Text for the Week: The Promise of Peace

Scripture: Luke 1:68-79

68 “Bless the Lord God of Israel
    because he has come to help and has delivered his people.
69 He has raised up a mighty savior for us in his servant David’s house,
70     just as he said through the mouths of his holy prophets long ago.
71 He has brought salvation from our enemies
    and from the power of all those who hate us.
72 He has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors,
    and remembered his holy covenant,
73         the solemn pledge he made to our ancestor Abraham.
He has granted 74 that we would be rescued
        from the power of our enemies
    so that we could serve him without fear,
75         in holiness and righteousness in God’s eyes,
            for as long as we live.
76 You, child, will be called a prophet of the Most High,
    for you will go before the Lord to prepare his way.
77 You will tell his people how to be saved
    through the forgiveness of their sins.
78 Because of our God’s deep compassion,
    the dawn from heaven will break upon us,
79     to give light to those who are sitting in darkness
    and in the shadow of death,
        to guide us on the path of peace.”

Theme- We follow Jesus down the path of Peace

Questions

  1. Why is this passage in a past tense (“has” represents a past prefect) when from Zachariah’s perspective Jesus’ birth is a future event?
  2. What is the “path of peace” and what does it mean to walk it?
  3. How is the path of peace related to ideas in this passage like “salvation” and “righteousness”?

Helpful Information

Related texts: Ps. 132:17, Zech. 8:16-19, Mt. 26:52, Jn. 14:27

Peace (Shalom) in the Bible means to be whole, healthy, and/or complete. When applied to relationships peace is a state where the relationship is friendly and working to the benefit of all parties.

The word eirene (peace) appears in almost every writing of the NT. It describes an international calm and a relationship of goodwill between God and humans. Most frequently it describes a social reality, a state of reconciliation and wholeness among a group of people.[1]

Reflection

Over the next month we will repeatedly encounter the phrase “Peace on Earth”, as people seek a respite from the normal chaos of life. Our culture promotes the concept that Christmas is a day of tranquil rest and relaxation with family. But that is not how the Bible presents the peace of Christmas, Christians speak of Jesus as the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 2:9) and Zechariah speaks of a Messiah who will lead us down the “path of peace”. Why is it we promote a day of peace when the Scriptures want us to focus on a culture of peace? It is, in part, because our desire is different from what the Bible offers us and so we attempt to accommodate Jesus to our own aims. We desire time free of the stress caused by conflict and so we look forward to a time where we attempt to gather only with the people who cause us the least conflict? This is also why holidays can be stressful for those who do not get along with family, they desire freedom from stress but are forced into situations of stress. But this escape from conflict is only a byproduct of what Jesus has come to offer in terms of peace. Imagine a garden, Americans are taught to imagine peace as a garden without weeds, but the Bible recognizes this is not enough because a bare rock meets that definition. The Bible does not seek a garden without weeds but a garden full of beautiful and productive plants.

The Hebrew word translated “peace” is “shalom” and it means to be whole, complete, or healthy that is functioning correctly. When we talk of peace at Christmas we are talking about relationships between people, and so a peaceful relationship, is a healthy relationship, one that is functioning well for all parties. Peace is incompatible with simmering hostility and anger where people might not be in open conflict but still do not care for one another. Nor is peace compatible with power dynamics where one person dominates another. Yet, these are precisely the dominant relational models in our society. The kneejerk reaction of many will be to disagree with this statement, but think about how much of our society is built on “getting ahead”, how much of society is about profiting at another person’s expense, or making my life easy and convenient. Our society is build on a system that promotes self-ambition over community achievement, cutting corners over quality work, and pragmatic economics over the needs of people. We tend to think of violence in terms of physical abuse and killing, but much of our society falls under the Biblical definition of violence—seeking to put our neighbor in a disadvantageous relationship. The fact that these relational models are so dominant in our society is part of the reason our society has such issues with violence.

When the prophet Zechariah discusses peace (Zech8:-16-19) he connects it to justice and truth within an economic framework of society. Zechariah, speaking in Luke, makes similar connections and unites peace with salvation. Creating peace in society is about creating a just society where everyone is cared for to the level of their need. The Biblical picture of peace is one of people working together to build everyone up and help everyone maximize their potential. Peace is what happens when justice and truth govern a society, this is why Zechariah talks of “the path of peace”. Peace is the ultimate goal, a society where everything works together the way it should, as God intended creation in the Garden of Eden. This is also why so many only want a day of relaxation rather than true peace. To achieve true peace we must do the hard work of creating a society where goodwill outweighs profits. Achieving peace means laying aside our grudges and working on restoring relationships. None of this is easy and it does not come about with a true change of heart, and commitment to be vulnerable. But this is also the beauty of the Prince of Peace, the Messiah that Zechariah lauds. We call Jesus the Prince of Peace not simply because he ends violence and war but because following his example we are brought toward peaceful relationships with those around us. He is the light that walks ahead of us in the path of peace and shows us how to restore our communities to the idyllic state of Eden.


[1] William Klassen, “Peace: New Testament,” The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary (New York: Doubleday, 1992) 207.

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