Peace? What peace?

“When his offering is a sacrifice of a peace offering, if he offers it of the herd, whether male or female, he shall offer it without blemish before the Lord.
Leviticus 3:1, NKJV

Peace.  What a wonderful word.  And such a tremendous concept.  But who really knows peace in this tense and challenging world of today?  Today’s headlines feature wars and rumors of wars.  We see nation rising up against nation and kingdom rising against kingdom.  We are seeing famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places.  Christians (and others) are being delivered up to torture and murder and are hated by many nations.  We are seeing lawlessness abound, and the love of most is growing cold.  (Please read Matthew 24:4-12.)  Where, indeed, is peace?

The world has its own idea regarding peace.  Wikipedia, arguably the most extensive collection of “common thought” available, presents peace as: “the concept of harmony and the absence of hostility. In a behavioral sense, peace is a lack of conflict and freedom from fear of violence between individuals and heterogeneous social groups.” 

Webster sees peace as a complex concept requiring no less than five separate definitions:

  1. a state of tranquility or quiet: such as
    • a: freedom from civil disturbance
    • b: a state of security or order within a community provided for by law or custom
  2. freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions
  3. harmony in personal relations
  4. a: a state or period of mutual concord between governments
    • b: a pact or agreement to end hostilities between those who have been at war or in a state of enmity, and –  
  5. in a state of concord or tranquility

And Dictionary.Com doubles that number with a full ten separate definitions.  In their words, peace is:

  1. the normal, nonwarring condition of a nation, group of nations, or the world.
  2. (often initial capital letter) an agreement or treaty between warring or antagonistic nations, groups, etc., to end hostilities and abstain from further fighting or antagonism
  3. a state of mutual harmony between people or groups, especially in personal relations
  4. the normal freedom from civil commotion and violence of a community; public order and security
  5. cessation of or freedom from any strife or dissension.
  6. freedom of the mind from annoyance, distraction, anxiety, an obsession, etc.
  7. a state of tranquility or serenity
  8. a state or condition conducive to, proceeding from, or characterized by tranquility
  9. silence; stillness
  10. (initial capital letter, italics) a comedy (421 b.c.) by Aristophanes.

Apparently, peace is a really complicated word.  Or is it?  Let’s examine the first mention of peace in the scripture:

Now as for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried at a good old age.
Genesis 15:15, NKJV

This passage doesn’t seem very complicated!  On the other hand, it also seems incredibly difficult to attain.  And this is, to some extent, why I have not written for almost a year. Because writing about a peace offering is incredibly difficult when peace is so hard to find.  Ultimately, I felt direction from the Lord to simply focus on peace itself – which is what this entry is meant to do.

Let’s examine the context of our “first mention” passage above. 

Now when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and behold, horror and great darkness fell upon him. Then [God] said to Abram: “Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them four hundred years. And also the nation whom they serve I will judge; afterward they shall come out with great possessions. Now as for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried at a good old age. But in the fourth generation they shall return here, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.”
Genesis 15:12-16, NKJV

This passage is the preamble to the covenant that God is about to make with Abraham – a covenant that includes no action on Abraham’s part – it is a covenant that God, and God alone will execute on Abraham’s behalf. 

In this preamble, Abraham is told that, though his descendants will be enslaved and afflicted for hundreds of years, Abraham himself will go to his fathers in peace.  There is much to unpack in this small passage.

It is of primary importance to note that when God refers to Abraham’s fathers, He is not referring to living people, but those physically dead.  This is quite apparent in the next few words: “…you shall be buried at a good old age.”  In other words, Abraham would go to his physical death in peace.  So what does it mean to die in peace? 

First, Abraham was told that he would “go to” his fathers.  If this is true, then it is clear that God is informing Abraham that his fathers are very much alive (in spirit) and reachable!  And, to me, this is the first principle that God is giving us.  In order to have peace, we must realize that this life is NOT ALL that there is!  The pain of this life will be followed by the wonder and beauty of eternal life for those that are of the family of God – those who’s names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life!  This reminds me of Jesus’ own words.  The Sadducees were trying to trap Jesus by asking Him a hypothetical question regarding Heaven and the afterlife.  As part of His response, Jesus said the following:

But concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.”
Matthew 22:31-32, NKJV

So here, we see Jesus confirming God’s message to Abraham – those physically dead will certainly undergo a resurrection.  Some to eternal life, and, tragically, some to eternal punishment.   And this leads to the second point regarding peace: knowing that an afterlife exists is not enough.  In order to be at true peace, we must know where we are destined in the afterlife.  Jesus spoke about this very thing in His discussion with the seventy disciples that He sent out announcing the Kingdom and Jesus’ coming:

And He said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you. Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven.”
Luke 10:18-20, NKJV

So we can be at peace in the knowledge that this physical life is not the end of our existence, as long as we know that our names are written in Heaven, in the Lamb’s Book of Life.

Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.
Revelation 20:11-15, NKJV

At this point, it might help us to examine the word used for peace: שָׁלוֹם (šâlôm); or the root of this word,  שָׁלֹם (shalom).  Let’s take a look at the first mention of the root, שָׁלֹם.

Then Melchizedek king of Salem (Peace: שָׁלֹם) brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most High. And he blessed him and said:
“Blessed be Abram of God Most High,
Possessor of heaven and earth;
And blessed be God Most High,
Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.” And he (Abraham) gave him (Melchizedek) a tithe of all.
Genesis 14:18-20, NKJV (words in italics added by the author)  

I find it very interesting that the root of peace is found in scripture prior to the actual word for peace itself, שָׁלוֹם.  Why would this be?  My belief is that the answer resides in the identity of this Melchizedek, King of Salem (King of Peace).  We have studied Melchizedek before, but it is worth reviewing what the writer of Hebrews has to say about Him…

For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, to whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all, first being translated “king of righteousness,” and then also king of Salem, meaning “king of peace,” without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, remains a priest continually.
Hebrews 7:1-3, NKJV

Many scholars have debated the identity of Melchizedek.  Some believe that he was simply a type or foreshadow of Jesus, the Messiah.  Others (like myself) believe that Melchizedek was a Christophany; that is, an Old Testament physical manifestation of the Lord Jesus Himself.  But regardless of his true physical identity, it is clear that he is the “king of peace”!  In other words, the very concept of peace is subject to Melchizedek, and ultimately to Jesus Himself.  Jesus actually ordains peace!  This truth lends special meaning to Jesus’ gift to His disciples:

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, NKJV

Do you see it?  Jesus did not simply give peace to His disciples; no – He gave His peace!  And notice that He did not give the world’s version of peace, which can be given and taken back again – a fleeting and complicated sort of peace that requires ten entries to define!  He gave His peace – the only peace that leads to an untroubled and unafraid heart.  This is true peace. 

The Hebrew word for peace: שָׁלוֹם (šâlôm) is absolutely fascinating – and enlightening!  Let’s examine this word as God has given it to us…

The שׁ

The first letter, שׁ (shin) looks like tongues of fire.  And indeed, it is.  This letter may remind my reader of the covenant that God made with Abraham through smoking oven and burning torch:

Then [God] said to him, “I am the Lord, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to inherit it.”

And he said, “Lord God, how shall I know that I will inherit it?”

So He said to him, “Bring Me a three-year-old heifer, a three-year-old female goat, a three-year-old ram, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.” Then he brought all these to Him and cut them in two, down the middle, and placed each piece opposite the other; but he did not cut the birds in two. And when the vultures came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away.
Genesis 15:7-11, NKJV

And it came to pass, when the sun went down and it was dark, that behold, there appeared a smoking oven and a burning torch that passed between those pieces.
Genesis 15:17, NKJV    

Notice that Abraham prepared the covenantal sacrifice, but The Lord God enacted the covenant by passing through its midst.  In the oven and torch, we see the purity and holiness of God.  And in its passing through the animals of the covenant, we see the ultimate sacrifice of our Holy Redeemer (Jesus) by the hand of God Himself. 

This letter, שׁ also hearkens back to that fateful day in the wilderness when Moses came upon a very unusual sight:

Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian. And he led the flock to the back of the desert, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. And the Angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush. So he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, but the bush was not consumed.
Exodus 3:1-2, NKJV

A bush that burns but is not consumed?  This is not possible in our physical reality.  But God is not constrained by “physical reality”.  So what was this awesome sight?  Certainly Moses wanted to know the same:  

Then Moses said, “I will now turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush does not burn.” So when the Lord saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, “Moses, Moses!”

And he said, “Here I am.”

Then He said, “Do not draw near this place. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground.” Moreover He said, “I am the God of your father—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look upon God.
Exodus 3:3-6, NKJV

Once again, we get a small glimpse of the holiness of God through this enduring flame.  So our Hebrew letter, שׁ is filled with the holiness and purity of God Himself.  Peace begins with the holiness of God.

