“For he is our peace, the one who has made both one and breaching the dividing wall which divided — the hatred in his flesh, the law in commandments nullified — in order that the two might be created in him into one new man making peace and reconciling both in one body to God through the cross, killing the hatred in him.”
Jesus is our peace. What a wonderful sentiment to meditate upon. How often we try and find peace in matters of earthly security — wealth, a career, etc… Yet, our peace only ever will be found in Christ. The rest of this verse approaches the question of why Jesus is our peace, but it is worth spending time meditating on the notion that if we wish to find peace in life it will only ever come in Christ and by being in His will. Security does not come from men or from the works of men; it comes from Christ.
Paul, of course, is borrowing this language from the prophet Micah (Micah 5:5). Here is one of the many promises of a coming Messiah — in this case, one who would be born in Bethlehem and who would shepherd the people of Israel (True Israel that is). Micah 5:4 speaks of him shepherding Israel in the strength of the Lord and his people finding a place to dwell securely in Him. For he will be their peace.
Scripture is full of references like this — the final verse of Psalm 2, for example, that says, “Blessed are those who take refuge in Him.” Ask yourself, what steps have you taken in life to try and secure peace by the works of your own hands? How successful have they been? I would wager that they are unsuccessful. What is holding you back from truly making Christ your source of peace and the pursuit of Christ, wherever that might lead you in this life, the direction of your life? Often we confuse peace with comfort. The first is found in Christ alone and is eternal. The second can be worked with our hands but is fleeting and unsatisfying. Choose this day what it is that you will pursue.
“Comfort, Comfort, my people, says your God.”
So, what is comfort and why is it important? The Hebrew word that Isaiah uses is נחם (nacham), which means “to ease one’s regrets or griefs.” When the Hebrew scribes translated this passage into Greek, they translated נחם (nacham) as παρακαλέω (parakaleo), which means “to encourage, to treat with care and hospitality, or simply to call out to someone — to exhort (which is an aspect of preaching). When Jerome translated this into Latin, he used the term consolor, which means “to console or to lighten someone’s spirit.” By the time Wycliffe was translating this text, he chose to use the word, “comfort,” which comes from the Latin root, comfortis, which means “to forcefully strengthen.”
The Heidelberg Catechism begins by speaking of the only “comfort” for the Christian in life and in death — the word which Ursinus and Olevianus (Heidelberg’s principle authors) chose here in the original German was trost, again, a word that means to comfort or console and the word that Luther used to translate this passage in Isaiah. Yet, this first question to the catechism assumes that comfort is something that Christians both want and need, which brings us back to the question, why is it important?
While the question needs to be asked, lest we be unclear as to the “why,” it ought to be rather obvious to the Christian as to why we need comfort in this world. It is a world that is fallen, a world that is marked by sin, and it is a world that is filled with death and decay. And, as we grow older and mature every day, our bodies weaken and grow more frail; disease wreaks havoc on young and old and the wicked in this world seek to use the weak to gain power for themselves. While we have little stabs of joy in this life, how much more often do we need to face trial and discouragement. Hence, we need comfort — we need to be forcefully strengthened, we need to be consoled in our times of sorrow, and we need to have the weight of our grief lessened. That is why we need comfort and question 1 in the catechism will explore wherein we find that comfort as Christians. For now, though, it is important to be reminded that not only is comfort something that we need as God’s own, it is something that God desires and designs to give to us in his Son, Jesus Christ — hence the language of the prophet Isaiah who looks forward toward the coming of the suffering servant.
Seek your comfort in Christ, dear friends, and not in the decaying things of this world. Further, recognize that this world is not our home, so why would we ever think we can be contented here?
“to know him and the power of his resurrection, the fellowship of his sufferings, sharing in the sake kind of death as his —”
What does it mean to be “found in Christ”? It means that in the context of his imputation of righteousness to us, we come into relationship with him — we know him — and that knowledge gives us a promise of the resurrection to come. He who was raised from the dead will also raise us that we may indeed experience the power of that resurrection firsthand.
Yet, the power of the resurrection also comes at a cost. Paul writes of a fellowship of suffering and entering into a death that is “like his.” How are we to understand this death? Certainly, one must not die on a cross to enter heaven? So, what does Paul mean by this? As you continue to read the flow of Paul’s language, he explains exactly what he means by this — Paul means the putting to death of his sins and the things of the world that he might boast in. That means suffering, when God calls him to suffer, that he might be found faithful in service and grow more like Christ.
Yet, this notion of suffering is something that often is difficult for us to hear. We have been accustomed to the notion that we are to seek the comforts of life and that suffering is somehow undesirable. Yet, did not our Lord choose to suffer for us? Did not our Lord choose to die on the cross for us? And did not our Lord enter into glory through the pathway of suffering? If it was good enough for our Lord’s entrance into heaven, is it not good enough for us? Is not suffering often the way that God refines those who are most precious to him? As C.S. Lewis wrote in his Problem of Pain, if we ask for less suffering and not more, are we not asking God for less love and not more?
We live in a world where many Christians are dying for their faith. And, these Christian brothers and sisters count it their privilege to “enter into” our Lord’s sufferings. At the same time, in the west, we live in a world where, while there is comfort for those who believe, people and churches are apostatizing faster than can be counted. While it is quite true that the freedoms we enjoy in this western world have been a great and profound blessing to the church, particularly in the realm of discipleship (formation of Christian Schools, Colleges, Seminaries, Book Publishers, etc…), with that freedom there has also been a fertile seedbed for false teachers and lazy believers. Let us be neither, even at the cost of persecution, that we may guide the church in a way that willingly enters into Christ’s sufferings — internally as we put sin to death and externally as we face persecution.
“Thus he and the men that were with him ate and drank and lodged there. And they arose in the morning and he said, ‘Send me to my lord.’ And her brother and her mother said, ‘Let the girl stay with us about ten more days and then she may go.’ But he said to them, ‘You should not detain me for Yahweh has prospered my way; send me that I may go to my lord.’”
We can only infer what it is that is causing Laban and their mother to seek to delay Rebekah’s return with Eliezer. While we are not told for sure, it seems likely that they have seen the wealth of this servant and have decided the longer he stays the more wealth he will lavish on them in return for their hospitality. Eliezer, ever the faithful servant, sees through their distraction and refuses to be delayed in his task.
Now here is an interesting bit to keep before our hearts and minds. Eliezer has a harsh ride through the wilderness ahead of him on the return ride home yet he is eager to embark on the journey because of the end result: the presentation of Rebekah to Isaac. It is interesting because we often seek to delay difficult paths that are before us as long as we are able — no matter how wonderful the end of the journey might promise. We are often quicker to remain comfortable in the worldly comforts that surround us at the moment than we are to leave those worldly comforts behind for a season to grow in faith and in relationship with God. How quick most of us would be to accept Laban’s offer of “hospitality” only to delay the trials before us.
Eliezer is a model to us of focus and determination. What pleases him is not his personal comfort but faithfully serving his master. Beloved, our master is Christ Jesus. Are you faithfully serving him? Are you quick to set aside the comforts of this life for the pathway that Christ has laid before you? Opportunities pass when we delay; loved ones, do not let your comfort or your fears of stepping out in difficult waters detain you from pursuing the path to which God is calling you to follow. John F. Kennedy once said, “We do these things not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” Eliezer says to us across the ages, “We do these hard things not because they are comfortable for us, but because our joy is found in the joy of our master.” Let us pursue Christ no matter the cost or the risk not because it is easy or comfortable, but because it is joyous to please our Lord and Master and Savior and Friend.