God of Shalom
In Judges chapter 6, Gideon was chosen by God to lead an army from Israel against the Midianite oppressors and to liberate his nation. Gideon prepared an offering to God and built an altar which he named “The Lord is peace.” This phrase became used as one of the names of God. The biblical text uses the actual name of God which is written in the Bible as four Hebrew letters that are often pronounced “Jehovah” or “Yahweh” in English. In Hebrew, we would say “Adonai Shalom” because it is Jewish custom to protect the holiness of God’s name by replacing it with the word “Adonai” which simply means “Lord.” The custom is preserved in many English translations of the Bible and is indicated in the Old Testament when the word LORD is written in all capital letters. Nevertheless, in many Christian congregations one can see signs or banners with “Jehovah Shalom” written as one of the names of God.
Of course, the word “shalom” from the Bible means peace. In the Hebrew language, most words fall into groups or families of words that are associated by root consonants of two or three letters. The words that share a common root also share common or overlapping meanings. The word “shalom” shares its root with Hebrew words like “mushlam”, meaning perfect and “le’shalem”, which means to pay. From these examples we understand that “shalom” or peace in the Bible also means wholeness, completion or resolution. The term “Jehovah Shalom” may therefore mean: God, Who brings peace through the resolution of our conflicts.
God’s peace is a redemptive peace. He calls us to perfect justice and forgiving mercy. When we respond by turning to Him, God’s rule brings peace that saves us from injustice – both the injustices that are committed against us and the ones we ourselves commit. We are created in the image of God and should love and obey Him, but our human choices tend toward selfishness and injustice toward others. We favor ourselves and people like us over people who are different. We are selfishly selective in giving love to some and not to others, but God offers justice to all and His mercy flows without discrimination.
These poetic words from the prophet Isaiah are a description of how God seeks after everyone to save and redeem us:
“I spread out my hands all the day to a rebellious people, who walk in a way that is not good, following their own devices…” (Isa 65:2)
From the same chapter we see that ultimately, God will change the predatory and warlike nature of His broken creation: “The wolf and the lamb shall graze together; the lion shall eat straw like the ox, and dust shall be the serpent's food. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain,” says the Lord. (Isa 65:25)
God Goes to War
So, how can God, who is described as the God who is peace, also be seen in the Bible as a God who makes war? This is because God does not hold Himself aloof and distant from matters on earth. Although He dwells in the heavenlies, He also involves Himself personally in the conflicts that abound on earth. Because of sin, our world is an often-violent place marked by persistent injustice, aggression, cruelty and exploitation. We are a desperate and morally broken people in rebellion against God’s righteous rule. Sin is choosing to live independently of God and the result of sin is injustice and exploitation of others, bringing conflict, pain, warfare and ultimately death.
We are a desperate and morally broken people in rebellion against God’s righteous rule.
God’s chosen nation, the people of Israel, are no strangers to the ravages of war. Back in the days of Genesis, God promised Abraham, “I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse,…” (Gen 12:3). Abraham was involved in a war between nine kings in the region of the Dead Sea. Abraham’s nephew, Lot was taken captive and Abraham’s men fought to recover him. After the battle, Melchizedek king of Salem (perhaps an early name for Jerusalem) blessed Abraham in the name of God Most High (Gen 14:18-20). More than 400 years later, God used supernatural force and miracles to destroy the Egyptian pharaoh’s army and deliver the people of Israel from centuries of slavery. A long list of other nations and tribes fought against the people of Israel during their sojourn in the wilderness and subsequent entry into the land that was promised to them by God. The modern nation of Israel was birthed less than 100 years ago in the aftermath of the world’s first truly global war and the genocide of six million Jews. Even today, the people of Israel are continuing to struggle in defense of their land and existence as a nation.
War is a fact of human life and the truth is that God also has enemies who make war against Him. The devil is a powerful spiritual being committed to disrupting God’s plan of salvation and healing for the world. As a result of the devil’s heavenly rebellion there is war in the spiritual realm that impacts all our lives here on earth. As a captive in ancient Babylon, the prophet Daniel fasted, prayed and received an angelic visitor with a message from God.
Then he said to me, “Fear not, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand and humbled yourself before your God, your words have been heard, and I have come because of your words. The prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days, but Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I was left there with the kings of Persia”. (Dan 10:12–13)
These verses reveal that conflict in the heavenlies is a part of the spiritual “landscape” for God’s people here on earth. When we seek to walk in the ways of God, there will be times when we too are participants in spiritual warfare through prayer. Here’s what the apostle Paul wrote:
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” (Eph 6:10–12)
“For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.” (2 Cor 10:3–4).
