The headline today says “Peace for Our Time.” When have we heard that before? Here’s a headline from 75 years ago:
1938: ‘Peace for our time’ – Chamberlain
The British Prime Minister has been hailed as bringing “peace to Europe” after signing a non-aggression pact with Germany.
Look at the date and remember what happened shortly after this optimistic pronouncement. Think about the trustworthiness of the other party in the agreement.
I’ve been reading the writings of the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah, in which God says this about the leaders of His people:
They dress the wound of my people
as though it were not serious.
‘Peace, peace,’ they say,
when there is no peace.
Are they ashamed of their loathsome conduct?
No, they have no shame at all;
they do not even know how to blush.
So they will fall among the fallen;
they will be brought down when I punish them,”
says the LORD. (Jeremiah 6:14-15)
And within a few years that nation was indeed wiped out by a powerful enemy.
So today do we actually believe that world leaders will bring us real peace? Only the Prince of Peace can do that—Jesus Christ. He has come once to capture our hearts, and He will return again soon to capture all nations and set up the only kind of peaceful kingdom this world will ever know.
Two books of “gloom and doom” are found in the Old Testament: Job and Lamentations. The main body of both of these is a series of laments over tragedy. For Job, it was personal tragedy—rather, a whole series of them. For Jeremiah, who wrote Lamentations, it was national tragedy as he toured the ruins of what had been his beloved Jerusalem.
But in the middle of each book shines an outstanding expression of hope.
Job, after expressing a lot of complaint and despair, bursts out with a statement of faith that on which Handel based a beautiful air in his Messiah:
But as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives,
and he will stand upon the earth at last.
And after my body has decayed,
yet in my body I will see God!
I will see him for myself.
Yes, I will see him with my own eyes.
I am overwhelmed at the thought! (Job 19:25-17 NLT)
And Jeremiah—right smack dab in the middle of his anguish, he exclaims:
The faithful love of the LORD never ends!
His mercies never cease.
Great is his faithfulness;
his mercies begin afresh each morning.
I say to myself, “The LORD is my inheritance;
therefore, I will hope in him!” (Lamentations 3:22-24)
When gloom and doom loom on my horizon, Lord, let me see that silver lining and hope in You!
Jeremiah has a lot to say about peace. He pens the word “shalom” 31 times in the book that bears his name. But it’s mostly about false hopes of false peace based on false prophets’ promises of peace for people rebelling against God, refusing to listen to Him, and plotting against their neighbors (6:10, 14; 9:8; 23:16-17 et al.).
Of course they hoped for peace, especially protection from the threatening Babylonian and Egyptian superpowers (e.g. 14:19) which were playing tug-of-war over them. But what God promises them instead is destruction and devastation. In fact, this is what happened and is mourned by the same writer in his book of Lamentations which mentions “shalom” only once: “Peace has been stripped away!” (3:17)
In the end there is hope—but only under God’s conditions. After all the judgment and devastation, God will heal, restore peace, rebuild the ruined nation, cleanse his people of their sins and forgive their rebellion. This is the only positive reference to peace in the book:
“Nevertheless, the time will come when I will heal Jerusalem’s wounds and give it prosperity and true peace. I will restore the fortunes of Judah and Israel and rebuild their towns. I will cleanse them of their sins against me and forgive all their sins of rebellion. Then this city will bring me joy, glory, and honor before all the nations of the earth! The people of the world will see all the good I do for my people, and they will tremble with awe at the peace and prosperity I provide for them.” (Jeremiah 33:6-9)
When I read about the people of that day, I want to shake those deluded peace-dreamers awake and help them get a grip on the source of true peace. But no, they had to suffer excruciatingly for their willful blindness. How about us today? I pray God will have mercy on us, opening our eyes to see the way to true peace. And most of all, I look forward to the rule of the Prince of Peace on this earth.
Your kingdom come! Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven! Amen!!!
How do people respond to a prophet’s message? In quick succession I see widely varying responses to Jeremiah’s warnings:
Fear. People who heard the warnings realized this was serious and needed to be heard by the king. (36:16)
Deny. After King Jehoiakim heard each section read to him, he cut it off and burned it, showing no sign of repentance (nor his officials). (36:23-25)
Ignore. King Zedekiah would not listen to Jeremiah. (37:2)
Shoot the messenger. Jeremiah was flogged and imprisoned in a dungeon (37:15) and later thrown into a muddy cistern to die. (38:4-5)
Repent and obey. Sadly, I don’t see an example of this one in the book of Jeremiah. But how about the Ninevites to whom Jonah preached? Do the pagans put “God’s people” to shame?
When God’s word doesn’t agree with my plans or priorities, what do I do? Bend the rules? Make excuses? Ignore it? God, help us to humbly accept Your rebuke, repent, and experience the joy of seeing You work in our world!
God’s chosen nation was collapsing from the moral vacuum caused by rebellion against God and corruption in leadership. And on the outside, Nebuchadnezzar’s army was attacking. God’s patience had finally run out.
Jeremiah was God’s man on the scene. A dozen times in his book he debunks the false prophets’ repeated assurances that all would be well. Like this in chapter 14:
13 Then I said, “O Sovereign LORD, their prophets are telling them, ‘All is well—no war or famine will come. The LORD will surely send you peace.’ ”
14 Then the LORD said, “These prophets are telling lies in my name. I did not send them or tell them to speak. I did not give them any messages. They prophesy of visions and revelations they have never seen or heard. They speak foolishness made up in their own lying hearts.
But there is hope of peace after the punishment has been endured and the hard lessons have been learned. Peace on God’s terms necessarily involves cleansing from sin and rebellion. But wow, the benefits are out of this world!
“The time will come when I will heal Jerusalem’s wounds and give it prosperity and true peace. I will restore the fortunes of Judah and Israel and rebuild their towns. I will cleanse them of their sins against me and forgive all their sins of rebellion. Then this city will bring me joy, glory, and honor before all the nations of the earth!” Jeremiah 33:6-8
What kind of peace are we looking for in our world and our lives?
A fragile peace on this earth, IF nations and individuals can solve their differences and piece back together shattered economies?
Or the true and lasting peace that comes only by turning to God and accepting it on His terms?