"Eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." (Ephesians 4:3)
Peace is not easy. It is not natural. By nature we war, we fight, we argue, we compete. We are jealous, we are bitter, we hate, we hold grudges. So it takes work to keep peace. It requires continual effort. It’s hard.
But we approach it with eagerness. We don’t run away because it’s difficult, we attack issues with promptness, diligence, and most of all, assuance that He who calls us to live peaceably, the God of Peace Himself, will give us peace and accomplish the very thing He is asking us to maintain.
He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the LORD. His heart is steady; he will not be afraid, until he looks in triumph on his adversaries.
Not afraid of bad news
Bad news is inevitable. It is not a matter of if it comes but when. The one who fears the Lord (v.1) will not be afraid.
- Proverbs 3:25-26; Do not be afraid of sudden terror or of the ruin of the wicked, when it comes, for the LORD will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being caught.
- Jeremiah 17:7-8; Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.
- Psalms 46:1-2; God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea.
His heart is firm…his heart is steady
The word translated here as firm means stable, established, set up, secure. Steady means to lean, lay upon, rest, uphold, sustain.
The one who fears the Lord is strengthened day by day yet will always lean upon Him who strengthens it. His heart is made firm but never with the intention to endure suffering alone.
- Psalms 73:26; My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
- Isaiah 40:28-31; Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.
- Deuteronomy 33:26-27;There is none like God, O Jeshurun, who rides through the heavens to your help, through the skies in his majesty. The eternal God is your dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms.
Oh, let us fear the Lord! Let us trust in Him when bad news comes, trusting Him to sustain us, leaning on His everlasting arms.
“Our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep”
Initially I assumed our English word for great would be inferior to the Greek word used in this text. I thought it would be something more descriptive like wonderful, magnificent, illustrious, awesome, clothed in grandeur. But no, it means great. In fact, its even more plain than the word great. It literally means big. But there’s nothing insufficient about that word when it’s used to describe God. It means powerful. It means preeminent. It means majestic. It means exceedingly abundantly above all we could ever imagine or describe.
- Psalms 145:3; Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable.
- Psalms 48:1; Great is the LORD and greatly to be praised in the city of our God!
- Psalms 86:10; For you are great and do wondrous things; you alone are God.
- Psalms 147:5; Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure.
- Psalms 96:4; For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; he is to be feared above all gods.
- Psalms 135:5; For I know that the LORD is great, and that our Lord is above all gods.
- Jeremiah 32:17-19; Ah, Lord GOD! It is you who have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you. You show steadfast love to thousands, but you repay the guilt of fathers to their children after them, O great and mighty God, whose name is the LORD of hosts, great in counsel and mighty in deed, whose eyes are open to all the ways of the children of man, rewarding each one according to his ways and according to the fruit of his deeds.
- Revelation 15:3; Great and amazing are your deeds, O Lord God the Almighty! Just and true are your ways, O King of the nations!
- Malachi 1:5; Great is the LORD beyond the border of Israel!
Anyone would be willing to lead from a throne, or an oval office, or a corner suite on the twentieth floor. How many would be willing to lead the way a shepherd does? Instead of sitting on a throne, sitting on a rock. Instead of walking through palaces, walking through mud. Instead of mingling at cocktail parties, living with the sheep.
- Ezekiel 34:15-16; I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord GOD. I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them in justice.
- Micah 5:2-5; But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days. …And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God. And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth. And he shall be their peace.
- Isaiah 40:11; He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.
- Revelation 7:15-17; …He who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.
Understanding Christ to be our Great Shepherd requires us to understand who we are in relation to Him. He is our God, we are His people. He is the potter, we are the clay. He is the Shepherd, we are the sheep.
- Psalms 95:7; For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.
- Psalms 79:13; But we your people, the sheep of your pasture, will give thanks to you forever; from generation to generation we will recount your praise.
- Psalms 100:3; Know that the LORD, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
- Ezekiel 34:31; And you are my sheep, human sheep of my pasture, and I am your God, declares the Lord GOD.
Peace with God
“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Justification is being declared innocent. More than that, it is being counted righteous. We obtain this standing by believing in Jesus Christ, who was put to death for our transgression and raised from the dead to make us right with God.
Since we have been justified by such an eternal, complete work, we have peace wih God. We, who spit in His face, rejected Him, and jammed a twisted crown of thorns on His brow have been reconciled to Him. There is no more strife between us. We have peace with God.
- Colossians 1:19-22; “For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him.”
Don’t ever let the magnitude of this truth escape you. Don’t pass by it lightly. We have peace with God.
Understand that peace with Him does not simply mean He tolerates us. It does not mean He puts up with us reluctantly. It does not merely mean that He is not against us, it means that He is for us. He favors us. He rejoices over us. He loves us.
- Romans 8:28-39; “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died–more than that, who was raised–who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, ‘For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
“A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, ‘Give me a drink.’ (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, ‘How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?’ (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.)”
Jews have no dealings with Samaritans
In his commentary of the Bible, Adam Clarke said of the Jews’ disdain for the Samaritans that they “will not drink out of the same cup or well with them; will not sit down to meals with them, nor eat out of the same vessel; will have no religious connection, no commercial dealings with them.” Though the cultural norm in Jesus’ day was to look down upon women and distance one’s self from Samaritans, Jesus took it upon Himself to approach them and preach the gospel.
He came and preached peace
Every one of us can put ourselves in this woman’s shoes. All of us at one time (if not still today) were separate from Christ, alienated from Israel–without hope, without God in the world. But just as Jesus broke through cultural boundaries in His day to approach this one woman, so too He has come to preach peace to us who were far away from God. His message is simple: through faith in Him–Jesus Christ–we all may approach God being fully at peace with Him through forgiveness by His blood.
- Titus 3:3-7 “For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”
- Ephesians 2:11-18 “Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called ‘the uncircumcision’ by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands–remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.”
More emphatic than the enmity that existed between the Jews and the Samaritans is the enmity between us and God. We, the willfully disobedient creature, have put ourselves at opposition with the one perfect, holy God. He sought to bring peace between us. This He did by breaking down the dividing wall of hostility, abolishing the law of commandments that stood between us, and shedding His blood to provide forgiveness for all sin. He has come to preach peace both to us who are far off and to the Jew who is near showing us the singular way to access the Father: through faith in Jesus Christ.