The letter שׁ is named שֵׁן (shin).  This word might seem to have no relation to our study of shalom.  It is a common word, and simply means tooth.  The Complete Word Study Dictionary expands on this definition as follows:

OT:8127 שֵׁן

A common noun meaning a tooth, ivory, a fang, a sharp projecting rock. It refers to a person’s teeth (Gen 49:12; Ex 21:24; Lev 24:20); animal teeth (Deut 32:24; Job 41:14[6]; Joel 1:6); ivory tusks (1 Kings 10:18; Ezek 27:15); the prong of a metal fork (1 Sam 2:13). It is used figuratively of a jagged cliff or rock (1 Sam 14:4). The famous lex talionis law, eye for eye, tooth for tooth is found in Ex 21:24. This law limits the penalty in a case at law.

(from The Complete Word Study Dictionary: Old Testament Copyright © 2003 by AMG Publishers. All rights reserved.) 

Let’s examine the first mention of shin:

“Judah, you are he whom your brothers shall praise;
Your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies;
Your father’s children shall bow down before you.
Judah is a lion’s whelp;
From the prey, my son, you have gone up.
He bows down, he lies down as a lion;
And as a lion, who shall rouse him?
The scepter shall not depart from Judah,
Nor a lawgiver from between his feet,
Until Shiloh comes;
And to Him shall be the obedience of the people.
Binding his donkey to the vine,
And his donkey’s colt to the choice vine,
He washed his garments in wine,
And his clothes in the blood of grapes.
His eyes are darker than wine,
And his teeth (shin, שֵׁן) whiter than milk.
Genesis 49:8-12, NKJV  (parenthetical note added by the author)

What, then, does this strange prophecy mean to us?  Its context is the blessing given by Jacob (Israel) to his sons, with this blessing going to his son Judah.  It is from this blessing (prophecy) that we first see the ultimate lineage of Jesus, our Messiah.  Do you see it? 

The scepter shall not depart from Judah,
Nor a lawgiver from between his feet,

Until Shiloh comes …

The first chapter of Matthew’s gospel records, for us, the fulfillment of this prophecy.  But, again, what does this have to do with peace?  Let’s examine the prophecy a little more closely. 

And to Him shall be the obedience of the people.
Binding his donkey to the vine,
And his donkey’s colt to the choice vine,
He washed his garments in wine,
And his clothes in the blood of grapes.
His eyes are darker than wine,
And his teeth (shin, שֵׁן) whiter than milk.

To whom belong the obedience of the people, and the following descriptors?  To Shiloh!  But who, or what, is Shiloh?  Shiloh is almost certainly a name for of the Messiah, and the root of Shiloh means “to be tranquil” – to be happy, prosper, or to be in safety.

So this Shiloh is another name for our Messiah – for Jesus.  And, as such, all of the following descriptors belong to Him as well. 

Note that the entire blessing/prophecy relates to rulership.  We do not see, in this passage, the suffering Servant that marks Jesus’ first earthly dominion.  Instead, we see His ultimate dominion – that of a conquering king.  Returning to our prophetic passage,

[The Messiah] washed his garments in wine,
And his clothes in the blood of grapes.
His eyes are darker than wine,
And his teeth (shin, שֵׁן) whiter than milk.

By extension, Jesus, the one who makes tranquil (peaceful!) has eyes darker than wine and teeth whiter than milk.  Now, the next question seems to be an obvious one: Is Jacob actually describing Jesus’ physical appearance, or is there something more?  In order to answer this, we should examine the other descriptors – those of His garments and clothes:

[The Messiah] washed his garments in wine,
And his clothes in the blood of grapes.

These are not words detailing fashion, nor hygiene.  Nor are they words of peace.  This passage describes nothing other than war and conquest.  Our Messiah is not afraid of conflict!  We see a very similar description of Jesus in the last book of the Bible: the Book of Revelation.  Let’s take a look at this passage:

I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet, saying, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last,” and, “What you see, write in a book and send it to the seven churches which are in Asia: to Ephesus, to Smyrna, to Pergamos, to Thyatira, to Sardis, to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea.”

Then I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire; His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters; He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength. And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me, “Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last. I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death. Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after this.
Revelation 1:10-19, NKJV


Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written:
Revelation 19:11-16, NKJV

This clearly shows that Jacob’s description of Shiloh’s garments are allegorical – they relate to His conquest of His enemies.  So, by extension, the descriptions of His eyes and teeth are likely allegorical as well.  If we relate our passages in Revelation to Jacob’s prophetic blessing, we see that the eyes are darker than wine in the blessing, but flames of fire in Revelation, and the teeth are whiter than milk in the blessing, but in Revelation, a two-edged sword extends from the mouth of the Lord.  Is it possible that Jacob is seeing the earthly physical view of the Heavenly spiritual Messiah that we are introduced to in Revelation?  And are the teeth that Jacob speaks of in his prophetic blessing representative of the sword coming from the mouth of our Lord in Revelation? 

