God's Peace Plan
One of the precious themes Christians enjoy meditating on is shalom or peace. If I were to ask a congregation, “What Bible verse comes to mind when you think of peace, I would collect quite an assortment – a beautiful bouquet – of familiar quotes including some of the following:
Colossians 1:20 explains that the foundation for peace is Jesus, the one through whom “God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.” In John 14:27 Jesus said, “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.”
Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” Matthew 5:9 comes from Christ's sermon on the mount, “God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God.” Romans 12:16-18 tells us to, “Live in harmony with each other. ... Never pay back evil with more evil. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.” Jesus instructed his followers in Luke 10:5, “Whenever you enter someone’s home, first say, ‘May God’s peace be on this house.’”
Notice how this collection includes verses that comfort and reassure us whenever we face the inevitable trials and storms of life. But there are also instructions to live peaceably with others. This bouquet wouldn't be complete, however, without Isaiah 52:7 which inspired that well known song, “Go tell it on the mountains.” It reads,“How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of the messenger who brings good news, the good news of peace and salvation, the news that the God of Israel reigns!”
Those of you who know me, won't be surprised that I have chosen to emphasize the latter aspect, i.e. telling or spreading the Good News of peace. There is a time and place for focusing on the other aspects, but since I've been called to be an evangelist I must do as the Lord has instructed in Ephesians 4:12, “equip his people for works of service.” (NIV) The NLT puts it this way, “Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church.” (Ephesians 4:11-12)
War and Peace
Sadly the opposite of peace is war. And we are seeing plenty of that today. Of course, God foreknew this, in fact, the Bible predicts there will be terrible wars in the last days, but eventually peace will prevail across the whole world. My aim is to unfold God's plan, showing how peace will come through God's Messiah, the Prince of Peace.
Since 9/11 when Al Qaeda attacked America there has been a continuous barrage of Jihadist attacks not just against Americans but increasingly against anyone who is non-Muslim. Among the Middle Eastern extremist groups perpetrating these attacks are ISIS, Hamas, Taliban and Hezbollah. This latter group is supported by the radical Iranian regime. However, Africa has also seen a resurgence of extremists in Nigeria, Somalia, Sudan and Libya. All these areas have seen an escalation of persecution against Christians as well as atrocities against many thousands of fellow Muslims who don't toe the line. And let's not forget the longstanding war by the PLO sharing the same objective as Iran – the extermination of Israel – albeit using peace negotiations as a stepping-stone. Make no mistake about it: all these jihadist groups are united by a common hatred and determination to annihilate Israel.
We may think these conflicts hardly affect us because we live so far away, but they do. Consider how prone people are to take sides: Muslims – even moderates – sympathize with the Palestinians and many Christians tend to support Israel. However, in spite of these polarizing trends, God wants us to stand in the gap and be peacemakers. This means we should love even our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. (Matthew 5:44-46)
In fact, this situation affords us an opportunity to share the Good News of peace, as it is written, “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings...” (Isaiah 52:7, NIV) Notice the word feet. What do we use feet for? Going to places! This brings to mind the Great Commission, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel … go and make disciples of all nations....” (Matthew 28:19; Mark 16:15) This, in turn, reminds us of Ephesians 6:15, which says that as part of our armour we need shoes for our feet, “having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace.” (ESV)
Nowadays people are feeling a deep need for peace which serves as a reminder that we should take this peace message where-ever we go. The Great Commission, as quoted above, challenges us to preach the gospel throughout the whole world, but there is one group who are by far the largest unreached people on earth – Muslims, totalling some 1.6 billion. We urgently need to tell them this Good News.
A careful look at current events makes one wonder if they aren't a wake up call reminding us that Muslims desperately need peace. Not only so, Islam teaches that when Isa the Messiah returns in the last days he will bring peace worldwide. Muslim Hadith say that this peace will be so deep that the lamb and the wolf will live together. These are just a few of the many reasons why this message is so relevant to Muslims. I have written a short article for Muslim readers explaining why Jesus (Isa) the Messiah, the Prince of Peace is the hope of peace. (see appendix)
Our hope is grounded in the fact that according to the Bible peace is an attribute of God. (Likewise one of the 99 beautiful names of Allah is peace.) As we read in Judges 6:24, “And Gideon built an altar to the LORD there and named it Yahweh-Shalom (which means 'the LORD is peace).”
