"Shalom" for Our Time, "Shalom" for All Times, Isaiah 26.3
Updated: Jul 17
When Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain returned from Munich after signing an agreement with Adolf Hitler in 1938, he announced that he believed he had brought about "Peace for our time, " We all know how that worked out over the next decade. Everyone is still looking for peace, or their version of it. Peace is commonly thought of as "the absence of conflict", even if we feel obligated to go to war to trample our enemy underfoot. Can we ever expect to find that kind of "peace"? History says, no.
The Bible presents another view of what real peace is, and this word study of the Hebrew text of Isaiah 26.3 is a perfect foundation for understanding what real peace is, and not only why we can expect to find it, but we are expected to find it at all times.
This post is the transcript of a message preached at Union Baptist Church, Harrison, Arkansas on June 11. I have added a footnote at the end, because my subsequent thinking on the subject brought a deeper understanding of what this message is all about.
Think of your mind as a jar with a little bit of water in it, add a drop or two of dish detergent and shake. How much of the rest of our mind is filled with bubbles?
We live in an age of troubled minds, don't we? Something was said this morning. Brother Bob mentioned about how many suicides there are nowadays. Troubled minds, drug use. Well, I've always, for a long time, turned to this verse and we're going to take our text from Isaiah 26. We're going to read the first few verses. The main text will come from verse 3. In this prophecy of Isaiah chapter 26. It starts out,
“On that day, this song will be sung in the land of Judah. We have a strong city. Salvation is established as walls and ramparts. Open the gates so a righteous nation can come in—one that remains faithful. You will keep the mind that is dependent on you in perfect peace, for it is trusting in you. Trust in the Lord forever, because in Yah, the Lord is an everlasting rock.”
I learned this verse 3 in the King James Version, which says, and some of you may still be reading the King James, “Thou wilt keep him in perfect, peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee. And this version says, You will keep the mind that is dependent on you in perfect peace for it trusting in You.”
I decided to go to the original language and found that the first part of this verse, “You will keep the mind that is dependent on you in perfect peace” in Hebrew, there's only four words for that. Only four words; we'll look at those four words and the first word in that verse is “mind”. The verse goes like this. Mind steadfast keep peace. Sounds like somebody learning English, doesn't it? Trying to string a sentence together.
Mind steadfast keep peace. Of course, there's more to it than that and that's what we’ll see in this translation. But the first word is mind. And the word used here is only used nine times in the whole Old Testament. And this is the only place that's translated as “mind”. It's found in other places. Genesis 6 verse 5. We read these words. This is just before the flood. You know the passage. Chapter six verse 5 says “When the Lord saw that man's wickedness, was widespread on the earth and that every scheme his mind thought of was nothing but evil all the time.” The word there is “scheme”. That's the same word that's translated “mind” in the verse we're looking at. And, in other places in those nine times it's usually translated in the King James as the “imaginations” or the “intent”. And so we're looking at mind, not in the sense of being able to do math, one plus one, and 20 times seven. It's not math, not mind, in that sense. It's mind, in our imaginations. And in fact the word is actually translated handiwork in one place, that we are his handiwork. And in Ephesians 2:10, the New Testament says that we're saved by grace through faith, not of ourselves. Not of works, lest we should boast, for we are his workmanship, and this is the idea behind this word “mind”. Because it has to do with our ability, which is God given, to plan things and project. In that New Testament passage, the Greek literally says, we are God's poem. We’re His workmanship. The word is “poiema”, from which we get “poem” in English today, because what is a poem? A poem comes out of the imagination of the poet's mind. And so when we're dealing with “mind” here, we're talking about the imagination. The schemes, the product. Anybody ever come up to you and say, “Well, what's on your mind?”
