Peace, Perfect Peace.

Peace, Perfect Peace.

Peace Perfect Peace

Reading: Isaiah 26:1-21

Introduction:

Peace perfect peace 

In this dark world of sin

The blood of Jesus whispers peace within..

These are the opening lines to a hymn written by Edward H Bickersteth. He wrote the hymn after hearing a sermon on today’s text. And then whilst visiting a dying relative, read the hymn to him. These were possibly the last words he heard before entering eternity….

Our text today is verse 3 which says:

“Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.”  Isaiah 26:3

I dare say that this has been a treasured verse for many believers and has enabled them to find that perfect peace promised.

Putting our passage in context we can see it in a practical sense; as a promise given to the Israelites who remained faithful to God despite the wickedness that surrounded them during that period of their history.

On another level, however, the verse is surrounded by prophetic inferences and you’d  be forgiven for thinking that there is something eschatological about our text today. 

In verse 20 we read:

“Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee: hide thyself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast.”  Isaiah 26:20

This is a clear reference to the rapture and the following verse [21] is a clear reference to the tribulation. 

In this context our text is applicable today [and possibly more so] than it was in 700 BC when penned by the prophet Isaiah. 

The world has certainly been through much turmoil over the past 2 years, due to the pandemic and what has been called a health crisis. Prior to this we were being bombarded by protests over a perceived climate crisis. Without being a harbinger of doom, now it seems we are on the brink of an economic crisis. 

This is not to mention our own personal trials and tribulations.

These disruptions to the status quo obviously have the potential to unsettle us, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, if it draws us closer to Christ. 

The loss of our own personal peace in many cases is the result of fear and anxiety [or inner conflict] or external conflicts with others. Keep these in mind during our study today. 

Pray…

The Permanence of Peace:

“Thou wilt keep him…”

The word “keep” means to continue in or maintain a particular state or activity. Therefore there is a sense of permanence and security to the peace referred to in this verse.  

This is exactly how the Lord describes it in John’s gospel:

“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)

Note: Not as the world gives. The peace of God that Jesus refers to doesn’t have the same quality as that which the world gives. Firstly it is a supernatural peace supplied by the Comforter which is the Holy Spirit. Secondly it has an eternal nature, as seen in verses 2 and 3 of the same chapter, in the which Jesus refers to our heavenly home in connection to the Comforter…

It’s always good to see how words are used in scripture and the impact of what the word of God is communicating. We see this in other passages of scripture where the use of the word kept also carries this same sense of permanence and security.

For example:

We are: “…kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” (1Peter 1:5)

“Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy,” (Jude 1:24)

It’s obvious that this is the desire that the Lord has for us; to constantly experience his peace. There is such a comfort in knowing this. 

This also has to be an  encouragement to us, since without the peace of God, it is near impossible for us to function effectively as believers. The reason I say this because we are commanded to be careful for nothing and as such, at the end of the day, anxiety must be regarded as sin; particularly when it prevents you from doing the will of God.

So:

Peace and rest go hand in hand and [we know] there is rest appointed unto the people of God, who have ceased from their own work and strivings and have committed their lives to completing the work which the Lord has assigned for them and according to the grace of God given them. 

As our hymn writer concurs: 

Peace, perfect peace, by thronging duties pressed?

To do the will of Jesus—this is rest.

Not so, the unbeliever who must constantly turn to amusements and entertainments and substances and the lies of false teachers to pacify their souls. 

This is what the word of God says of the wicked:

“But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.”  Isaiah 57:20-21

And this is what the prophet Jeremiah said and in relation to worldly peace:

[Turn to]

“For from the least of them even unto the greatest of them every one is given to covetousness; and from the prophet even unto the priest every one dealeth falsely. They have healed also the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace.”  Jeremiah 6:13-14

The phrase “healed slightly” perfectly, perfectly sums up the transient nature of worldly peace which is in stark contrast to the peace of God which surpasseth all understanding. 

The word “keep” also means to protect. And the recipients of this promise are assured protection [both from their own internal conflicts and conflicts with those around us]. 

I think we would be well aware that without the peace of God we can be our own worst enemies; stirring up strife and discord. 

James tells us:

[Open to]

“But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.”  James 3:17-18

There is so much packed into these 2 verses, it’s hard to know where to begin. Immediately we see the connection between the peace and wisdom that is expected of a believer.

If the godless are regarded as “unclean”, then it naturally follows that the actions and motivations of the believer be “pure”, “impartial” and without “hypocrisy”.

