In 2014, as part of my participation in the ministries of Abraham Lincoln Foundation of Albania (ALFA), Robb Provost (ministry director) asked me to prepare and present a study about “shalom living” from the Old Testament. Throughout the history of ALFA team members sought to demonstrate this kind of living and ministry in the country of Albania. Now I share that study on my personal web site at the time I have completed fifteen years of service on the ALFA board and stepped off the board. My heart and enthusiastic support continue for that ministry May the following brief outline study encourage others to also get more plugged in to “shalom living” at home and abroad.
The Hebrew noun shalom and its related words possess a wide semantic range in the Hebrew Bible, the Christian Old Testament. The semantic range represents a wide variety of potential meanings:
- “peace,” “friendship,” “happiness,” “well-being,” “prosperity,” “health”
- “wholeness,” “completeness,” “soundness”
- “satisfaction,” “sufficiency”
- “agreement,” “treaty”
- “uninjured,” “safe”
- “repayment,” “restitution”
Shalom itself occurs 237 times in the Old Testament (93x in the Historical books, 82x in the Prophets, 27x in Psalms, 26x in the Pentateuch, and 9x in the Wisdom books). Too often Bible students seize upon one meaning and make it the root meaning, which they then impose upon nearly every occurrence. The most abused meaning refers to “wholeness,” “completeness,” or “fulfillment.”
1.0 Living Shalom Socially
1.1 Joshua “made shalom” with the Gibeonites (Joshua 10:1–4; see Joshua 9).
- That shalom involved a mutual commitment.
- That shalom threatened others in the region.
- That shalom came about through one party’s subterfuge.
1.2 Friendly alliances and social or communal relations express an attitude of shalom (Genesis 34).
- Jacob and his family showed shalom to the Hivites in Canaan (Genesis 34:21).
- Jacob’s disobedient sons turned shalom on its head.
1.3 Shalom can involve entering into commercial enterprises (1 Kings 5:1–12).
- Shalom sometimes begins with a faithful father’s example (1 Kings 5:1).
- Partnership in a great spiritual enterprise can rely heavily upon shalom (1 Kings 5:2–6).
- Shalom and wisdom operate hand in hand (1 Kings 5:7, 12).
- A permanent commitment can arise out of shalom (1 Kings 5:12).
1.4 The New Testament instructs believers, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men” (Romans 12:18, NAU; cf. Hebrews 12:14).
- Shalom involves a mutual commitment in which the obedient believer must take the lead role (cp. 1 Corinthians 7:15).
- Shalom might threaten others (believers and unbelievers alike).
- Shalom might be entered through the other party’s subterfuge—the other party can be an unbeliever or group of unbelievers.
- The believer’s disobedience turns shalom on its head.
- Believing parents teach shalom by example to their children.
- Shalom establishes long-lasting partnerships—even with unbelievers.
- Wise behavior produces shalom even in the most hostile environment.
2.0 Living Shalom Salvifically
2.1 The Lord seeks shalom for His people through the forgiveness of sins (Psalm 85).
- God graciously forgives the sins of the rebellious living under His judgment (Psalm 85:1–3; cp. Romans 5:1).
- The Lord, in His steadfast loyal love and mercy delights to save and restore objects of His wrath (Psalm 85:4–7).
- The Lord speaks shalom to His people and His glory dwells among them (Psalm 85:8–9).
- When the Lord’s righteousness and shalom “kiss each other,” His people experience the fullest truth, justice, and good (Psalm 85:10–13).
2.2 Shalom comprises an essential element in God’s kingdom plan (Micah 4:1–5).
- The community of believers join together to obey the Lord’s Word and to worship Him (Micah 4:1–2).
- The Lord’s righteous judgment produces shalom and abolishes conflict (Micah 4:3).
- The Lord’s kingdom will be a time of satisfaction and security (Micah 4:4).
- The kingdom will involve His people’s commitment to act as those who belong to the Lord and who exhibit His character (Micah 4:5).
2.3 Shalom results from the Lord’s gracious blessing upon His priestly servants (Numbers 6:22–27).
- The Lord’s priestly servants must speak blessing upon His people (Numbers 6:22–23).
- The Lord’s priestly servants merely convey His blessing (Numbers 6:24–25).
- The Lord Himself gives shalom (Numbers 6:26).
- The Lord blesses His priestly servants for being active in the blessing that produces shalom (Numbers 6:27).
2.4 Shalom and righteousness co-exist in God’s kingdom (Isaiah 32:16–20).
- Shalom itself is a righteous work (Isaiah 32:17a).
- Shalom involves tranquility and confidence (Isaiah 32:17b).
- Shalom abides when world powers and civilization itself fall apart and come crashing down (Isaiah 32:18–19).
- Shalom results in God’s blessing (Isaiah 32:20).
2.5 Isaiah speaks of the Sar Shalom, “the Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6)—the Messiah.
- He paid the full sacrificial price for our shalom (Isaiah 53:5; cp. John 14:27).
- Christ Himself is our shalom, having established shalom for “aliens and strangers” who are now brought into one household (Ephesians 2:14–22).
- The gospel He sends us to preach is the gospel of shalom (Isaiah 52:7; Ephesians 6:15).
- He is our Lord, our Savior, our Example (cp. Luke 1:74–79).
3.0 Living Shalom Sagaciously
See 1 Kings 5, above (1.3).
3.1 Shalom results from living wisely according to God’s instructions (Proverbs 3:13–18).
- Great blessing attends the acquisition of godly wisdom (Proverbs 3:13–15).
- Wisdom can produce longevity, riches, honor, and happiness (Proverbs 3:16, 18).
- Wisdom results in shalom (Proverbs 3:17; see James 3:17–18).
3.2 There are those for whom God’s people should not seek shalom (Deuteronomy 23:6 NAU, “You shall never seek their shalom or their prosperity all your days”).
- The wicked will not experience shalom (Isaiah 48:22 NAU, “‘There is no shalom for the wicked,’ says the LORD”).
- The unbeliever mistakenly believes he is experiencing shalom, when he is not and will not (Deuteronomy 29:18–21). He/She will feel the full weight of God’s wrath-filled curse, rather than His grace-filled blessing.
- Discerning when to seek and when to not seek shalom requires God-given, Word-driven wisdom. (See Jesus’ instructions to His seventy disciples in Luke 10:1–16; esp. vv. 5–6.)
Concluding Thoughts and Implications
Jeremiah employs the word shalom more than any other prophet or biblical book (31x). The prophet Jeremiah, by the Lord’s command, sent a written message to the exiles in Babylon (Jeremiah 29:1–14), in which he
- instructs them to settle down and live among their captors (Jeremiah 29:4–6);
- commands the exiles to “Seek the shalom of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf; for in its shalom you will have shalom” (Jeremiah 29:7); and,
- reveals that the Lord has plans of shalom (which gives hope [tikwah]) for His people (Jeremiah 29:11).
Today, as priests of God (1 Peter 2:9–10), we bear the responsibility of a mission of shalom to the nations of the world.
- We live among all the nations as servants of the Prince of Shalom.
- We must seek the shalom of the people among whom we live—socially, sagaciously, and salvifically—even if they employ subterfuge or remain hostile to our faith.
- We must pray earnestly for their shalom—especially for their salvation.
- We must sacrificially serve them for their shalom—loving them without expectation of any return of love or reward.
- In their shalom we will experience our own shalom to its fullest extent this side of eternity.
“Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace [= shalom], spotless and blameless” (2 Peter 3:14 NAU).