Sometimes I'll tell Abbie. “I can see the wheels turning. What's going on in there?” Something’s going on. You might have heard the phrase “A penny for your thoughts.” Obviously. the mind is working and even other people can tell. There's something going on up there. And what is it? Well, 90 percent of the time. I'll bet you're not thinking about something in the past, we don't think about things in the past. We might, when there's a brief memory. And if you think about something in the past, you may be wondering about whether it's going to catch up with you. You wonder what's going to happen in the future because of what happened in the past. Our eyes were made by God to look forward. He put our eyes on the front of our face. We look forward. Looking backward is not healthy, is it, to live in the past? And what's your opinion of that? What do you think? Is that healthy to live in the past? Something in us says that's not right. There's something wrong about living in the past. We look forward and so our mind created by God Is made to look forward. Paul said that he had a goal in front of him. He said, forgetting the things that are past and looking forward to the goal ahead. And so that's the mind we're talking about. And so the human mind is perhaps the most obvious evidence that we're created differently from any other creature. Our mind is patterned in the image of God, unlike animals. We make projects. We plan. We plot, we scheme. We make calendars. We have agendas. We make appointments. And even when we commemorate the past, we plan the party months in advance. Here’s a plug for the Fourth of July goings on at our house. You're all invited. That's still a month away. But, we’re already plotting. scheming. We plan to have a church-wide and neighborhood-wide get together to inaugurate our new “park”, you can call it a park. Oh, bring a lawn chair and a lawn mower. Yeah. Just a hint. But there'll be plenty of food and games and so on. But I'm just saying that to say how we are built to look forward and scheme and imagine things. And that's what gets you into some trouble. Because that's where worry comes in. Worry is planning ahead and looking at all the bad things that can happen. And be a threat. Do the birds and the lilies worry? Jesus said, No, they don't worry about it. But they weren't made in the image of God. We have a mind that is creative, and this puts us in the image of God. Bob, the cabinet maker. He, even now, may be plotting and planning the next job he has to install this week. I don't know that. But if he does, he wouldn't be unusual. Some of you ladies are figuring out what's for lunch when you get home. Ben welds old vehicles together, making hybrids You know, he may be plotting his next creation, his next project. We plot. Ab bie, who does does the flower arrangements--she's already got the flowers for July done. They're all around the house. By the time I see them here, they're old hat. I've been walking around them for a month. And she's already planning for Christmas. The mind. The mind is a unique gift God has given us. And so, it's that mind also that gets in trouble. This is the mind that needs peace. And that's what we're talking about this morning. I was thinking today, the worst moments in my life are those that never happened, because they’re the ones, I imagined in my mind. And so, if you're sitting here this morning and there's something on your mind, something you're worried about something that concerns you, you're normal. That's what we do.
And so the second word in this list is steadfast. It says the mind that is, oh, how does the King James go? "The mind that is stayed on Thee” The old King James words were “stayed on Thee”. The word for “steadfast” means established. and so on, “stability, stable”. You know, mentally ill people are those that are deemed to be mentally and emotionally unstable. That's why we designate them as unstable. Well, that's not healthy. Is it? I have a story about Bob. None of the Bobs here. You're safe, you can go ahead and listen, you don't have to worry, I'm not talking about you. I'm talking about Bob, who visited us on the island. Back in the nineties, they came and they attended our English-language services. We got to know them pretty well. He and his companion Frances. Bob was raised in a family of aristocrats in England. Frances, who was there as a kind of caretaker and Bob was in his fifties already at least. Francis said, you know, Bob's house, the one he grew up in, in England is something like that building across the street. And we were at a restaurant. I looked across the street and there was the Savoy Hotel. Four stories high and 200 rooms and she said that's the kind of house he grew up in. Think of Downton Abbey. One of those manor houses. He was from a very high‑ranking family. In fact, his brother was a high‑ranking clergyman in the Church of England. A friend of who was then Prince Charles, and Bob's brother was one of the close party of Charles, when he married Diane, That's how high up he was. And here was Bob on vacation on a stipend, set by the court. The court ruled he was Incompetent for handling his affairs. He probably was worth millions of pounds. And he was living on a few thousand a month. Because he was ruled incompetent. Yeah, we saw that. No surprise there, you know. Uh, He's the kind of person you say, well, he doesn't have all the pieces to set up the chess board. And he couldn't even put the other pieces in the right place probably. He’s just that kind of guy. And there was no peace. Around Bob, I mean, it was constant confusion; he was unstable. We would go out to eat at a restaurant. And of course they would take us to the most expensive restaurant on the island, really high-classed five-star hotel. But he sowed confusion wherever he went. He couldn't make up his mind, didn't know what he was going to eat, didn't know what he was going to drink. He knew one thing. Abbie recalled that He insisted there was no garlic in the food. And he made sure they knew that six or eight times. Some of us would tell Bob, they know that already. “Oh wait, no garlic.” Okay, and he just kept kept on. He didn't ever walk into the kitchen there. But if he had, he would’ve been right in character. You know, that was the kind of guy Bob was.
