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Read His Words Before Ours!
I recently created a little playlist called “JOY,” full of songs that make my heart bubble over when I hear them. The songs are often classics and quite simple, a mix of hymns and Elvis, JJ Heller and Ingrid Michaelson, and, believe it or not … Mr. Rogers.
One of my fondest memories is sitting in the den at my grandparents’ house, watching Mr. Rogers while my Papa (who was quite like Mr. Rogers himself, but with a thick German accent and a beard) sat next to me. Hearing Mr. Rogers sing his simple yet deeply profound songs still fills me with joy. So, I added some of my favorites to my “JOY” playlist. “Peace and Quiet” is especially meaningful:
“Peace and Quiet,
Peace, peace, peace [ . . . ]
We all want peace,
We all want peace.
Do you know what peace means? Peace is wonderful.
It sounds like a piece of bread or a piece of paper. But it’s so much more than a piece of anything.
This kind of peace is something very comfortable. When you have it, you feel inside yourself that the people you live with care about you, and you care about them, too. And what’s more, you care about yourself.
Peace means you can talk with people and tell them you’re happy or sad or angry or anything, and they’ll understand, and they’ll tell you how they feel, too.”
I love Mr. Roger’s simple explanation of peace, because we can all understand the feeling he describes, even though our lives aren’t always peaceful… that is, not everyone around us has cared about us.
It’s amazing how significantly the presence of peace can be affected by our companions. My daughters and I recently spent the morning with friends and, as we sat in their backyard, I found myself breathing deeply as I recognized the peaceful atmosphere surrounding me. Kids were laughing, our conversation ebbed and flowed, but because I was with people of peace, I felt peace. Like Mr. Rogers said, I could feel the care of my friends embracing me, and felt my own care for them in return.
In John 14, Jesus says, “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you.”
He’s given us His peace.
In fact, Isaiah prophesied about Jesus, the Prince of Peace, hundreds of years before His birth.
And even further back in history, humans recognized special peace from the Almighty.
Travel back with me to our war hero, Gideon (remember, the young guy empowered by God, who conquered the Midianites against all odds?) Before Gideon conquered the Midianites, he was called into battle by none other than Yahweh Shalom.
Gideon was beating wheat while hiding from the Midianites, who’d been oppressing Israel for seven years. Israel had nothing, certainly not peace.
As Gideon was laboring in the hot sun, a stranger approached him and proclaimed,
“The Lord is with you, valiant warrior.” (Judges 6:12)
The Lord is with you.
He’s with you.
Now I could talk at length about the words of affirmation and prophecy delivered when he called Gideon “valiant warrior,” but I want to focus on the first words spoken.
The Lord, Yahweh, is with you.
You aren’t alone.
But Gideon is confused, asking the angel, “Please, my lord, if Yahweh is with us, why has all of this happened?” (Judges 6:13)
Gideon recognized the utter absence of peace in his community; if there was no peace, how could the Lord of peace be with them?
The angel commands Gideon to prepare for battle, because the Lord was going to use him to bring justice and ultimately, peace throughout Israel. Gideon knows he’s the youngest member of an already weak family, and therefore, by any human calculation, the least likely to conquer the mighty Midianites. He’s confused and he’s scared . . . and then he realizes he’s talking with an angel of the Lord.
But the Lord reassures him, “Peace to you. Do not be afraid, for you will not die.” (Judges 6:23)
The Lord knew Gideon’s heart, understood his deepest fear, and addressed it directly.
“Peace to you. Do not be afraid, for you will not die.”
While “peace to you” was a common phrase used when coming or going, on this day, Gideon perceived it differently. Perhaps, like a puzzle finally completed, Gideon realized Yahweh Shalom was with him, and His presence was peace.
Gideon commemorated this sacred moment by building an altar, calling it: “The Lord is Peace.”
Not just, “He brings peace” or “He gives peace.” No.
The Lord is peace.
The Lord is our peace.
Because He is with us.
Remember how Isaiah declared the coming Messiah would be called the Prince of Peace?
Jesus came. He was with us. He walked this earth, breathed this air, lived life within the fleshly limits of the mankind His Father created.
The Prince of Peace.
We know Jesus isn’t physically with us today, and, in John 14, when Jesus told us about the peace He’d give, He knew He’d be returning to His Father in Heaven. Therefore, He spoke to us of the Holy Spirit, who would come and dwell in every believing heart, teaching us and guiding us.
God with us.
We all long for peace, as Mr. Rogers reminded us, and peace will never be found apart from God, because...
He is peace.
The Prince of peace.
The Giver of peace.
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