We know that the Word of God is likened to a two-edged sword in the letter to the Hebrews:

For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
Hebrews 4:12, NKJV

So, the sword coming from the Lord’s mouth in Revelation is much more than physical; it is His Word – the Holy Scriptures!  From this understanding, it is plausible to extend the picture back to Jacob’s blessing – and see that the teeth of our Savior represent the sword of the word of God.  What does the color white represent other than purity and righteousness?  And what is more pure than the perfect Word of God?  So if this is, then, an appropriate view of Shiloh’s teeth, then our word shin (representing our letter שׁ) can be equated to the Word of God.  In essence, we now know that true peace originates from the holiness of God and emanates from The Sword; that is, His Word.  That’s a lot to gather from one small letter!

The ל

The next letter in the root word, שָׁלֹם is ל (lamed).  We have studied lamed before.  The word Lamed (or lamad, לָמַד) means to teach, as seen in the following verse – the first mention:

“Now, O Israel, listen to the statutes and the judgments which I teach [lamad – לָמַד] you to observe, that you may live, and go in and possess the land which the Lord God of your fathers is giving you.
Deuteronomy 4:1, NKJV

Thus the basic meaning of the Lamed is to reach out to share information, to teach.  And from this first mention the most important learnings from the Lamed are the statutes and judgements of the Lord.

Lamed also means learning, which involves a purpose. Note the shape of the letter Lamed ל. it is like a hand reaching up to heaven. The Lamed is telling us that we are to reach up to heaven to receive our values and bring them down to earth to put them into action. The Lamed is the tallest letter, suggesting that learning and teaching the things of heaven and of God are the highest capabilities we have. Similarly, a careful examination of Lamed reveals a bump in the middle of the letter. This bump is indicative of the heart. Indeed the Hebrew word for heart is לֵב, or lev. We have seen that Lamad means teaching.  Coupling this with the knowledge that beth means “house” or “home”, this suggests that the heart (לֵב) is the home of learning!  And more specifically, the learning of the Lamed connects our heart to the will and knowledge of God.

Now, we need to discern the meaning of the lamed in our word for peace, שָׁלוֹם (šâlôm).  We have seen that peace begins with the holiness and majesty of God, and that it comes through the sword of God’s Word.  But what is the Word meant to do? 

For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
Hebrews 4:12, NKJV

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
2 Timothy 3:16-17, NKJV

The writer of Hebrews tells us that the Word of God (as a two-edged sword) discerns the thoughts and intentions of the heart.  But we have just learned that the heart is the home of teaching and learning.  If this is true, then somehow, peace comes through the Word doing its work in our heart.  And that work includes the uncovering of the heart’s thoughts and intentions.  How can we learn if we don’t first understand and confront our own ills?

Paul’s letter to Timothy tells us the overall intention of the Word.  If learning happens in the heart, it seems that Paul is defining that learning to include doctrine for reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness.  And for what?  That the people of God be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 

Peace, then, originates from the holiness of God, is brought through the sword of His Word, and must include the recognition of our neediness in order for us to learn what is essential for us to do God’s good works.  God’s Word must inhabit our heart.

The next letter in our word שָׁלוֹם, is vav (ו).  However; for a very important reason, we will examine the root word (without the vav) and save this letter for later discussion.  Let us move on to the last Hebrew letter, mem (ם). 

The amazing ם

Mem is an interesting letter.  It is one of the few letters that have two forms – its normal form (when appearing at the beginning or within a word), and another form when it appears at the end (called the “sofit” form).  This will be important as we learn more about this letter. 

The name of Mem is spelled מַיִם and is properly pronounced “mayim”.   Mayim is a plural noun meaning “waters”.  The first mention of this word, מַיִם, is found on the first page of the Holy Scriptures.  In fact, it is in the second verse:

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the מַיִם (waters).
Genesis 1:1-2, NKJV

It is very interesting to note that this word, מַיִם actually has two mems, capturing both forms – the open form and the closed (sofit) form, occurring, in almost all cases, at the end of a word.  In order to unpack the importance of this fact, we need to look more deeply into the meaning of the mem.  We have already seen that the word mem means waters, so let’s start there. 

