WALKING THROUGH THE 25 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS
To the shepherds out on the Judean highlands surrounding Bethlehem, it was probably just another night. The hills and the city of Bethlehem were silhouetted against the night sky; and, the sheep bedded down for sleep appeared as silvery mounds on the landscape. No doubt, the cold mountain air caused the shepherds to draw their garments around them more tightly as they prepared for the long night ahead.
Suddenly, a blinding light split the darkness. Their eyes barely had time to adjust to the brilliance before the voice of an angel pierced the silence announcing the birth of the long-promised Messiah.
Within moments, the air was filled with the deafening chorus of innumerable angels praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”
Our romanticized impressions of that historic moment of the angelic announcement to the shepherds often fails to take into account the tumultuous tyranny of Roman occupation in Israel. The reality of peace must have seemed elusive to shepherds who first heard the message of, “peace, goodwill toward men.”
As we who live in 21st century reality—where Christmas shoppers in Berlin are the most recent victims of senseless terrorism—the Word of God is quick to remind us that despite the presence of evil and strife in today’s world, personal peace is possible.
The birth of our Savior is linked to a promise spelled out in Scripture and is repeated in both Old and New Testaments.
PERSONAL PEACE PROMISED
The prophet Isaiah incorporates the promise of peace in a Messianic prophecy saying,
“You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You” (Isa. 26:3).
The word, “You,” refers to the Lord Jehovah, the Self-existent, Infinitely-wise, All-knowing, All-seeing, All-powerful and Ever-present God who would ultimately reveal Himself as Israel’s Messiah. He is the Creator who brought all that exists into being and has a plan for all that He created—including humanity. He knows how all of the circumstances of each individual’s life and the combined events of history mesh to accomplish His will and purpose.
It is significant to note that Jehovah Himself will keep him/her. The word “keep” (Heb. Ti’tsar) describes a garrison or fortress and conveys God’s ability to protect or guard.
The word used for “peace” is shalom—one of the most beautiful words in the Hebrew language. The amazing word, shalom, draws into its scope of meaning the idea of safety, favor, fulfillment, well-being and prosperity.
Isaiah accentuates this concept of peace by twice repeating shalom. A literal translation reads, “Him, you will keep in peace, peace.” The promise is peace multiplied to the fullest measure.
God makes peace available in general to all of humanity and specifically to every individual person.
The promise, however, is conditioned on the phrase, “whose mind is stayed on You” denoting a state of mind resulting from a decisive choice to trust in God. The word “stayed” (Heb. saw-mak) describes something that is fixed or immovable.
PERSONAL PEACE ILLUSTRATED
Imagine a man in a life raft being tossed wildly on the surface of a raging sea.
Through torrential rains and flashes of lightening, he catches sight of a giant rock formation protruding from the surface of the turbulent waves. Rather than taking his chances in the flimsy craft, he paddles with all of his might to reach the rock and climbs onto the solid surface. To his surprise, the man discovers a small opening and crawls through into a cavernous refuge protected from the elements.
The storm has not disappeared; the waves continue to roar; the gale-forced winds howl across the rocky outcropping; but, in the shelter of the cave, the man is safe and secure—at peace. It is a peace that exists even though the storm rages all around.
What a fitting analogy to describe people of faith who by decisive act choose to put their trust in God.
Trusting God is a wise choice (Jer. 17:7)!
“in YAH, the Lord, is everlasting strength” (Isa. 26:4).
Again, the Hebrew text reveals a wonderful truth. This is one of only four places where YAH is retained in English translations of Scripture. YAH is a form of the Hebrew name Jehovah which is often translated “Lord” in English.
The word “strength” (Heb. tzur) describes a rock, like the Rock of Gibraltar. In this context, the word describes unfailing strength—the unfailing strength of Jehovah Himself. Literally, YAH, the Lord is steadfast and unchangeable—the Eternal Rock.
PERSONAL PEACE EXPERIENCED
In the New Testament the apostle Paul reiterates the promise of personal peace,
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6).
For anyone choosing to trust, God Himself provides all that is necessary for peace during the ravages of our daily experience.
There is no greater gift than the availability of God’s peace amid the chaotic reality of overwhelming world affairs.
When you determine to trust God despite prevailing circumstances, you will experience the reality of peace enjoyed by King David who wrote,
“He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress; my God, in Him will I trust’” (Ps. 91:1-2).
The angel’s message of peace on the night of the Nativity can be a reality in your life. You can choose to live in the personal peace that comes as a result of trusting God. And, when you do, your life will exemplify God’s peace in all your interactions with those you meet throughout the day.
1) Walking to church (c. 1853). By George Henry Durrie (1820–1863), [PD-US, PD-Art], via Wikimedia Commons – Enhancement: MKM Portfolios
2) L’ange et les Bergers (The Angel and the Shepherds), (circa. 1886-1894). By Jacques Joseph Tissot (1836-1902), [(No known restrictions), PD-US, PD-Art], via Brooklyn Musuem – Enhancement: MKM Portfolios
Charles E. McCracken is an international Bible teacher, long-time friend of Israel and advocate for the Jewish people. With 40 plus years of ministry experience, Rev. McCracken is known for authenticity in communicating biblical truth that makes his presentations relevant for those seeking to understand the significance of Israel and the church in Bible prophecy. He staunchly supports the nation of Israel and the Jewish people’s right to exist and live in peace.
© Charles E. McCracken 2016, devotional comments only. Repost/Reprint with permission from the author via Contact Form under ABOUT. Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Categories: Walking Through the Days of Christmas