Since God loves peace, it is not surprising to find this topic frequently mentioned in the writings of the prophets especially with regards to God's plans to bring peace to this troubled world, so spoiled by sin and ravaged by conflict. Listen carefully as I read a well known Messianic prophecy focusing on peace. Isaiah chapter 11:1-12 reads as follows;
Out of the stump of David’s family will grow a shoot—yes, a new Branch bearing fruit from the old root. And the Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
He will delight in obeying the Lord. He will not judge by appearance nor make a decision based on hearsay. He will give justice to the poor and make fair decisions for the exploited. The earth will shake at the force of his word, and one breath from his mouth will destroy the wicked. He will wear righteousness like a belt and truth like an undergarment.
In that day the wolf and the lamb will live together; the leopard will lie down with the baby goat. The calf and the yearling will be safe with the lion, and a little child will lead them all. The cow will graze near the bear. The cub and the calf will lie down together. The lion will eat hay like a cow. The baby will play safely near the hole of a cobra. Yes, a little child will put its hand in a nest of deadly snakes without harm. Nothing will hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain, for as the waters fill the sea, so the earth will be filled with people who know the Lord.
In that day the heir to David’s throne will be a banner of salvation to all the world. The nations will rally to him, and the land where he lives will be a glorious place. In that day the Lord will reach out his hand a second time to bring back the remnant of his people—those who remain in Assyria and northern Egypt; in southern Egypt, Ethiopia, and Elam; in Babylonia, Hamath, and all the distant coastlands. He will raise a flag among the nations and assemble the exiles of Israel. He will gather the scattered people of Judah from the ends of the earth.
God also revealed through Isaiah that the Messiah would be called, “Prince of Peace. His government and its peace will never end. He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David for all eternity. The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven's Armies will make this happen!” (Isaiah 9:6-7)
We read in Psalm 132:11-14,
The Lord swore an oath to David with a promise he will never take back: “I will place one of your descendants on your throne. If your descendants obey the terms of my covenant and the laws that I teach them, then your royal line will continue forever and ever.” For the Lord has chosen Jerusalem; he has desired it for his home. “This is my resting place forever,” he said. “I will live here, for this is the home I desired.”
Hundreds of years later an angel of the Lord appeared to Mary, saying, “You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!” (Luke 1:31-33)
This clearly confirms OT prophecies foretelling that a Messianic King will reign from Jerusalem. However, it was not completely fulfilled during Christ's life on earth. The final chapter is yet to be told at his second coming. There was a postponement, because of a pivotal event near the end of Christ's life. Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey while a crowd joyfully acknowledged him as King. The Jewish leaders, however, rejected him. Moments later we read that Jesus began to weep as he envisioned a terrible catastrophe that would befall the city. Luke 19:38-44 describes these stark contrasting responses. The crowd exclaimed,
“Blessings on the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in highest heaven!”
But some of the Pharisees among the crowd said, “Teacher, rebuke your followers for saying things like that!” He replied, “If they kept quiet, the stones along the road would burst into cheers!”
But as he came closer to Jerusalem and saw the city ahead, he began to weep. “How I wish today that you of all people would understand the way to peace. But now it is too late, and peace is hidden from your eyes. Before long your enemies will build ramparts against your walls and encircle you and close in on you from every side. They will crush you into the ground, and your children with you. Your enemies will not leave a single stone in place, because you did not accept your opportunity for salvation.”
Notice how Jesus said that the Jews forfeited the opportunity to experience peace because they rejected him as their Messiah and Prince of Peace.
This rejection is consistent with Hosea's prophecy, “Israel will go a long time without a king or prince, and without sacrifices, sacred pillars, priests, or even idols! But afterward the people will return and devote themselves to the Lord their God and to David’s descendant, their king. In the last days, they will tremble in awe of the Lord and of his goodness.” (Hosea 3:4-5)
The apostle Paul affirmed what Jesus said about the truth being “hidden from their eyes.” He explained that the Israelites will eventually return to the Lord. “As the Scriptures say, 'God has put them [Jews] into a deep sleep. To this day he has shut their eyes so they do not see.'” Paul, then explained, “For since their rejection meant that God offered salvation to the rest of the world, their acceptance will be even more wonderful.”
