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Blessed are the peacemakers

Blessed are the peacemakers.  But who / what are peacemakers?  Some of you will think of a Colt handgun.  Or a strategic bomber.  Or maybe even an MX Missile.  If you’re Christian, or think you’re Christian, hopefully those aren’t the first things that come to mind.  Why not?  Because Blessed are the peacemakers is something Jesus said.  It’s one of the Beatitudes, from the Sermon on the Mount. 

Blessed are the peacemakers is article #10 in the series: Beatitudes. Click button to view titles for entire series

Blessed are the peacemakersFor an interesting look at just how much we’ve deviated from what Jesus meant when He spoke of Peacemakers, just take a look at Wikipedia.  I don’t normally like to use them for research, but the site is a good way to see what popular thinking is.  After all, it’s stuff that can be put up there by anybody.  And various somebody’s have put up some stuff that’s really far from what Jesus meant.

Oh yeah.  Jesus didn’t mean that smiley-faced guy in the image either.  Sure – that guy’s the symbol for peace and love from the 60’s.  But we’re talking about a whole different kind of peace and love when Jesus speaks.

Mt 5:9 Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called sons of God.

What is a peacemaker?

First off, a peacemaker, to Jesus, is a “who” and not a “what”.  If we look at the Greek word used in Matthew’s Gospel, it’s not all that revealing.

1518 εἰρηνοποιός [eirenopoios /i·ray·nop·oy·os/] adj. From 1518 and 4160; TDNT 2:419; TDNTA 207; GK 1648; AV translates as “peacemakers” once. 1 a peacemaker. 2 pacific, loving peace.  1)Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.

See what I mean?  It’s like something out of a modern dictionary.  Quite circular.  Even the root from which it comes is circular.  It’s from 1518 and 4160.  In other words, it’s from itself and 4160.  Well, the only thing left is to look at 4160.

4160 ποιέω [poieo /poy·eh·o/] v. Apparently a prolonged form of an obsolete primary; TDNT 6:458; TDNTA 895; GK 4472; 579 occurrences; AV translates as “do” 357 times, “make” 113 times, “bring forth” 14 times, “commit” nine times, “cause” nine times, “work” eight times, “show” five times, “bear” four times, “keep” four times, “fulfil” three times, “deal” twice, “perform” twice, not translated three times, translated miscellaneously 43 times, and “vr do” three times. 1 to make. 1A with the names of things made, to produce, construct, form, fashion, etc. 1B to be the authors of, the cause. 1C to make ready, to prepare. 1D to produce, bear, shoot forth. 1E to acquire, to provide a thing for one’s self. 1F to make a thing out of something. 1G to (make i.e.) render one anything. 1G1 to (make i.e.) constitute or appoint one anything, to appoint or ordain one that. 1G2 to (make i.e.) declare one anything. 1H to put one forth, to lead him out. 1I to make one do something. 1I1 cause one to. 1J to be the authors of a thing (to cause, bring about). 2 to do. 2A to act rightly, do well. 2A1 to carry out, to execute. 2B to do a thing unto one. 2B1 to do to one. 2C with designation of time: to pass, spend. 2D to celebrate, keep. 2D1 to make ready, and so at the same time to institute, the celebration of the passover. 2E to perform: to a promise. Additional Information: For synonyms see entry 4238, prasso.See entry 5871 for comparison of synonyms.  2)Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.

On the off chance that you missed it, the operative word in all that is “to”.  Yeah – just those two little letters.  A peacemaker isn’t someone who just loves peace.  No, a peacemaker is someone who’s actively involved in bringing peace wherever they happen to be.  Things like – to act rightlyto carry outto make ready, to prepare.  Here’s further support for that thought. 