In the scripture, as in life, water is very important.  It is the sustainer of life.  Without food, a person can live for many weeks.  It is clear that individuals have lived through fasts up to 40 days; the body has a miraculous way of altering the metabolic system to maintain the nutrients that the body needs as long as possible.  However; without water, life is much more fragile.  Modern science says that our bodies will not live more than about two weeks without hydration.  Water is extremely important to us in the realm of bodily wellbeing.  Similarly, water is also important in many other physical ways. 

There is a scriptural principle surrounding the frequency of usage of words in the Bible.  The more a word is used, the more important that word or concept is.  As an example, other than prepositions, the most common word in the Old Testament is יְהוָֹה, or LORD.  And this makes perfect sense – the Bible is about our LORD and His glory.  So the frequency of use of a word helps us understand its importance to the story.  Let’s examine our word מַיִם.

Not only is the first use of מַיִם found incredibly early – in only the second verse in the Bible, the word is found eleven times in the first 23 verses, or almost 1 in every two verses.  Why?  Because it is a basic and fundamental building block of creation.  Let’s take a look:

​In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.

Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. So the evening and the morning were the first day.

Then God said, “Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.” Thus God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament; and it was so. And God called the firmament Heaven. So the evening and the morning were the second day.

Then God said, “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear”; and it was so. And God called the dry land Earth, and the gathering together of the waters He called Seas. And God saw that it was good.

Then God said, “Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb that yields seed, and the fruit tree that yields fruit according to its kind, whose seed is in itself, on the earth”; and it was so. And the earth brought forth grass, the herb that yields seed according to its kind, and the tree that yields fruit, whose seed is in itself according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. So the evening and the morning were the third day.

Then God said, “Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years; and let them be for lights in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth”; and it was so. Then God made two great lights: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night. He made the stars also. God set them in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth, and to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. So the evening and the morning were the fourth day.

Then God said, “Let the waters abound with an abundance of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the face of the firmament of the heavens.” So God created great sea creatures and every living thing that moves, with which the waters abounded, according to their kind, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. And God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” So the evening and the morning were the fifth day.
Genesis 1:1-23, NKJV

It would take a substantial study to begin to gain an appropriate appreciation for the importance of the waters in the creation story.  We will leave that for another time.  We will, however, look at a deeper, spiritual aspect of water, which is equal in importance to the creation aspects.  And it’s here that we will find the true meaning of the mem. 

Scripturally, water is used metaphorically to describe many biblical concepts.  It is used to describe: trouble and misfortune (Psalms 66:12, 69:1, 124:4-5), tears (Jeremiah 9:1, Psalm 119:136), attack and persecution (Psalm 88:17, Isaiah 8:7), familial legacy and posterity (Numbers 24:7, Isaiah 48:1), God’s grace and support (Isaiah 8:6, 41:17-18) along with His wrath (Hosea 5:10) and many others.  However; one use stands out above most of the rest – water as used for spiritual cleansing.  And there is no better physical representation of this concept than our Lord’s beautiful ritual during the last supper. 

Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end. And supper being ended, the devil having already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray Him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God, rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself. After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded. Then He came to Simon Peter. And Peter said to Him, “Lord, are You washing my feet?”

Jesus answered and said to him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but you will know after this.”

Peter said to Him, “You shall never wash my feet!”

Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.”

Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!”
Jesus said to him, “He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you.” For He knew who would betray Him; therefore He said, “You are not all clean.”
John 13:1-11, NKJV

Here, Jesus, our Lord exquisitely links the washing of the physical with the washing of the spiritual.  Do you see it?  Had Peter not made his rash statements (paraphrasing the heart): “Lord, not me!”, and “Then ALL of me!”, we would not have had such a clear glimpse into what He was doing.  God bless Peter’s beautiful impulsive tongue! 

Jesus’ message?  If you have bathed in the water of My Word and My blood, you are clean.  How do we recognize both aspects of Word and Blood in Jesus’ actions here?  Let’s examine a few passages to see.  First, we recognize the Word through the command that God gives husbands through Paul in his letter to the Ephesians:

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.
Ephesians 5:25-27, NKJV

Here, Paul links the cleansing of the church to Christ’s Word.  Christ gave Himself for her.  For whom?  For the church.  How?  By shedding His blood in order to wash her.  How do we know?