Finally Paul concludes, “I want you to understand this mystery, dear brothers and sisters ... Some of the people of Israel have hard hearts, but this will last only until the full number of Gentiles comes to Christ. And so all Israel will be saved. As the Scriptures say, 'The one who rescues will come from Jerusalem and he will turn Israel away from ungodliness... I will take away their sins.'” (Romans 11:8,15,25-27)
While it is true that “all Israel will be saved” we must not minimize the perilous situation out of which they are rescued. The prophets predicted that God will punish and discipline his people Israel, by allowing brutal enemy forces to attack them. This will be God's way of purging his people and leading them to repentance. This means that in the final analysis, those who are saved will be a repentant remnant i.e. all who are true Israelites will be saved.
As a matter of fact, the prophets predicted that an alliance of many nations will attack Israel in the last days, inflicting terrible suffering and destruction. Only then will the Lord begin to intervene on Israel's behalf. Coupled with this dramatic rescue, the Lord says, “I will pour out a spirit of grace and prayer on the family of David and the people of Jerusalem. They will look on me whom they have pierced and mourn for him as for an only son.” (Zechariah 12:10) I have added bold font for emphasis. Later, we will take a closer look to see what this means.
In chapter 14 Zechariah gives more details of this multinational attack against Jerusalem, saying, “the day of the Lord is coming when your possessions will be plundered right in front of you! I will gather all the nations to fight against Jerusalem. The city will be taken, the houses looted, and the women raped. Half the population will be taken into captivity, and the rest will be left among the ruins of the city. Then the Lord will go out to fight against those nations, as he has fought in times past... his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives” causing a massive split with half the mountain moving towards the north and half towards the south. Zechariah explains further that “life-giving waters will flow out from Jerusalem … flowing continuously ... And the Lord will be king over all the earth.... Jerusalem will be filled, safe at last, never again to be cursed and destroyed.” (Zechariah 14:1-4,8,9,11)
It is significant to note Zechariah 12:2-3 describes a scenario that corresponds with the rising ant-isemitism we see in our times. Zechariah says, “Behold, I am about to make Jerusalem a cup of staggering to all the surrounding peoples... On that day I will make Jerusalem a heavy stone for all the peoples. All who lift it will surely hurt themselves. And all the nations of the earth will gather against it.”
Efforts by the international community to negotiate peace between the Palestinians and Israelis have repeatedly failed, causing a growing frustration. Indeed, the recent war between Gaza/Israel has further intensified animosity. There are renewed efforts by the UN to resolve these tensions, based on a widely held assumption that Israel is the main roadblock to peace, i.e. “heavy stone.” It is not hard to see how this worsening scenario will eventually lead to an all out attack on Jerusalem by an alliance of Islamic nations who already encircle Israel.
Interestingly, Jesus makes a similar prophecy in Luke 21:20-24,
And when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then you will know that the time of its destruction has arrived. Then those in Judea must flee to the hills. Those in Jerusalem must get out, and those out in the country should not return to the city. For those will be days of God’s vengeance, and the prophetic words of the Scriptures will be fulfilled. How terrible it will be for pregnant women and for nursing mothers in those days. For there will be disaster in the land and great anger against this people. They will be killed by the sword or sent away as captives to all the nations of the world. And Jerusalem will be trampled down by the Gentiles until the period of the Gentiles comes to an end.
Jesus described this time of tribulation as so severe that it will be unparalleled throughout all of world history—and beyond. [Note: A helpful online article by Joel Richardson examines whether this prophecy was fulfilled in the Roman siege of Jerusalem in AD 68-70. He makes a strong case that Jesus prophecy will not be fulfilled until the end times.]
It can be terrifying to contemplate the awful judgements that will befall the earth but let's not forget how Jesus concluded his sermon, “Then everyone will see the Son of Man coming on a cloud with power and great glory. So when all these things begin to happen, stand and look up, for your salvation is near!” (Luke 21:27-28)
Peace through the cross
Up to this point we have focused on Messiah as a supremely powerful figure who will establish peace by triumphing victoriously over massive enemy forces. (cf. Revelation 19:11-16) But Jesus not only brings peace because he has more military power he brings peace in another, more foundational, way.
Do you recall how the Israelites were rescued out of slavery in Egypt? The pivotal moment was when all the Egyptian first-born sons were killed and the Israelite first-borns were spared because they sacrificed a Passover Lamb. Three days later God saved the Israelites by miraculously drowning all of Pharaoh's army. However, this victory was preceded by a sacrificial lamb. The military victory wouldn't have happened if the Lord had not first provided the Passover Lamb.