PEACEMAKER, pēsʹmāk-ẽr: Occurs only in the pl. (Mt 5:9, “Blessed are the peacemakers [eirēnopoioí]: for they shall be called sons of God” [who is “the God of peace”]). We have also what seems to be a reflection of this saying in Jas 3:18, “The fruit of righteousness is sown in peace for [RVm “by”] them that make peace” (toís poioúsin eirênēn). In classical Gr a “peacemaker” was an ambasador sent to treat of peace. The word in Mt 5:9 would, perhaps, be better rendered “peace-workers,” implying not merely making peace between those who are at variance, but working peace as that which is the will of the God of peace for men.  3)Walker, W. L. (1915). Peacemaker. In J. Orr, J. L. Nuelsen, E. Y. Mullins, & M. O. Evans (Eds.), The International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia (Vol. 1–5, pp. 2293–2294). Chicago: The Howard-Severance Company.

There’s one more thing that comes out in all this.  Wisdom.  First because Jesus says Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called sons of God.  And second by way of the reference to James.  Let’s look at that James 3:18 reference, in context. 

Two Kinds of Wisdom

Jas 3:13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15 Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.

Jas 3:17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18 Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.

Now we see that peacemakers have wisdom.  And not just any wisdom.  Wisdom from God.  Wisdom that’s first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.  That’s a mouthful.  How are we ever supposed to be able to be all those things?   I invite you to check out Can I trust what I think I know? to see some other thoughts on wisdom and knowledge.

And maybe even harder than that is Peacemakers … sow in peace.  

Rather ironic, given that people have turned the word peacemaker into a weapon.  Or into whoever is strongest gets to make the peace they decide will exist.  The one with the biggest and most destructive toys wins and decides on the definition of peace.  How can the peacemaker Jesus talks about ever succeed?

What kind of peace does the peacemaker seek to bring forth?

It seems like a good place to begin looking at peacemakers is to figure out what peace meant in Jesus’ time.  It’s certainly not what we consider peace today.  We often hear, even today, how the world is at peace.  No wars.  I guess that’s sort of right, in political-speak.  There are no declared wars.  Just countries fighting with each other all over the world.  The difference is lost on me, but it makes our leaders feel good, I guess.

Far from our current beliefs, peace was quite different in Jesus’ time.  Especially to the Jewish people who were, after all, His audience.  You may know of the word Shalom.  Here’s what it meant back then.  Yes, it’s a bit long.  But it’s important, given that we have to shed our current thinking about peace, and realize what Jesus actually said and meant.

Shalom – from Baker encyclopedia of the Bible

In the OT. Shalōm, the most prominent OT term for “peace,” held a wide range of connotations (wholeness, health, security, well-being, and salvation) and could apply to an equally wide range of contexts: the state of the individual (Ps 37:37; Prv 3:2; Is 32:17), the relationship of man to man (Gn 34:21; Jos 9:15) or nation to nation (e.g., absence of conflict—Dt 2:26; Jos 10:21; 1 Kgs 5:12; Ps 122:6, 7), and the relationship of God and man (Ps 85:8; Jer 16:5).

This is very much in line with lots of the Hebrew (and Greek) words in the Bible.  They have many “flavors” of meaning, depending on the context.  It’s a very different concept than the way we use English words today. 

We’re taught early on to look for the single best meaning among a variety of possible meanings.  You know – like those standardized tests in school?  And along the way, we forget that there are shades of meaning.  Different ways to view what a given set of words is trying to say.  So we go with our favorite best choice.  A choice that may have little, if anything, to do with what was intended.

Therefore, we lose out on the richness of language that exists in the Biblical Hebrew and Greek.  And that means we also miss out on the rich meaning of what was recorded in the Bible.  We’ll try not to do that here.

The presence of shalōm in any of these contexts was not considered ultimately as the outcome of human endeavor, but as a gift or blessing of God (Lv 26:6; 1 Kgs 2:33; Jb 25:2; Pss 29:11; 85:8; Is 45:7).

See what I mean about missing out?  How often do we think of peace being a blessing from God?  Don’t most people look at peace as something negotiated between people?  Even with the Middle East peace plans, of which Israel is a part, all we hear of is talks between people.  How often does God come up?  I’ve never noticed a single instance.

And so we miss out on things like what follows, that the Old Testament people knew and experienced. 

