The Search for Peace

THE Israelites as a people were very conscious of their unique heritage, and set great store by the many promises of the blessings that should be theirs as the Lord’s special treasure. When the Lord delivered them out of bondage in Egypt by the hand of Moses he said to them, “Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: and ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation.”—Exod. 19:5,6

In spite of their exalted position among the nations as God’s own people the country was repeatedly assaulted by the neighboring kingdoms, and apparently they wondered why this should be. Had God forgotten his promises? Or was he powerless to protect them? Not at all, the Prophet Isaiah told them. “The Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear.”—Isa. 59:1

Then the prophet proceeded to show them where the trouble lay. “Your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you so that he does not hear.” (Isa. 59:2, RSV) They had forgotten that the Lord’s blessings to them, and their favored relationship with the Lord, were conditioned on obedience to him. Having failed to keep their covenant, the Lord permitted punishments to visit them; not because he no longer loved them, but to save them. The Lord does not permit the wrongdoings of even his most highly favored ones to go unpunished. “You only have I known of all the families of the earth,” he had said to his typical people. “Therefore [because you are so greatly honored] I will punish you for all your iniquities.”—Amos 3:2

“The Way of Peace They Know Not”

And how far indeed they had strayed from the righteous ways of the Lord! How grossly they had violated the commandments to worship and serve their Jehovah God, and him alone; and to love and deal justly with their fellow men! “Your hands are defiled with blood, and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies, your tongue hath muttered perverseness. None calleth for justice, nor any pleadeth for truth; they trust in vanity, and speak lies; they conceive mischief, and bring forth iniquity. Their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed innocent blood: their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity; wasting and destruction are in their paths.”—Isa. 59:3-7

Their sins, the prophet pointed out, had alienated them from their God, and “have made him hide his face from you, that he will not hear.” (Isa. 59:2, margin) “The way of peace they know not; and there is no judgment in their goings; they have made crooked paths: whosoever goeth therein shall not know peace.” Their sins had separated them from their God; Israel was learning the vital, all-important lesson that apart from fellowship with God there is no peace. “There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.”—Isa. 57:21

And Now, a Doubting World

How similar is this to what we see in the world about us today! There was a period a few years back when the expression, “God is dead,” was frequently encountered in the public press. And this false idea is held by many today. This conclusion has been adopted by many serious-minded people who have observed and experienced the increasingly chaotic conditions in the world.

They see the senseless slaughter of countless numbers of humanity, both military and civilian, in cruel wars in various parts of the earth. They witness on their living room television screens the suffering, starvation, and utter desolation of victims of devastating floods and tidal waves. They are daily confronted with evidence of the intolerable conditions of our ghettoes and our prisons. They come face to face with the immorality and indecency that is rotting the fabric of our vaunted civilization.

They look about them and see a world festering with injustice, inequities, frustration, strife and disease. A world, in short, that affords little peace to the hearts of men. And like the Israelites of old they have concluded that God’s hand is short, or that he is indeed dead, else he would surely intervene and remove the terrible burden of suffering from the human race. For the world of today, again like the Israelites of old, does not understand the simple truth that there is no peace in man’s heart because his iniquity has separated him from his God.

The Groaning Creation

Isaiah stated that the Lord’s hand is not shortened so that it cannot save man from his deplorable condition. On the contrary, “The Lord saw it, and it displeased him that there was no justice. He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no one to intervene; then his own arm brought him victory, and his righteousness upheld him.” (Isa. 59:6, RSV) There was none who could give himself as a ransom, for “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” Therefore God gave his only begotten Son who was holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners, for all mankind, that whosoever shall believe on him shall have everlasting life.