Speaking of a sacrificial lamb, it is significant that Isaiah compares the Messiah to a lamb. He foretold the Messiah would be “pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all... He was led like a lamb to the slaughter...” (Isaiah 53:5-7, NIV)
In the same way that sacrificing a lamb in Old Testament times enabled worshippers to experience a sense of peace and reconciliation with God, so also Jesus offered himself as a sacrificial lamb to bring us peace with God. As it is written, “through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.” (Colossians 1:20; cf John 1:29)
We read similar words in Ephesians 2:11-18,
Don’t forget that you Gentiles used to be outsiders. You were called “uncircumcised heathens” by the Jews, who were proud of their circumcision, even though it affected only their bodies and not their hearts. In those days you were living apart from Christ. You were excluded from citizenship among the people of Israel, and you did not know the covenant promises God had made to them. You lived in this world without God and without hope. But now you have been united with Christ Jesus. Once you were far away from God, but now you have been brought near to him through the blood of Christ.
For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us. He did this by ending the system of law with its commandments and regulations. He made peace between Jews and Gentiles by creating in himself one new people from the two groups. Together as one body, Christ reconciled both groups to God by means of his death on the cross, and our hostility toward each other was put to death.
He brought this Good News of peace to you Gentiles who were far away from him, and peace to the Jews who were near. Now all of us can come to the Father through the same Holy Spirit because of what Christ has done for us.
These Scriptures fulfill the prophecy we read in Zechariah which says “they will look on me whom they have pierced.” Notice the word “me” clearly refers to Yahweh, the LORD. Can you see how this is an implicit prediction of Christ's crucifixion?
Scripture makes it clear that Christ's death is the heart of our peace message, however, the place where Christ died – Jerusalem/Mount Zion – is also important.
Jerusalem – city of peace
It is a well known fact: the Palestinians insist Jerusalem will be the capital of their proposed Palestinian state, but Israelis have a prior claim to Jerusalem as their capital. As a result Jerusalem is the most disputed and violently contested city on earth. Ironically, Scripture foretells that under Messiah's rule, Jerusalem will live up to its name – “peaceful city.” At that time, peace will prevail in Israel and spread throughout the world. “In that day Jerusalem will be known as ‘The Throne of the Lord.’ All nations will come there to honor the Lord. The Lord [i.e. Messiah-King] will settle international disputes. They will hammer swords into ploughshares... Nation will no longer fight against nation nor train for war any more.... Your king will bring peace to the nations.” (Jeremiah 3:17; Isaiah 2:4; Zechariah 9:10)
Another Scripture that shows a connection between peace and Jerusalem is Isaiah 52:1,7, “Awake, awake, O Zion, clothe yourself with strength. Put on your garments of splendor, O Jerusalem, the holy city... How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, 'Your God reigns.'” Notice the parallelism between Zion and Jerusalem, implying they are virtually synonymous. A similar parallelism is evident between salvation and peace.
Since peace and salvation are so similar, it is helpful to look at another prophecy that provides further clues showing how pivotal Jerusalem is in God's plan. We read,
In Jerusalem, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will spread a wonderful feast for all the people of the world. ... There he will remove the cloud of gloom, the shadow of death that hangs over the earth. He will swallow up death forever! The Sovereign Lord will wipe away all tears. He will remove forever all insults and mockery against his land and people. The Lord has spoken! In that day the people will proclaim, “This is our God! We trusted in him, and he saved us! This is the Lord, in whom we trusted. Let us rejoice in the salvation he brings!” (Isaiah 25:6-9)
Seven hundred years after Isaiah prophesied the demise of death in Jerusalem, Christ made a similar prophecy,
Jesus began to tell his disciples plainly that it was necessary for him to go to Jerusalem, and that he would suffer many terrible things at the hands of the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, but on the third day he would be raised from the dead. (Matthew 16:21)
How are the prophecies by Isaiah and Jesus similar? Both picture death as being defeated or overpowered. Isaiah makes a general statement about God eliminating death, whereas Jesus claims that he himself would conquer death by rising from the dead. Notice that both prophecies specify Jerusalem as the place where death will be defeated!
The apostle John also confirmed this,
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.
I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” (Revelation 21:1-4)
Blessed are the peacemakers
The theme of peace permeated Christ's life. For example, when he healed a woman who had suffered for 12 years from a condition that made her bleed constantly, he spoke comforting words to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace.” On another occasion Jesus spoke reassuringly to an immoral woman who had repented of her sinful ways, “Your sins are forgiven … Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” (Luke 8:48; 7:48-50)
In John 14:27 Jesus said to his followers, “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.”
