I am dedicating this devotion to military veterans among you, some of whom have experienced trials and traumas that have left deep physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual scars. I pray that your wounds will be badges of honor, your memories few, and your peace abundant by the grace of Jesus Christ. I thank you for your service, and I thank God for his strength in you to fight for nations, neighbors, and strangers. I am sure that every soldier, first responder, firefighter, police officer, and emergency personnel has a different personal experience of volunteering, being enlisted, or drafted. What you have in common, though, is God’s providential, sovereign design for your life. What we all have in common as believers in Jesus Christ, is the peace that the Holy Spirit provides when God installs him in our beings through his regeneration of our hearts. Let’s celebrate Christ’s gifts of redemption, propitiation, justification, faith, repentance, and sanctification. The only basis for our holiness is what God puts in us; the only reason we trust God is that he has rescued us from ourselves. He is the ultimate first-responder! We cannot credit ourselves with our faith without subtracting from God’s glory. We have soul-peace because of Christ’s work for us, in us, and with us. Keeping that in mind, we come to our passage: “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.” (Isaiah 26:3-4)
This devotion is my forty-third one this year on biblical peace. I hope you are as encouraged as I am that God’s Word feeds us, week after week, and year after year. The strength of Scripture, the power of the Spirit who applies God’s Word, and the strength of the body to help each other appreciate and learn together is remarkable. God keeps our minds stayed on him through our church worship, Bible studies, doctrinally sound hymns and songs, devotions, Christian literature, communion, biblical fellowship, service, and prayer. Yet, as I read and reread Isaiah 26:3, I asked, what is the cause of our peace, focus on God, and trust in him? Which comes first? From our English translation, it sounds like we have perfect peace because we keep our focus on God and trust him. But we are not able to either create or increase this ideal peace by our strength, determination, or works. The 1599 Geneva Bible puts it this way: “By an assured purpose wilt thou preserve perfect peace, because they trusted in thee,” adding this footnote: “Thou hast decreed so, and thy purpose cannot be changed.” (1) God elects believers to have his peace in Christ. As we grow in our Christian maturity, our desire for God’s glory and kingdom increases, giving us the impetus to do what will lead to more glory for him. Our peace increases with our maturity because of the good habits we develop, the blessings of God’s grace and mercy, and our biblical worldview, in God’s good providence, to keep our minds more often on him. God begins the work in us, he keeps us going, and he gives us peace because of growing trust. If we take credit for our faith or peace, pridefully glorying in ourselves, we will lose both, because our minds are no longer on God.
We all know what it’s like to be thinking of something unrelated to our friend’s description of their recent vacation, or their interaction with someone we don’t know. Our thoughts separate us from our him emotionally and mentally for the time when we aren’t paying attention. How much more are we separated from God’s peace when our minds are set on obtaining worldly comforts? We think about sleeping late on the weekend, having dinner out so we don’t have to cook tonight, or what to do after church during the sermon, focusing on those things that will satisfy somehow. We think about the things or people in our lives that will eventually outweigh our old hurts. There are many ways we “unfix” our minds on God, even good things that we overdo them or make them priorities when we need to be with the Prince of Peace. I keep coming back to verse 3’s statement that (we have peace and) our minds are fixed on God because we trust in him. Reversing the order, when we don’t trust God, our thoughts are not on him. Misdirecting my focus is not just a result of a bad habit or being innocently distracted; it is also an indication that I have some distrust or doubt about God. What was it the father of the demon-possessed child said? “I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24) How dangerous is it when a soldier on an active battlefield doesn’t believe he has the skill for combat or a firefighter doubts that he will survive the flame? How much more precarious is it for us when we think we are trusting in God but are actually trusting in something or someone else for our peace? No wonder we don’t want to pray, worship, study the Bible, or talk with other Christians at those times. Our peace is deceptive and temporal. Our minds, which follow our hearts, are set against God, rather than on him. But “The source of [God’s] peace is the righteous, sovereign, saving God…who ‘will swallow up death forever’ and ‘will wipe away’ every tear (Isiah 25:8; Rev. 21:4)” (2)
While the description of peace sounds “perfect” (ESV), John Gill says, “The word ‘perfect’ is not in the Hebrew text, it is there “peace, peace”; which is doubled to denote the certainty of it, the enjoyment of it, and the constancy and continuance of it; and as expressive of all sorts of peace, which God grants unto his people, and keeps for them, and them in; as peace with God and peace with men, peace outward and peace inward, peace here and peace hereafter; and particularly it denotes the abundance of peace that believers will have in the kingdom of Christ in the latter day.” (3) The Jewish Bible’s translation of “Yeshayah” 26:3 is, “Thou wilt keep him in shalom shalom…” (4) We can apply a common Bible teaching here, that the repetition of a word in Scripture gives that word or following idea a stronger meaning. “Since the ancients did not have our ways of emphasizing something in print, either by capitalizing or printing in boldface or color, they achieved their emphasis by repetition.” (5) So what kind of peace results from our faith and trust in God? God’s shalom doubled—wellbeing doubled, contentment doubled, satisfaction doubled. Alexander Maclaren calls it, “the steadfast peacefulness of trust. It is the steadfast mind, steadfast because it trusts, which God keeps in the deepest peace that is expressed by the reduplication of the word…this faithful, steadfast heart and mind, kept by God, is filled with deepest peace…the depth, the completeness of the tranquility which flows into the heart.” (6)
Do I want to know what my friend is saying? All I have to do is turn my attention to him. Do we want the profound peace of God? We only have to turn our minds to him with trust. After all, He is “an everlasting rock” (26:4). For what hope or relationship are you doubting God’s purpose? What is shaking your trust in his plans, purposes, or circumstance for you? From what do you need to turn your attention, to ask the Lord for greater confidence and faith? What boundaries do we need to set to be less distracted when we could be fixed on Christ? Do our conversations, choices, and conduct reflect peace, worry, or past problems? Have you struggled with letting go of difficulties and traumas of your past? Will you trust Christ and seek his help to put painful memories in the past, to enjoy his shalom? “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” (John 14:27)
(2) English Standard Version Study Bible Notes, Isaiah 26:3, (digital edition), Crossway, 2008.
(3) Gill, John, “John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible,” Isaiah 26:3, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/isaiah-26.html
(4) Orthodox Jewish Bible, 2011, Artists for Israel International, https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Isaiah+26%3A3&version=OJB
(5) Boice, James, Boice Expositional Commentary Series, Baker Books, Software version, 1998.
(6) Maclaren, Alexander, The Biblical Illustrator, Electronic Database, 2011,com, https://biblehub.com/sermons/auth/maclaren/the_inhabitant_of_the_rock.htm
November 7, 2019