There was one visit that Orlando, in our church became a close friend with them, and decided he should help them whenever he could. Orlando was single and he actually met Bob's daughter, who was good looking and young and studying nursing in England. I think he thought maybe that might work out, but it didn't. But anyway, this is how he got involved with Bob and Frances. So, one time they when they were leaving the island, Orlando said, “I'll pick you up at the hotel and take you to the airport. I'll help you that way.” And here's all these bags, you know, and this was back in the time before the bare-bones flying of today. There are all these suitcases and everything. Orlando shows up at the airport, drives up at the loading zone. He got out, unloading the suitcases, for Bob and Frances. And then in the middle of all this Bob says, “I've lost my passport. I don't have my passport.” And he goes into overdrive on crisis mode. H e's talking with the police and he said “My passport!” and I think he may have figured he'd left it in another bag at the hotel, which was 20 minutes there at least or 25, and 25 back. And it was getting close to boarding time. And Bob was just panicking, and of course the police were wanting Orlando to move the car away from the loading zone. And Bob kept on with the police. Kept Orlando from going. Then whether Orlando had to go back to the hotel and get the passport or what and it just went on and on and on. Orlando, just couldn’t take any more, and so, he went and sat in the car. Just sat there. Finally slumped over the steering wheel. His pants were unzipped. He'd been out there unoading suitcases, and all kinds of stuff, and his fly was open. We laugh, that's funny. But, you know, they make movies like that. Back in 1991 there was a movie that came out. Of all things, the title of that movie was “What about Bob?” Well, Bob came to visit us. It was funnier in the movie than it was in the restaurant and at the airport, I tell you.
All that to say. Steadfast. What is the basis that gives us a steadfast mind? There has to be and and the word means to lay something on a support. That's the word in Hebrew. Something laid on the support, supported. We know what that is, don't we? It's the word of God. Jesus told them a parable of the two houses built one on the rock and one on the sand. So we know what the rock is. And so what are our thoughts based on? When we make projections w hat are we working from? What base are we working from? James says, in in First chapter verse 8. The double-minded man is unstable in all his ways. The double-minded man, that's the literal word from the Greek; double-minded, two-minded. My current translation, I think calls it the indecisive man. That was Bob. He couldn't make up his mind about anything. And everything was in a continual stir. What about you? What is the basis for our thinking, for our planning? In what light do we project our future? How much of our thought processes depend on the latest breaking news on TV or on your app?. You know, I was thinking about that breaking news, that is really perfectly named. Because of breaking news is always breaking. And when my car starts breaking down all the time, I'm going to find something more reliable We don't need breaking news. We need the gospel. This is the rock. This isn't breaking news. This is unbreakable news. And that is what gives us a steadfast mind, because our thoughts are based not on what the latest breaking news comes across the TV or on the app, but what God has said all along. Unchanging. Unbreaking. And that gives us stability in the midst of the world, we live in. And this comes and gives us stability as we go forward.