“Feet fitted with the readiness to share the good news of peace”
It is vital to understand the various aspects of God's peace plan and how they unfold from the OT to the NT. As we conclude this message I want to ask: Are your feet shod with the readiness to share this message?
Many Christians feel intimidated about witnessing to Muslims. But let's remember, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity but of power love, and self discipline. So never be ashamed to tell others about our Lord.” (2 Timothy 1:7-8) We can also be encouraged as we realize that many Muslims have turned to Christ over the last 20 years, having become disillusioned with all the violence they are seeing in their Muslim communities.
The topic of peace is intuitively appealing so let's not be timid to engage people in talking about it. This is also true of Muslims, who believe their religion is peaceful. Even conservatives and radicals believe in a peaceful outcome after the whole world submits to Islam. 'Moderates' of course, feel that radical groups like Al Qaeda and ISIS have distorted and hijacked Islam. It should not be difficult, therefore, to nudge a conversation in a positive direction by suggesting to your friend that you want to talk about peacemaking.
Of course, there are many ways one can start a conversation. Here's one example.
Chris: There has been an awful lot of violence in the news lately... makes one worry what could happen next.
Ahmed: Yeh, I've been praying for peace … I wish more people would speak out against the brutality and injustice going on in Palestine...
Chris: It also breaks my heart to see so much bloodshed but it doesn't seem like negotiations are holding out hope of a lasting peace. ... Recently I came across an interesting article that offers hope based on a belief that Christians and Muslims share in common. It seems that both faiths believe that the Messiah will return in the end times to resolve conflicts and bring peace on earth. (Jewish people also have a similar hope.)
Ahmed: Yes it’s true we believe that Isa will return to earth...
Chris: There is an incident in Christ's life that shows he was deeply committed to peacemaking. I think you might find it interesting. May I show it to you?
Ahmed: Sure, I'd like to see it...
[There are many different passages one might select which show Christ teaching or modelling peacemaking. Be sensitive to the Spirit as you choose the Scripture that best fits your situation. And by the way, don't overlook John 4 and Luke 9:51ff. Although these passages don't mention the word peace they are very relevant.]
Chris: This story is found in Luke 10:1-16,
The Lord now chose seventy-two other disciples and sent them ahead in pairs to all the towns and places he planned to visit. These were his instructions to them: “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields. Now go, and remember that I am sending you out as lambs among wolves. Don’t take any money with you, nor a traveler’s bag, nor an extra pair of sandals. And don’t stop to greet anyone on the road.
“Whenever you enter someone’s home, first say, ‘May God’s peace be on this house.’ If those who live there are peaceful, the blessing will stand; if they are not, the blessing will return to you. Don’t move around from home to home. Stay in one place, eating and drinking what they provide. Don’t hesitate to accept hospitality, because those who work deserve their pay.
“If you enter a town and it welcomes you, eat whatever is set before you. Heal the sick, and tell them, ‘The Kingdom of God is near you now.’ But if a town refuses to welcome you, go out into its streets and say, ‘We wipe even the dust of your town from our feet to show that we have abandoned you to your fate. And know this—the Kingdom of God is near!’ I assure you, even wicked Sodom will be better off than such a town on judgment day.
“What sorrow awaits you, Korazin and Bethsaida! For if the miracles I did in you had been done in wicked Tyre and Sidon, their people would have repented of their sins long ago, clothing themselves in burlap and throwing ashes on their heads to show their remorse. Yes, Tyre and Sidon will be better off on judgment day than you. And you people of Capernaum, will you be honored in heaven? No, you will go down to the place of the dead.”
Then he said to the disciples, “Anyone who accepts your message is also accepting me. And anyone who rejects you is rejecting me. And anyone who rejects me is rejecting God, who sent me.”
When the seventy-two disciples returned, they joyfully reported to him, “Lord, even the demons obey us when we use your name!”
“Yes,” he told them, “I saw Satan fall from heaven like lightning! Look, I have given you authority over all the power of the enemy, and you can walk among snakes and scorpions and crush them. Nothing will injure you. But don’t rejoice because evil spirits obey you; rejoice because your names are registered in heaven.”
What does this story mean? And how can we unpack it? The important thing to notice is the goodwill expressed through the greeting “Peace be on this house.” Whenever we sincerely greet someone we are showing love. (Matthew 5:47)
There are many other details in this passage that resonate with Muslims but space does not permit me to expand on this, e.g. the mandate to heal the sick and deliver people oppressed by demons. No Muslim will deny these are good. And, of course, it is appropriate when we are visiting someone to inquire on the health of their family. Then as the Spirit leads, we can pray for the sick. Ultimately, however, the most special “good” thing we can do for someone is to explain the Good News how they can find peace with God.
