By: Mark Tabata (Evangelist)
God, in His infinite wisdom, has revealed Himself to mankind in a unique way: through the testimony of words. As the Apostle Paul wrote:
1 Corinthians 2:13-These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual.
Since the Bible is written in words, it is important that we study to understand the special meanings and nuances of words.
This is part of what it means to study God’s Word (2 Timothy 2:15); to be diligent in our growth as Christians in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:17-18).
With these things in mind, I want to tell you about a word that is often used throughout the Old Testament that teaches us some very important lessons.
It is the Hebrew word shalom, which is usually translated as “peace.”
Now, the translation of “shalom” as “peace” is adequate; but its’ meaning is much deeper and richer than we often realize, and its’ meaning sheds light-not only on the definition of peace-but also on the subject of why God is so offended by sin itself.
Quoting Cornelius Plantinga, McDowell and Morrow tell us:
“The webbing together of God, humans, and all creation in justice, fulfillment, and delight is what the Hebrew prophets call shalom. We call it peace, but it means far more than mere peace of mind between enemies. In the Bible, shalom means universal flourishing, wholeness, and delight—a rich state of affairs in which natural needs are satisfied and natural gifts fruitfully employed, a state of affairs that inspires joyful wonder as its Creator and Savior opens doors and welcomes the creatures in whom he delights. Shalom, in other words, is the way things ought to be…God is, after all, not arbitrarily offended. God hates sin not just because it violates his law but, more substantively, because it violates shalom, because it breaks the peace, because it interferes with the way things are supposed to be…. We may safely describe evil as any spoiling of shalom, whether physically (e.g., by disease), morally, spiritually, or otherwise.” (Sean McDowell and Johnathan Morrow, Is God Just A Human Invention? And Seventeen Other Questions Raised By The New Atheists, 3268-32277 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; Kregel Digital Editions)
Sin has brought unimaginable suffering to this creation: more so than we can even imagine.
Before sin there was no suffering (Genesis 3:17), and no death (Genesis 2:15-17). The global Flood was a direct result of the sin of man (Genesis 6), and forever changed the topography and geology of the Earth so that we may never know what the pre-Flood world was like in its’ beauty (Psalm 104:4-9).
Yet even more than the physical effects of sin, we begin to realize from the word shalom about the terrible relational effects of rebellion against God.
The beautiful and harmonious plans that God envisioned and hoped for with man’s creation were destroyed by the breaking of His perfect and good law: we may never comprehend the incredible Paradise that might exist at this moment if sin had not marred the Creation through man’s misuse of freewill.
With these thoughts in mind, let’s observe a few things.
First, sin is always bad.
It is always bad in that it brings about the breaking of God’s perfect plan for man. While sin is pleasurable, it’s pleasures are passing and will eventually give way to heartbreak (cf. Hebrews 11:24-26).
Sin brings about the dismantling of God’s perfect plan: it merits’ His holy wrath on account of His perfect Nature and because of the breaking of His shalom.
We learn-from Scripture and from experience-to trust in God’s Word even when we do not fully understand how His Way is better. The whole record of human existence demonstrates that it is better to trust and obey God!
Second, we also see the terrible price of sin in seeing what it cost God to save us: the giving of His Son Jesus Christ.
The sin of man led to the suffering of the Savior. In the broken body of Jesus, we begin to realize how terrible sin truly is. It is at the Cross that we see the horror that sin is, the shalom that was shattered beyond perception.
John Piper has written:
“If God were not just, there would be no demand for his Son to suffer and die. And if God were not loving, there would be no willingness for his Son to suffer and die. But God is both just and loving. Therefore his love is willing to meet the demands of his justice….This is what sin is—dishonoring God by preferring other things over him, and acting on those preferences. Therefore, the Bible says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). We glorify what we enjoy most. And it isn’t God. Therefore sin is not small, because it is not against a small Sovereign. The seriousness of an insult rises with the dignity of the one insulted. The Creator of the universe is infinitely worthy of respect and admiration and loyalty. Therefore, failure to love him is not trivial—it is treason. It defames God and destroys human happiness….There is a holy curse hanging over all sin. Not to punish would be unjust. The demeaning of God would be endorsed. A lie would reign at the core of reality….This is the meaning of the word “propitiation” in the text quoted above (Romans 3:25). It refers to the removal of God’s wrath by providing a substitute. The substitute is provided by God himself. The substitute, Jesus Christ, does not just cancel the wrath; he absorbs it and diverts it from us to himself. God’s wrath is just, and it was spent, not withdrawn. Let us not trifle with God or trivialize his love. We will never stand in awe of being loved by God until we reckon with the seriousness of our sin and the justice of his wrath against us. But when, by grace, we waken to our unworthiness, then we may look at the suffering and death of Christ and say, “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the [wrath-absorbing] propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10).” (John Piper, Fifty Reasons Jesus Came To Die, 20-21 (Kindle Edition): Wheaton, Illinois; Crossway Books)
Here, at the Cross of Jesus, righteousness and peace have kissed (Psalm 85:10).
The Divine propitiation of God which may alone provide atonement has met together with the restored peace that only the Lord can bring about. Even though God’s peace had been broken by man’s wickedness, we are not without hope: for the God Who is just is also justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus (Romans 3:26).
What we have destroyed in shortsightedness, God can restore in grace (Isaiah 61:1-3). That is what Jesus Christ is about friend: the blessed Trinity loved us when we deserved only wrath and made a plan of salvation for us.
The Son of God died for our sins, was buried, and arose again on the third day (1 Corinthians 15:1-8). Today He invites believers to repent of their sins and be baptized into Christ to have their sins washed away (Acts 2:37-38).
Even though we deserve wrath, He shows love and forgiveness. He also invites backsliding Christians to return to Him in repentance and prayer (Acts 8:22; 19:18; 1 John 1:9).
Finally, the peace that we forfeit through sin may be ours again when we are in Christ.
The Prophet Isaiah wrote about the peace that would be available to God’s people in the Christian Age:
Isaiah 32:17-The work of righteousness will be peace, And the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance forever.
I encourage you to seek God’s incredible and never-failing grace, available to all in the church of Christ (Ephesians 2:14-16). If we may assist you in any way, please call upon us.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.