How to Find and Keep Peace
In 1555, Nicholas Ridley, a former Bishop of London, was burned at the stake in Oxford because of his beliefs. On the night before Ridley's execution, his brother offered to remain with him in the prison chamber to be of assistance and comfort. Nicholas declined the offer and replied that he meant to go to bed and sleep as quietly as ever he did in his life. Because he knew the peace of God, he could rest in the strength of the everlasting arms of his Lord to meet his need.
Peace is a great blessing. ‘Peace’ is a word of huge significance in the Bible. The Hebrew word for peace, Shalom, translated by the Greek word eirene, means far more than the absence of war or hostility. It is not just an absence of certain circumstances but the presence of God and his reign. It means wholeness, soundness, well-being, oneness with God – every kind of blessing and good.
In order to bring peace to others, we first need to find and hold on to peace within ourselves.
Of David. A psalm.
1 I will sing of your love and justice;
to you, Lord, I will sing praise.
2 I will be careful to lead a blameless life —
when will you come to me?
I will conduct the affairs of my house
with a blameless heart.
3 I will not look with approval
on anything that is vile.
I hate what faithless people do;
I will have no part in it.
4 The perverse of heart shall be far from me;
I will have nothing to do with what is evil.
5 Whoever slanders their neighbour in secret,
I will put to silence;
whoever has haughty eyes and a proud heart,
I will not tolerate.
6 My eyes will be on the faithful in the land,
that they may dwell with me;
the one whose walk is blameless
will minister to me.
7 No one who practices deceit
will dwell in my house;
no one who speaks falsely
will stand in my presence.
8 Every morning I will put to silence
all the wicked in the land;
I will cut off every evildoer
from the city of the Lord.
Peace with God
‘Peace’ and ‘silence’ – in the good sense of the word – often go hand in hand. This psalm speaks of the slanderous and the wicked being ‘put to silence’ (vv.5–8).
David sings of God’s ‘love and justice’ (v.1a). We talk a lot about God’s love but not so much about his justice, which is as important. Love without concern for justice is not true love, as love cries out for justice.
Only the ‘blameless’ (vv.2,6) can ‘dwell’ with him (v.6b), ‘minister to’ him (v.6c), ‘stand’ in his ‘presence’ (v.7). Slander (v.5a), pride (v.5b) and ‘deceit’ (v.7) are sins of the mouth, heart and action. They bring us under God’s judgment.
Thank God for the cross where ‘love’ and ‘justice’ mingle – truth and mercy meet. This is where God is both ‘just’ and justifies the one who has faith in him (Romans 3:23–26). Without the cross, we would be cut off from the Lord (Psalm 101:8).
1 Corinthians 14:20-40
20 Brothers and sisters, stop thinking like children. In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults. 21 In the Law it is written:
“With other tongues
and through the lips of foreigners
I will speak to this people,
but even then they will not listen to me,
says the Lord.”
22 Tongues, then, are a sign, not for believers but for unbelievers; prophecy, however, is not for unbelievers but for believers. 23 So if the whole church comes together and everyone speaks in tongues, and inquirers or unbelievers come in, will they not say that you are out of your mind? 24 But if an unbeliever or an inquirer comes in while everyone is prophesying, they are convicted of sin and are brought under judgment by all, 25 as the secrets of their hearts are laid bare. So they will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, “God is really among you!”
Good Order in Worship
26 What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up. 27 If anyone speaks in a tongue, two—or at the most three—should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret. 28 If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and to God.
29 Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said. 30 And if a revelation comes to someone who is sitting down, the first speaker should stop. 31 For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged. 32 The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets. 33 For God is not a God of disorder but of peace —as in all the congregations of the Lord’s people.
34 Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. 35 If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.
36 Or did the word of God originate with you? Or are you the only people it has reached? 37 If anyone thinks they are a prophet or otherwise gifted by the Spirit, let them acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord’s command. 38 But if anyone ignores this, they will themselves be ignored.
39 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. 40 But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.
Peace in the church
‘God is not a God of disorder but of peace’ (v.33). The apostle Paul is clear that the creativity and spontaneity of the gifts of the Spirit, do not give licence for disorder in church meetings. ‘When we worship the right way, God doesn’t stir us up into confusion; he brings us into harmony’ (v.33, MSG).