It is not surprising, therefore, to find “peace” tied closely to the OT notion of covenant. Shalōm was the desired state of harmony and communion between the two covenant partners (God and man—Nm 6:26; cf. Is 54:10), its presence signifying God’s blessing in the covenant relationship (Mal 2:5; cf. Nm 25:12), and its absence signifying the breakdown of that relationship due to Israel’s disobedience and unrighteousness (Jer 16:5, 10–13; cf. Ps 85:9–11; Is 32:17).

You may be thinking at this point – this is an Old Covenant and therefore Old Testament thing that doesn’t apply anymore.  But it isn’t.  Ever since I was a kid, one of my favorite verses was in the passage below:

Jesus promises Holy Spirit

Jn 14:23 Jesus replied, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24 He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.

Jn 14:25 “All this I have spoken while still with you. 26 But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. 27 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.

Even during the times I was really mad at God, that peace Jesus spoke of was still something I wanted.  I’d even go so far as to say it’s one of the things that kept me from walking away from Christianity altogether.

But my point is this.  Jesus clearly ushered in the New Covenant.  And what’s one of the things He has for us?  Peace.  Shalom.  The peace from God.  Peace that even at a time we think we might be dying, it’s there.  Check out God – is it time for me to go home? for my experience with that.

Shalōm becomes a pivotal term in the prophetic writings. It was the “false” prophets who, forgetting the conditions for national well-being within the covenant relationship, assumed God’s loyalty to Israel (Ps 89) would guarantee political peace forever (Jer 6:14; 8:15; Ez 13:10, 16; Mi 3:5). Against such popular but false security, the preexilic prophets proclaimed the coming judgment precisely as a loss of this shalōm due to Israel’s persistent disobedience and unrighteousness (Is 48:18; Jer 14:13–16; 16:5, 10–13; 18; Mi 3:4, 9–12).

Wow.  Doesn’t that sound familiar?  It was the “false” prophets who, forgetting the conditions for national well-being within the covenant relationship, assumed God’s loyalty to Israel (Ps 89) would guarantee political peace forever (Jer 6:14; 8:15; Ez 13:10, 16; Mi 3:5).   No – we don’t call them prophets today.  And to be sure – they aren’t prophets.  But don’t they sound just like false prophets?  Claiming to be Christian, and that’s why we should vote for them.  Claiming to be good for Christianity, and that’s why we should vote for them?  And let’s not forget the claims to be the one to usher in a period of Middle East peace, and that’s why we should vote for them.

The problem is, they’re false promises.  Made by false prophets.  In the case of the last one – the Middle East peace, we also have to remember something Daniel, a true prophet, wrote. 

The Seventy “Sevens”

Da 9:20 While I was speaking and praying, confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel and making my request to the LORD my God for his holy hill— 21 while I was still in prayer, Gabriel, the man I had seen in the earlier vision, came to me in swift flight about the time of the evening sacrifice. 22 He instructed me and said to me, “Daniel, I have now come to give you insight and understanding. 23 As soon as you began to pray, an answer was given, which I have come to tell you, for you are highly esteemed. Therefore, consider the message and understand the vision:

Da 9:24 “Seventy ‘sevens’ are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy.

Da 9:25 “Know and understand this: From the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven ‘sevens,’ and sixty-two ‘sevens.’ It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble. 26 After the sixty-two ‘sevens,’ the Anointed One will be cut off and will have nothing. The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed. 27 He will confirm a covenant with many for one ‘seven.’ In the middle of the ‘seven’ he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on a wing of the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him.’”

Do we know for sure that there won’t be peace in the Middle East without being part of Daniel’s prophecy?  Of course not.  Do we know that anyone and everyone claiming to be able to broker peace in the Middle East is part of Daniel’s prophecy?  Obviously not.  Many have promised to do just that.  And although they haven’t succeeded, we’re obviously still here and Armageddon isn’t on us at this moment.

It’s just a warning for us to be aware.

