Shalom Shalom

“You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You.” —Isaiah 26:3

To suggest that we are living in tumultuous times is an understatement. In my 69 years I have never experienced, sensed, felt deeply the deluge of hate and divide now poisoning our land, our world. The 60’s were crazy and we have experienced rioting and violence in the streets, but with the advent of the internet we are immersed in a constant 24/7 stream of toxic vitriol. There are no reasonable discussions to be had. I have yet to witness a single conversation where upon a Trump supporter was apprised of information that made him or her question their position. Likewise, I cannot remember a time when any one of my friends of the liberal persuasion demonstrated a willingness to consider that they may be wrong. It would seem there are no honest conversations wherein one might actually admit their position might be faulty. Positions that are almost purely based upon political bias and hearsay. Perhaps it has always been this way. But, I would suggest this social malady is nowadays on steroids.

I frequently find my mind, especially in the unguarded moment like between sleep and awakening, chasing down rabbit trails that lead to nothing but frustration and, of course, a loss of sleep. I think there is a sense that my personal perspective of justice is being violated. I, also, think that there is a part of me , like those I described above, that enjoys being “right” and/or proved right. This angst is troubling, to say the least. It erodes one’s trust in humankind. It causes me to hunker down and become very deliberate about what I say and to whom I say it. In short, it effects my relationships. One has to take the political temperature in the room before venturing out. It is a bit like walking on egg shells, which is how I grew up and I refuse to live that way as an adult.

So as I was sitting in my spa in the chill of a 3:30 a.m. frost, because that’s where I go to talk with God about these weighty issues that steal my sleep, Isaiah 26:3 popped into my head. I know this verse well, I have studied it previously. However, on this occasion another layer unfolded before me.

An amplified version of the verse might read as follows…

“You(God) will keep him in perfect(shalom) peace(shalom), Whose mind(where thoughts and imaginations are framed) is stayed(laid, resting, leaning) on You, Because he trusts(having a bold confidence that borders on carelessness) in You.”

The first new thought I had when I reread the passage has to do with context. The prophet was speaking of a future time when the nation of Judah would survive a tumultuous season and come into a place of peace and prosperity. The timing of this unfolding layer of understanding, in combination with our current national context, served to underscore the significance of this passage for me in such a time as this.

The first observation of note in verse three is the double shalom rendered as “perfect peace”, it is literally “shalom shalom”. Shalom actually means much more than simply peace. Like most Hebrew words, it does not translate into a single English word or notion. Shalom carries a sense of completeness, soundness, welfare, peace, safety, health, prosperity. It is a word pregnant with meaning. And, in this verse the prophet doubles up which perhaps to the Jewish mind was akin to a double portion, the prized inheritance of the eldest son. I would suggest that this is very much like the peace that the Apostle Paul wrote about in his letter to the Philippians, it is a “peace that surpasses understanding”. How does one obtain such “shalom”, especially in the midst of turmoil?

It is the reward for those who keep their minds (the seat of all thoughts, imaginations, speculations) “stayed” on God. Once again the Hebrew word eludes a direct correlation to a single English word. The idea is that one must cause their mind to focus, lean on, find rest in God. It sounds simple. It is simple in concept, it can be very difficult in practice. Why? Because our minds are constantly at work, whether we want them to be or not. Some of us cannot sleep because we cannot stop thinking about what happened yesterday or today, or what might happen tomorrow. We speculate, we worry. We know we cannot control our world, though many of us will die trying. We know that the world can be hurtful, painful, even deadly. And, not just for ourselves, but for our loved ones. The Apostle Paul spoke to that one too, “take every thought captive in obedience to Christ.” But, here’s the kicker, the layer that unfolded before me this morning in the hot tub…

The last phrase is actually the key, “because he trusts in You.” Trust is the issue. True trust in God produces a sense of boldness and confidence such that one can afford to be “careless”, that is without a care. That is child-like trust. That is why Jesus said it is necessary to become like a child. If my wife and I did our job each day our young children could go to bed each night without a worry in the world. Oh, that I could get back to that place! It is “because” of that trust that one’s mind is freed to rest in God in the midst of mess. Mental discipline may keep one focused for a moment or a minute or an hour, but in the end our level of trust in our Father will be determinative. Worry, angst, sleeplessness cannot be coexistent with this trust and are a sure sign that I have allowed fear to enter in. I plead Paul once again…

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?”

Further

“But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”—Romans 8:31-35, 37-39

So now I can go back to bed and sleep having flooded my mind with a good word. I can trust God to keep me through the night. Tomorrow night I may have to reread my own words… life is a battle.

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