The Path to Perfect Shalom
Sabbath Day Sermon, Saturday 23 April 2005
"And when He [Yah'shua/Jesus] had drawn near and seen the city [Jerusalem], He wailed aloud over it. And said: 'Oh would that you had known those things that were for your shalom (peace) even if in this your day, but now they are hidden from your eyes" (Luke 19:41-42, HRV).
A day does not pass when I don't meet someone who does not have peace within. People are desperately looking for it everywhere, especially in times of trouble. And who doesn't have trouble? Young and old, people are anxious about the future and often cannot find the peace they want in the present. Today I want to tell you how you can always have peace, and in particular the peace that comes from God which the Bible calls call Shalom.
We started our Sabbath meeting today by greeting each other with 'Shabbat Shalom' because Yahweh has especially given us this day to put our worries aside and to focus on He who is the source of all true Shalom. Towards the end of His earthly ministry, Yah'shua (Jesus) had to prepare His disciples for the imminent time when He would no longer be with them physically, nor able to comfort them in the way to which they were accustomed. Sometimes such changes can be scary for people but we have the assurance that change need not be so. Therefore the Saviour said to them:
"These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have Shalom (peace). In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world" (John 16:33, NKJV).
Now what are we to understand from these reassuring words? How indeed does Yah'shua (Jesus) practically meet our individual worlds of problems and distress? How is we can be of "good cheer" when things seem to be so against us at times? Today, I hope, we will find out. For those of you who have personally met Yah'shua (Jesus), what I am about to say will not be hard for you to relate to or understand. For those of you who have not, and would like to, I pray that today will be an especial time of blessing for you.
Yah'shua (Jesus) says some astonishing things that are at first perhaps a little difficult to grasp, particularly if we are accustomed to thinking in an earthly way. So let's begin by looking at some of the extraordinary promises He makes to those who are willing to listen to His message. The beloved John in his first epistle says this:
"Whoever believes that Yah'shua (Jesus) is the Messiah (Christ) is born of God, and everyone who loves Him who begot also loves him who is begotten of Him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome. For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world -- our faith. Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Yah'shua (Jesus) is the Son of God?" (1 John 5:1-5, NKJV).
What does He mean by "the world"? He is certainly not talking about a physical contest. Rather, He is making a contrast with Heaven's ways and the ways of the world - customs, dispositions, attitudes, philosophy, thinking, feeling - the way we are when we embrace the world system around us. Very clearly He wishes us to understand that worldliness is not in our best interests. Worse, perhaps, it isn't something you can just discard like a some clothes that need cleaning. It involves a struggle or overcoming. The image is of combat, a fight for life over death. His solution, however, is wonderfully simple. He tells us what it is that enables us to overcome, and that is our faith. Specifically, this is an active faith that leads to joyful obedience to the commandments. It isn't just 'believing' but is a clinging to that which yields tangible results. And the chief of these is love - not any old love, but the love of God.
Shalom - the peace of Yahweh - eludes so many, including those seeking Him, principally because they are going about it in the wrong way. The reason why is to be found in the Epistle to the Hebrews where Paul says:
"There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His" (Heb.4:8-10, NKJV).
In the midst of trials and tribulations, worries, pain, uncertainty about the future, Yah'shua (Jesus) is telling us that we can enjoy rest and Shalom. He is telling us that, right here and now, He is ready to give peace of mind and rest to those who will simply trust Him for everything. Please note very carefully what Paul said of the one who has entered into Yahweh's inner rest: "he ... has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His".
Today is the Sabbath Day, the Day of Rest. About six millennia ago, Yahweh ceased from His creative work and rested. He stopped and looked at what He had done. Can anyone remember how He felt after His six days of labour?
"Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished. And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made" (Gen.2:1-3, NKJV).
How do you feel after a job well done? For most, I think, satisfaction, and often joy. I was working away at a web site on Wednesday and when I had finished what I was doing, felt a sudden surge of great happiness and had to give voice to my feeling by letting out a small cry. Then I sat back and rested, satisfied with a day's work well done. We know, as we read the Creation account, how Yahweh felt. After each day's work He declared: "Then Elohim (God) saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good" (Gen.1:31, NKJV).
