace (in its broadest sense) has been elusive in our world. While the Garden of Eden was a habitat of tranquillity, serenity and harmony, east of Eden is characterised by discord, strife and conflict. Peace efforts brokered by man are at best tenuous. Sin led to man’s expulsion from the Garden of Eden and alienation from God and with it, peace. But all is not lost. Everlasting peace with God is restored when man accepts the redemptive work of Jesus Christ on the cross, reconciling man to God. (Romans 5:10,11; 2 Corinthians 5:18,19). The peace that Jesus Christ promises is firmly anchored in Himself because “He Himself is our peace”. (Ephesians 2:14).

One of the Messianic titles that Jesus Christ has is the “Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). Indeed, when our Lord Jesus Christ was born, the angelic host glorified God and proclaimed “peace on earth to all men on whom His favour rests” (Luke 2:14). As we observe Advent starting next Sunday, may we be peacemakers by leading people to reconciliation with God through the shed blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. While peace with God is the primary intent of the Gospel message, God’s desire is that there should also be peace between His created beings. (Romans 14:19; Hebrews 12:14). The Psalmist’s plea to “seek peace and pursue it” (Psalm 34:14) echoed by the apostle Peter (1 Peter 3:11) must be our guiding principle in life.

On a personal, practical level, inward peace (the peace that transcends all understanding) is God’s provision to resolve all our anxieties (Philippians 4:6,7) and is unfazed by the strife in this world (John 14:27; 16:33). It is noteworthy that the apostle Paul’s salutation in every one of his epistles is “grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ”. This two-fold blessing is also pronounced by the apostle Peter (in both epistles) and John (2 John and Revelations). Indeed, as we journey in this troubled world, may we experience and enjoy the immeasurable and incomprehensible extent of God’s love for us as expressed by the twin blessings of grace and peace, all the days of our life.

“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 (shalom)“ (Numbers 6:24-26).

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