If the godless are described as “implacable” then it should naturally follow that the believer be “easily intreated”

If the godless are described as being “without natural affection”, then it should naturally follow that the believer  be gentle and full of mercy”

If the godless are incapable of producing “good fruit unto God” [Romans 7:4], then the opposite ought naturally to be true of the believer. This should be the desire of every believer.

Underpinning this is the intimate connection between righteousness and peace, which 

Psalm 85:10 tells us “kissed”. The righteousness of Christ which has been imputed to us by faith enables us to live in peace with God and in the peace of God and thus live a fruitful life. There’s an interesting principle that the bible teaches and which ties in with what has just been discussed. 

We read in proverbs:

“When a man’s ways please the LORD, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him.” (Pro 16:7)

The example that I want to draw on today is the prophet Jeremiah. We know that Jeremiah was known as the weeping prophet and was persecuted heavily for preaching the truth. 

Nevertheless his ways pleased the Lord and towards the time of the captivity in Babylon, king Nebuchadnezzar granted Jeremiah favour by allowing him to choose where he would settle; either in Babylon or remain in Jerusalem. 

[Turn to]

“The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD, after that Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard had let him go from Ramah, when he had taken him being bound in chains among all that were carried away captive of Jerusalem and Judah, which were carried away captive unto Babylon. And the captain of the guard took Jeremiah, and said unto him, The LORD thy God hath pronounced this evil upon this place. Now the LORD hath brought it, and done according as he hath said: because ye have sinned against the LORD, and have not obeyed his voice, therefore this thing is come upon you. And now, behold, I loose thee this day from the chains which were upon thine hand. If it seem good unto thee to come with me into Babylon, come; and I will look well unto thee: but if it seem ill unto thee to come with me into Babylon, forbear: behold, all the land is before thee: whither it seemeth good and convenient for thee to go, thither go. Now while he was not yet gone back, he said, Go back also to Gedaliah the son of Ahikam the son of Shaphan, whom the king of Babylon hath made governor over the cities of Judah, and dwell with him among the people: or go wheresoever it seemeth convenient unto thee to go. So the captain of the guard gave him victuals and a reward, and let him go. Then went Jeremiah unto Gedaliah the son of Ahikam to Mizpah; and dwelt with him among the people that were left in the land.” (Jeremiah 40:1-6)

The incredible thing about this account is that Jeremiah’s life was threatened constantly by his own people and yet his enemies [particularly Nebuchadnezzar] treated him well. 

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

On the other hand if we disobey God’s word and [perhaps] attempt to create our own peace [possibly taking a path of least resistance], trouble and strife WILL pursue us [Jeremiah 42]

As we see in this account: 

Rather than obey the Lord and go into captivity in Babylon [where the Lord had promised to protect them], a remnant of the people left in Jerusalem, ask Jeremiah to petition the Lord on their behalf, promising to do whatever the Lord commands. 

Secretly, their desire was to take refuge in Egypt.  And so when they didn’t get the answer they wanted, they decide to go to Egypt anyway.

This is the Lord’s response:

“But if ye say, We will not dwell in this land, neither obey the voice of the LORD your God, Saying, No; but we will go into the land of Egypt, where we shall see no war, nor hear the sound of the trumpet, nor have hunger of bread; and there will we dwell: And now therefore hear the word of the LORD, ye remnant of Judah; Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; If ye wholly set your faces to enter into Egypt, and go to sojourn there; Then it shall come to pass, that the sword, which ye feared, shall overtake you there in the land of Egypt, and the famine, whereof ye were afraid, shall follow close after you there in Egypt; and there ye shall die.” (Jeremiah 42:13-16)

We know that these things were written for our learning and therefore we should heed the lessons presented in the scriptures. It seems incomprehensible that someone could blatantly say “No” to God, yet in subtle ways I’m sure we all do the same. 

Rather than grieving the Spirit of God, we ought through obedience, continue in the peace of God. 

But remember also that the permanent peace that we look forward to as believers  is eternal peace.

The Perfection of Peace:

“…in perfect peace…”

Our text today says “perfect peace”: 

Of course, the thing we have to realize is that as far as the Lord is concerned, peace isn’t the absence of strife or personal challenges, but rather a state of mind or more importantly a state of the heart during these times of trial. It governs our response to them as we let the peace of God rule in our hearts.

We are certainly promised trials in this life..

“These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

And in the book of Acts:

“…that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.” (Act 14:22)

This is why we read  in John’s gospel: 

Jesus says:

“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

“…Let not your heart be troubled..” This is to say: DO NOT ALLOW YOUR HEART TO BE TROUBLED. 