Paul describes the way to peaceful, harmonious and orderly meetings in the church – ‘everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way’ (v.40). It may involve an appropriate keeping quiet (v.28) in order to let others speak.
This gives us some sense of what church meetings were like in the early church. Clearly, there was an expectation that the gifts of the Spirit would be exercised regularly: ‘When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation’ (v.26).
Gifts need to be exercised in an orderly way. There shouldn’t be anything weird or hyped up about spiritual gifts. It may surprise some that the singer Katy Perry once said, ‘Speaking in tongues is as normal to me as “Pass the salt”. It’s a secret, direct prayer language to God.’
Paul’s comments about prophecy and tongues being a ‘sign’ often cause confusion. He seems to say one thing in v.22 (tongues are a sign for unbelievers; prophecy for believers), and then the opposite in v.23! It is unlikely, though, that Paul would contradict himself.
It seems to me that Paul is saying that both the gift of tongues and the gift of prophecy should be used only in their appropriate ways. Throughout this chapter, Paul is giving instructions for the orderly use of tongues and prophecy in the church. When used inappropriately, both can be a source of chaos (vv.6–12 and vv.29–33), in which case unbelievers will think we are out of our minds.
If used appropriately within the context of church meetings, both tongues and prophecy can be an amazing indication of God’s presence (vv.22–25). Prophecy can be a powerful ‘sign’ for unbelievers that ‘God is really among you!’ (v.25). We have often seen this to be the case.
Whereas singing in tongues is a corporate activity, speaking in a tongue is an individual activity that requires an interpretation. Therefore, people ‘should speak one at a time and someone must interpret. If there is no interpreter, the speakers should keep quiet in the church and speak to themselves and God’ (vv.27–28).
Likewise, prophecy should be taken in turns. There is no limit to the number of prophecies. The speaker is always in full control: ‘The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets’ (v.32). In the demonic world, ‘spirits’ take over a person and they lose control. Not so with the Holy Spirit. A person speaking in tongues or prophesying is in full control. They can start when they choose and they can stop when they choose to do so. ‘For God is not a God of disorder but of peace’ (v.33).
Many explanations have been put forward for Paul’s instruction, in verse 34, that women should remain silent in the churches. It is important to remember that Paul’s focus here is not on gender roles but on the conduct of public worship. He is addressing a series of specific problems that have arisen in the Corinthian church. He has already made it clear that he did expect women to speak in meetings. He writes, ‘Every woman who prays or prophesies...’ (11:5).
What is clear is that people, both men and women, did not come just as consumers but as contributors. The question we should ask is not ‘What am I getting out of church?’, but ‘What am I giving out at church?’ They did not come just to receive but also to help others. ‘When you gather to worship, each of you be prepared with something that will be useful for all’ (14:26, MSG). If we all come to church with this attitude of being a contributor it will totally transform our services of worship.
2 Chronicles 13:1-15:19
Abijah King of Judah
13 In the eighteenth year of the reign of Jeroboam, Abijah became king of Judah, 2 and he reigned in Jerusalem three years. His mother’s name was Maakah, a daughter of Uriel of Gibeah.
There was war between Abijah and Jeroboam. 3 Abijah went into battle with an army of four hundred thousand able fighting men, and Jeroboam drew up a battle line against him with eight hundred thousand able troops.
4 Abijah stood on Mount Zemaraim, in the hill country of Ephraim, and said, “Jeroboam and all Israel, listen to me! 5 Don’t you know that the Lord, the God of Israel, has given the kingship of Israel to David and his descendants forever by a covenant of salt? 6 Yet Jeroboam son of Nebat, an official of Solomon son of David, rebelled against his master. 7 Some worthless scoundrels gathered around him and opposed Rehoboam son of Solomon when he was young and indecisive and not strong enough to resist them.
8 “And now you plan to resist the kingdom of the Lord, which is in the hands of David’s descendants. You are indeed a vast army and have with you the golden calves that Jeroboam made to be your gods. 9 But didn’t you drive out the priests of the Lord, the sons of Aaron, and the Levites, and make priests of your own as the peoples of other lands do? Whoever comes to consecrate himself with a young bull and seven rams may become a priest of what are not gods.
