“I heard the bells on Christmas day, their old familiar carols play, and wild and sweet the words repeat of peace on earth, good will to men.”
“And in despair I bowed my head: “There is no peace on earth, “I said, “For hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth, goodwill to men.”
Most may be familiar with the first verse of the popular Christmas carol, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”, but not the other one. The famous poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote it in 1864, a year before the end of the American Civil War. Longfellow hated the Civil War. It pained him to see the United States of America become divided by the greed and sinful nature of man.
It shouldn’t be surprising that this same spirit (that emanates from the prince of the power of the air), is alive today. After all God has allowed Satan this authority for a time, but it will ultimately lead to his demise (Eph. 2:2-3, 5:6, Rom. 16:20, 1 John 3:8, Prov. 16:4). Ironically, it is the God of peace that will crush Satan (Rom. 16:20). Genesis 3:15 provides the back drop of what we have seen throughout history to our present day. It’s the enmity (opposition) that God set between the women’s seed and Satan’s seed after the fall. It’s the thread throughout the Scriptures and dovetails with Satan’s attempts at destroying the seed of the woman. No greater attempt was seen as the hour approached for the seed of the woman to enter the world.
The Jewish people in Jesus’ day were ruled under the Roman Empire. Herod the Great was the king that governed over the area of Bethlehem of Judea where Jesus was born. He was used to try and destroy the woman’s seed (Jesus) after learning from the traveling wise men that the King of the Jews had been born. Since Herod was unable to locate this baby king, he had all the male children who were in Bethlehem (and in all it’s districts) from two years old and under killed. Joseph had been forewarned by an angel to flee with his wife and Jesus to Egypt and stay there until word came back that it was safe to return (Matthew 2).
In Isaiah 9:6, one of the names prophesied of Christ is ‘Prince of Peace’. Indeed Christ is the Prince who gives peace, but his coming into the world did not bring peace. In fact in Matthew 10:34, Jesus said, “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword.” The battle has always been between good and evil (the spirit and the flesh). The written word is living and powerful (sharper than any two-edged sword). It divides the flesh from the spirit—the lies from the truth (Heb. 4:12, John 3:6, 1 Cor. 2:13-15, Eph. 6:17). Jesus used it to defend Himself from Satan’s temptations (Matt. 4:1-11). The Living Word (Christ Jesus) will have a sword to smite the nations when He returns (Rev. 1:16, 2:12, 16, 19:13, 15, 21, Luke 19:27, 2 Thess. 2:8). In Luke 12:51, Jesus said this, “Do you suppose that I came to give peace on earth? I tell you, not at all, but rather division.” The effect of the Prince of Peace’s presence would bring war. The effect of His coming would bring judgment (John 9:39, 12:47-48).
TRUE PEACE IS UNATTAINABLE WITHOUT THE PRINCE OF PEACE
In Hebrew, the word Shalom’s primary meaning is not quietness, ease, or calm—but completeness. Peace is the effect—not of compromise— but of agreement; the causes of difference being completely removed and rightly resolved (Isa. 32:17, 53:5, Ps. 85:10). Shalom regarding our relationship to God is by virtue of the finished work of His Son. Jesus Christ is our peace and only through Him alone can we have peace with God (Eph. 2:14-18). The believer is complete in Christ (Col. 2:10). Christ alone abolished the enmity through His flesh on the cross so that we might be reconciled and have peace with God (Rom. 5:1, Col. 2:14). What a gift to be thankful for! (2 Cor. 9:15, John 3:16)
Jesus told his disciples at the last supper, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27). He told them that they would have tribulation in the world, but to be of good cheer because He has overcome the world (John 16:33).
JESUS’ PEACE IS NOT OF THIS WORLD
As Christians we are to pursue peace and (if it’s within our power) to live peaceably with all men (2 Tim. 2:22, Rom. 12:18). The fruit of righteousness is sown in peace, but contrary to what is promoted in the world today, a believer in Christ is not to make peace with the world. The Bible is clear that friendship with the world is enmity (opposition) with God (James 4:4, Rom. 8:7, Matt. 6:24). Satan wants to steal our peace by getting us preoccupied with the things of the world, but we are not to engage in this mindset (2 Tim. 2:4). To be earthly minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace (Rom. 8:6). Our peace and contentment shouldn’t be contingent on the ever changing ways of the world (Phil. 4:11-13). The experience of real peace with God guards our thoughts and minds in the midst of worldly chaos (Phil. 4:7). We can stand strong against all things Satan may tempt us with when we allow Christ to fight our battles (Eph. 6:11-18). Let’s celebrate that the Prince of Peace has come and has cleared the way for us to have access to God and eternal life with Him. Let’s wait expectedly upon His return where He will put away all things that offend and those who practice lawlessness (as well as death, sorrow, crying and pain) (Matt. 13:41-42, 1 Cor. 15:26, Rev. 20:10, 21:4, 22:3). This hope is in the ending verses of Longfellow’s song,
“Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: “God is not dead, nor does He sleep; the wrong shall fail, the right prevail, With peace on earth, goodwill to men.”
“Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you peace at all times in every way” (1 Thess. 3:16).