How many advertisements have you seen so far today? Think of everything you’ve looked at thus far. Consider commercials on television, on the radio, on podcasts. Ads that pop up in the middle of any good YouTube video. The banner and block ads on just about every open space on any given webpage.
When was the last time you used a gas pump? Many of those now have video screens too, placed directly at eye-level and timed just right to show you multiple advertisements in the five or ten minutes it takes you to put gas in the tank.
And all those are only the digital ones. I haven’t even mentioned junk mail, billboards, grocery store displays, or the brand names stamped on our clothes and computers and cars.
Now, a new question.
How peaceful do you feel right now?
If the idea of peacefulness seems absurd to you after just having considered the overwhelming amount of advertisements you see in a day, you’ve got the gist of this month’s subject. Few desires are held in common among large, diverse groups of people, but peace is a desire that most, or perhaps even all of us carry in our hearts. But do we know what this elusive goal really means? Is peace simply the absence of war, and is that even possible on a global scale? What sort of conflict, what level of violence, should be truly considered war? Can war be something that happens on a small scale too? Escalating arguments between political candidates, next-door neighbors, or family members? Can we fight a war within our own minds?
This month I’m exploring the biblical context of peace as it is portrayed in the Hebrew word shalom. Like many of the mysteries of God, shalom is incredibly rich and complex, yet also wonderfully simple and pleasing. The term shalom brings with it a range of uses, making the word itself rich in depth, yet friendly in its tone.
Shalom isn’t the Hebrew word for peace, however. It isn’t referring to the type of peace we think of at the end of periods of war or when the kids finally quiet down and go to sleep for the night. In some cultures shalom is used as a greeting, much like the English word “hello.”
But its meaning is more than a polite recognition. Shalom is a form of the Hebrew word shalem, referring to wholeness, and a sense of completeness. As Britt Mooney explains in his article on the origins of shalom, biblical shalom is a greater, more encompassing concept than peace, or the absence of war. God himself speaks this word to Abraham to explain where he will go when he grows old and dies (Genesis 15:15). In Judges Gideon builds an altar and names it “Yahweh Shalom,” which translates to “God is my peace,” — after he learns that God has called him to lead a battle. In biblical context, then, shalom does not mean peace, as in the absence of war; it instead denotes a sense of safety, wholeness, and harmony, a peace that even we, in our most beautiful thoughts, cannot imagine.
So what does indescribable, God-given peace have to teach us in our lives in this less-than-peaceful world? I’m dedicating the month of September to exploring that concept myself. To me, the idea of all-encompassing tranquility looks like the restful night of sleep I’ve never quite experienced, the perfect relationships that fulfills all my needs,…and the brass ring on the carousel ceiling that my hand will never reach. Is something so mysterious worth our time and thought?
To join in my exploration and discussion of shalom, you can leave a comment here, visit me on Instagram @melanie_makovsky, find me on Facebook, or join my exclusive, private Facebook group, PTG Overcomers Community. Free memberships are available to the first 100 members only.
Be blessed this week.