It was through the prophet that the Lord announced the coming of this Holy One who would redeem mankind and bless them during the kingdom reign with everlasting life and peace. “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever.”—Isa. 9:6,7

The birth of this Prince of Peace was announced in simple fashion by the angel of the Lord to the wondering shepherds who were keeping watch over their flock by night. “And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”—Luke 2:8,13,14

The Prince of Peace gave his life on the cross almost two thousand years ago to redeem mankind from sin and death. And yet at this present time, even as in the apostle’s day, “we know that the whole creation [mankind] has been groaning in travail together until now,” still enduring the sufferings of this life for more or less years, still going down into death. (Rom. 8:22, RSV) The apostle explains the reason for this long period of time since Christ gave his life on the cross to bring peace to man. He says, “The creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.” (Rom. 8:19, RSV) Phillips’ translation says that “the whole creation is on tiptoe to see the wonderful sight of the sons of God coming into their own.”

The Mountain of the House of the Lord

During this long interim period the Lord has been calling out of the world a little flock, a “people for his name,” to be joined with him in the heavenly kingdom in order to bless the people. And what a truly wonderful time it will be for the world when these sons of God, the little flock, the footstep followers of the Lamb have all been gathered out of the world and joined with their Lord in the kingdom for the purpose of blessing all the families of the earth! For then all the manifold ills that beset suffering mankind will be banished, and there will indeed be peace on earth.

For one thing, there will no longer be a multiplicity of kings and kingdoms, each striving by whatever means and at whatever cost to gain their own selfish ends. There will be one King over all the world; and one kingdom—the kingdom of God—the righteous laws of which will guarantee justice and peace to all the inhabitants of the earth, who will then have been brought forth from the grave. The prophet is very explicit on this point. He says, “In the last days it shall come to pass, that the mountain [kingdom] of the house of the Lord shall be established in the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and people shall flow unto it. And many nations [peoples, Rotherham] shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths; for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.”—Micah 4:1-2

Blessed Are the Meek

Under the mighty power of this new King that ages-long scourge of humankind, international war, will be abolished, and all people will dwell at peace with one another. “And he shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks; nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” No longer will mankind fruitlessly employ its energies and waste its resources to produce terrifying weapons of destruction, but rather, they will devote themselves to peaceful, uplifting, and happy pursuits. Instead of destroying they will build; instead of murdering and maiming their fellow men they will bless and comfort one another.

Ghettoes, poverty, and hunger will also be abolished, for every man will enjoy economic security, and there will be plenty for all. The prophet tells us that “they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid; for the mouth of the Lord of hosts hath spoken it.” (Micah 4:4) Along this same line Isaiah says, “They shall build houses, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and eat the fruit of them. They shall not build, and another inhabit; they shall not plan, and another eat: for as the days of a tree are the days of my people, and mine elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands.” (Isa. 65:21,22) In that glorious day the humble of the earth will come into their own and be blessed with happiness and contentment. Of that time the psalmist says, “The meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.”—Ps. 37:11

Even the animals will dwell in harmony with one another, and with humankind. “The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice’ den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.”—Isa. 11:6-9

Everlasting Peace Through Christ

How beautifully the psalmist describes the joy that shall be the lot of the happy subjects of that promised kingdom! “Give the king thy judgments, O God, and thy righteousness unto the king’s son. He shall judge thy people with righteousness, and thy poor with judgment. The mountains shall bring peace to the people, and the little hills, by righteousness. He shall judge the poor of the people, he shall save the children of the needy, and shall break in pieces the oppressor. They shall fear thee as long as the sun and moon endure, throughout all generations. He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass: as showers that water the earth. In his days shall the righteous flourish; and the abundance of peace so long as the moon endureth.”—Ps. 72:1-7

This long-promised, longed-for peace will come to the hearts of men because harmony and fellowship will be restored between God and men, brought about by the offsetting sacrifice for sins that was made by our Redeemer, the Lord Jesus. The just penalty for sin that fell upon Father Adam will be removed. And just as man’s iniquity caused God to withdraw his favor and hide his face, so will man’s righteousness through Christ, the Prince of Peace, open the way for man to return once more to God’s loving favor and blessing and peace.

This is the message of comfort and hope that it is the privilege of the Lord’s people to bring today to a troubled world, a perplexed world; a world that is even now groaning and travailing in pain together; longing, unknowingly, for the birth of God’s glorious kingdom of peace. “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation.”—Isa. 52:7

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