Consistent with other times that God revealed a new characteristic of his nature, Jehovah-shalom (Judges 6:23-24) was revealed in a time of crises.
During the time of the judges, the children of Israel had a continual pattern of falling into apostasy, following after idols, and rebellion against God then they would “wake up” and call on God for help. The fifth chapter of Judges is a song of Deborah giving glory to God who had brought victory by means of Deborah and Barak, both judges of Israel. The revelation of Jehovah-shalom is recounted in Judges 6:1-22, which begins, “And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord; and the Lord delivered them into the hand of Midian seven years.” During those seven years the Israelites were forced into living in caves for safety. Crops were planted but the Midianites, Amalekites, and the children of the east, riding camels, raided the fields and left little behind for people or animals. Again the Israelites cried to God for help.
The young man, Gideon, who became the sixth judge of Israel, had been able to save some of his father’s wheat from the fields. He hid it behind the winepress in order to thresh it. An angel appeared to Gideon and hailed him as a mighty man of valor. After Gideon had a conversation with the angel, he prepared food according to instructions, and the angel caused fire to consume the food. Then the angel departed from sight but not from sound. Gideon is stricken with terror as he recognized that the angel was the Lord. He calls out to the Lord God, who says, ”Peace be unto thee; fear not, thou shalt not die.” Gideon built an altar and called it Jehovah-shalom, shalom is most often translated “peace.” Thus we meet the God of Peace/Comfort.
The peace that Gideon recognized at that time came through his encounter with God. He realized that he was not going to die just because he had seen the Lord. He was at peace with God, but he was not yet at peace with the circumstances around him.
A series of events related in the sixth and seventh chapters of Judges shows Gideon’s growth in his relationship with Jehovah-shalom – the Prince of Peace. First, the Lord sent him on a mission to cast down the altar of Baal. Gideon gallantly took ten men and did that – in the night so they wouldn’t be seen. Then his father had to throw the enemy off the trail. Next, Gideon gathered a group of men to go against the Midianites, but he hesitated to go without more confirmation from God, so he set a fleece with God’s permission. That turned out well – but Gideon wanted additional proof. God did that too. Apparently Gideon was satisfied. But God decided to prove himself more, and had Gideon winnow out all but three hundred men. God told him that was enough, that night the victory would be in Gideon’s hands. Gideon was still hesitant. God gave more encouragement by telling him to go to the camp where he overheard a dream-teller who again confirmed to Gideon that the victory would be God’s. Finally, Gideon and his three hundred men won the victory with one of the most novel methods of military stratagem in history – a victory with trumpets and pitchers! Judges 8 continues telling the story of Gideon as a warring man in and out of political hot water. It even relates the incident of Gideon making an ephod from booty of the Midians after which the children of Israel “went a-whoring.” Gideon did achieve peace. Jud. 8:28-32, “And the country was in quietness forty years in the days of Gideon. …And Jerubbaal (Gideon) the son of Joash went and dwelt in his own house. …And Gideon the son of Joash died in a good old age, and was buried in the sepulchre of Joash his father…” Gideon is also given a place of honor in Hebrew 11, the Hall of Faith.
The steps seen in Gideon’s growth present a picture of peace as a gift from God, but it was not fully-grown and mature. Peace is listed in Gal. 5:22 as a fruit of the spirit. The fruit is there but it has to be nourished for development to a ripe and luscious state. David Wilkerson discusses this problem as follows:
Shalom cannot be earned. Nor is it given to everyone who claims to be a Christian. Tragically, multitudes in the church today do not have shalom. Like Israel, many believers have experienced only short seasons of peace between their lengthy periods of distress. They often quote the words of the Lord: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27). “Now the Lord of peace himself give you peace always by all means” 2 Thes. 3:16). Yet, as Judges shows, it’s impossible to receive the Lord’s shalom until we deal with God according to his various attributes.
Notice that in the midst of the crisis, God came to Gideon immediately. He was Jehovah-shalom while Gideon was still hidden behind the winepress!
Peace offerings are mentioned eighty-two times in the Old Testament. They were not “bribes” to plead for peace but they were given as thanks offerings. Phil. 4:6-7 requires that prayer and thankfulness precede the manifestation of peace. “Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
“Being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:1). As in Gideon’s experience, peace with God must come first before there can be peace with others, either as nations or individuals. “Through Him we have peace with God. He is to us the peace of God. There is no hope of peace apart from Him either for individuals or nations. First righteousness, then peace. To this both Old and New Testaments bear witness. ‘The work of righteousness shall be peace,’ says Isaiah, ‘ and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance forever’ (32:17).
