The prophet Isaiah looked forward to the arrival of a future king who would make a covenant of shalom (peace, well-being) with his people. This king would set the world right and heal all that has been harmed. Read Isaiah 9:6-7 aloud together. What specific words or phrases stand out to you as you observe this passage and why?
The prophet Isaiah looked forward to the arrival of the Prince of Peace, whose reign would lead to eternal shalom. Jesus’ arrival fulfilled Isaiah’s words. Read and reflect on Luke 2:9-15 as a group. Why do you think God announced the King’s arrival to no-name shepherds? What does this tell you about the nature of God and his Kingdom?
The biblical story shows how humanity often chooses a way of life apart from God and suffers as a result. According to Colossians 1:19-23, what did God want to do to remedy this pain, and how did he accomplish his desire through Jesus?
Jesus offers his peace to all people as a gift. Read Ephesians 2:11-16. How did Jesus make peace between two sharply divided people groups (Jews and Gentiles), and why did he do it (see Eph. 2:16)?
Now, let’s carefully read Ephesians 4:1-3. How can humility, gentleness, patience, and love help maintain the unity Jesus calls his followers to? What happens to unity when one of these virtues is missing?
Tim: The word peace is common in most languages. People can talk about peace treaties or times of peace; it means the absence of war. And in the Bible, the word peace can refer to the absence of conflict, but it also points to the presence of something better in its place.
In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word for peace is shalom, and in the New Testament, the Greek word is eirene. The most basic meaning of shalom is complete or whole. The word can refer to a stone that has a perfect whole shape with no cracks. It can also refer to a completed stone wall that has no gaps and no missing bricks. Shalom refers to something that’s complex with lots of pieces that’s in a state of completeness, wholeness.
Shalom in the Hebrew Bible [00:43-02:07]
It’s like Job who says his tents are in a state of shalom because he counted his flock and no animals are missing.1 This is why shalom can refer to a person’s well-being. Like when David visited his brothers on the battlefield, he asked about their shalom.2 The core idea is that life is complex, full of moving parts and relationships and situations, and when any of these is out of alignment or missing, your shalom breaks down. Life is no longer whole. It needs to be restored.
In fact, that’s the basic meaning of shalom when you use it as a verb. To bring shalom literally means to make complete or restore. So Solomon brings shalom to the unfinished temple when he completes it.3 Or if your animal accidentally damages your neighbor’s field, you shalom them by giving them a complete repayment for their loss. You take what’s missing, and you restore it to wholeness.
The same goes for human relationships. In the book of Proverbs, to reconcile and heal a broken relationship is to bring shalom. And when rival kingdoms make shalom in the Bible, it doesn’t just mean they stop fighting. It also means they start working together for each other’s benefit.
This state of shalom is what Israel’s kings were supposed to cultivate, and it rarely happened. So the prophet Isaiah, he looked forward to a future king, a prince of shalom. And his reign would bring shalom with no end—a time when God would make a covenant of shalom with his people and make right all wrongs and heal all that’s been broken.4
Jesus’ Birth Brings Eirene [02:08-03:26]
This is why Jesus’s birth in the New Testament was announced as the arrival of eirene.5 Remember that’s the Greek word for peace. Jesus came to offer his peace to others like when he said to his followers, “my peace I give to you all.” 6
The apostles claimed that Jesus made peace between messed up humans and God when he died and rose from the dead. The idea is that he restored to wholeness the broken relationship between humans and their Creator. This is why the apostle Paul can say Jesus himself is our eirene. He was the whole, complete human that I am made to be but have failed to be, and now he gives me his life as a gift. And this means that Jesus’ followers are now called to create peace.
Paul instructed local churches to keep their unity through the bond of peace, which requires humility and patience and bearing with others in love.7 Becoming people of peace means participating in the life of Jesus, who reconciled all things in heaven on earth, restoring peace through his death and resurrection.
So peace takes a lot of work because it’s not just the absence of conflict. True peace requires taking what’s broken and restoring it to wholeness, whether it’s in our lives, our relationships, or in our world. And that’s the rich biblical concept of peace.