What Is Shalom?

The Jewish people treasure the word “Shalom,” greeting each other with it when they first meet and again on leaving. Shalom implies peace, as we commonly think of it, but very much more than that. Shalom suggests wholeness, completeness, health, security, prosperity, fulfillment, contentment, restoration, unbrokenness, joy,  peace between you and God as well as between you and other people – in other words, we might say it hints at heaven on earth.

Heaven on earth speaks rightly of shalom because we only find it when the Holy Spirit of God dwells within us. Jesus said in John 14:27*, Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not let your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

Lots of people display the characteristics shalom means when things go their way but to know those mindsets during trying situations means we must continually abide in Christ**. Adverse physical circumstances try to cause a loss of any of these attitudes, which we must guard against. That’s why Isaiah 26:3 stands out as a “must do” verse. Two versions help us understand the full Hebrew meaning of the scripture.

The Amplified Bible states: You will guard him and keep him in perfect and constant peace whose mind [both its inclination and its character] is stayed on You, because he commits himself to You, leans on You, and hopes confidently in You. The Message Bible explains: People with their minds set on you, you keep completely whole, steady on their feet, because they keep at it and don’t quit. Notice our responsibility in controlling which direction our minds take.

In John 10:10 Jesus promises, I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. We appreciate anything good that we can have abundantly, overflowing, more than enough. Jesus promised all who believe in Him as their Savior and Lord more-than-enough life.

Paul exemplifies this abundant life in Philippians 4. Verse 7 says, The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. In verses 11-12 he proves his point: Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. Paul said he had learned this. Shalom didn’t come naturally simply because he was an apostle. After suffering beatings, at least one stoning, one or more ship-wrecks, Paul wrote this from prison.

In verse 19 Paul gives the reason for that unfathomable peace and his secret of contentment – you can be sure that God will take care of everything you need, his generosity exceeding even yours in the glory that pours from Jesus (Message Bible). Because of God’s sustaining peace, Paul goes on to say I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13). He might even say, “I can endure everything because my God is in control of my circumstances.”

Shalom means all the fruit of the Spirit (see Galatians 5:22-23a) lived out in this life, whatever the circumstances we find because we control our thought-life. Therefore, with joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation (Isaiah 12:3).

Have I reached this goal yet? Definitely not! But the reality of shalom winds closer today than it did yesterday because God can use the hard times of life to teach us His peace and contentment no matter what our circumstances.


*   All verses from New King James Version unless otherwise stated.

**  See the meditation “Abide in Christ.”


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