Shepherds – peace through war
An invasion leading to peace finally arrived on a holy night when the Christ child was born. A war had been waged that traced back to the beginning of time. Heavenly peace on earth had been disrupted and devastated since the great thud from the fall of humans in the Garden of Eden. The original two people,Adam and Eve, disobeyed God’s peace plan and fell for a lie leading to a war instigated by the satanic serpent.
The initial peace shattering shot was heard around the world as the first bites were taken of the forbidden fruit. Like the thief that he was, the serpent had come to steal, kill, and destroy the peace God had designedfor Adam and Eve to enjoy with their Creator. The first couple’s choice to sin launched a war that eventually ended their lives, as they originally experienced it with God. Now, only God could make a way to rescue humanity from their war-torn existence and restore peace through a Savior.
Throughout the Old and New Testaments, there are some 400 direct references to peace. While there are various words in the original languages of the Bible that refer to peace, the deepest roots stem back to aword known as shalom. Shalom, at its core, means “to be whole” or “complete.” While a common greeting among Jews around the world to this day is with the simple word: “shalom,” the full meaning of that word of peace goes well beyond a mere feeling of calmness.
Shalom literally means: “God’s highest and most complete good be upon you and all associated with you.” The peace of God goes well beyond merely a cozy feeling or even the absence of war; it includes a relational harmony that seeks a deep commitment to the work of justice in truth and righteousness. Thepeace of God is a full, satisfying, rich, and juicy fruit of His Spirit to His people and creation. The shalom of God is intended for relational goodness and harmony through and through. Peace is the original order of creation and remains in the heart of God for all His creation. This is what the angels were saying would come on all mankind. In fact, it is what we experience when we learn to lean completely on Him.
The Bible opens with peace as God creates the heavens and the earth in Genesis 1-2 and closes with peace as God sets the tone for eternity in Revelation 21-22. However, the great war leading back to restoredpeace plays
out between the first two and final two chapters in the Holy Bible. While divine plans for peace were in the works since Genesis 3, the moment for heaven to launch the long-awaited mission of the Messiah ultimately and finally to deal with sin and restore peace with God was targeted on one holy night in Bethlehem.
Luke describes the appointed time when the young virgin girl named Mary gave birth to the incarnate battle plan named Jesus. Her husband known as a just man named, Joseph, was nearby among the beasts in the barn to help as best he could. The birth announcement was blared out in the fields by heavenly warriors to lowly shepherds. These social outcasts among the sheep soon would be ready to sound the trumpet thattriumph was swaddled and sleeping in a trough of feed. Only God would devise such an arrangement torestore peace to His people and His creation. The unfolding of the peculiar peace plan is recorded in Luke 2.
And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. 5 He took with him Mary, to whom he was engaged, who was now expecting a child.
6 And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. 7 She gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.
Think about it for this to take place for all the ridicule they suffered, all the life changing situations that happened, Mary and Joseph had to have this type of peace…shalom
Luke 2: 8-20
That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. 9 Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, 10 but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. 11 The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! 12 And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”
13 Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in highest heaven,
and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”
15 When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
16 They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. 17 After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. 18 All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, 19 but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. 20 The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.
The Savior was born because someone needed saving….all of humanity needed saving and deliverance because the peace of God, the “shalom” offered by Him was disrupted, destroyed by Satan’s sneak attack!
What happened in Bethlehem in the stable was a strategic initiative that was well within the scope of God’s plans, which would lead back to peace…shalom: God’s highest and most complete good that was intended for all people. John writes in clear terms why Jesus, the Son of God and Savior of the world, came into the world at this time to put right what the devil had continued to mar with wrong since the beginning
1 John 3:5-8
And you know that Jesus came to take away our sins, and there is no sin in him. 6 Anyone who continues to live in him will not sin. But anyone who keeps on sinning does not know him or understand who he is.7 Dear children, don’t let anyone deceive you about this: When people do what is right, it shows that they are righteous, even as Christ is righteous. 8 But when people keep on sinning, it shows that they belong to the devil, who has been sinning since the beginning. But the Son of God came to destroy the works of the devil.
