Peace or No Peace?
Lord, grant to me the peace that passes understanding.
Read ISAIAH 48:12–22
12 “Listen to me, Jacob,
Israel, whom I have called:
I am he;
I am the first and I am the last.
13 My own hand laid the foundations of the earth,
and my right hand spread out the heavens;
when I summon them,
they all stand up together.
14 “Come together, all of you, and listen:
Which of the idols has foretold these things?
The Lord’s chosen ally
will carry out his purpose against Babylon;
his arm will be against the Babylonians.
15 I, even I, have spoken;
yes, I have called him.
I will bring him,
and he will succeed in his mission.
16 “Come near me and listen to this:
“From the first announcement I have not spoken in secret;
at the time it happens, I am there.”
And now the Sovereign Lord has sent me,
endowed with his Spirit.
17 This is what the Lord says—
your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel:
“I am the Lord your God,
who teaches you what is best for you,
who directs you in the way you should go.
18 If only you had paid attention to my commands,
your peace would have been like a river,
your well-being like the waves of the sea.
19 Your descendants would have been like the sand,
your children like its numberless grains;
their name would never be blotted out
nor destroyed from before me.”
20 Leave Babylon,
flee from the Babylonians!
Announce this with shouts of joy
and proclaim it.
Send it out to the ends of the earth;
say, “The Lord has redeemed his servant Jacob.”
21 They did not thirst when he led them through the deserts;
he made water flow for them from the rock;
he split the rock
and water gushed out.
22 “There is no peace,” says the Lord, “for the wicked.”
New International Version (NIV)
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“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you… Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27).
Two sayings we often use are found in this poem. Both are about peace. The first talks of “peace… like a river” (18). The image is of a constant, steady flow of God’s blessing pouring into Israel’s life. Tragically, they have forfeited this peace because they hadn’t “paid attention to my commands” (18). What that means is spelled out in the surrounding verses. It involves respecting God’s person (12,13); recognizing God’s uniqueness, since he alone predicts and commands the future (14,16); listening to God’s Spirit-filled servant (16); following God’s direction (17); obeying God’s commands (20); and thanking God for his faithfulness (21). Israel has done none of this, so they haven’t experienced any peace. The river is obstructed by their spiritual indifference and disobedience. How could they expect the blessings of prosperity and peace promised to Abraham to be theirs (Gen. 12:2,3; 15:5)? Peace is not a warm, fuzzy feeling from God, regardless of how we live. It flows from a humble and obedient relationship with God.
The second saying states, “There is no peace… for the wicked” (22). We may joke about this when a busy day seems unending, but it’s really a very serious matter. Many thought that Israel lacked peace because she was in exile, and that once the people returned home they would find peace again. We often think the same, but God warns us that peace is due not to our circumstances or location but rather to our obedience. Peace and wickedness simply can’t coexist, so there is a choice we must make. If we want peace to flow like a river, we need to follow the course God has marked out and not the diversionary channels we dig for ourselves. Otherwise we find ourselves at cross purposes with God.
What does it mean for you to “pay attention” to God, not just in devotional times but throughout the day? Is there a connection between peace and attending to God?
Lord, I want to flow in the middle of the river You have forged for my life.