10 “As for us, the Lord is our God, and we have not forsaken him. The priests who serve the Lord are sons of Aaron, and the Levites assist them. 11 Every morning and evening they present burnt offerings and fragrant incense to the Lord. They set out the bread on the ceremonially clean table and light the lamps on the gold lampstand every evening. We are observing the requirements of the Lord our God. But you have forsaken him. 12 God is with us; he is our leader. His priests with their trumpets will sound the battle cry against you. People of Israel, do not fight against the Lord, the God of your ancestors, for you will not succeed.”
13 Now Jeroboam had sent troops around to the rear, so that while he was in front of Judah the ambush was behind them. 14 Judah turned and saw that they were being attacked at both front and rear. Then they cried out to the Lord. The priests blew their trumpets 15 and the men of Judah raised the battle cry. At the sound of their battle cry, God routed Jeroboam and all Israel before Abijah and Judah. 16 The Israelites fled before Judah, and God delivered them into their hands. 17 Abijah and his troops inflicted heavy losses on them, so that there were five hundred thousand casualties among Israel’s able men. 18 The Israelites were subdued on that occasion, and the people of Judah were victorious because they relied on the Lord, the God of their ancestors.
19 Abijah pursued Jeroboam and took from him the towns of Bethel, Jeshanah and Ephron, with their surrounding villages. 20 Jeroboam did not regain power during the time of Abijah. And the Lord struck him down and he died.
21 But Abijah grew in strength. He married fourteen wives and had twenty-two sons and sixteen daughters.
22 The other events of Abijah’s reign, what he did and what he said, are written in the annotations of the prophet Iddo.
14 And Abijah rested with his ancestors and was buried in the City of David. Asa his son succeeded him as king, and in his days the country was at peace for ten years.
Asa King of Judah
2 Asa did what was good and right in the eyes of the Lord his God. 3 He removed the foreign altars and the high places, smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles. 4 He commanded Judah to seek the Lord, the God of their ancestors, and to obey his laws and commands. 5 He removed the high places and incense altars in every town in Judah, and the kingdom was at peace under him. 6 He built up the fortified cities of Judah, since the land was at peace. No one was at war with him during those years, for the Lord gave him rest.
7 “Let us build up these towns,” he said to Judah, “and put walls around them, with towers, gates and bars. The land is still ours, because we have sought the Lord our God; we sought him and he has given us rest on every side.” So they built and prospered.
8 Asa had an army of three hundred thousand men from Judah, equipped with large shields and with spears, and two hundred and eighty thousand from Benjamin, armed with small shields and with bows. All these were brave fighting men.
9 Zerah the Cushite marched out against them with an army of thousands upon thousands and three hundred chariots, and came as far as Mareshah. 10 Asa went out to meet him, and they took up battle positions in the Valley of Zephathah near Mareshah.
11 Then Asa called to the Lord his God and said, “Lord, there is no one like you to help the powerless against the mighty. Help us, Lord our God, for we rely on you, and in your name we have come against this vast army. Lord, you are our God; do not let mere mortals prevail against you.”
12 The Lord struck down the Cushites before Asa and Judah. The Cushites fled, 13 and Asa and his army pursued them as far as Gerar. Such a great number of Cushites fell that they could not recover; they were crushed before the Lord and his forces. The men of Judah carried off a large amount of plunder. 14 They destroyed all the villages around Gerar, for the terror of the Lord had fallen on them. They looted all these villages, since there was much plunder there. 15 They also attacked the camps of the herders and carried off droves of sheep and goats and camels. Then they returned to Jerusalem.
15 The Spirit of God came on Azariah son of Oded. 2 He went out to meet Asa and said to him, “Listen to me, Asa and all Judah and Benjamin. The Lord is with you when you are with him. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will forsake you. 3 For a long time Israel was without the true God, without a priest to teach and without the law. 4 But in their distress they turned to the Lord, the God of Israel, and sought him, and he was found by them. 5 In those days it was not safe to travel about, for all the inhabitants of the lands were in great turmoil. 6 One nation was being crushed by another and one city by another, because God was troubling them with every kind of distress. 7 But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded.”
