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Peace on Earth and Good Will Toward Men

Suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:

Glory to God in the highest,
Peace on earth and good will toward men.

The message of the angels to the shepherds in Luke’s account is one of the most powerful messages in the New Testament. It has been memorized by children for centuries and touched the hearts of millions who long for – “peace on earth and good will toward men.”  It is a message that hearts understand, regardless of the doctrines lodged in the minds.

In the context of the Gospel of Luke, the message of the angels announced the birth of Jesus. Before the multitude of angels appeared, a lone angel delivered this message to a group of shepherds that were spending the night in the field with their flock:

“Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Anointed One of the Lord.” (Luke 2:10-11)

It was after this announcement that the angels appeared and said:

Glory to God in the highest,
Peace on earth and good will toward men.

The message announces that peace on earth and good will toward men will come through the baby – the future Savior and Anointed Onebut not in the way that most people have been taught to expect.

Since the angels were speaking to a group of Jewish shepherds in first century Judea, chances are very good they were speaking Hebrew. The words we are reading are English translations of ancient Greek manuscripts. So, let’s get back behind those ancient manuscripts and do our best to reconstruct the original Hebrew message:

The English translation is this:

“Glory to God in the highest
With SHALOM on the earth
What is acceptable on mankind.”

The mission of the future Savior and Anointed One is to bring “glory to God in the highest.” How is he supposed to do it? It is bringing “SHALOM on the earth and what is acceptable to mankind.” In other words, the mission of the Savior and Anointed One is creating SHALOM on the earth and by doing what is acceptable for mankind. Understanding the Hebrew meanings of the two underlined words is essential. Let’s begin with the root form of the second underlined word:

(Transliteration = RATzON [Holladay Lexicon p. 345 col. b last word])

This word is translated -- favor, what is acceptable and good understanding. The key to understanding it is determining from whose point of view is something favorable, acceptable or understood. The answer is -- “from God’s point of view.”

The first underlined word in this verse is:

(Transliteration = ShALOM [Holladay Lexicon p. 371 col. a first word])

ShALOM is usually translated “peace,” which most people understand to mean “lack of conflict or war.” The Hebrew meaning is much more than our English meaning of “peace.” Pay close attention to the meanings given by the Holladay Lexicon:

(1) ease, unaffectedness
(2) prosperity, success
(3) intactness, wholeness
(4) well-being, state of health
(5) peace
(6) kindness
(7) salvation

The bottom line is that ShALOM means to be whole and complete.”[i] Therefore, the mission of the Savior and Anointed One is:

“Glorify God the highest by making the earth whole and complete and mankind what is acceptable to God.”

The shepherds, as well as every other Jew that attended a synagogue, would have recognized the link to Ezekiel’s prophecy of the “Covenant of SHALOM:”

I will make a covenant of SHALOM with them and will rid the land of wild beasts, so that they can live securely in the wilderness and even sleep in the woods. I will turn them and the regions around my hill into a blessing. I will make showers come down in their season; they will be showers that bring blessing.[ii]

Then they will know that I, YAHWEH their God, am with them, and that they are My people, the House of Israel, declares YAHWEHAnd you, My sheep, the sheep of My pasture, are My people, and I am your God, declares YAHWEH.[iii]

Why did YAWHEH’s people not live in ShALOM?

The word of YAHWEH came to me: “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy, and say to them: “To the shepherds – thus says YAHWEH; “Woe to the shepherds of Israel who have been feeding themselves! Should not shepherds feed the flock? You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the choice animals, but you do not feed the sheep!

You have not strengthened the weak, healed the sick, bandaged the injured, brought back the strays, or sought the lost, but with force and harshness you have ruled over themThey were scattered because they had no shepherd, and they became food for every wild beastMy sheep wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. My sheep were scattered over the entire face of the earth with no one looking or searching for them.”

Shepherds, hear the word of YAHWEH`As surely as I live, declares YAHWEH, my sheep have become prey and have become food for all the wild beasts. There was no shepherd, and my shepherds did not search for my flock, but fed themselves and did not feed my sheep.[iv]

Why was the earth not ShALOM? Israel’s shepherdskings and priestswere consuming the sheep instead of tending, guarding and protecting them. Those shepherds would not have been spending their nights in the fields taking care of the flock.

