Pastor Mark’s Devotions, September 17

Devotion #101

“Shalom”

“You will keep in perfect peace (shalom), those whose mind is steadfast, because they trust in you.     Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD, the LORD, is the Rock eternal.” Isaiah 26:3-4

 

 Yes, the prophet, Isaiah, uses the personal name for God, “Yahweh”, 3 times in one verse – verse 4 of chapter 26. Whenever you see the term “LORD” spelled with all capital letters, the writer is referring to God’s personal name, which God first revealed to Moses in the wilderness. In later years, God’s name was considered so holy and reverent that the Jewish people were sworn never to speak it. Instead, they were to use the name “Adonai” (a kind of holy nickname) whenever referring to their holy God.

The prophet, Isaiah uses God’s name 3 times because he wants to pound a punctuation mark upon the place people were to find peace. Not only peace, but the word is translated “perfect peace”. The Hebrew word for this “perfect peace” is “shalom”. The term, “shalom” took on many meanings. It was used as a general greeting, perhaps like the Hawaiian word “aloha”. It was used as a blessing, hope for success, and comfort. On a deeper level, “shalom” is to denote a deep state of peacefulness and well-being, both internally and externally. King David picks up on this nuance in Psalm 4:8 when he writes, “I will lie down and sleep in “shalom” (peace), for you alone, Yahweh (O LORD), make me dwell in safety.”

It is important that we understand the context in which Isaiah wrote these words. Isaiah ministered for 40 years during the reign of four Judean kings: Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah (roughly 800 years before Christ). He lived during a time of relative peace and prosperity. But he also lived in a time when people were spiritually destitute and a mighty storm with hurricane destructive force would blow through their lives at the hands of an Assyrian army. Lives would be lost, homes would be crushed, hopes and dreams dismayed, a future uncertain, and those left alive, carried away into exile.

In the midst of the world crashing in on them, Yahweh extended a call to Isaiah to bring a word of hope in the midst of hellish circumstances. Isaiah was caught up in a holy vision when Yahweh calls, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” (6:8). Isaiah responds to the Call and says, “Here I am. Send me!”

Isaiah’s name means “The LORD saves” or “The LORD is Savior”. The book of Isaiah contains more prophecies about the coming Messiah (God’s Anointed One) than any other book in the Old Testament. Salvation is revealed so comprehensively in Isaiah’s writings that Augustine called the book the “Fifth Gospel”. It has also been referred to as “the Bible in miniature” because it contains 66 chapters – as the Bible contains a total of 66 books. In the midst of storms raging and in the middle of his writing, Isaiah points us to the place of peace.

A few weeks ago, Isaiah, my son, and I were hunkered down in the wilderness feeling the effects of a wind storm that felt like a freight train, roaring in the distance and eventually hitting us broad side. It felt like it was determined to flip our tent fly and tear our tent apart.

Before we left on our trip, Ed Snowden and I replaced the roof on my little guest house. Each time I look out my window, I feel such satisfaction that there will be no more leaks, and it will be safe for another forty years. But isn’t that a false sense of security! We have been watching as people have experienced their roofs completely ripped up and torn off their homes. We have witnessed flames of wildfires, show no mercy, and consume homes and belongings like matchsticks and paper money.

With all of this, we certainly are not the first ones to experience destructive forces. The Jews have a whole historic heritage of destruction, displacement and difficulty. Recently, after WWII, the Jewish people, and Europe as a whole had lost everything known to them. The Jews were a people without a home and without a country. Do you think, at some point, a rabbi pointed to the prophet Isaiah and reminded them that even in their nation’s moments in exile, “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you. Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD, the LORD, is the Rock eternal.”

But even though people have been displaced in the past, today is our reality, and no one has lived this time before. This morning, I tried to review from whence we’ve come – over these past six months – and recount the upheaval. It truly is quite astounding.

We have suffered a global pandemic that has included sickness, death and unprecedented strains on our medical communities. Isolation, food and supply shortages, business closures and unemployment. Work from home, virtual meetings and schools online. Furloughs, financial hardships, physical, mental, emotional and spiritual fears. Frustrations over responses and reactions from government and the public. Divisions and disagreements. Protest, police and racial tensions. Elections and voter uncertainty. Natural disasters that include tornadoes, mega fires, hurricanes, storm surges and flooding. Roads, bridges, homes, and businesses ripped to shreds. Storms that are generating their own climate within the tempest. Smoke, smog and the worst air quality in the world found right here in Portland and Seattle. And perhaps the greatest threats are the smoke signals from Siberia and the melting of the perma-frost. The smoke has still not cleared and we still are uncertain of the road ahead. But the road, in this life, will always remain a bit uncertain. Last week, my crown broke that will require a visit to the dentist. Last week, my washer flooded that will require a visit from a repairman. Last week, I sliced my finger with a utility blade that will require time and healing. Do those count? Of course they do, they all count. All your day to day struggles count. Day to day we do not know what life will deliver.

But let us return to Isaiah, the one Called by God and who responded. The one who declares without confusion or uncertainty, that God has a plan of salvation through his Anointed One and He WILL deliver.

Listen once again to Isaiah’s words, “You will keep in perfect peace those whose mind in steadfast, because they trust in you. Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD, the LORD, is the Rock eternal.”

Let us draw near to this ROCK. He will guide us through these uncertain times today and on into eternity.

P.S. There have already been 18 storms on the seas that have been given names this season. 3 weeks earlier than ever before. The only English name left in the alphabet is, “Wilfred”. After that, the names of the storms will move to the Greek alphabet – alpha, beta, gamma, etc. As the storms continue to hit,  Yahweh continues to declare (in Revelation 21:6), “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End.”

P.S.S. – Did you notice that I repeated Isaiah 26:3-4 – three times? No, it was not a mistake. It was meant to pound a punctuation mark upon your soul and point to the place of peace.

Shalom!    Pastor Mark 


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