Seeds of Peace
By Pastor Jurgen Rausch
December 22, 2013
"And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger. Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” Luke 2:8-13
Little Peace Today!
“On earth peace to those on whom his favor rests”
It is almost an embarrassment to talk about peace this morning even though ‘tis the season for peace', even though we've lit 'the candle of peace' and have received the peace message, namely, “on earth peace to man”.
Yet, despite all that, peace remains such a rare commodity. For all this talk of peace and all the efforts of so-called peace envoys, peace is most noticeable for its absence.
No matter where you look in this world, tensions continue; war, strife, bloodshed continue; terrorism, conflict and rage are a continued reality.
Take a look at the map of the world that shows were conflicts currently rage (http://www.warsintheworld.com/?page=static1329446051) and it doesn’t take long before we realize that this world has anything but peace. Be it Syria, Afghanistan, Iran or many of the countries in Africa the absence of peace is striking!
Peace is a missing commodity in modern times just like it was the days before Christ’s birth. What a sad commentary!
Then, as now, there was a lot of talk about peace. The psalmist wrote about it, the prophets prophesied about it; and going way back to the days even before the Law of Moses, there were references to peace.
By the time the Old Testament was drawing to a close there were over 200 references to peace.
What all that gave people, was not only a good understanding of what peace looks like but also the realization that peace in their time as in our time was absent. It simply wasn’t there.
With the absence of peace the longing for it would only become stronger!
The Old Testament did a fine job of outlining what peace in their day as well as our day would look like and stirring up an appetite for it.
Even with the absence of peace, by the time the Old Testament drew to a close, people had a pretty good sense of what they were missing.
The Patriarchs on “Peace & the Absence of Strife”
At its root, everyone understood that peace simply meant the absence of strife.
The Patriarchs understood that peace meant the absence of strife. In the days of Isaac, they knew that when it said that the Philistines “left him in peace” – left him alone; didn't strive with him.
I Kings 4:24 mentions “peace on all sides”, which in the next verse is defined as “lived in safety, each man under his own vine and fig tree”
Therefore, not only the absence of strife, but also the added peace resulting in safety, prosperity and a quality of life that comes from the absence of strife.
We have certainly found that to be so, living in Canada. In the absence of war, bloodshed and strife we have realized a kind of prosperity we never could in lands where there is no security!
At its most basic, peace means the absence of strife.
The Psalmists on “Peace in the Heart”
By the time we come to the Psalms we notice that peace is not only the 'absence of strife' but that 'peace comes to people' when they experience the presence of God.
In Ps. 29:11 it says that God will bring peace to people:
“ The Lord will give strength unto his people; the Lord will bless his people with peace.”
In Psalm 4 it becomes obvious that God doesn’t give a generic, universal and global peace but a personal, individualistic peace that is not determined by the circumstances of life.
In the midst of his distress at a time when David faced immense pressure as a result of his son’s uprising, he was still able to say:
“In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety.” (Psalm 4:8).
He fixed his thoughts on God and was able to find sweet peace!
Thus, wars could rage, trouble could brew, storms could blow and yet an inner peace in the midst of all that could still be realized.
What emerges from the Psalms is, that peace goes so much further than the absence of external strife and the resulting quality of life; namely, peace is personal and can be experienced even in adverse circumstances by calling on the name of the Lord.
Which is why it says in Ps. 119:165
“Great peace have they that love your law”.
Loving his law means being in relationship with God and thus peace comes to me because I am in a right relationship with God; because I love his law instead of certain circumstances of life. The stars don’t have to be lined up to have peace.
People that are stirred up, or are like churned up oceans, are so because their lives tend to be out of harmony with God.
“The wicked are like the tossing sea which cannot rest, whose waves cast up mire and mud. ‘There is no peace’, says my God, ‘for the wicked’” Is. 57:20,21
What emerges from the Psalms is the possibility of personal peace despite circumstances resulting from harmony with God.