Birth Pangs of the End Times
In a world characterized by both heavenly and earthly conflict, God is patiently pursuing His redemptive plans and end time agenda. God has promised to send His Messiah, Jesus, to judge all sin, correct all injustice and bring God’s loving and righteous rule to every nation. We live in an era of preparation for His return. In Matthew chapter 24, Jesus’ disciples came to Him privately and asked to know the signs of His coming and of the end of the age. Jesus said that those times would be characterized by “wars and rumors of war.”
“And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. (Lk 21:11 adds “pestilences”) All these are but the beginning of the birth pains.”(Mt 24:6–8)
Birth pangs are progressive. They begin as mild pains with long periods of time in between but as the moment of birth approaches, they increase in frequency and intensity. However, birth pangs are purposeful as well as painful. The mother is being prepared and the baby is being positioned for delivery. New life is coming into the world!
There will be more regional wars and periodic global disruptions in the years ahead. Political pressures continually build up and wars occur when people abandon reason and persuasion for violence as a way to resolve conflict. In the future, ethnic conflicts will arise, cultures will clash and increasing worldwide lawlessness will give opportunity to both ungodly dictatorships and anti-Christ liberalism. Competition for control of the earth’s wealth will enrich some people and enslave others, while at the same time, cryptocurrencies are challenging the value of currency itself. Future scientific advances in genetic engineering will stretch the very definition of what is truly human. Will governments use human genetics as weapons of war in a near future generation?
In parallel with the earthly conflicts of our day, the Church is in a period of historic and prophetic restoration. The birth pangs of the end times are intended to produce two results: the kingdom that Jesus is returning to rule and the bride that He is coming to wed. All Christians should be concerned with and involved in the end time restoration of God’s kingdom as well as the preparation and equipping of the bride of Christ.
The Armageddon Factor
In a world characterized by conflict, God is undeterred from working out His eternal plan and redemptive purposes for the planet. Jesus commanded His followers to “make disciples of all the nations” (Mt 28:19). Salvation and the process of discipleship that accompanies it are meant for everyone! This is the holy and irrevocable mission of the Church. God’s redemptive plan for our planet flows from His heart of perfect love and justice for all humanity. The unique difficulties of our day are bringing about the greatest opportunity for the growth of God’s kingdom on earth. And when the Lord finally returns, God’s righteous and peaceful rule will extend over all the earth.
However, concurrent with the unfolding of God’s righteous end time plans, the evil forces – that cause fear, hatred and selfish ambition in human hearts – are also pressing forward relentlessly. Unrepentant sin builds up toxic piles of unpaid moral debts. Today, we can easily see how local rivalries and armed aggression grow into regional conflicts and then threaten to further escalate and disrupt the planet. According to the Bible, God causes “wars and rumors of wars,” which are the “beginning of birth pangs,” to eventually become a fierce global struggle from which no one can retreat – a fight that no nation can afford to lose. This is the “Armageddon Factor” when sinful decisions in politics, economics, religion and ethnic identity ultimately drive the nations into a single desperate battle for control of the world.
Armageddon will be the war to end all wars and will precede God’s judgments on the earth and His glorious return as Messiah and Prince of Peace.
I live and serve on Mt Carmel in northern Israel. Not far from our worship center’s location we look out over the Valley of Armageddon. This is the place where, according to the New Testament, all wars will be brought to their conclusion (Rev 16:13-16). Armageddon will be the war to end all wars and will precede God’s judgments on the earth and His glorious return as Messiah and Prince of Peace. In the meantime, Jesus said, “We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work.” (Jn 9:4) Truly, today God’s kingdom is at hand!
Come, behold the works of the Lord, how He has brought desolations on the earth. He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; He burns the chariots with fire. “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah. (Ps 46:8–11)
Peter Tsukahira, Co-Founding Pastor of Kehilat HaCarmel (Carmel Congregation), an Israeli Messianic congregation, has lived on Mount Carmel in northern Israel for 35 years. He is a graduate of Christ for the Nations Institute and also holds a Master of Divinity degree. Peter also has years of experience in the IT industry and in several multinational corporations in the USA, Japan and Israel. Peter’s international speaking ministry, video teachings and books have impacted many around the world with an understanding of God’s heart and strategic purposes for Israel and God’s kingdom. He is the author of Equip – Your Personal Journey to the Kingdom and other books. Visit his website at www.petertsukahira.com for more information.