And that brings us to the next word in Hebrew. The first one is “mind”. The second one “steadfast” and the third one is “keep” or actually, it's in the future tense, “You will keep”. Well, keep can have a lot of different shades of meaning. But this particular word in Hebrew comes from the word for a sentinel or military guard. God sets up a sentinel, a guard around us. The word is translated in other places in the Old Testament to keep in a safe, secret place, to protect, preserve. And because it has this idea, it can also mean hiding something you don't want someone to find, to conceal, like evidence of what you did in the past that you're trying to forget this morning, and I just reminded you of it. This word “keep” means to put away, to guard, to hide. To put under lock and key as it were. And God says the steadfast mind, God will guard, keep, put a sentinel around it. I thought of that verse in Psalm 34 7 that says the angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him. And we all remember the case of Elisha in Second Kings 6, when they were surrounded by the enemy army and Elisha's servant got all worried to look at those men out there. And Elisha in that verse asked the Lord, “Open his eyes that he may see.” And He opened the servant’s eyes and there was the whole army of God surrounding them. And that invading army was blinded, and Elisha led them like sheep right into the gates of Samaria. They were going to attack Samaria, and when they opened their eyes there, they were surrounded by all the Samaritan, the northern Israel army. God, protects us. He promises that. He guards, and it's interesting that in the New Testament, we have a parallel passage. That's in Philippians chapter 4. In Philippians chapter 4 Paul says in verse 6. “Don't worry about anything, but in everything through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God and the peace of God, which surpasses every thought will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” The peace of God will guard your hearts. You know the interesting thing? O”f course, the New Testament was written in Greek, so it uses a different words than they used in the Old Testament, but it means the same thing. This word “guard” in Philippians means a military garrison. God will set up a military detachment around you to guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. See it's the same message. Our minds and hearts are guarded by God, because we trust in Him. Don't worry about anything, and “Everything through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.” And then he goes on to say, In verse 8, “Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there's any moral excellent and if there's any praise, dwell on these things.” Set your mind on the things of God, on the word of God. “Do what you've learned and received and heard and seen in me and the God of peace will be with you.” It's interesting. It's all about peace, isn’t it? First, he said, the peace of God will guard you. And then he says the God of peace will be with you. There's no reason for us not to be at peace. No reason for us to worry. Not one reason for us to fret or be concerned, no matter what news comes on the television, or we see in the newspaper, or we find on our app. I'm not gonna go into all the details of how bad things can go. I'll tell you not to worry about it, because things will go far worse than we can imagine. So it's useless worrying about it. It's not going to be that way. It's going to be worse. You can count on that. And what's going to happen when it gets worse? We're gonna have to trust in God. Well, let’s all start trusting in Him now. He's in control now, He'll be in control then, and no matter how bad it gets, He will always be in control. And He will always guard our hearts and minds in His peace. And so, that's what this says in our text in Isaiah we were reading. “You will keep the mind that’s dependent on You in perfect peace. And that's the fourth word, “peace”.
