Keeping His Name Holy – Yahweh-shalom

Keeping His Name Holy – Yahweh-shalom

Keeping His Name Holy – Yahweh-shalom

“Glory to God in the highest, and peace to His people on the earth!” (from the Gloria, based on Luke 2:14).

“Then Gideon perceived that he was the angel of Yahweh; and Gideon said, ‘Alas, O Yahweh Elohim! For now I have seen the angel of Yahweh face to face.’ But Yahweh said to Gideon, ‘Peace be to you; do not fear, you shall not die.’ Then Gideon built an altar there to Yahweh, and called it, Yahweh-shalom, the LORD-is-peace.” (Judges 6:22-24).

Shalom (peace) ranks the highest of all values in the Hebrew Bible, according to Jewish scholars. Shalom is the most important goal in all of life. “Rabbinic teaching describes it as the only vessel through which God’s blessings can flow into this world.” (Rabbi Arthur Green, These are the words: A Vocabulary of Jewish Spiritual Life).

One wonders if perhaps these accolades to peace are a little overwrought, until one sees the full Hebrew meaning of shalom. As it turns out, peace in the Bible is a dazzling diamond with many facets, many aspects which fill out its full meaning.

SHALOM: the joining together of opposites, the holding together of separate pieces; harmony, completeness, wholeness; the resolving of conflicts, the healing of division; an abundance of well-being, health, flourishing; tranquility, contentment, freedom from disquiet or disorder.

In other words, peace is one of the greatest gifts that God can give us. With the Prince of Peace, we are able to enjoy a taste of heavenly shalom now… full reconciliation with God; flourishing in mind and spirit; an inner harmony that heals us and joins together loose ends in our spirit; an outer harmony with others that enjoy resolved conflicts; a tranquil heart of contentment and trust; an inner assurance that all will be well.

This is the very beginning of the astounding story of Gideon. He by nature lacked confidence. He was a natural skeptic and lived with a serious sense of inadequacy. Gideon was a farmer, the youngest member of an insignificant family in Israel, and he felt it. His nation was slowly starving to death because of the Midianites, a marauding enemy that swept into Israel and stole their crops and their livestock. Israel was left with nothing time and again, and this had been going on for seven long years. If they were honest with themselves, the Israelites would have accepted this as God’s judgement for their idolatry. But that didn’t make it any easier.

Gideon was understandably fearful, but he was also very clever. He used the family winepress to serve as the place where he would secretly thresh his wheat. The winepress was probably a wide vat that was carved out of a boulder in the ground, big enough for several people to stand in and squash grapes. Gideon was afraid that some Midianites would see his wheat and come in to take away his crop if he was out in the open. So hiding in the winepress, he was threshing his wheat so his family could eat. Suddenly an angel of  Yahweh appeared to Gideon, called him a “mighty hero” of all things, and said that the LORD was with him. Gideon was doubtful about this, he even doubted this person was an angel, and complained that if LORD was with him and his people, He sure had a strange way of showing it. Look at the Midianites, Gideon said. It looks like Yahweh has abandoned us! The angel made it clear, though, that Yahweh wanted Gideon to lead the rescue efforts, and that God would be with him all the way.

Once it occurred to Gideon that he had indeed seen an angel of Yahweh face-to-face, he panicked and said he was doomed! No one can see the LORD and live, and that probably goes with His angel too, Gideon apparently thought. But this time Yahweh Himself told Gideon to be at peace. Fear not, you will not die, says Yahweh. So Gideon decided to build an altar at that place, a constant physical reminder in honor of the occasion. Gideon called that altar Yahweh-shalom, LORD-is-peace.

By naming that altar LORD-is-peace, Gideon made a powerful statement of faith in Yahweh, that Yahweh would bring peace to him and to his people in Israel:

  1. Peace of Heart. Gideon needed immediate reassurance that he wouldn’t die after seeing Yahweh and His angel. He needed to know that he was not doomed after seeing them face-to-face. Gideon was afraid of Yahweh’s holy presence, and he needed a heavy dose of courage from heaven.
  2. Peace to Israel. After seven years of judgement and intimidation. God will bring victory over their enemies. God will help Israel flourish once again. God will resolve this painful conflict by overcoming the Midianites and bringing peace to the land.
  3. Peace with God. After surviving through these years of trouble, Gideon needed to know that he and Israel was at peace with God. Gideon needed to confirm that God had not abandoned them, that Yahweh would be with them. After Gideon’s conversation with Yahweh and His angel, there was a strong sense of reconciliation with God.
  4. Peace of Mind. Gideon was at first very uncomfortable with being the lead warrior in Israel’s rescue. He had been at loose ends for seven years, and was certainly feeling unsure of himself, scattered and unsettled. Gideon was living a life of fearfulness after all this time of being bullied by their enemies. God’s promise of His presence and strength started to bring to Gideon a measure of tranquility and contentment. He started to ease into trusting God despite his skepticism. Gideon wasn’t fully there yet, but he was on the way to trust and faith.

For the rest of this story about Gideon and the Midianites, read Judges 6-8, and see how Gideon ended up as a hero of the Faith in the Hebrew Hall of Fame in Hebrews 11:32.  It’s a story we can all take to heart. It’s a story that’s all about God, and how He can take an ordinary, common skeptic and strengthen him for His purposes.

A Prayer to Yahweh-shalom (ya’-way shal-lome’)

We rest content in you, Yahweh-shalom, LORD-is-peace. For you are perfect peace, the ultimate source of wholeness, justice, completeness. You long to be at peace with the people you have created, Lord, and so you sent your Son to be your one acceptable peace offering.  You have now restored harmony with all whom you have made, in the hope that we will all be reconciled with you. And now your Spirit yearns to come to us as the Prince of Peace, bringing peace to our hearts, restoration to our relationships, and unity to your broken Body. We thank you for this peace that is beyond our understanding but is made real to us through your Presence. We bow before you, Yahweh-shalom, and we worship your holy Name. Amen.

Romance Watson – Peace in the Valley [Live] – YouTube