Why focus so much on Muslims?
Can we deny that for a long time, the church has overlooked Muslims and shirked our responsibility to reach them? It is only fair, therefore, that we rectify this by equipping Christians to be more effective witnesses to Muslims. Not only so, these Scriptures and insights on peacemaking are relevant to everyone. God wants us to share them with non-Muslims as well as Muslims! By showing you how this theme relates to Muslims we've given you an extra bonus, so to speak. By empowering you to explain this peace message to Muslims, who are more difficult to reach, we are also enabling you to share with non-Muslims!
The appendix below is also available as a PDF file to create a nice print out that you can share with friends.
All Bible quotes are from the New Living Translation unless otherwise indicated.
If this message blessed you or raises questions you'd like to discuss, please write to me.
Appendix: Hope of Peace
The prospect of finding a solution in the longstanding war between Israel and the Palestinians seems more hopeless than ever. These bleak prospects are becoming even worse because of the resurgence of jihadist groups across the Muslim world all of whom are determined to eliminate Israel. Also bear in mind, there are no small number of Muslims around the world who sympathize strongly with Hamas and the PLO.
Perhaps a wise place to begin is to acknowledge that according to the Qur'an and the Bible, peacemaking is a noble divine character quality that all God-fearing people should emulate. As Jesus Christ said, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the sons of God.”
Long before the Messiah came, the prophets described him as “Prince of Peace,” saying that he would bring peace to the world. (Isaiah 9:6; 11:1-12; 52:7) If we look carefully at Christ's words and actions we see that he spoke peace while healing the sick and he pronounced peace while forgiving repentant sinners. (Luke 8:48; 7:50)
Today world leaders are seeking to bring peace through dialog. For example, in late 2008 the United Nations convened a “High-Level Meeting on the Culture of Peace” at which the Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon said, “the need for dialogue among religions, cultures and civilizations has never been greater.” Here we are six years later with little fruit to show. The world is more polarized than ever and desperately needs peace.
It is a well known fact that the cornerstone of the UN charter is captured in the words, “beating swords into ploughshares.” But how many are aware that this quote is part of a Bible prophecy pointing to Jesus the Messiah? It is remarkable that Christ is recognized by followers of all faiths as an outstanding prophet, peacemaker and “messiah” figure. But there is another reason why we ought to focus on a spiritual leader, like the Messiah: the fact is, very few people trust politicians.
Interestingly both Muslims and Christians believe Jesus Christ will return to earth in the end times to rid the world of evil and bring worldwide peace. (Jews also expect their Messiah will come.) One Muslim writer noted that Islamic sources confirm Al Masih (Jesus) will abolish Jihad; “Sayyidina Salamah bin Nufayl has said that the messenger of Allah said, ‘The (command of) Jihad will not be abolished until the descent of Isa Ibn Maryam.’ (Seerat al-Mughlata', Musnad Ahmad)”
The similarities between this Hadith and Bible prophecies are intriguing. The prophets foretold that the Messiah “will settle international disputes. They will hammer swords into ploughshares... Nation will no longer fight against nation nor train for war any more.... Your king will bring peace to the nations.” (Isaiah 2:4; Zechariah 9:10).
Not only so, the hadith echoes other Messianic prophecies from the Tanach (Old Testament) describing Messiah's reign as follows: “the wolf and the lamb will live together” and peace will pervade the whole world. (See Mufti Mohammad Shafi's book, Signs of Qiyamah and the Arrival of the Maseeh, pp. 38,78, where he quotes Abu Dawood and Ibn Majah, Hadith #13).
It seems fitting to conclude with a Scripture that notes the alienation between Jews and Gentiles, but concludes by saying, Jesus Christ “himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall”. (Ephesians 2:14)
Of course, sceptics may argue that followers of the three monotheistic faiths don't have the greatest reputation for being peaceful. Besides that, each faith has a different understanding of how the Messiah will bring peace. You might be surprised by what you will find if you take time to consider, “Who is the Messiah, the Prince of Peace?”
You may wish to read, “Converging Destinies: Jerusalem, Peace and the Messiah” or contact me directly.
This appendix is also available as a PDF document with two additional features — an ornamental border and a sketch depicting a wolf living peacefully with a lamb.