I bet if I asked, you already know what that word is in Hebrew for peace. I hear it. Shalom. Probably besides “hallelujah” and “amen”, “shalom” is the most well-known Hebrew word around the world. Shalom. It's interesting that it says here. “He will keep you in peace, shalom. The words in Hebrew are: “Mind steadfast keep peace peace.” “Perfect” isn't there. It says. Quoting. “Yetser samooch titsor shalom shalom.” It doesn’t say “perfect peace”. It says “shalom. shalom”, “peace peace”. That's strange. Now, there are no punctuations in the original Hebrew mauscripts. So You might read it this way, why would you put the word twice? You could read it,”You will keep the mind that’s dependent on you in peace. Peace, because he trusts in you.” You see, you could put a comma in there and say, “You will keep him in peace. Peace because he trusts in You.” But there's another thing here that's interesting. There are only one or two translations I found that translated it that way. All the other translations all throughout the centuries have translated it “perfect peace”. And why is that? Well, let's read in Genesis 22:17. I'm going to cheat and try to use my app here. Because in Genesis 22:17 I don't know what translation you've got, but it may say something like, “I will surely bless you.” This is God talking to Abraham and blessing him. The NIV says, “I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars.” New Living Translation -- “I will certainly bless”; English Standard Version – “I will surely bless”; New American Standard – “I will indeed”. “I will greatly bless,” and so on, and most of them go along with that. But if you're reading the King James, what you read is, God, says to Abraham, “In blessing I will bless thee. And in multiplying, I will multiply thy seed.” That's a quirky Hebrew thing. If they want to emphasize something and really make it evident, they repeat it. And so here, literally and the King James translation,. “Blessing. I will bless you; multiplying. I will multiply you.” It's used in another context, too. Go to Deuteronomy, let's see what verse that is. Deuteronomy. 12,verse 2. These are instructions. As Israel's about to enter into the land under the command of Joshua and Moses is giving these words, in Deuteronomy 12 verse 2, my version says “destroy completely, all the places. Where the nations that you are driving out worship their gods.” There are other translations for that. Others say to “utterly destroy”, “surely destroy”, “completely destroy”, for example. But the Hebrew says, “Destroy, you will destroy them.” He repeats the word to emphasize the fact, this is the ultimate level of destruction. “You are to completely wipe them out. Destroying you shall destroy them.” “Multiplying you, I will multiply; blessing you, I will bless.” “Destroying, you will destroy.” And so it's a Hebrew way of emphasizing the extent to which something is to be done. It's a pinnacle of blessing or destruction. Side note here, we were watching a program some time ago. It was a Dutch program, it's all in Dutch. Of course, it had subtitles, fortunately, but the title of one of the episodes was “Doder dan Dood”. Deader than dead. Well, that's what this is all about: deader than dead. Someplace might say that in the Old Testament, “Kill them dead”. And how would you kill them alive? I don't know. “Kill them dead.” In other words, make sure they're dead. And so here in this passage, however, we have the repetition of Shalom. “Shalom, shalom”. Jesus talked about that peace in the New Testament in John 14 verse 27. He says, “My peace I give unto you, not as the world gives, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither, let it be afraid.” Shalom. Shalom. Peace, peace. Perfect peace. Peace you can rest on. And so, one thing I learned in studying for this. “Shalom” Is a noun. Peace is a noun. A substantive. But in Hebrew, the nouns and all these come from verb forms, from verbal roots. And the verb that the noun, “shalom” comes from is the verb, “shalam”, which occurs throughout the Old Testament. “Shalam” means “to be complete, finished, ended, to make restitution, recompense, nothing lacking.” Everything restored, and that is the base root behind the Hebrew idea of peace. Everything in its right order. All as it was meant to be. That's what God means for us. We say about our friend Bob , he didn't have it all together. He didn't have it all, probably at all, and then what he had, he didn't have together. That's the opposite of peace. Peace is when everything fits in its place. It's complete. It's whole. Restitution is made. Well, I'm going to turn to one of the final readings here in Ephesians chapter 2 in the New Testament. Ephesians chapter 2. Paul has been writing to these Ephesians that “You were Gentiles in the flesh, uncircumcised”. That's verse 11 of Ephesians 2. “Remember that one time you were Gentiles in the flesh, called the uncircumcised by those called the circumcised?”And so, verse 12 says, “At that time, you were without the Messiah, excluded from the citizenship of israel and foreigners to the covenant of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now, In Christ Jesus, you who were far away have been brought near by the blood of the Messiah, for He is our peace, who made both groups one and tore down the dividing wall of hostility in his flesh.”
He is our peace. What did he do? He restored what was broken. He put it back together. That's what God desires for us. That our broken and scattered thoughts and fears, anxieties, are all brought together and our trust in God and we have peace. It's interesting, the Hebrew greeting, when they greet each other sometimes, They say “Mashlomhah?”, which literally means, “How's your peace?”
