Let “the Peace of God” Guard Your Heart
“May Jehovah lift up his face toward you and assign peace to you.”—NUMBERS 6:26.
1. Shortly before his death, what did Paul write to Timothy, revealing what?
IN THE year 65 C.E., the apostle Paul was a prisoner in Rome. Although he was soon to die violently at the hands of a Roman executioner, Paul was at peace. This is evident from the words he wrote to his younger friend Timothy, when he said: “I have fought the fine fight, I have run the course to the finish, I have observed the faith. From this time on there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give me as a reward in that day.”—2 Timothy 4:7, 8.
2. What had guarded Paul’s heart throughout his eventful life, right up to his death?
2 How could Paul be so calm in the face of death? It was because “the peace of God that excels all thought” was guarding his heart. (Philippians 4:7) This same peace had protected him through all the action-packed years since his earlier conversion to Christianity. It had supported him through mobbings, imprisonments, scourgings, and stoning. It had strengthened him as he warred against apostasy and Judaizing influences. And it had helped him to wrestle with unseen demonic forces. Evidently, it strengthened him right to the end. —2 Corinthians 10:4, 5; 11:21-27; Ephesians 6:11, 12.
3. What questions are raised about the peace of God?
3 What a powerful force Paul found this peace to be! Can we today learn what it is? Will it help guard our hearts and strengthen us as we “fight the fine fight of the faith” during these difficult, “critical times hard to deal with”?—1 Timothy 6:12; 2 Timothy 3:1.
Peace With God—How It Was Lost
4. What are some meanings of the word “peace” in the Bible?
4 In the Bible the word “peace” has many meanings. Following are some, as listed in The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology: “Throughout the O[ld] T[estament], [sha·lohmʹ] (peace) covers well-being in the widest sense of the word (Jdg. Jg 19:20); prosperity (Ps. 73:3), even in reference to the godless; bodily health (Isa. 57:18[, 19]; Ps. 38:3); contentedness . . . (Gen. 15:15 etc.); good relations between nations and men ( . . . Jdg. Jg 4:17; 1 Chr. 1Ch 12:17, 18); salvation ( . . . Jer. 29:11; cf. Jer. 14:13).” Most important are peaceful relations with Jehovah, without which any other peace is, at best, only temporary and limited.—2 Corinthians 13:11.
5. How was the peace of God’s creation originally disturbed?
5 Originally, the whole of creation was at complete peace with Jehovah. With good reason, God declared that all his creative works were very good. Indeed, the heavenly angels shouted in applause at the sight of them. (Genesis 1:31; Job 38:4-7) Unhappily, though, that universal peace did not last. It was shattered when the spirit creature now known as Satan seduced the newest of God’s intelligent creatures, Eve, away from obedience to God. Eve’s husband, Adam, followed her, and with three rebels at large, there was discord in the universe.—Genesis 3:1-6.
6. What did loss of peace with God result in for mankind?
6 Loss of peace with God was disastrous for Adam and Eve, who now began a slow physical deterioration that ended with their death. Instead of enjoying peace in Paradise, Adam had to struggle with the unprepared soil outside Eden to feed his growing family. Rather than contentedly mothering a perfect human race, Eve produced imperfect offspring in pain and suffering. Loss of peace with God led to jealousy and violence among humans. Cain killed his brother Abel, and by the time of the Flood, the whole earth was filled with violence. (Genesis 3:7–4:16; 5:5; 6:11, 12) When our first parents died, they surely did not go to their graves satisfied, “in peace,” as did Abraham many hundreds of years later.—Genesis 15:15.
7. (a) What prophecy did God utter that pointed to a restoration of complete peace? (b) How influential did God’s enemy Satan become?
7 After Adam and Eve’s loss of peace, we find the first mention of enmity in the Bible. God spoke to Satan and said: “I shall put enmity between you and the woman and between your seed and her seed. He will bruise you in the head and you will bruise him in the heel.” (Genesis 3:15) As time went by, Satan’s influence grew to the point that the apostle John could say: “The whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one.” (1 John 5:19) A world under Satan is certainly not at peace with God. Appropriately, then, the disciple James warned Christians: “Do you not know that the friendship with the world is enmity with God?”—James 4:4.
At Peace in a Hostile World
8, 9. After Adam sinned, how could humans be at peace with God?
