Summary: This old priestly benediction gives a definition of "peace" that puts our typical version of that concept to shame.
THE 2ND MOST MISUNDERSTOOD WORD IN THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE: PEACE!
(First most misunderstood word is “Love”: proof—listen to what the radio says about love and then read I Cor 13. Big, big difference.)
What the culture thinks peace is:
1. cessation of war
2. no present crisis (nothing currently on fire!)
4. unflappability—as in someone who seems to “roll with the punches.”
5. Philosopher Plato saw war, and not peace, as the human norm, and therefore lamented that peace seemed to be nothing more than a “parenthesis” in human life. We kind of do this, too. To us, peace is a momentary break in the succession of panic points.
6. Culture’s idea of peace with God: They make their false peace with God the same way morphine makes peace with pain—the injury is not healed, but the agony of it is masked and eventually forgotten.
Hebrew words are defined by stories and events. A lot like the Star Trek episode, where the aliens communicated only by allusion to stories. If you don’t know the story, the allusion is gibberish and worse.
The blessings listed in our text eventually came to be seen by the Jews as the elucidation of “shalom.” That is, where shalom/peace is listed as the last of the blessings in the benediction, it was seen as the culmination of the other five previous blessings. All of it, the entire benediction, meant “peace” to the old Jew.
[At this point, the preacher may want to briefly go through that list of blessings in the text, explaining what they could mean in the Christian’s life, and emphasizing that they are all part of what it means to have the “peace” of God.
** Blessing, keeping, the Lord’s shining face, His grace, His countenance lifted up upon you**]
[Another suggestion to preachers: Take a look at Psalm 125 and 128. These psalms both end with an appeal to shalom. “Peace be upon Isreal.” Look at the word pictures the psalms create. A protected city on a protected hill, and a family gathered in health and prosperity. You might point these out as illustrations of peace in action.]
Peace is not just a state of mind, much less a momentary break in the panic. Peace is God’s overarching will for your life.
How do we get it? The Prince of Peace. Jesus Himself is our peace, who has broken down every wall. In Christ, “shalom” has gone from being a quality or a commodity to being a person.
Receive then the benediction of shalom. (Read the whole benediction again, encouraging the people this time to receive the peace of God in faith.)