Scripture: from verse 10
My covenant of peace shall not be removed
Observation: The phrase “covenant of peace” is only used a few other times in the Bible. In Numbers 25, God gave His covenant of peace to a priest named Phineas, in recognition of His dedication to preserving the righteousness of God’s people. (Admittedly that dedication took the rather unusual form of killing two people while they were having sex, but that’s a discussion for another day.) Phineas’ family would have a perpetual priesthood, because of the covenant of peace. Israel is promised a covenant of peace in Ezekiel (chapters 34 and 37), which means that God will protect them in their land and they will live securely. They will have peace with God, peace with the surrounding nations, and peace with their environment – even the wild animals will be kept back from them.
The Hebrew word for peace is shalom, and it encompasses much more than simple peace. It includes health and wholeness and safety and friendship and restoration. God has entered a covenant to give us those things, and His promise will not be shaken.
God recently gave me a new piece of shalom – He healed an old hurt I only recently realized existed. The effects have been fascinating. It might not appear dramatic, but I can tell that I’m more whole and better integrated than I was. Yesterday I picked up a dozen things without feeling stressed or worried or compelled to keep working. Today I made a phone call to customer service without worrying that I would say the wrong thing. It wasn’t momentous, either – I can just do it now. God wove the torn neural patterns back together.
Application: Ask God to fix what isn’t whole
Prayer: Lord, I praise you because you can see the whole of creation and you know how it is supposed to fit together. I praise you because you can integrate all things seamlessly into your plan. Thank you for giving us shalom. Help me to come to you for help when I need it. Amen.
Scripture: from verse 15
let the shalom (peace) which comes from the Messiah be your heart’s decision-maker
Observation: Following God’s way brings peace. When we allow God to do the worrying for us, and we tell Him about our problems instead of allowing them to overwhelm us, He gives us peace that passes understanding (Phil 4:6-7). Therefore, if we aren’t at peace, something is wrong.
The something can be a lot of things, of course. God has a lot of work to do in us, rooting out old guilt and anger and debt and fear. And it takes time. But even with all that, we can move towards what gives us peace. We can learn to look for God’s peace in our hearts and recognize it and follow it.
Application: Learn to notice God’s peace.
Prayer: Yeshua, thank you for giving us peace (John 14:27). Help me to follow your peace and not be anxious about things I can’t control. Help me to allow you to handle what I can’t. Amen.
Scripture: from verse 29
No person who has been sentenced to die, and thus unconditionally consecrated, can be redeemed; he must be put to death.
Observation: Something that was unconditionally consecrated was holy to Adonai; it could not be redeemed or sold or otherwise un-consecrated. This included people sentenced to death for crimes against God or the community.
When we were discussing God’s commanded wholesale slaughter of various people groups in the Old Testament, my mom once pointed out that God wasn’t necessarily condemning them all. He was simply making it so He could deal with those people individually. By preserving His plan for His people, He made it possible to offer grace to those people through Yeshua, the culmination of that plan.
What we see is not all there is. Executing criminals also meant putting them in God’s hands, where they could be dealt with with perfect justice and perfect love.
Obviously today we don’t go around stoning people. But we can acknowledge that God is dealing with people and we can’t always see it. Sometimes we are called to leave others to Him. We want to teach and correct and remind and push, but that may not be what we’re called to do. Other people are also holy to God, and we should let Him deal with their faults in His time and in His way.
And the truth is that we too are condemned to die. We were dead in our sin (Eph 2) and had no hope. We are unconditionally consecrated to God. And we cannot be sold or transferred, because we are especially holy to Him. He has plans for us.
Application: Trust God to be teaching others. Let Him teach you.
Prayer: Yeshua, thank you for making it possible for me to have grace. Thank you for making me holy. Help me to trust your plans. Amen.
Scripture: from verse 6
I will give peace in the land — you will lie down to sleep unafraid of anyone.
Observation: The passage lists the blessings that will result from walking in God’s ways, as well as the punishments that will result from refusing to do so. I liked this one – a promise that God would remove wild beasts and protect them from attack, so they would be able to lie down and sleep unafraid.
In that time, all common sense argued against sleeping in the open. Someone could attack you or rob you in your sleep, or you could be hurt by a snake or scorpion or lion or wild dog, or if you avoided those fates, there was still the hot sun to burn you during most of the year.
But in God, we can defy common sense. His peace includes protection from people and animals and even the elements. If we follow where He is leading, we don’t have to worry.
We tithe, and let Him protect our finances. We reach out to others as He shows us, and trust Him to guard our hearts from being hurt. We remain chaste, and trust Him to arrange our sex lives. He provides for all our needs according to the riches of His glory (Phil 4:19).
Application: Lie down and sleep in peace. Ask Him to handle the things that are causing you anxiety.