8 Back in Eden, when God first mentioned the word “enmity,” he also foretold how complete peace would be restored to creation. The promised seed of God’s woman would bruise the head of the original peacebreaker. From Eden on, those who exercised faith in that promise enjoyed peaceful relations with God. For Abraham, this developed into friendship.—2 Chronicles 20:7; James 2:23.
9 In the time of Moses, Jehovah formed the children of Israel, Abraham’s grandson, into a nation. He offered his peace to this nation, as is seen in a blessing that Aaron, the high priest, pronounced over them: “May Jehovah bless you and keep you. May Jehovah make his face shine toward you, and may he favor you. May Jehovah lift up his face toward you and assign peace to you.” (Numbers 6:24-26) Jehovah’s peace would bring rich rewards, but it was offered conditionally.
10, 11. For Israel, on what was peace with God conditional, and what would it result in?
10 Jehovah told the nation: “If you continue walking in my statutes and keeping my commandments and you do carry them out, I shall also certainly give your showers of rain at their proper time, and the land will indeed give its yield, and the tree of the field will give its fruit. And I will put peace in the land, and you will indeed lie down, with no one making you tremble; and I will make the injurious wild beast cease out of the land, and a sword will not pass through your land. And I shall indeed walk in the midst of you and prove myself your God, and you, on your part, will prove yourselves my people.” (Leviticus 26:3, 4, 6, 12) Israel could enjoy peace in that they had security from their enemies, material abundance, and a close relationship with Jehovah. But this would depend on their adhering to Jehovah’s Law.—Psalm 119:165.
11 Throughout the nation’s history, Israelites who faithfully tried to keep Jehovah’s statutes did enjoy peace with him, and that often brought many other blessings. During the early years of King Solomon’s reign, peace with God brought material prosperity as well as rest from wars with Israel’s neighbors. Describing that time, the Bible says: “Judah and Israel continued to dwell in security, everyone under his own vine and under his own fig tree, from Dan to Beer-sheba, all the days of Solomon.” (1 Kings 4:25) Even when hostilities broke out with neighboring lands, faithful Israelites still had the peace that really matters, peace with God. Thus, King David, a noted warrior, wrote: “In peace I will both lie down and sleep, for you yourself alone, O Jehovah, make me dwell in security.”—Psalm 4:8.
A Better Basis for Peace
12. How did Israel finally reject peace with God?
12 Eventually, the Seed that was to restore complete peace arrived in the person of Jesus, and at his birth angels sang: “Glory in the heights above to God, and upon earth peace among men of goodwill.” (Luke 2:14) Jesus appeared in Israel, but despite being under God’s covenant, that nation as a whole rejected him and turned him over to the Romans to be killed. Shortly before his death, Jesus wept over Jerusalem, saying: “If you, even you, had discerned in this day the things having to do with peace—but now they have been hid from your eyes.” (Luke 19:42; John 1:11) Because of rejecting Jesus, Israel completely lost its peace with God.
13. What new way did Jehovah establish for man to find peace with Him?
13 Nevertheless, God’s purposes were not thwarted. Jesus was resurrected from the dead, and he offered to Jehovah the value of his perfect life as a ransom for righthearted humans. (Hebrews 9:11-14) Jesus’ sacrifice became a new and better way for humans—both natural Israelites and Gentiles—to find peace with God. Paul said in his letter to the Christians in Rome: “When we were enemies, we became reconciled to God through the death of his Son.” (Romans 5:10) In the first century, those who made peace in this way were anointed with holy spirit to be adopted sons of God and members of a new spiritual nation called “the Israel of God.”—Galatians 6:16; John 1:12, 13; 2 Corinthians 1:21, 22; 1 Peter 2:9.
14, 15. Describe the peace of God, and explain how it protects Christians even when they are the target of Satan’s hostility.
14 These new spiritual Israelites would be the target of hostility from Satan and his world. (John 17:14) However, they would have “peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.” (2 Timothy 1:2) Jesus told them: “I have said these things to you that by means of me you may have peace. In the world you are having tribulation, but take courage! I have conquered the world.”—John 16:33.
15 This is the peace that helped Paul and his fellow Christians to endure despite all the hardships they faced. It reflects a tranquil, harmonious relationship with God made possible by Jesus’ sacrifice. It gives its possessor a serene peace of mind as he becomes aware of Jehovah’s concern. A child nestled in a loving father’s arms has a similar feeling of peace, an unquestioning certainty that he is watched over by someone who cares for him. Paul encouraged the Philippians: “Do not be anxious over anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication along with thanksgiving let your petitions be made known to God; and the peace of God that excels all thought will guard your hearts and your mental powers by means of Christ Jesus.”—Philippians 4:6, 7.
