Sitting Down on the Inside:
The Gift of Peace
by Carter Featherston
Imagine that you are an old Testament saint. You live under the Law of Moses, and you feel the burden of keeping your behavior up to standards. When it is required, you come to the priest with your sacrifice, and if you are poor, then you come with the most meager of offerings. You hang your head as you approach the priest, the mediator who represents an Almighty and Holy God. The priest takes your offering and places it on the altar. You are feeling unworthy, unholy and unacceptable to this God Who seems distant and, well, disinterested. As your sacrifice burns on the altar, and the smell from the fire rises up to the face of God, here’s what happens next.
The priest turns to you. You look up and see his face, and you think . . . is that his face . . . shining like that? With a gentle smile he says,
“The LORD bless you, and keep you; The LORD make His face shine on you, and be gracious to you; The LORD lift up His countenance on you, and give you peace.” (Num 6:24)
When the children of Israel brought a sacrifice, this is what Yahweh told the priests to say. Amazing grace! With this blessing Yahweh let the worshipers know that He loved and accepted them (the essence of blessing); that He was watching over them; that His face was beaming with delight over them; that His grace was granted to them; and that the worshiper should no longer feel dejected or discouraged, but receive the peace of God.
What a blessing indeed!
Notice that the ultimate point of this blessing is peace ; that the worshiper would return home with peace, God’s peace. God wanted His people to know that He was not a God of anger and wrath, but He was a God who granted peace. Apparently this has been the desire of our Father God from the beginning, that we His people would have His peace from being in His presence.
Peace is the ability to “sit down on the inside.” It is a gift from God received in His presence (Psalm 4:6b-8; Psalm 85:8; Isa 9:6; Isa 26:12). In the Old Testament the word for this peace is shalom. This blessed word did not mean merely “the lack of war,” but more richly it meant peace from the absence of any disturbance to a person’s well-being. Shalom included material and financial prosperity, physical health and
safety. It was spoken as the gracious ingredient in a person’s contentedness, in good relationships, for good sleep and even as a blessing for good travel. Shalom was the fullness of all the ways that God blessed you and protected you in life.
In the New Testament our peace with God is established through redemption (Eph 1:7) and affirmed in our reconciliation (2 Cor 5:18). We have peace with God through the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ (Rom 5:1). Even further, the whole process of our sanctification and maturity serves to deepen our participation in the peace of Christ (Heb 13:20f; 2 Cor 13:11). Indeed, Christ Himself is our peace (Eph 2:14-18); and our peace with Him brings about a new relationship with one another (Gal 6:15-16).
Yet, we live in a world today where peace is so hard to hold on to. Our busy lives, our pursuit of other idols, and our worry —-about finances, our children, our grandchildren and our elderly parents— all keep us occupied with every thought except peace.
On the retreats I lead we have wonderful Christians come to us. Many have been believers for a long time, serving in their churches, but there is often an absence of peace in their eyes. The enemy has terrorized them with shame from old wounds and old sins. He tortures them with lies about their identity, and stirs up inside of them the resignation that God is really disappointed in them.
Where is our peace? In Isaiah 53 and 54 we find amazing words about a covenant of peace. In fact, most every mention of peace in the New Testament is based on what God establishes in these two chapters in Isaiah. Written 700 years before Christ these two passages reveal the gospel power of Calvary, and the peace that is available to us. Here are three applications for peace from Isaiah.
Our Peace includes the hope of Emotional Healing. In Isaiah 53:4 we are told that Christ bore first, not our sin, but our sorrow and grief. He took on our pain and suffering. These are the painful emotions of our wounds, some of which came from the sins of others who hurt us. When Christ came to gather up their sins, He took notice also of our sorrow and suffering caused by their sins, and He gathered up our pain and grief. Similar sorrows have come from misunderstandings, careless words that shamed us, break-ups and betrayals, even from natural disasters and when life didn’t go the way we dreamed. The Gospel of Peace has healing and comfort. Bring your sorrow and grief into His presence in prayer. Acknowledge your pain. Sit still, wait, and let His compassion enter your sorrow and grief (54:10c, d).
Our Peace includes the Healing of Shame. Isaiah 53:4-5 describes the brutal cross of Christ where “it is finished!” Done. God is through punishing anyone for our sins. The completeness of our forgiveness is the clear testimony of the New Testament (Eph 1:7; Heb 10:12; I Jn 2:2). However, on a regular basis as a counselor and retreat leader, I meet people who cannot receive forgiveness for something terrible in their past, a sin so great (in their eyes) that a place in their soul feels unworthy of His love. Instead of peace, there is shame and condemnation. But in transformational healing prayer (Eph 1:18), the Holy Spirit can open the eyes of your heart to “see” His hope, that this very sin has been forgiven and forgotten (Heb 10:17). The healing of shame is only Spirit-taught.
Our Peace means God is No Longer Mad at Us. What follows Isaiah 53? That’s right, Isaiah 54. After Isaiah penned the prophecy of Isaiah 53, where all of our sins would be borne away and we would be justified (53:12), Isaiah did not stop writing. He continued with “Shout for joy!” (54:1; other versions say, “Sing, Shout aloud”) Why? Why shout and sing for joy? Because of 53, because our sins have been carried away. Now, feast your eyes on Isa 54:9-10. God says that the death of Christ in 53 is like the old days of Noah, when after the flood He swore that He would never flood the earth again. Likewise, after Christ carries our sins away, God says He will never be angry with us, nor will He rebuke us. Period. Read it and live in peace. The God of peace has sworn it! (Isa 54:9).
God has made a covenant of peace (Isa 54:10) that will not come falling down. It will not be canceled. It has been established as an eternal covenant, because of Yahweh’s great compassion for us (Isa 54:10). His face is shining on you now. Lift up your eyes, and receive His peace.
Carter Featherston, Th.M. Carter is a published writer, a pastoral-counselor and a former pastor. He is the director of Restore one, a ministry helping people make changes at the level of identity. The flagship ministry is a retreat for spiritual discovery and transformation called Pure Heart Weekend. To read more from him or to register for his retreats you can follow Carter at his blog: www.carterfeatherston.com.