One builds trust and thanksgiving through a relationship with Jehovah-shalom which can give continual peace in place of worry in all circumstances. However, numerous testimonies indicate that Jesus has an “emergency” supply that he bestows in marvelous fashion as “Peace in panic.” The Apostle Paul prays, “Now the Lord of peace himself give you peace always by all means” (2 Thes. 3:16). Hear the voice of Todd Beamer, in the plane high-jacked by suicide terrorists, as it came over an open mike on Flight 93, September 11, 2001. As reported by Jim McKinnon staff writer for the Post-Gazette, Todd says, “Are you guys ready? Let’s roll.” In dire circumstances, Todd manifested the characteristics referred to in 2 Tim. 1:7, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” Surely the Prince of Peace – Jehovah-shalom – was present with the words, “Peace I give unto you” (John 14:27). Todd and his cohorts were ready for action. There is a saying that an idle mind is the devil’s workshop. People are not apt to worry if they have a plan of action and set about doing it. “Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do; and the God of peace shall be with you” (Phil. 4:9).
A chorus by an unknown writer was popular a few years ago; it expresses an experience possible to the child of God who is “shut in his closet” with Jehovah-shalom.
Shut in with God, in a secret place, filled with his goodness, beholding his face; filled with power to run in the race. I long to be shut in with God.
The desire of the Father is for peace. Angels sang “Peace on earth.” If it can’t be for nations, can there be any doubt that God wills it for the individual? The model prayer Jesus gave to the disciples says to pray “thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:9). Troubled soul, there is peace for you through the Prince of Peace, who is here as well as in heaven!
There is an often told story about Horatio Spafford , who wrote “It Is Well with My Soul” at a most traumatic time of his life after the death of four daughters who died in a shipwreck while crossing the Atlantic. The first verse indicates a man at peace in the midst of the storm:
When peace like a river, attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea billow’s roll: Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say, It is well, it is well, with my soul.
The same online resource recounts the story of William Orcutt Cushing (1823-1902) who expressed the same kind of peace in his hymn, Hiding in Thee, based on Ps. 143:9 in which David prays, “I flee unto thee to hide me.”
How oft in the conflict, when pressed by the foe, I have fled to my refuge and breathed out my How often, when trials like sea billows roll, Have I hidden in Thee, O Thou Rock of my soul.
Cushing wrote his hymns after his wife died in 1870 and his own health declined. His words are a testament to God as Jehovah-shalom.
The two stories regarding Mr. Spafford and Mr. Cushing give testimony to the peace that God gives in trouble. However, they do not answer the question, “Why do good people have trouble? A study of that issue is beyond the scope of this paper; however, the very fact that God revealed himself as Jehovah-shalom indicates that his plan is to be with one in trouble instead of insulating one from trouble. The following actions based on scriptures will arm one for dealing with “panic attacks.”
- Pray for Godly advisors, doctors, friends. 118:6, 7 “The Lord is on my side: I will not fear . . .The Lord taketh my part with them that help me.”
- Take refuge in Jesus’ name. 18:10 “The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous runneth into it, and is safe.”
- Be assured that good will come from this. 91:15 “He will call upon me, and I will answer him. I will be with him in trouble. I will deliver him and honor him.”
- Don’t be a “slave to fear.” Romans 8:15 “For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave to fear, but you received the Spirit on sonship. And by him we cry “Abba, Father.” (Abba is a similar word to daddy.)
- Remind yourself that God is present and he is “big enough.” 46:1, 2 “God is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea.”
- Pray for peace and count your blessings. 3:15 “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts . . . and be thankful. . .”
- Pray for sleep and rest. 127:2 “It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows: for so he giveth his beloved sleep.”
- Treat yourself with music therapy. 32:7 “You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.”
- Read the Bible. 119:105 “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.” Ps. 107:20 “He sent his word and healed them.”
One will never know Jehovah-shalom except as he is revealed in a time of trouble. The following paragraph is from the writer’s journal relating to an incident of a Jehovah-shalom revelation. It is addressed to God.
I affirm to you that my faith is in you . . .; faith in faith is nothing. Was that what happened that night so many years ago, when that baby died? After praying for that child, my heart sang with rejoicing as I believed you had healed her. She died. She was born with cancer. They said it was almost the size of a grapefruit – in her stomach. I don’t know why I so sincerely and joyfully believed she would be healed. I had prayed. I thought the answer came from you; I thought you had healed her. It was a blow when I found out she had died. It shook me, but, you know, Lord, somehow it didn’t shake my faith in you; it just shook my faith in my faith. I can’t explain it. I only know that after that I always knew that it didn’t matter what I felt like, you were still God and you would be God forevermore.
The writer loves to relate stories that show how amazing the Lord has been in answering prayer as desired, but the amazing thing about the story above is that faith in God grew in the midst of a “unanswered” prayer – at least, the answer was not the one desired. God revealed himself as PEACE, as comforter, as the one who does all things well. Amen, to Jehovah-shalom!