Yahweh and Jesus – The Name of Yahweh-Shalom

Yahweh and Jesus – The Name of Yahweh-Shalom

Yahweh and Jesus – The Name of Yahweh-Shalom.

“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 = The ancient Hebrew word translated as peace and means much more than absence of war: completeness or wholeness, as in the joining together of opposites; integrity, as in the effective holding together of separate pieces; to give/restore harmony; fulfillment; health; security; abundant well-being; tranquility; freedom from disquiet and disorder; reconciliation; resolution of conflict; healing of division; to flourish; prosperity.

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).

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.

The Angel of Yahweh, that mysterious heavenly Messenger that appears and then disappears in many stories in the Hebrew Bible, has long been considered by many scholars to be none other than Jesus Christ. Early Church theologians, and many others since then, have recognized that this unique Angel not only represents Yahweh, but also speaks for Yahweh, and is seen by witnesses as being Yahweh Himself. We do know that Scripture is clear… no one can see God face-to-face and survive the experience. And we do know that God is a Spirit. So, logically, any manifestation of God in the form of man is Jesus in His pre-incarnate state.

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.

Gospel Fulfillment. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your heart be troubled, and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27). “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world!” (John 16:33).

So when Jesus offers His peace to us as a gift, He is telling us many important things: He is offering our reconciliation with God through Him; He is desiring that we flourish in mind and body and spirit; He is trusting that we grow in an inner harmony, blending together those loose ends within each of us; He is pushing for an outer harmony as well, between people at battle with each other; He is granting us untroubled hearts and minds. When Jesus offers His peace, He is opening the door to a soul-satisfying contentment in each of us. That is the gospel of peace, a deep, fearless peace that defies easy description, a life-long heavenly experience on earth that is not comparable to anything else we can experience.

  1. Peace is a Blessing. Peace is both a greeting and a farewell in customary Jewish tradition. When said thoughtfully, this is not a casual greeting that merely involves positive thinking or good feelings. When you say shalom to someone, you are prayerfully hoping that she or he will flourish in wholeness and well-being. Jesus often used shalom as a greeting, and when the Prince of Peace (Is. 9:6) says to you “Peace to you!” there can be no greater gift. He says that to each of us right now.
  2. Peace is a Kiss. The kiss of peace on each cheek was a traditional greeting in the Middle East. The Christian Church continued that tradition, and it continues to this day in  the Eastern Orthodox Church. When someone offers a kiss of peace, that person is saying that she or he has a clear conscience with that other person, that any division has been healed, any wrong has been forgiven, any bitterness is in the past. When Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss of peace, his betrayal was grotesque and doubly hurtful (Luke 22:48). The kiss of peace in the Orthodox liturgy is done just before the Eucharist, for Jesus clearly stated that peace with others takes priority over the duties of worship (Matt. 5:23-24).
  3. Peace is a Sigh. We live in a noisy world, in both an auditory and visual way. We have machines, phones, screens, billboards, the chattering of people. Noise has been linked to high blood pressure, depression, anxiety, stress, and even cognitive impairment. What do we do when we get just a minute of “peace and quiet?” We take a deep breath and exhale with an unhurried sigh. When Jesus breathed into His disciples after the Resurrection, it was a breath of peace (John 20:21-22). The tranquility of heart that comes with that sigh is a loving expression of peace. When possible, seek prayerful silence when you can get it, and you will experience that thoughtful sigh, the fresh breath of the Holy Spirit, the very peace that Christ offered His disciples in the Upper Room.
  4. Peace is a Sword. This is a paradox, and is no doubt an aspect of peace that may be beyond human understanding. But Jesus said at one point that He is bringing not peace, but a sword. (Matt. 19:34). He indeed brought the righteous sword of His Holy Spirit, rightly dividing good from evil, a judgment on sin. Some will accept this sword, and some will not, at least for the time being. So Jesus saw division as being the immediate result of His work, division between people especially. But the eventual purpose of His ministry was to divide in order to unite, to bring peace, between people and between God and mankind. Jesus is the ultimate peacemaker. He wants to confront these deep differences and conflicts that inevitably come in His presence, and He earnestly wants to be the bringer of peace and healing and justice.
  5. Peace is a Gift. Peace is clearly a gift offered by Jesus to us, and is in fact a sign of His presence. We can’t manufacture peace on our own, it comes to us from heaven, from His Holy Spirit. Peace is a quality that is seeded into our hearts and minds, and then grows, and becomes an eternal fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22). The world is not capable of giving us this kind of peace. Peace is a gift that we live into, a confident assurance that we are in harmony with the God who has claimed the ultimate victory. This puts our hearts to rest.

There is no doubt that Jesus took great joy in fulfilling the prophecy in Isaiah 52:7:  “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, ‘Your God reigns’!”

A Prayer to Yahweh-shalom (ya’-way shal-lome’), honoring Jesus, the Prince of Peace:

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.