For where there is a testament, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is in force after men are dead, since it has no power at all while the testator lives. Therefore not even the first covenant was dedicated without blood. For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water, scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, saying, “This is the blood of the covenant which God has commanded you.” Then likewise he sprinkled with blood both the tabernacle and all the vessels of the ministry. And according to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission.
Hebrews 9:16-22, NKJV

Do you see it?  Without blood, there is no purification.  No remission of sins.  No spiritual cleansing.  And just in case my reader is still unsure of the connection being given, here is the capstone passage: 

After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” All the angels stood around the throne and the elders and the four living creatures, and fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying:

“Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom,
Thanksgiving and honor and power and might,
Be to our God forever and ever.

Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, “Who are these arrayed in white robes, and where did they come from?”

And I said to him, “Sir, you know.”

So he said to me, “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
Revelation 7:9-14, NKJV

So water is used to cleanse our physical bodies, and, metaphorically, the water of the Word and Jesus’ blood is used to cleanse our spiritual bodies.  So this is, indeed, a beautiful use of the concept of water.  But there is one more use which is, arguably, even greater.  Being clean is only important if one is alive! And what keeps us alive and sustains our spirit?  Water!  Here, the term water is used to metaphorically sustain us (God’s children) spiritually and allow us to be conduits to sustain our brethren.  Let’s take a look at two familiar, and one obscure passage which bring light to this concept.

Therefore, when the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John (though Jesus Himself did not baptize, but His disciples), He left Judea and departed again to Galilee. But He needed to go through Samaria. So He came to a city of Samaria which is called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Now Jacob’s well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied from His journey, sat thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour.

A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give Me a drink.” For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.

Then the woman of Samaria said to Him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.

Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.”

The woman said to Him, “Sir, You have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep. Where then do You get that living water? Are You greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, as well as his sons and his livestock?”

Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.”
John 4:1-14, NKJV

On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.
John 7:37-39, NKJV

It’s very hard to miss the primary picture that Jesus is giving us in these two passages – that He is the giver of the living water that sustains our spirits.  For this picture, I am forever grateful.  I know that Jesus sustains my heart and spirit through His Word.  And this spiritual concept is not at all new, as presented in the New Testament (Covenant).  We also see it in the Old Covenant!

“Every commandment which I command you today you must be careful to observe, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land of which the Lord swore to your fathers. And you shall remember that the Lord your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord.
Deuteronomy 8:1-3, NKJV

And who is this living and life-giving Word?

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

John bore witness of Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me is preferred before me, for He was before me.’ ”

And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace. For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.
John 1:1-5, 14-18

The Word is none other than Jesus Himself.  Praise be to our Father God, and our savior, the Son, Christ Jesus!  Lord Jesus, I praise your holy Name!!

But let’s go back and reexamine the above passages for the secondary meaning, which I suspect that the great majority of God’s children completely miss. 

Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.”

Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.”
John 4:10, 13-14, NKJV

On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.
John 7:37-39, NKJV

Do you see it?  Do you see our beautiful role in this life-giving transaction?  If not, maybe one more passage will help:

“For My people have committed two evils:
They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters,
And hewn themselves cisterns—broken cisterns that can hold no water.
Jeremiah 2:13, NKJV

This is a very obscure passage in the midst of a strong prophecy given through the prophet Jeremiah against God’s people, Israel.  But its message is incredibly relevant in our study, and to us personally.  What were the two evils that God’s people had committed?  First, the forsaking of the fountain of living waters (i.e. God – and we have now seen, flowing specifically through Jesus), and second, the hewing of broken cisterns.  Do you see it yet?  Possibly not.  Let’s expand on these two spiritual concepts.

Living water is simply water that flows.  It has a source, and it has a path.  And where that path becomes plugged, it finds another path.  A cistern, on the other hand, is a container made to hold water.  It does not flow – it is held, ostensibly for future use.  But where the cistern is neglected, the water stagnates.  And if the cistern is neglected long enough, it cracks and breaks so that whatever water was being held leaks out and is lost. 

So what does this have to do with Jesus’ declaration to the Samaritan woman and to the people at the Feast of Tabernacles?  Simply this: the water that Jesus gives is living water.  He is the source, and it has to flow.  In order for it to flow, it must have a path – a conduit.  For His water to flow through us, it must flow through us.  Does this sound redundant?  This is due to its incredible simplicity.  His water MUST flow through us.  What were the two evils?  Forsaking the living waters and building broken cisterns.  God meant for His people to be conduits of His Word (His Law and Grace) within themselves, and ultimately to the nations.  This was essential in His primary covenant given to Abraham! 

