What Is Shalom? The True Meaning

There’s an ancient Hebrew concept of peace. Rooted from the word “shalom,” but it dines not only mean peace – there is so much more. It means wholeness, completeness, soundness, health, safety, and prosperity and it carries with the implication of permanence.

Shalom And Peace

Peace! Peace! Peace! Every body’s for it. No body is against it. But what is that very elusive quality we call peace? For it means different things to different people.

  • Peace is what those who follow Eastern religions and say it only comes through the obliberation of the individual personality; becoming a part of the Universe with no awareness of self. But they really mean serenity.
  • Peace is what that elderly neighbor wants when the teenager across the street is practicing on their drums.
  • Peace is what the shopkeeper wants when their worried about paying the bills. They really mean that they’d like there store to be busy and bustling with customers. Peace to them means prosperity.
  • The patient waiting anxiously in the doctor’s office to be told the results of the lab tests wants peace. They really want good health.

At the most extreme, some, like Hitler, peace results from killing people- at least it means killing to attain their kind of peace.

When we don’t have what we think we should have, we say we need peace.

Peace Cannot Be Determined By Our Own Biased Viewpoints or selfish needs

Defining Peace

“Peace” is oftentimes defined as the condition of life that should be. But who has the right to determine what should be and what shouldn’t be? If all of us could get the kind of peace we wanted, it would be an imposed peace. It would be peace at the expense of someone else’s dream of what peace should be. Peace cannot be determined by our own biased viewpoints or selfish needs. Nor can our standard for peace be set by the norm of our turbulent society. So where can we look, if not to ourselves or society? How do we set up criteria for defining “peace?”

Webster’s definition centers are two major themes. One deals with the cessation of hostilities. The other focuses on the freedom from inner turmoil, better known as peace of mind.

We can look at the outworking of these two themes by seeing how two distinct cultures interpret peace. The word, as common,y used in English, comes from the Latin word “pax.” Pax to the Romans meant cessation of hostilities between the conquers and the vanquished. The peace was alway temporary because it depended on who was in the position of strength. (Which is how the World is operating today).

The Difference Between “PeaceAnd Shalom

One can dictate a peace; Shalom is a mutual agreement. Peace is a temporary pact treaty: Shalom is the condition of peace. Peace can be negative, the absence of commotion. Shalom is positive, the presence of serenity. Peace can be partial; Shalom is whole. Peace can be determined by circumstances; Shalom is complete.

God Of Peace

God’s name is peace and is bound together in peace.

Peace is a positive thing, the essential means by which men of differing temperaments and opinions can work together for the common good. Pearls of individual virtue would be dim in isolation were it not for the string of peace that binds them together and so increases their luster. That is why peace in a name of God for it is He who gives unity to the whole creation.


God’s Shalom

The criteria for Shalom, true peace, then rests with God. The definition of peace must begin with the assumption that there is a Creator and that He has established a standard for us. Hence, there must come an acceptance (at least for the understanding of this post) of the way in which God has chosen to reveal Himself to man – through the Bible.

Shalom In The Bible

The first example of peace in the Bible is the condition that existed in the beginning in the Garden of Eden. There is good reason to believe the Genesis account of creation, but even if you do believe it literally, the message still demonstrates a lesson of peace.

Adam And Eve Disobeyed And The Shalom Of God Was Lost For Them

Adam and Eve were at peace with God and all He created. Their needs were supplied. They did not suffer hunger, disease or pain of any kind. Beauty surrounded them so they could experience and enjoy it. They weren’t lonely they had each other, and more importantly, they had an intimate relationship with God. If any people ever experienced peace it was Adam and Eve. The only condition of peace existed in the Garden on,y as long as they were obedient to God’s will. Unfortunately, they disobeyed and the Shalom of God was lost.

Shalom In The Old Testament

If through Adam and Eve we see that peace was lost through disobedience, in Abraham we see the opposite:

Then God said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.” Early the next morning Abraham got up and saddled his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he told his servants to stay behind and he set out for the place God had to,d him about.”

Genesis 22:2-3

It seems beyond the comprehension to follow such instructions at all, let alone to do it without anger, anxiety or despair. But Abraham obeyed God. He recognized that God had the right to require Isaac’s life if He chose. This trust and reliance in the One who created him made it possible for Abraham to have peace of mind, even when all his natural senses much have told him otherwise.

Adam and Eve could not follow a simple rule God had set for then. As a result they were banished from the Garden. The cynic will lament. “I have tried to make right things happen. I’ve worked abs I’ve hoped, but everyone eventually disappoints me. You say I should hope in God? It’s like asking me to trust in the tooth fairy! How can I believe in a supernatural being?”

This lack of trust in an almighty God is reflected in the story of a 9-year old boy returning from a Hebrew school who tells his mother about the day’s lesson.

The young boy told his mother about: the rabbi that told how God sent Moses behind the enemy lines ti rescue the Israeli from the Egyptians. When they came to the Red Sea, Moses called for the engineers to understand a pontoon bridge. . After they had all crossed, they looked back and saw the Egyptian tank coming. Quick as a flash Moses radioed headquarters on his walk-in-talkies to sent in the bombers to destroy the bridge, and that’s how he saved the Israelites.

His mother, astounded, said to the boy., “Son, is that really the way the rabbi told that story?”

“Well, not exactly, Mom. But if I told it his way you’d never have believed it!”

The story was humorous because it’s all too true. When things are bigger than our own life experience, we “translate” them into what we consider to be understandable dimensions. The danger in doing this is that when we translate God’s acts, we are by our limited understanding, diminishing who God is. We diminish the possibility of peace in our lives because we diminish the One who has the power to give us peace.

Attaining Peace

Peace, lasting peace, transcends the situation and flaws of our own personal lives because it doesn’t come from us. It comes from God. The prophet Isaiah wrote, “You will keep in perfect peace who mind is steadfast, because he rust in you. Trust the Lord forever, for the Lord, is the Rock forever” (Isaiah 26:3-4). Trusting God means recognizing Him and giving Him His rightful place in our lives. We are not in a position to attain peace ourselves.

We are however, in a place to choose peace. I believe that Jesus came to be an agent of that peace God promises (Isaiah 9:6-7) by first giving us the Opportunity to be reconciled with God. And I believe it is possible to experience all the qualities of Shalom that God promises – wholeness, completeness, soundness, health, safety, when we look to Him.

I wish you Shalom Peace

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