The Prophets on “Peace Among Nations”
Then came the prophets who added yet another dimension to the shape of peace. God not only brings an inner harmony and peace to those who live right with God, but he also longs to bring peace among the nations as a result of God’s presence in this world.
Thus the prophets announce the arrival of “the Prince of Peace” and looked ahead to the day when
“of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end” (Isaiah 9:7);
thus clearly establishing the link between the increase of his government and the increase of peace.
Thus with the coming of his Kingdom, will come peace among nations and tribes:
“The Lord’s justice will dwell in the desert, his righteousness live in the fertile field. The fruit of that righteousness will be peace; its effect will be quietness and confidence forever. My people will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest.” Isaiah 32:16-18
How we long for the day when there will be peace among nations, peace in the heart of man and the absence of strife all around us!
Yet, having made all this clear, in 200 plus references, it did not bring them any closer to peace than before all this was understood.
Despite all its prominence, it was noticeable the most for its absence. There was precious little peace in the days of the Old Testament.
The Prince of Peace and “Peace with God.”
It took hundreds of years, well long after both major and minor prophets had left the stage that something in the cosmos shifted. In fact, the prophets pointed to a future Prince of Peace who would usher in peace.
Isaiah teased them when he wrote:
“the people walking in darkness have a seen a great light, on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned” Isaiah 9:2
That great light was none other than the arrival of the Prince of Peace (Friedensfürst) himself:
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6
That’s why the angels declared:
“Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to man on whom his favor rests” Luke 2:14
With his birth begins a brand new chapter with this idea of peace, which is why you find another 90 plus references about ' peace' in the New Testament.
Again and again we hear the refrain of phrases such as :
“Peace from God, our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 1:7).
In fact, many of the books of the New Testament begin with a greeting similar to this one.
“Peace from God, our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ”
Indeed Jesus brings to us what we need most – the kind of peace that we need most – namely, the peace of God.
That's why Jesus promised:
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” John 14:27.
In fact, Jesus said in John 16:36 “In me you may have peace”. In the New Testament peace has actually come!
That's what he has come to do. He has come to establish peace in our hearts; and there is nothing more glorious than to have our lives be in harmony with God; to be at peace with God.
Peace with God will settle all conflicts near and far! Do you realize, that the wars in our world are because of the wars within; and that the real battles do not rage on battlefields out there, but rage within our hearts and minds?
Remember in the midst of the storm on the Sea of Galilee when Jesus said: “Peace be still”? He wasn't speaking to the tossing seas of his days as much as to the tossing seas in our hearts.
It truly is like a churned up, angry sea out there with people battered, bruised and tossed about in an angry, frothing ocean.
Just like with the angry Sea of Galilee; only with Jesus in your boat, will the waves and howling winds inside your heart subside.
Just as he did for his disciples then, he still does for those who become his followers today:
“He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still' then the wind died down and it was completely calm”. Mark 4:39
The winds die down and it becomes completely calm! That's the kind of peace I am talking about.
When the Prince of Peace steps into the little boat of your heart and comes into your life, he brings to you the peace of God in the midst of the gales.
Not that the storms of life necessarily subside but that in the midst of the storms he gives you his peace.
Peace to You!
The greatest gift you can ever receive is the gift of peace. Once at peace with God, most other storms will eventually settle down.
No guarantee that all storms will settle down – as David could easily attest to during the times of upheaval with his son.
Some storms are not our own making and beyond our control. There we can have peace in the midst of the tossing sea.
As David said:
“In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety.” Psalm 4:8
from which we get the childhood prayer: 'Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep'.
But then there are the storms of our own making which will be stilled. With Jesus giving us his peace many of those storms will settle down.
“On earth peace to those on whom his favor rests”.
The greatest gift of all! Peace on earth, among men and women, on whom his favor rests. His favor rests on those who have made their peace with God through Jesus Christ, our Lord, the Prince of Peace.
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