Then the Lord appeared to [Isaac] and said: “Do not go down to Egypt; live in the land of which I shall tell you. Dwell in this land, and I will be with you and bless you; for to you and your descendants I give all these lands, and I will perform the oath which I swore to Abraham your father. And I will make your descendants multiply as the stars of heaven; I will give to your descendants all these lands; and in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed; because Abraham obeyed My voice and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws.”
Genesis 26:2-5   

Did God fail in giving His Law to the people of Israel?  Μὴ γένοιτο – God forbid, certainly not!  Though they failed in their role to be conduits of God’s blessing to the nations, He then provided a better covenant (and conduit) through Isaac’s seed – Jesus.  And this was His plan all along. 

But this does not excuse their forsaking of Him, the fount of living water.  And does it excuse us?  No.  Jesus provides water which is living.  It MUST flow.  And we can now see the results of forsaking the flow of God’s living water.  If we try to plug it up, to stop the flow, it will find its own way.  But our water pot will ultimately crack, and that water that we had will escape so that we no longer have any – we will become fruitless and dead.  Do you finally see it?  We have a role in Jesus’ declaration!  He provides the water, and we provide the conduit for it to flow to others.  He calls us to be part of the plan of sustenance!  What is your role?  Is it a talent that He has given you that glorifies Him?  Is it to minister to others in their need?  Is it to teach others what He has taught you?   Oh Lord, please cause me to be faithful to that calling!

There is SO much more to the spiritual concept of water!  But alas, we must move on.  All of this discussion regarding water…  Did we lose track of our original topic?   It was the mem (ם)! 

This is the final letter in our original word שָׁלוֹם (šâlôm).  And before we leave our new friend the mem, we should return to examine its name just a little bit more closely: מַיִם.  We have spent all of our focus on the meaning of its name, water.  And I mentioned that its name, mem opens and closes with the same letter, the mem itself.  But now let’s notice the difference between the beginning mem מ and the final mem ם.  Do you see the difference?  The final form is closed, whereas the initial form is open.  Let that sink in.  The word for water starts with the letter which describes flowing water, and ends with the letter describing the stoppage of flow.  In essence, the mem starts with the source of water, and it must flow – it is open!  And where does it end?  With its intended closure – the final and closed mem.  God’s living water flows through our savior Jesus, through us, and ultimately ends in the fulfillment of His purpose.  Glory to you, Lord Jesus!  And now to the vav…

The connecting ו

As we have examined our word for peace, שָׁלוֹם (šâlôm), we have discussed the first, second and last letters.  But we skipped the third letter, the vav.  Why?  In order to answer this, let’s now explore this incredible letter.

The vav’s name is written וָו. It is simply two vavs connected together.  And this is very meaningful, as the word means a hook or a peg.  The vav is, in essence, a connector.  Let’s examine the first mention of its name, vav:

“You shall make a veil woven of blue, purple, and scarlet thread, and fine woven linen. It shall be woven with an artistic design of cherubim. You shall hang it upon the four pillars of acacia wood overlaid with gold. Their hooks [our word, וָו] shall be gold, upon four sockets of silver.”
Exodus 26:31-32, NKJV (Words in italics are the author’s)

What an honorable first mention!  Here, we have God’s instructions regarding the building of His tabernacle – His holy dwelling place.  But this is not all…  where is it used, and for what purpose?  Its role is to hold the veil.  What veil?  Let’s take a look…

And you shall hang the veil from the clasps. Then you shall bring the ark of the Testimony in there, behind the veil. The veil shall be a divider for you between the holy place and the Most Holy. You shall put the mercy seat upon the ark of the Testimony in the Most Holy.
Exodus 26:33-34, NKJV

This veil is none other than the divider between the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place!  The vav is the most blessed hook in all of human history!  It has the honor of seeing the Lord God in His dwelling place, sitting atop the mercy seat, while simultaneously seeing the place of Man.  What a glorious connector!  Do you see that there is NOTHING between the vav and the vav?  It is the vav on one side and the vav on the other, with nothing between.  It is the וָו.  I pray that my readers are beginning to make the connection…  And I will help further.

בְּרֵאשִׁ֖ית בָּרָ֣א אֱלֹהִ֑ים אֵ֥ת הַשָּׁמַ֖יִם וְאֵ֥ת הָאָֽרֶץ
Genesis 1:1, Hebrew Bible WLC

This is the first verse of our Holy Scriptures.  Here is its English translation:

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
Genesis 1:1, NKJV

There is a little word within this incredible passage that is largely missed or ignored.  Can you guess what that word is?  And. God created the heavens AND the earth.  A transliteration of the fragment of the passage we are examining is: “et ha shamayim v’ et ha ‘eretz”.   In English, it reads “the heavens and the earth”.