The Sabbath was given to us so that we could cease our usual weekly work and entertainment activities and feel satisfaction at what we have accomplished. However, dealing with sin is not something we can 'do' or 'accomplish' on our own. How many of you come to each Sabbath Day weighed down, sad, depressed, frustrated or some other negative feeling? Whatever we do is imperfect because we are imperfect, which is why Paul said we must not dwell on our own works but on what Yah'shua (Jesus) has done for us. "For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works" - our inner strugglings to save or deliver ourselves. The whole point of the Sabbath is to remind us that there is no such thing as self-sufficiency - we just can't do it all on our own, however much we may try. And when we fail, all the guilt piles up, plus not a little confusion and on occasion despair. The universe - and in particular our own inner one - is frighteningly big, and we, in our turn, feel frighteningly small. The Good News is we don't have to worry about these things - we only have to adhere to Yah'shua (Jesus) in faith and He, who is the Cosmic Lord, can bring order and Shalom to that internal universe which is you and me. The Apostle Peter says:
"May grace (Yahweh's undeserved loving kindness) and Shalom (which is perfect well-being, all necessary good, all spiritual prosperity and freedom from fears and agitating passions and moral conflicts) be multiplied to you ..." (2 Peter 1:2, adapted from the Amplified Version).
Yahweh, speaking through Isaiah, has the same basic message if we will but listen to and embrace it:
"For though the mountains shall depart and the hills be shaken or removed, yet My love and kindness shall not depart from you, nor shall my covenant of peace (Shalom) and completeness be removed, says Yahweh, Who has compassion on you" (Isaiah 54:10, Amp.Ver.).
Did you notice that Shalom is a covenant? Those who trust and obey Yahweh are promised this peace and an end to confusion, no matter what is going on on the outside! In the midst of change we can enjoy the continuity of Shalom. And if that Shalom departs it is simply because we are not adhering to Him in faith and obedience. As the hymn says, we must 'do what it right and let the consequences follow', and no matter how objectionable the consequences may be in the outer world, we have the promise of inner peace if we continue trusting and obeying. If we have disobeyed or broken a commandment, we have to backtrack, face the issues honestly, ask for forgiveness, and move on in the right frame of mind. When we do this, we are enabled to live in moment-for-moment obedience, one day at a time.
A lot of Christians have problems resolving the freedom in Christ with our obligation to obeying Torah, mistakenly thinking that 'freedom' means we can do whatever we want. The apostle James removes any apparent contradiction when he says:
"But he who looks into the perfect law (Torah) of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does" (James 1:25, NKJV).
What is this "perfect law (Torah) of liberty (freedom)"? It cannot be the freedom to do as we please because James tells us that it leads to a man becoming a "doer of the work". And what work is that? We read a little earlier: "But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves" (James 1:22, NKJV). What is this "word" of which James speaks? Most Christians tell you that it is the Bible but the Bible as we know it did not exist when James penned this epistle. He is referring to the Torah, the first five books of Moses, and in the wider sense, the Tanakh or Old Testament. The "perfect law of liberty" is therefore the Torah!, that which we are commanded to hear and obey. This brings us freedom, because it aligns us with Yahweh's will, and therefore Yah'shua (Jesus) who always walked in the Father's perfect will.
Satan has very little chance of accusing us or getting at us - destroying our Shalom - when we are faithful in present-moment obedience, steadily looking to Yah'shua (Jesus), dying to self-effort in order to get delivered from sin issues, asking "Shall I do this? Or not?" And then obeying. This kind of obedience results in true freedom or liberty, and the two go hand in hand.
I can't think of anyone in this ministry or in their families who hasn't had a shake-up recently. Some of you are having a really tough time with bad health, loved ones, economy, spiritual warfare and with personal issues. Yahweh knows all these things. He knows far more than you realise, and He wants you to know that you are not alone. Some of our difficulties we are called to endure as part of the spiritual refining process, others will come to an end and better days will be heralded in. For all, though, there is the promise of perfect Shalom if we will but do as He asks and trust Him with our very lives.