But it’s more than that.  Usually, when we’re warned about something we get nervous.  Maybe even afraid.  But when we know what Daniel’s prophecy says, and when we know in our hearts that the peace Jesus promised us really is ours – then we don’t have to be afraid.  We can really be at peace.

Beyond that, once we’re at peace, then we can become sowers of that peace.  The peace Jesus left us with.  How can we do that?  Because our hearts aren’t troubled.  It all fits together.

Speaking of which – notice that the final piece below points out that the restoration of things – shalom and everything that comes with it – will be at the end.  When Messiah returns.  

The prophets did, however, point beyond the crises of exile and subsequent setbacks to a time when shalōm, characterized by prosperity and well-being (Is 45:7; Ez 34:25, 26), absence of conflict (Is 2:2–4; 32:15–20; Ez 34:28–31; cf. Hos 2:18), right relations (Is 11:1–5; Mi 4:1–4; Zec 8:9–13), restoration of harmony in nature (Is 11:6–9; cf. Ez 47:1–12), and salvation (Is 52:7; 60:17; Ez 34:30, 31; 37:26–28) would again return. Often this eschatological (or end time) expectation of peace in the OT was associated with a messianic figure, as in Isaiah 9:6 where the future Messiah is termed the “Prince of Peace.” Moreover, his reign would be one of “peace” not only for Israel, but would extend throughout the whole earth (Zec 9:9, 10). The OT ends with this hope of peace still unrealized in its full sense.  4)Elwell, W. A., & Beitzel, B. J. (1988). Peace. In Baker encyclopedia of the Bible (Vol. 2, pp. 1634–1635). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.

So – to take this back to where we began, that’s the kind of peace the peacemaker will sow.

Blessed are the peacemakers – but is that all there is to it?

Maybe you’d like to have me end here.  But that’s not going to happen.  First of all, if you’re a regular reader, you know this is way too short.  There’s also the fact that we don’t know how the peacemakers got to the point where they can be a peacemaker.

So you wanna be a peacemaker?

If you want to be a peacemaker, and we all should want to try, then we need to know more.  Yes they need the characteristics we just looked at.  Things like wisdom from God, peace from Jesus, the presence of the Holy Spirit in their lives.  But how did they get those things?

If I can go back to a more man-made kind of thing, we hear things like peace at any price.  Like maybe, again, whoever is the strongest can force peace to happen.  In an interesting twist, the one who is strongest isn’t forcing peace.  At least, not yet. 

The strongest one, of course, is God.  But the time for Him bringing peace, in the End Times, hasn’t yet arrived.  And for better or for worse, that leaves us as Jesus’ representatives – and peacemakers – until then.  Of course, the actual work is done through the Holy Spirit.  But the peacemakers need to be present and make themselves available.  

And no – I’m not saying God can’t act independently of us.  He most certainly can.  However, unless we’ve completely forgotten about the Great Commission, we’re supposed to be fulfilling our role as disciples of Christ.

The Great Commission

Mt 28:16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said,All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

How does a peacemaker achieve piece?

So, if it’s not peace at any price, it’s not Jesus coming back after The Tribulation, then what’s going on?  How is this peace being achieved?  I found a very concise statement on that by Bob Utley.

5:9 “peacemakers” This refers to reconciliation between God and man, which results in peace between persons. However, this is not a peace at any price but peace through repentance and faith (cf. Mark 1:15; Acts 3:16, 19; 20:21; Rom. 5:1).  5)Utley, R. J. (2000). The First Christian Primer: Matthew (Vol. Volume 9, p. 38). Marshall, TX: Bible Lessons International.

Bob Utley’s stuff is usually quite short.  It’s also very useful, although further study is generally required to see what he really means.  So let’s look at the verses he refers to.

peacemakers, repentance and faith
Blessed are the peacemakers – repentance

Let’s start off with repentance.  It really is the first thing we need to do.  Almost.  Let’s look at John the Baptist to see what goes on.