DO NOT:

This is a conscious decision by the believer to enjoy the peace which the Lord has promised to us and to live therein. If we know that trials and tribulations will come our way, then we have to be ruthless in our resolve, not to allow these trials and tribulations to unsettle us. 

There is only one place we should go when these situations occur…

And that is to the Lord…and to the throne of grace. 

After all we have an open invitation:

Jesus also tells us: 

“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Mat 11:28-30)

These 3 verses reinforce the fact that Jesus truly is the Prince of Peace. In John 16:33, we see a promise and a command. Firstly Jesus promises us that peace can be found in him. But he also [because of this fact] commands us to be of good cheer. [This is not unlike the command to rejoice which we were encouraged by several weeks ago]

Similarly we are commanded to “come” to Jesus and “take” his yoke upon us. This is another conscious decision we have to make as believers. Jesus will lead us beside still waters but he won’t drag or drive us. This is why we are followers of Christ and not forced by Christ. 

Again our hymn writer echoes these sentiments:

Peace, perfect peace, with sorrows surging round?

On Jesus’ bosom naught but calm is found.

The book of Philippians [as I alluded before] describes a peace which surpasseth understanding. It is a peace that attends our soul despite our circumstances and defies logic.  

This passage refers to the Lord as “the God of peace” and the  reason that we can expect the peace of God to be perfect is because he is perfect and is in the process of perfecting the peace of each and every one of us. 

The challenge for us as believers is to recognize when and what disturbs our peace. We all have different triggers and tipping points. We need the courage to ask the Lord to search and try us and to see if there is any WICKED way in us…

This only comes by prayer and the remedy only comes through spending serious time in the word.

The Precursor to Peace:

“…whose mind is stayed on thee

I alluded to this verse earlier:

[Turn to]

“Be careful for nothing; but in every thing 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. Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. 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.”  Philippians 4:6-9

Firstly we’re commanded not to be anxious [careful] for anything 

Secondly we are reminded that the alternative to anxiety is prayer; presenting our requests to God, grateful in the knowledge that only he can do what we cannot…

Therefore it is prayer that activates the peace of God in the first instance and it is the peace of God which keeps [guards, protects, maintains] our hearts and minds and enables us to focus on godly things [things that are virtuous and praiseworthy].

In doing so, this passage encourages us that the God of peace shall be with us.

This also confirms the truth that as we draw near to the Lord, he draws near to us.

[Side-note]

I love the way this passage is bookended by the 2 phrases:

“The peace of God” and “the God of peace”

Both our text today and our passage in Philippians highlight the importance of the mind when it comes to the peace of God. But without the “God of peace” all we would have is an exercise in the power of positive thinking. 

Scripture describes two states of mind:

Firstly: The carnally minded individual who is not born again. 

Secondly: The spiritually minded individual who is born again. The difference is more than that between chalk and cheese. Romans explains this more fully.

“For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.”  Romans 8:5-7

Further to our thought life:

“SAMECH. I hate vain thoughts: but thy law do I love.” (Psalm 119:113)

Why does David say this? For one thing, because the word of God is the only thing that will have any value in times of trouble. David was certainly no stranger to trouble.

Therefore, if we allow our minds to “stay” on things other than godly thoughts, then naturally we will be led and drawn into sin. This is one sure way to give occasion to the flesh. 

The alternative is obvious. We need to fill our minds with the word of God. 

The bible contains far too many references to God’s word to include in this message. But I pray that these 3 examples give you an appreciation for the value of the word of God…

[Turn to]

“This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.” (Joshua 1:8)

“But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.” (James 1:22-25)

“And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” 

(Romans 12:2)

The thing that we glean from these verses is this:

In order to be transformed we need to spend time in the word. We need to meditate therein continually in order to obey the word and lead a prosperous and victorious Christian life. This is how we win the battle of the mind…the spoils of war is peace of heart and mind…

The bible portrays a very high view of scripture and so ought we to have a high view of scripture. Satan understands the value of God’s word, obviously. Otherwise he wouldn’t have spent the past 6,000 years or so corrupting and undermining God’s word in the hearts and minds of mankind, and causing us to question the word of God by producing 450+ versions in the English language alone. He will do everything in his power to prevent the believer from spending time in the word and growing in his faith

Our Position of Peace:

“…because he trusteth in thee.” 

Underpinning this entire message is our position in Christ. 

The use of the word “because” [in our text] is important since it is the condition and reason the rest of this verse holds true [at least for the individual that hopes to benefit from it]. 