It does not take a person long to identify the works of the devil that impact all our lives. The works of the devil are seen in:
Addictions that lead to the breakup of families
Hatred that fuels tensions among people of different worldviews
Racism that leads to isolation, mistrust, discrimination, and injustice
Violence that escalates to a range of harm from mass shootings to suicide
Greed that leads to lies that leads to crime that leads to corruption and attempted cover-up
Abuse that leaves people with external and internal scars
Sickness and disease leading to death that was never part of the original creation of God
Fear, shame and darkness that snuff out any light leading to peace
These works of the devil and many other examples that could be listed are why Jesus came from heaven to earth. Jesus was born on purpose…. for a purpose. The purpose of Christmas was to lead to Easter where the perfect Son of God would wage a holy war on the devil and destroy all of his evil works that rob people of peace with one another and peace with God. Sin is the source of every conflict on earth. Jesus came to dealwith sin once and for all and to shine the light on the path to peace.
This was part of the prophesied plan of God since before Christ was born. Here is what Isaiah proclaimed 700 years before the invasion of the incarnation happened when peace would begin to be restored to thepeople of God who had been living in exiled darkness from the effects of sin for a long time.
The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine. For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 His government and its peace will never end. He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David for all eternity. The passionate commitment of the LORD of Heaven’s Armies will make this happen!
This figure of the Prince of Peace is One who is a bringer of justice. The Prince of Peace is One who brings vindication to those who have been living in exile from a peace they were created to know and experience within a right relationship with God and each other.
Isaiah goes on to talk about the restoration of peace to people who have been targets of the devil for centuries and how this Prince of Peace can restore it through His own choice to suffer as a servant of Godon behalf of His people. Here are the descriptive words that foreshadow the cross where the ultimate war for peace was settled by Jesus….Isaiah 53:5
But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed. NKJV
The cross is where Jesus made our peace, when we accept Him and surrender to His great love for us, we can possess that wholeness, that completeness that Shalom, peace really means. Jesus invaded this world and took on the devil by force in a completely opposite way the devil would have thought….by surrendering His life so he would take on all of our sin, setting us free from the bondage of sin
It is interesting to notice how there is a mention of this path that leads to peace as the works of the devil are being destroyed. Just before the birth of Jesus, his uncle, Zechariah, prophesied about how his own sonnamed John would help point people to the path of peace that this coming Prince of Peace would produce….Luke 1:76-79
And you, my little son, will be called the prophet of the Most High, because you will prepare the way for the Lord. 77 You will tell his people how to find salvation through forgiveness of their sins. 78 Because of God’s tender mercy, the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us, 79 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide us to the path of peace.
Often when we do not experience peace in our lives, it is when we find ourselves on paths that Jesus never intended for us to be traveling in our life. We find ourselves not at peace when we are on:
Paths that lead to deeper and deeper debt instead of financial freedom
Paths that lead to reading and posting negative words instead of building others up
Paths that lead to the destruction of relationships instead of strengthening relationships
Paths that lead to secrecy instead of transparency
Paths that lead to shading the truth instead of telling the whole truth
Paths that lead to taking and hoarding instead of giving and sharing
If we are not experiencing peace in our lives, it may be related to the path we find ourselves on today. It is possible that the path some people wander onto is a subtle work of the devil that has led them down a way they never really intended to walk in the first place. Jesus came to destroy those works of the devil.
Ultimately, the way of peace leads from the manger in Bethlehem to the cross at Calvary. Today you can choose to either accept Him for the first time and gain this peace in your life or be willing to recognize you have areas in your life where the peace is lacking and give it to the Lord.
The war is still on even though it has already been won. We have to choose daily to allow the Lord to have our everything….daily taking up His cross which means letting go of all of our rights, grudges, unforgiveness, wounds, privileges and holding on to His cross.
Let Him give you that Shalom, that peace the angels proclaimed so long ago and you will understand what it means to have the “thrill of peace,”
Give it to him this morning, let it go and enjoy His peace!