The second word RATzON (“acceptable”) is found in another prophecy about a future Anointed One. It is the prophecy Jesus used to declare that he was that Anointed One to his friends and neighbors at his hometown synagogue:

Jesus went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

“The Spirit of YAHWEH is on me, because He has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the acceptable year of YAHWEH.”

Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”[v]

Why was the state of mankind not acceptable to God? If we go back a few chapters in Isaiah before the section Jesus read at the synagogue we will find the answers:

Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a horn, and declare unto My people their transgression, and to the house of Jacob their sins. Yet they seek Me daily, and wish to know My ways, like a nation that performed TZEDAQAH, and did not forsake the ordinance of its God; they ask Me ordinances of TZEDAQAH; they desire nearness to God.[vi]

“Why have we fasted, and You did not see; we have afflicted our soul, and You do not know?” Behold, on the day of your fast you pursue business, and [from] all your debtors you exact [payment]. Behold, for quarrel and strife you fast, and to strike with the fist of wickedness. Do not fast like this day to make your voice to be heard on high.
Will such be the fast that I will choose, a day of man’s afflicting his soul? Is it to bend his head like a fishhook and to out spread sackcloth and ashes?  Will you call this a fast, and an acceptable day to YAHWEH? [vii]

Is this not the fast I will choose? To undo the fetters of wickedness, to untie the bands of perverseness, and to let out the oppressed free, and all perverseness you shall eliminate.
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and moaning poor you shall bring home; when you see a naked one, you shall clothe him, and from your own flesh you shall not hide.[viii]

The way Isaiah defines TZEDAQAH here lays the foundation for the entire movement and teachings of Jesus – TZEDAQAH is feeding the hungry, providing shelter for the homeless, clothing for those without clothing, and helping their kinfolks.  To put it even more clearly, if the Jewish Jesus stated his mission and message it would have sounded like this:

It is my mission and responsibility to do acts of TZEDAQAH where ever I find the lack of SHALOM or people living lives that that do not measure up to what God defines as “acceptable.” This is also the mission of all who follow me and belong to my movement.

This is not the primary message and mission that Christians are taught today by their churches. But interestingly, on one day every year the spirit of the Jewish Jesus reappears briefly and can be seen by the world as Christians turn their attention to doing the things prophesied by Isaiah, Ezekiel and Jesus – that day is Christmas.  As I worked on this article, a television news broadcast is showing stories about busloads of homeless people that are being given a free night and food at a major hotel; and other stories about food and gifts being given to the hungry and the poor. They want the hungry, poor and homeless to have a good Christmas. But, what happens to those people the day after Christmas -- and all the days until next Christmas?

If the real Jesus, the one that came to fulfill the prophecies of Isaiah and Ezekiel, showed up in your town – who would he be looking for and what would he be doing for them? Where are the conditions not SHALOM or the quality of life acceptable to God in your town? If you wanted to see the real Jesus, then that is where you would have to go to find him. Take a moment to think about this:

What if all 2,000,000,000 Christians understood the real message of the real Jesus and did what that Jesus did and taught? What would happen?

(1) Billions of lives would be protected and preserved.
(2) Billions of lives would become more functional.
(3) Billions of people would have their quality of life increased dramatically.
(4) Many leaders, employers, usurious lenders – evil shepherds – would be tried by a just justice system.
(5) 2,000,000,000 Christians would experience being the image of God.

And, we might hear a sound in the sky, look up and see a multitude of angels proclaiming:

“Glory to God in the highest
With SHALOM on the earth
What is acceptable on mankind.”

We, at the Biblical Heritage Center, are praying this prayer for you:

May YAHWEH empower and guard you.
May YAHWEH make His face shine upon you, and be gracious unto you.
May YAHWEH lift up His countenance upon you, and give you SHALOM!

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Shalom & Be Empowered!

[ii] Ezekiel 34:25-26
[iii] Ezekiel 34:30-31
[iv] Ezekiel 34:1-8
[v] Luke 4:16-20
[vi] Isaiah 58:1-2
[vii] Isaiah 58:3-4
[viii] Isaiah 58:5-7


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