Throughout my ministry I have met many people who felt that their world was collapsing and that Yahweh had abandoned them. Many were convinced that they had a one way ticket out of this world and that their number had been called. They were wrong. Looking back, they are now able to see that what Yahweh was doing to them was persuading them to die to self and to stop trying to work it all out in their own strength. Yahweh simply wanted them to stop resisting Him and to let go of the demonic props that we so often cling to and persuade ourselves into believing that they are indispensable. Worry is one of those props - we often think that by worrying we can change events and make things better. But worry is a form of atheism - it's saying that since God can't do it for us, we had better do it ourselves, and stirring up those feelings seems at the time the most 'alive' thing to do. But that is not how believers are supposed to do it. We are to have an entirely different focus. And when it comes to facing life's Goliaths, we soon realise that human weapons are of no earthly good.
Throughout my ministry I have met lots of people who just wanted to kill themselves and end, as they suppose, their misery. By the grace of Yahweh very few have actually taken that disastrous plunge. The rest have needed no more than a change of focus and a saving faith. Let's see what Paul's counsel was on this is:
"Rejoice in Yahweh always. Again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all men. Yahweh is at hand. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Messiah Yah'shua (Christ Jesus). Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy -- meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of Shalom (peace) will be with you" (Phil.4:3-9, NKJV).
For many, following this counsel might seem like not facing reality. Some of my clients are going through agony of soul as I speak to you today. Why have they not yet won victory? Why have they failed to find this perfect Shalom? And the answer is that they are focussed on the Enemy's lies and are trying to fix their problems by their own efforts or works. And yet what is Yahweh asking us to do? Focus on Him, whose Name, Yahweh, means 'the Ultimate Reality', at least, of what is going on inside. The heart is terribly deceptive, the mind apt to play us tricks, but the Word of Yahweh is pure and adequate nourishment. Here Paul tells us to do three things: pray, supplicate, and give thanks. If any one of these is missing you will not gain the victory. And then, having brought your requests to Yahweh, with your hearts and minds guarded by Yah'shua (Jesus), meditate on that which is holy.
Trouble is, we don't. And we don't because the flesh rules us. Most people, after they have laid their concerns before the Father, get the feeling that if they don't frequently return to their mind and start worrying that there will be no chance of getting a solution. Isn't that true? We fall back on flesh-based solutions having started out right! Worse, we justify this behaviour by convincing ourselves that if we don't start rationalising and worrying they we are in some way being irresponsible or frivolous. It's a lie! Don't fall for it! Don't think that if you don't worry yourself half to death that you are somehow being unfaithful to the one you are worrying about or being irresponsible for not using your 'God-given' abilities to effect solutions. Because inner Shalom cannot be fixed by human solutions. There isn't a living soul in the universe intelligent and wise enough to do so. And no amount of self-betterment is going to make a blind bit of difference.
We slip into worry-mode over and over again even though we know Yahweh is the problem-solver, even though we know we can confidently leave difficult and apparently insoluble situations in His hands. We have these all our lives. If I were to worry about all the 'unsolved problems' in my life, my family and my ministry I would probably go insane. Intellectually we usually know what we should do, but emotionally and practically - and this is especially hard for women - we do not act out this 'letting go' into Yah'shua's (Jesus') hands.
The fourth chapter of Philippians is a blueprint of how to deal with this kind of problem so let's end today by summarising it:
1. Regardless of any circumstances, we are to "rejoice in Yahweh" always - if we're not rejoicing, the problem is atheism;
2. We are not to fret or have anxiety about anything - if we are, then the problem is atheism;
3. We are to pray about everything, making our needs and wants known to Yahweh - if we don't, for whatever reason, it's because of atheism;
4. We are to be content with our earthly lot, whatever it is;
5. We are to guard our thoughts, think only upon upbeat, positive things - nothing negative.
If we do these things, we are given the following promises:
(a) The Covenant or Promise of Yahweh's Shalom or Peace, and this will garrison and mount guard over our hearts and minds in Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ);
(b) Yah'shua (Jesus) will 'infuse inner strength into us' - that is, 'we will be self-sufficient in Christ's sufficiency'.
It is my prayer that we will learn to trust our Lord in this way, gaining all we need from Him and not from our own futile self-efforts. Amen.
Catherine Marshall, A Closer Walk (Hodder & Stoughton, London, 1986), pp.99-103.
This page was created on 5 June 2005
Last updated on 5 June 2005
Copyright © 1987-2007 NCCG - All Rights Reserved