At the recent National Religious Broadcasters Convention, finishing a nice chat with a pastor from Biloxi, Mississippi, as I often do I concluded with "Shalom." The pastor paused, took a deep breath, and said, "That word from you meant more to me than anything else at this convention."
While it sort of surprised me, I understood. The power of the word is biblical, and goes much deeper than its simple meaning of peace, a calmness, or the absence of conflict.
Indeed, Jewish people, especially those in Israel, use shalom as both an hello and goodbye. The response may be shalom, shalom, as in may you have peace on the inside as well as the outside, or a double portion of peace. Another common use is shalom aleichem, meaning peace be unto you. The response is aleichem shalom, unto you be peace.
To get the fullness of the word shalom, however, we must recognize it's Hebrew root, shalam. It carries an understanding of completeness, restoration, making something whole. It pictures the all consuming blessing of God’s Hand upon us. This interpretation brings profoundness to many Scriptures.
Millions of believers have prayed according to Psalm 122:6, "Shalu shalom Yerushlayim, Pray for the peace of Jerusalem." If shalom simply means peace, that's great. It suggests no more terrorism, fighting or wars. But is God referring to a peace treaty? Does He respect a piece of paper that burns, signed by two liars? By applying the depth of meaning to shalom, it calls for a completeness in Israel - a spiritual reality which can come only through faith in Yeshua our Messiah.
One of the prophetic names of Messiah given by Isaiah (9:6) was Sar Shalom, Prince of Peace. Clearly that title reflects His ultimate mission to bring salvation to the inhabitants of God’s Holy Land.
The Aaronic Blessing from Numbers 6:24-26 (which we wrote about late last year) is the Lord's pronouncement over the children of Israel. It ends with Shalom, May He grant you peace. The interesting issue with the use of shalom is the logistics of that time. Numbers 6 places Israel in the midst of armed conflict with the heathen nations on its way to the promised land.
These battles were commanded by God, so the peace offered in the blessing probably did not imply the peace of no conflict. Surely, our heavenly Father was posturing Israel for the completeness He desired for them in the land. Again, this became an available reality upon the death and resurrection of Messiah.
Another evidence of the importance of the fullness of the meaning of shalom can be found in 2 Thessalonians 3:16. The Jewish Apostle Paul was closing his letter to the Greeks in Thessalonica as he wrote, “Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you peace always in every way.”
Since the word for peace in Greek has a more singular emphasis on having rest, it appears Paul was looking to expand the meaning to match the Hebrew. By saying peace in every way, he was including that totality of shalom.
These are just a few examples of how the deep meaning of the word adds understanding to the Word of God. May its power speak to your heart.