You may or may not have had the experience of being greeted or farewelled with the word Shalom.
My personal experience of this was when I was in Israel as part of the LEA Palestine Tour in 2010. I recollect when walking about Jerusalem being greeted with the word Shalom. My limited understanding of the word shalom at the time was ‘peace be with you’, so I received the greeting each time with gratitude. In the setting of the Holy Land this greeting evoked within a deep sense of something very special.
Later, upon exploring the deeper meaning of shalom I came to realise and appreciate that the greeting ‘Shalom’ is much more than simply ‘peace be with you’, it can mean ‘may you be filled with a complete and perfect peace and be full of well-being’. Or similarly, ‘may health, prosperity, and peace of mind and spirit be upon you’. In this way the word implies a state of fullness, overflowing inner and outer joy and peaceful serenity.
In modern Hebrew, another common greeting is ‘ma shlom’kha’, which means ‘how are you’. As this greeting contains the word ‘shalom’ this greeting literally means ‘what is your completeness, or ‘how is your peace?’.
The word ‘shalom’ appears in the bible over 200 times. Biblically, shalom is seen in reference to the well-being of others, to positive relationships, and in used in prayer for the wellbeing of communities or nations.
Shalom might be called the peace of the Lord. It is completeness, soundness, wellbeing, complete reconciliation. In this regard true shalom is only reached through God.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14: 27
Living in Shalom
In times such as we live right now amid the uncertainty of COVID and the implications of this, shalom takes on even deeper relevance and meaning. For those of us who like to “get things done”, taking a complete time off is a challenging decision. If we are honest, it’s often not a decision of taking time off, but a decision to fully trust God. Do we trust Him enough to help us prioritize our lives and live the best life He designed for us?
When we try to do everything by ourselves, we are often struggling with trust issues. We work harder trying to fulfill our sense of obligation to make whole things in our lives that are slipping away or that we are afraid to let go of. In the long run, this rarely works. This is where shalom comes into being.
What if one day a week, we focused on not just a day of rest but a day of getting our wholeness restored? This was the ancient practice of the Sabbath. What if weekly we could completely refill our life tank in our bodies, hearts and minds? That is what true shalom, ‘the peace of the Lord’ does, if we allow it.
When our peace is full and overflowing, we can trust Him to restore what may have been lost over the past week. We can confidently move forward in hope that we will have all that we need in the week ahead.