Peace in the Old Testament

Howard A. Barnes, Bromborough, Merseyside

Part 1 of 2 of the series Thoughts on the Peace of God

Introduction
Peace is not only freedom from civil disturbance, hostility or war, but also the enjoyment of calm, rest, harmony and tranquillity and a state of friendliness between previously estranged parties. Just as war and hostility rob people of happiness, so peace brings the necessary conditions for unity and prosperity. The fact that men always want peace is clear, but few acknowledge the fact that God is the only true source of peace.

Peace was the greatest good that men could wish for each other, and so greetings containing wishes for peace were commonplace in the ancient world, for instance both Nebuchadnezzar and Darius 'wrote unto all people, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth; Peace be multiplied unto you', Dan. 4. 1; 6. 25. Moses in praying for peace for Israel looked to God, 'The Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace', Num. 6. 26.

Jewish everyday greetings always wished peace, and this together with grace becomes the constant New Testament epistle desire for the readers; for instance, with only slight variants, the epistles of Paul begin with, 'Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ'. Peter, John and jude usually use similar peace-wishing introductions. The most all-embracing of such wishes is, 'Now the Lord of peace himself give you peace always by all means', 2 Thess. 3. 16.

It is clear from the scriptures that peace is not the normal state of affairs for men, either with respect to God or with respect to one another, hence for peace to exist, it has to be made. So we find that first Christ makes peace, and then believers are encouraged to make peace, '[Christ] made peace through the blood of his cross', Col. 1. 20, then, 'Blessed are the peacemakers; for they shall be called the children of God', Matt. 5. 9; 'Have [make, Strong's Concordance] peace one with another', Mark 9. 50; 'If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably [make peace, Strong's Concordance] with all men', Rom. 12. 18; 'Live in [make, Strong's Concordance] peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you', 2 Cor. 13. 11; and, 'Be at [make, Strong's Concordance] peace among yourselves', 1 Thess. 5. 13.

The principles of peace and peace-making in spiritual matters do not change, as we shall now see from an examination of various Old and New Testament Scriptures that deal with the subject.

The Peace Offering
The peace offering was not to make peace, but rather to celebrate it and all the other blessings of the offerer with respect to his position before God as a member of the covenant nation. The peace offering might be from the herd or the flock, and could be male or female. The offerer laid his hands on the head of the offering he had brought, and then killed it. The blood was sprinkled around the altar, and all the fat, the kidneys and the caul above the liver were burnt on the altar, 'an offering made by fire unto the Lord', these being God's share, literally His bread. The breast of the offering was waved by the officiating priest as a wave offering, and was then the food for all the priests and their families. The right shoulder was then presented as a heave offering, and was for the priest who officiated. The offerer and his family and friends also ate of the offering on the same day; or, under some circumstances, on the second day. What remained had then to be burnt on the altar, thus what was eaten was fresh form the altar. The peace offering was accompanied by unleavened cakes mingled with oil, and unleavened wafers anointed with oil, and leavened bread. What is clear about this offering is the way that everyone enjoyed something from it in fellowship with others; God had His portion, from the same offering the priests, their family, and the offerer and his family and friends were likewise fed.

Clearly, for believers today, the peace offering is our fellowship (communion) with God and with one another as we enjoy His Son, in His person and in His absolute devotedness to God. We are in public and private worship offerers, officiating priests and of the priestly family. In the peace He made we enjoy Him together and in this 'our fellowship is with the Father.

The unity that is displayed relative to the peace offering is seen in the fellowship of all eating of the offering. This is brought out clearly in the New Testament, as we shall see.

Peace in Isaiah
The great truth of peace through the death of Christ is laid out clearly in the prophecy of Isaiah, where the gospel is preached beforehand. First, God is the maker of peace, Isa. 45. 7, and His peace only comes through the death of Christ, since 'the chastisement of our peace was upon him', 53. 5. The preacher of the gospel publishes peace, being 'him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace', 52. 7. This is a message to both Gentiles and Jews alike, 'Peace, peace to him that is far off, and to him that is near, saith the Lord', 57. 19. This peace is obtained through faith, for, 'Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace [lit. peace, peace], whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee', 26. 3. On the other hand, 'There is no peace, saith the Lord, unto the wicked', 48. 22; 57. 21, for 'The way of peace they know not . . . they have made them crooked paths; whosoever goeth therein shall not know peace', 59. 8. For Israel during the future millennium, when the Prince of Peace rules, there is a special promise of peace for them, following the terrible days of tribulation, 'The government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end', 9. 6, 7. Then they shall enjoy great peace, peace flowing like a river, 48. 18; 54. 13; 66. 12.

Peace in the Psalms
The moral truth associated with peace in all ages is stressed in the Psalms. First - as seen above in Isaiah - God is its source, 'The Lord will bless his people with peace', Psa. 29. 11. At the cross of Christ, 'Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other', Psa. 85. 10. The peace promised only comes to those that appreciate His word, 'Great peace have they which love thy law', Psa. 119. 165. The practical side of peace that becomes so clear in the New Testament is also shown, 'seek peace, and pursue it', Psa. 34. 14. Lastly, the present, personal enjoyment of peace, 'I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, Lord, only makest me dwell in safety', Psa. 4. 8.