We’ve been reviewing our Romans series and covered this recently but it’s worth bearing it in mind in relation to our text today: 

A few weeks ago we dealt with the doctrine of justification by faith and we were particularly blessed by this verse:

Which says:

“Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:”  Romans 5:1

There are 3 realities which solidify the promise contained within the text today: 

The first is the gospel of peace: 

Our initial position of peace came when we believed the gospel, trusted Christ for salvation and received the gift of eternal life. It is no coincidence that the the gospel is referred to as “The gospel of peace” The gospel is also referred to as the way of peace [Romans 3:17].  As we saw in Romans 5:1, it is through the gospel that we have peace with God and thus access to the peace of God.

The second is that Jesus is the Prince of peace: 

If it wasn’t for the Lord and the reality that God is, [again] all we would have is a treatise on the power of positive thinking. This might sustain you in this life [to a certain degree] but no amount of positive thinking is going to save you on judgement day. No, it is the Lord who actively ministers to us and gives us peace in our hearts. God is real and so is his peace…

The third is the word of God: 

It is the word of God which is quick and powerful. It is the word of God which transforms our hearts and minds and lives, and builds faith in us. 

If we regard the word of God as a foundation then the Lord Jesus tells us this towards the end of his sermon on the mount:

[Turn to]

“Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.” (Mat 7:24-27)

These verses highlight the value of God’s word as an anchor and solid foundation during the storms of life. It contrasts the actions of the wise [who build on the rock which is God’s word] and the foolish [who built on the shifting sands of popular opinion and personal preference]. Therefore as we read in Colossians we are to LET [not hinder] the word of Christ dwell in us richly, with all wisdom [Colossians 3:16]

We spoke about security and permanence earlier in our message and the same applies to the firm foundation of the word of God, which is settled in heaven and endures forever.  

Regarding our faith position:

Faith and trust is something the believer learns and grows in. And as faith and love for the Lord are connected, so also is peace connected. We know that fear, anxiety and a lack of faith often disrupts our experience of God’s peace. We also know that the opposite of fear is love, because the perfect love of God casts out fear. Therefore as we are perfected in God’s love, we are also perfected in his peace.

This is why you will repeatedly hear from this pulpit the necessity of falling in love with this book, because it causes you to fall in love with the Lord. 

And this is why faith is such a precious commodity and Hebrews chapter 11 highlights this fact:

Firstly without faith it is IMPOSSIBLE to please God. And as we read further in the chapter we learn of the men and woman who received a good report because of their faithful response to God and obedience to his word. All while maintaining a peaceful resolve…

Well might our report card read:

By faith he read his bible daily

By faith he humbly accepted the rebuke of his boss

By faith she prayed for her neighbour who came to the Lord

By faith he extended hospitality to a stranger.

By faith he gave out gospel tracts and opened the door of conversation and the gospel.

By faith we accept the good with the bad, knowing that all things work together for good to those that love God and who are called according to his purpose to be conformed to the image of Christ. This is the end goal of our faith and something we can rest in.

Conclusion:

Of course, I don’t have to convince you that the the ultimate permanent and perfect peace is when we will ever be with the Lord…

The scriptures paint a peaceful picture of our heavenly resting place indeed: We read in Revelation that a sea of glass around the throne of God. 

Once more our hymn writer sums up this reality:

Peace, perfect peace, our future all unknown?

Jesus we know, and He is on the throne.

The opposite is true for those who reject God and his gift of eternal life [to which the bible says]:

“And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night…” (Rev 14:11)

Note: They have NO REST…

As we near the end of our message today, I’d like to return briefly to the eschatological overtones contained in the 26thchapter of Isaiah. 

“Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee: hide thyself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast. For, behold, the LORD cometh out of his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity: the earth also shall disclose her blood, and shall no more cover her slain.” (Isaiah 26:20-21)

Scripture indicates that a time of judgement and God’s wrath will come upon this world; to punish its inhabitants for their iniquity  

Because:

They reject God

They reject the truth of God

They reject the gospel and any warning of imminent danger

As we shall see, rather than accept the convergence of signs of imminent danger, the world insists that all is well…carry on as normal [marrying and being given in marriage]

This is tragic since we are moving ever closer to the fulfilment of these words:

“For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.”  1Thessalonians 5:3

In light of our text today, we cannot underestimate the value of the gospel not only as the ONLY source of lasting peace in this life but also as the ONLY source of ETERNAL peace and rest. I truly pray that this message resonates with you and that you make the decisions appropriate to your life beginning with obedience to the gospel.

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