We say, “How do you do?” They say, “How's your peace?” And I would ask you this morning. “How's your peace?” How is it fitting together in your life? In your mind. The mind, the imagination, the thoughts, the things we project. Are they based on the unbreakable Word of God? Or are we torn about by the opinions we hear, the news we hear that could happen and usually doesn't? That doesn't keep us from imagining what would happen if they did. And so, we're insecure. We dash about. We're confused and we create confusion. Do you worry about tomorrow? Well, maybe not tomorrow but Thursday or Friday it's going to be really bad. Or next year when the economy finally tanks like they say it's going to? Whatever happens in the next elections? Oh, there's all kinds of things to worry about, and God says, “Don't worry.” Make your supplications known to God. Trust in him, and His peace will fully guard our hearts, and the God of peace will be with us. So, You who are here today, Most of you, I am sure, have already put your trust in Jesus at one time, and you said, “Save me, I'm a sinner.” So, you put your trust in Him, but today, at this moment, in these circumstances, do you still trust Him? I don't just say trust in Him, but trust Him. I talked about the breaking news and if I had a car that was breaking down all the time, unreliable, I couldn't rely on it. Well, someone that breaks their promise to you or their word, do you continue relying on them? We give up on that kind of person. No, I can't trust a thing he says. But when God speaks we can trust Him, and that's what it's all about. “In good times, in bad times, Lord, I trust. In sickness and in health, I trust You. With many friends, with no friends, I trust You.” Paul said to the Philippians, “I’ve learned how to suffer want and to abound.” Even when he had nothing, he was essentially saying, “Even when I had nothing, in Christ, I had everything.” And he was at peace in every circumstance.
I introduce here a kind of footnote, something I only realized after preaching this message. I am reading the book "The Story of the Jews – Finding the Words – 1000 BC – 1492 AD" by Simon Schama. The book includes pages of color images of objects, places, and documents relevant to each period of Jewish history, and focuses on the diaspora of Jews from Iberia to Persia. After preaching this message, I arrived at the last collection of images, and found this caption underneath a photo taken from a Hebrew Bible: "Colophon of the Bible of Kennicott of Coruña, where it reads, 'I, Joseph ibn Hayyim, have illuminated and finished this book.'" The colophon is a page that gives information about the book, such as the publisher, the place and date of its edition, etc., and is usually found at the end of the book. I looked up to read the Hebrew text in the image and found that the term translated "finished" was the verb "shalam." If this artist used the verb "shalam" to close his work as an illustrator, what would be the word used by Jesus on the cross, the last word He uttered before He died to mark the completion of His redemptive work?
In our translation, we read, "It is finished," but obviously Jesus did not say this in English. The Greek word found in the text of the New Testament is "tetelestai," but it is almost certain that Jesus did not say this in Greek. The language of the people of Jesus' day was Aramaic, but Jesus certainly knew Hebrew from his study of the Scriptures, and given the influence of the Greeks (the language in which the New Testament was written) and Romans (who had controlled Palestine for over 100 years), it would not surprise me to learn that Jesus understood and spoke Aramaic, Hebrew, Greek and Latin. It is normal to speak several languages when there is a mixture of cultures as was the case in Israel in the time of Jesus.
I never studied Aramaic, but I have studied some Hebrew, and I have a New Testament translated into Hebrew for witnessing to Jews. I went to the gospel of John 19:30 where we read, "It is finished." And in the Hebrew translation was the verb, "shalam" = finished, complete. This fact fits perfectly with Paul's teaching in Ephesians 2. If Jesus on the cross used the verb "shalam" in Hebrew, or said the phrase in Aramaic, the translation for the Jews says "shalam." Peace. “It is finished.”
In 2 Timothy 4.7, Paul said, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” Again the Hebrew translation uses the verb “shalam” for “I have finished the race”.
I know that feeling of “peace” when I have finished a long translation project, or completed a woodworking project and the table is ready for use. It’s the peace an author feels when his book is printed and ready to sell after months, maybe years of research and hard work. Done. Finished. Rest. Relax.
It’s the peace Jesus grants us because He finished the work. Romans 5.1 – “Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Shalam (Finished)/ Shalom. (Peace)