Prayer: Father, thank you for protecting me. Thank you for reversing common sense so that I can rest. Thank you for covering all my anxieties. Amen.
Scripture: from verse 9
From the sacrifices made as peace offerings, he is to present Adonai with an offering made by fire; it is to consist of all the fat…
Observation: I’m not exactly certain what a peace offering was (and a quick internet search indicates that no one else is certain either) but the word peace is from the Hebrew shalom, which means not just peace but also wholeness and completeness and everything being right.
And someone who was making a peace offering (meaning he sought peace, perhaps? or was grateful for peace?) would bring an animal and slaughter it and the fat of the animal would be burned on the altar. (I’m doing the whole chapter as one post because the chapter is essentially the same information repeated three times, with slight variation depending on the animal in question.)
The fat burning reminded me of Isaiah 58:11, which in the KJV promises that the Lord will make our bones fat. If we follow God’s will and show His love to those around us,
Adonai will guide you continually;
He will satisfy your soul in the desert,
He will make your bones fat;
so that you will be like a watered garden,
and like an unfailing spring of water.
(That’s the KJV with some tweaks to modernize the language.)
We don’t need the fat of the animals, because God is our energy. We can give up sources of strength, confident in the knowledge that He is our peace. We follow Him and He makes us whole.
Application: Don’t worry. Don’t worry about the chances you pass by or the things you have to give up. God is your shalom, and He will make all things right.
Prayer: Father, thank you for knowing what I need and arranging for me to have it. Thank you for working behind the scenes and beyond my knowledge to make me whole. Help me to trust you beyond what my eyes can see. Amen.
Scripture: verse 30
Don’t cause grief to God’s Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit), for He has stamped you as His property until the day of final redemption.
Observation: We tend to thing of our relationship with God as something we have to do well at: if we please God, He will keep us. We have to spend all of our time watching ourselves and looking over our shoulders, afraid of screwing up.
But that’s not the case. God has claimed us as His. With the exception of refusing His offer, nothing we can do cancels His claim. He’s already made that decision.
And in making that decision, He gave us the power to make Him sad. My mom has repeatedly pointed out how incredible that is – that the Maker of the Universe would make Himself vulnerable to us. But He did. Because He loves us.
Our job isn’t to work to please Him. It’s to smile up at Him, so that our DaddyGod smiles back.
Application: Smile, I guess. Praise God for who He is, and thank Him for what He does. And love others, because He loves them too.
Prayer: Holy Spirit, help me to see your love as a real thing in my life, so that I remember to smile up at you instead of worrying all the time. Amen.
Scripture: verses 2 and 3
Always be humble, gentle, and patient, bearing with one another in love, and making every effort to preserve the unity the Spirit gives through the binding power of shalom (peace).
Observation: The Spirit of God binds us together. He brings peace, wholeness, unity, and harmony. Our job is to not screw it up.
We do this by being humble (by having a clear understanding of who we are and what we deserve – which apart from God, is no one and nothing), by being gentle (by moderating our behavior and our reactions to what is beneficial for the community) and by being patient (by choosing not to be angry or demanding, but instead of wait and let God work.) This…is not particularly fun. At least not always.
I’m especially not good at gentleness. I don’t know if I’ve gotten worse over the years, but there’s been a couple times recently where my sisters have deliberately cut me off to substitute their own gentler interpretation of the topic at hand. I suspect I’ve just gotten more outspoken, but that’s irrelevant.
On the other hand, the mutual support and fellowship among people who put up with each other out of love is pretty awesome. I’m glad that God gives us unity in the first place.
Application: Be gentle, just like I tell Beauty when she decides to snuggle Kitten. Don’t do things that upset her, as I tell her when she squishes Kitten.
Prayer: Yeshua, help me to love others properly. Help me to see things gently. Amen.
Scripture: verse 19
So then, you [Gentiles] are no longer foreigners and strangers. On the contrary, you are fellow-citizens with God’s people and members of God’s family.
Observation: This one’s more straightforward. It said earlier (verse 12) that before Yeshua’s death, the Gentiles were “without hope and without God.” Yeshua’s death opens the door to the nations so that anyone can come to God.
There’s a number of ideas running around that all believers are secretly Jewish, somehow – often involving the ten tribes that were lost to Assyria. Conspiracy theories are fun, I suppose, but the truth is that God’s plan is bigger than that. Instead of resorting to twisted secrets to make all who come be suitable, God made a way for everyone to be welcome.
God crowdsourced His kingdom. We’re all in.
Application: The only response can be enthusiastic welcome, regardless of gender, skin color, mental capacity, or number of piercings. We’re all welcome, and we all have a part to play.
Prayer: Yeshua, thank you for welcoming everyone. Help me to do the same. Amen.