Shamayim, שָּׁמַ֖יִם means heavens (and a huge parenthetical note – do you see the construct of the word Shamayim, שָּׁמַ֖יִם?  What does that indicate?  I leave it to my readers to ponder this wonderful discovery!), and ‘eretz, אָֽרֶץ means earth.  What lies between them?  V’.  But we now know it as ו.  Do you see it??  The first mention of our letter, ו (vav) is doctrinally similar to the first mention of its name וָו (vav).  Where the וָו connected the Most Holy Place to the Holy Place, the ו connects the heavens to the earth!  Please take some time to let that sink in – selah! 

You see, God created the heavens and earth to be in perfect unity.  And in the beginning, they were.  God looked at His creation and it was ט֖וֹב מְאֹ֑ד, “very good”:

Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. So the evening and the morning were the sixth day.
Genesis 1:31, NKJV

They were created in perfect unity.  But then came the fall, starting with Satan, his angels, and finally, mankind.  With the fall came discord and conflict.  And peace between heaven and earth was gone.  Mankind now needed a conduit for peace.  He needed a stand-in to fill the gap between his now unholy nature and the Holy Creator.  Who could fill that need?  Who could stand in the gap to absorb our sin and connect us with the Holy One?  None other than our savior, Jesus!  Do you see it?  Jesus is our Vav!  All glory to you Lord Yeshua!  Is there any other suitable connector between Heaven and Earth?  Between the Most Holy and the Holy?  Between the holy God and fallen man?

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.
John 14:6, NKJV

No one.  None.  Jesus alone.

Finally, we can put all of the pieces together.  In our word for peace, שָׁלוֹם, we have the shin שׁ, the lamed ל, the vav ו and the mem ם. 

Shin שׁ gives us the holy fire of our Father God, and the sword of His Word.  These are absolutely unapproachable by fallen, unredeemed flesh and blood.  Lamed ל teaches us God’s holy Word.  But that Word, in the form of the Law, is impossible for us to attain.  We, in our sinful condition, can never meet the expectations that the Teacher brings through the Law.  In fact, Paul recognizes the Law itself as a type of teacher, saying, “I would not have known sin except through the law.”  So, in a sense, the lamed represents that perfect and holy Law that we can never attain.  We need a connector – one who can meet the expectations of the Law while reaching out in grace and mercy to fallible mankind.  We need the Vav ו – our glorious connector of Heaven and Earth, Jesus, who is the originator of our cleansing and sustaining water, the mem ם.  And these together bring שָׁלוֹם, the only true peace.  Which brings us all the way back to John 14:27…

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, NKJV

Jesus is the source of our salvation, our cleansing, our sustenance, and, oh so importantly today, our peace.  The world gives worldly, conditional and temporary peace – which ultimately is no peace at all, as Paul records in his first letter to the Thessalonians: 

But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape.
1 Thessalonians 5:1-3, NKJV

So the world cannot give peace.  Peace is not its nature or desire.  The world is at war with Jesus and all that belong to Him.  Understanding that the world would soon strike its deadly blow against Him, Jesus delivered the following crucial message to His true disciples:

“These things I have spoken to you in figurative language; but the time is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figurative language, but I will tell you plainly about the Father. In that day you will ask in My name, and I do not say to you that I shall pray the Father for you; for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me, and have believed that I came forth from God. I came forth from the Father and have come into the world. Again, I leave the world and go to the Father.”

His disciples said to Him, “See, now You are speaking plainly, and using no figure of speech! Now we are sure that You know all things, and have no need that anyone should question You. By this we believe that You came forth from God.”

Jesus answered them, “Do you now believe? Indeed the hour is coming, yes, has now come, that you will be scattered, each to his own, and will leave Me alone. And yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me. These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.
John 16:25-33, NKJV

Jesus has overcome the world.  Hallelujah; praise be to Yahweh!  And because He has overcome the world, we can rest in His lasting peace.  What then should be our response?  Paul has an answer to this in the above passage to the Thessalonians.  Let’s see what he has to say:

But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night. But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation. For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him. Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing.
1 Thessalonians 5:1-12, NKJV

As the mem tells us, we have a role to play in the distribution of God’s glorious living water.  Why should we do this?  To help bring others salvation, comfort and edification – all leading to the ultimate peace that only Jesus can give.  Selah.  My brothers and sisters, I pray that each of you finds Jesus’ true peace, and will work to bring that peace to those around you.

I love you all in the love of our Lord, Jesus.  May God richly bless your study of His Word – and may He bring you peace!



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