My Musings

Shalom, Shalom!

Shalom, Shalom!

How do you say, “How are you?” in biblical Hebrew? Answer: “Shalom.”

How do you wish someone peace? Easy, “Shalom.”

Can you translate the phrase “All is well” into ancient Hebrew? Yes; “Shalom!”

What’s the ancient Hebrew word for “prosperity?” How about “safety?” Or, how did they declare victory in battle? The answers: “Shalom”, “Shalom” and “Shalom!”

We encounter this versatile word 237 times in the Old Testament. All the above uses are included and then some. Okay, one more: How did many false prophets around 600 BC lie to the people of Judah? Jeremiah tells us:

    “‘Shalom, shalom,’ [they say, when there is no] shalom.” (Jeremiah 6:14)

False security can prevent people from turning to God. Trusting a lie serves as a firewall against moral progress. Skipping repentance while whistling “peace, peace” was something Jeremiah could not tolerate.

Jeremiah was not known as an optimist. He contended bitterly with the optimists of his day, many of whom looked to cultic rituals, religious ceremony and sanctuaries as instruments of appeasement with God. Who needs repentance and moral reform if God’s “shalom” is in your pocket.

For Jeremiah, religion without repentance was a BIG lie. To challenge the abuse of “shalom,” he made use of the Hebrew word “seqer” (lie, fraud, falsehood) in his prophetic ministry. There are 37 references to “seqer’ in Jeremiah out of 113 in the Old Testament. Jeremiah often warned against trusting in “deceptive words that are worthless.” (Jeremiah 7:4 & 8 ) and nothing is more deceptive that using religion to skirt changing our ways and doing right. Jeremiah’s grave concerns in context included the shedding of innocent blood, the oppression of the fatherless and widows, theft, adultery and idolatry.

Today, as abortion, fatherlessness, greed, adultery and self-worship flourish, many turn to religion for “shalom.” They resent the “Jeremiahs” among us who refuse to sanction our peaceful silence in the face of flourishing sin. They presume God will protect and bless them regardless of their lifestyles. Strengthening a sense of security in an evil people is a theological falsehood. The same “shalom” talk today numbs our ears to the gospel of repentance and seduces us away from a Spirit-filled (morally reformed) life.

Truth told, nothing—not past promises, personal sacrifices, cultic rituals, religious symbols, political strategies, tons of weaponry, paid soothsayers, creedal confessions or anything—can protect us from God’s wrath if morality is shrugged off by smooth-talking “prophets” assuring us of God’s saving grace and everlasting “shalom.”

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About the Author:

Joel graduated from Pepperdine University with a B.A., completing two majors: Art and Religion. He went on to earn the Master of Divinity degree from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. The views expressed on this blog are personal and belong to Joel Solliday unless otherwise stated. They are not, intended to characterize the views of the Lewiston Church of Christ or other organizations to which I may refer.
  • Joel Solliday

    The painting is by Ilya Repin (1844 – 1930), great Russian Naturalist or Realist painter and sculptor; a favorite of mine.