Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom He is pleased(Luke 2:14)
Two millennia ago, a multitude of angels praised God saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace among those with whom He is pleased (Luke 2:14).” The shepherds hastily made their way to Bethlehem where they found the Child. It was the era of the Pax Romana, a so-called era of peace in the Roman Empire from Augustus Caesar 27BC that would last until the death of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius[i] in 180AD whose work of Stoic philosophy is still read by many today. In reality there was still plenty of bloodshed especially in the Galilee where there the light would shine (Isaiah 9:2) although there were several uprisings during this time. In particular, Simon Bar Kochba was not successful in driving out the Romans in 132-135AD.
Jewish expectations of the Messiah were that of a Ruler who would deliver them from the tyranny of the Romans and bring peace. Centuries earlier Jeremiah and Ezekiel had spoken out against false prophets and priests saying, “Peace, peace, when there is no peace (Jeremiah 6:14; Ezekiel 13:10). Messiah is supposed to bring real peace. We must therefore answer the following questions, what do we mean by peace, peace with whom, and how so?
Isaiah prophesied that a Child would be born whose name would be called “Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Of the increase of His government there would be no end upon the throne of David (Isaiah 9:6-7). Isaiah also prophesied of a peaceful time in Jerusalem where warfare would cease (Isaiah 2:1-4) and improved conditions on earth almost as peaceful as Eden (Isaiah 65:20-25). How would all these predictions come about?
What do we mean by peace?
Warren Wiersbe notes the following.
“The Stoic philosopher Epictetus said, “While the emperor may give peace from war on land and sea, he is unable to give peace from passion, grief, and envy. He cannot give peace of heart for which man yearns more than ever for outward peace.”
The Jewish word shalom (peace) means much more than a truce in the battles of life. It means well-being, health, prosperity, security, soundness, and completeness. It has to do more with character than circumstances. Life was difficult at that time just as it is today. Taxes were high, unemployment was high, morals were slipping lower, and the military state was in control. Roman law, Greek philosophy, and even Jewish religion could not meet the needs of men’s hearts. Then, God sent His Son!”[ii]
Who gives this peace and who is this peace with?
The Scriptures inform us that Jesus is our peace (Ephesians 2:14) and brings peace between us and God (Romans 5:1) whilst previously we were at enmity with God because of our sin. He is the Prince of peace. The believer is assured of the God of peace being with them (Philippians 4:9). Psalm 117 is the shortest Psalm though speaks of all peoples praising the Lord. The Lord Jesus brings peace between Jewish and Gentile people through His blood atoning sacrifice (Ephesians 2:11-22). As well as peace with God, the believer can have the peace of God which surpasses all understanding to guard our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7).
When Jesus rose from the grave, He appeared to His disciples saying, “Peace be with you (John 20:19).” He showed them His hands and side proving that it was He who had been crucified and risen and said, “peace to you”, a greeting still in use so frequently today rendered in Hebrew, “Shalom aliechem”. Again He showed His scars to Thomas showing that it was Him saying, “Peace to you-Shalom Aliechem.”
His peace is unique and could be described as out of this world. How so? Because only Messiah can give real shalom that lasts forever bringing peace between humankind and God, Jewish and Gentile believers and He said to His disciples, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid (John 14:27).”
But Messiah is supposed to bring peace!
We all know that Messiah is supposed to bring peace; therefore there is a remaining conundrum and piece of the puzzle, in that Messiah is supposed to bring about peaceful conditions on earth as Isaiah, Micah, Hosea, and other prophets foretold (Isaiah 2:1-4; Micah 4:1-5; Hosea 2:18-23). But we must consider the Messiah who is the suffering Servant but also the conquering King and that they are One and the same. Jesus fulfilled prophecy perfectly the first time around and that assures us that He will continue to do that when He returns. The Lord Jesus is coming back, and He will reign in Jerusalem. He is a descendant of David (Matthew 1:1) and of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end. Whoever turns to Him and trusts in Him, will have His peace that endures forever.
Jon Taylor 17th December 2021
[i] Christopher Klein August 18th 2021 How Ancient Rome Thrived During Pax Romana https://www.history.com/news/pax-romana-roman-empire-peace-augustus [ii] Warren W. Wiersbe The Wiersbe Bible Commentary Old Testament (David C. Cook, 2007; Colorado Springs), p143