8 When Asa heard these words and the prophecy of Azariah son of Oded the prophet, he took courage. He removed the detestable idols from the whole land of Judah and Benjamin and from the towns he had captured in the hills of Ephraim. He repaired the altar of the Lord that was in front of the portico of the Lord’s temple.
9 Then he assembled all Judah and Benjamin and the people from Ephraim, Manasseh and Simeon who had settled among them, for large numbers had come over to him from Israel when they saw that the Lord his God was with him.
10 They assembled at Jerusalem in the third month of the fifteenth year of Asa’s reign. 11 At that time they sacrificed to the Lord seven hundred head of cattle and seven thousand sheep and goats from the plunder they had brought back. 12 They entered into a covenant to seek the Lord, the God of their ancestors, with all their heart and soul. 13 All who would not seek the Lord, the God of Israel, were to be put to death, whether small or great, man or woman. 14 They took an oath to the Lord with loud acclamation, with shouting and with trumpets and horns. 15 All Judah rejoiced about the oath because they had sworn it wholeheartedly. They sought God eagerly, and he was found by them. So the Lord gave them rest on every side.
16 King Asa also deposed his grandmother Maakah from her position as queen mother, because she had made a repulsive image for the worship of Asherah. Asa cut it down, broke it up and burned it in the Kidron Valley. 17 Although he did not remove the high places from Israel, Asa’s heart was fully committed to the Lord all his life. 18 He brought into the temple of God the silver and gold and the articles that he and his father had dedicated.
19 There was no more war until the thirty-fifth year of Asa’s reign.
Peace in the nation
War devastates nations (15:5,6). It brings death, destruction and usually poverty. On the other hand, peace allows a nation to build and to become prosperous (14:7).
When Asa became King of Judah, ‘The country was at peace for ten years’ (v.1). This peace was a gift of God, ‘God kept the peace’ (v.6 MSG).
How does this peace and rest come about? The answer, which the chronicler gives is at least threefold:
1. Seek God wholeheartedly
It was when they ‘prayed desperately to God’ (13:14, MSG) that God ‘delivered them’ (v.16). Asa ‘commanded Judah to seek the Lord’ (14:4). He said to the people, ‘We have this peaceful land because we sought God; he has given us rest from all troubles’ (v.7, MSG)
The prophet Azariah says, ‘If you seek him, he will be found by you’ (15:2). ‘In their distress they turned to the Lord, the God of Israel, and sought him, and he was found by them’ (v.4). ‘They entered into a covenant to seek the Lord, the God of their ancestors, with all their heart and soul’ (v.12).
They sought God wholeheartedly and ‘God gave them peace within and without – a most peaceable kingdom!’ (v.15, MSG).
2. Obey God fully
When Asa heard the prophecy, ‘he took courage’ (v.8). Asa said to Judah, ‘Obey \[God’s\] laws and commands’ (14:4). The prophet Azariah said, ‘If you forsake him, he will forsake you’ (15:2). This passage is an example of God’s faithfulness to us when we do choose to obey him fully.
3. Rely on God totally
‘The men of Judah were victorious because they relied on the Lord, the God of their ancestors’ (13:18). ‘They trusted God’ (v.18, MSG). ‘Asa called on the Lord his God and said, “Lord, there is no one like you to help the powerless against the mighty. Help us, O Lord our God, for we rely on you”’ (14:11).
This is what it means to be ‘fully committed to the Lord’ (15:17). The result was that Asa’s work was rewarded (v.7) and the Lord his God was with him (v.9). There was peace and rest.
In 2 Chronicles 15:5 it says:
‘In those days it was not safe to travel about, for all the inhabitants of the lands were in great turmoil.’
We are blessed to live in a time when travelling around the UK is safe most of the time. There are many parts of the world today where there is ‘great turmoil’ – people escaping from persecution, wars and brutal regimes. We need to keep praying and support those who are working for change.
Verse of the Day
2 Chronicles 15:7
‘… be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded’
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Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.
Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.