16. How did peace with God affect the relationship of first-century Christians with one another?
16 One result of man’s loss of peace with God was hatred and discord. For first-century Christians, finding peace with God resulted in the very opposite: peace and unity among themselves, what Paul called “the uniting bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:3) They ‘thought in agreement and lived peaceably, and the God of love and peace was with them.’ Moreover, they preached “the good news of peace,” which was, essentially, the good news of salvation for ‘friends of peace,’ those who respond to the good news.—2 Corinthians 13:11; Acts 10:36; Luke 10:5, 6.
A Covenant of Peace
17. What has God made with his people in our day?
17 Can such peace be found today? Yes, it can. Since the establishment of God’s Kingdom under the glorified Jesus Christ in 1914, Jehovah has gathered the remaining ones of the Israel of God out of this world and made a covenant of peace with them. He thus fulfilled his promise made through the prophet Ezekiel: “I will conclude with them a covenant of peace; an indefinitely lasting covenant is what there will come to be with them. And I will place them and multiply them and place my sanctuary in the midst of them to time indefinite.” (Ezekiel 37:26) Jehovah made this covenant with anointed Christians who, like their brothers in the first century, exercise faith in Jesus’ sacrifice. Cleansed of spiritual pollution, they have dedicated themselves to their heavenly Father and strive to follow his commandments, most notably by spearheading the worldwide preaching of the good news of God’s established Kingdom.—Matthew 24:14.
18. How have some among the nations responded when they discerned that God’s name is upon the Israel of God?
18 The prophecy continues: “And my tabernacle will actually prove to be over them, and I shall certainly become their God, and they themselves will become my people. And the nations will have to know that I, Jehovah, am sanctifying Israel.” (Ezekiel 37:27, 28) In harmony with this, hundreds of thousands, yes, millions, from “the nations” have recognized that Jehovah’s name is on the Israel of God. (Zechariah 8:23) Out of all nations, they have flocked to serve Jehovah with that spiritual nation, forming the “great crowd” foreseen in Revelation. Having “washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb,” they will survive the great tribulation into a peaceful new world.—Revelation 7:9, 14.
19. What peace do God’s people enjoy today?
19 Together, the Israel of God and the great crowd enjoy spiritual peace comparable to the peace enjoyed by Israel under King Solomon. Regarding them, Micah prophesied: “They will have to beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning shears. They will not lift up sword, nation against nation, neither will they learn war anymore. And they will actually sit, each one under his vine and under his fig tree, and there will be no one making them tremble.” (Micah 4:3, 4; Isaiah 2:2-4) In harmony with this, they have turned their back on war and strife, symbolically beating their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning shears. Thus, they enjoy a peaceful brotherhood throughout their international community, no matter what their nationality, language, race, or social background. And they delight in the certainty of Jehovah’s protective watchcare over them. ‘No one makes them tremble.’ Truly, ‘Jehovah himself has given strength indeed to his people. Jehovah himself has blessed his people with peace.’—Psalm 29:11.
20, 21. (a) Why must we work at preserving our peace with God? (b) What can we say about Satan’s efforts to shatter the peace of God’s people?
20 As in the first century C.E., however, the peace of God’s servants has incited the hostility of Satan. Cast out of heaven after the establishment of God’s Kingdom in 1914, Satan has since then waged war “with the remaining ones of [the woman’s] seed.” (Revelation 12:17) Even in his day, Paul warned: “We have a wrestling, not against blood and flesh, but against . . . the wicked spirit forces in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12) With Satan now confined to the vicinity of the earth, that warning is urgent.
21 Satan has used every tactic at his disposal in his effort to destroy the peace of God’s people, but he has failed. Back in 1919, there were not even 10,000 who strove to serve God faithfully. Today, there are over four million conquering the world through their faith. (1 John 5:4) For these, peace with God and peace with one another is a reality, even as they endure the hostility of Satan and his seed. But in view of this hostility, and considering our own imperfection and the “critical times hard to deal with” in which we live, we have to work diligently to preserve our peace. (2 Timothy 3:1) In the next article, we will see what this involves.
Can You Explain?
□ Why did man originally lose his peace with God?
□ For Israel, on what was peace with God conditional?
□ What is peace with God based on today?
□ What is “the peace of God” that guards our hearts?
□ What further blessings do we enjoy if we have peace with God?