John the Baptist Prepares the Way

3:1-12 pp — Mk 1:3-8; Lk 3:2-17

Mt 3:1 In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the Desert of Judea 2 and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” 3

We’ll get to John the Baptist in a moment, but notice – the first word we hear from him in Luke’s Gospel is “Repent“.  Just to be sure we’re all on the same page, let’s see what Repent meant back then.  What it should still mean to Christians today. 

3340 μετανοέω [metanoeo /met·an·o·eh·o/] v. From 3326 and 3539; TDNT 4:975; TDNTA 636; GK 3566; 34 occurrences; AV translates as “repent” 34 times. 1 to change one’s mind, i.e. to repent. 2 to change one’s mind for better, heartily to amend with abhorrence of one’s past sins. Additional Information: For synonyms see entry 3338, metamellomai.See entry 5862 for comparison of synonyms.  6)Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.

So it’s about changing our minds.  A change for the better.  One that comes, as with everything about Christianity – action.  It’s not just a change of mind.  It’s also abhorrence of our sins.  From the Oxford Dictionary: regard with disgust and hatred.  With that, must come a change in our lives as well.  To go on sinning and look at our life of sin with disgust and hatred isn’t what John the Baptist and Jesus had in mind.

To see that this is the true meaning of the Greek word we read as repent, let’s look at the referenced synonym.  Keep in mind, we’re looking at 3340, which is being compared to the more common word 3338.

5862 Synonyms

See Definition for metamellomai: 3338

See Definition for metanoeo: 3340

The distinction often given between these is; 3338 refers to an emotional change, 3340 to an change of choice, 3338 has reference to particulars, 3340 to the entire life, 3338 signifies nothing but regret even amounting to remorse, 3340 that reversal of moral purpose known as repentance; does not seem to be sustained by usage. But that 3340 is the fuller and nobler term, expressive of moral action and issues, is indicated not only by its derivation, but by the greater frequency of its use and by the fact it is often used in the imperative.  7)Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.

We see in the comparison that repent as used by John the Baptist and Jesus is a change of choice, it’s about our entire life and is related to moral action and issues.  So repent has to do with everything about us.  And as we saw, it’s about action.  

Why should we repent?

We should repent because the kingdom of Heaven is near.

In this context, “the kingdom of Heaven” has to do with the authority to rule.  Specifically, it refers to Jesus.  We know this because in the very next passage, Jesus comes into the place where John is preaching.

Now, does that mean this doesn’t apply to us?  No way!  While Jesus walked the earth, He was one person.  Therefore, He could only interact with people within the immediate area.  Now, with the Holy Spirit, we are constantly in His presence, whether we realize it or not – whether we acknowledge it or not.  So yes, what John the Baptist said absolutely applied to everyone today.

Who was John the Baptist?

This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah:
“A voice of one calling in the desert,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.’ ”

The quote is an excerpt from Isaiah.  Isaiah’s a very long book – 66 chapters.  Sometimes it takes turns like you’re on a roller coaster.  There’s good things, bad things, cause for hope, Etc.  The quote above is from one of the sections that’s cause for hope.  Even this one section is long, so I’m including only the relevant part for the quote.  If you’d like to read the entire passage, feel free to use one of the links below to get to it.

Comfort for God’s People

Isa 40:1 Comfort, comfort my people,
says your God.
Isa 40:2 Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and proclaim to her
that her hard service has been completed,
that her sin has been paid for,
that she has received from the LORD’S hand
double for all her sins.

Isa 40:3 A voice of one calling:
“In the desert prepare
the way for the LORD;
make straight in the wilderness
a highway for our God.
Isa 40:4 Every valley shall be raised up,
every mountain and hill made low;
the rough ground shall become level,
the rugged places a plain.
Isa 40:5 And the glory of the LORD will be revealed,
and all mankind together will see it.
For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”

You may have noticed, the word repent never appears in the passage.  While the word may not be there, I  believe the concept is.  Exactly where is a matter of interpretation, discussion and disagreement.  Some say it’s not in this section of Isaiah at all, but that it comes later.  Some say this part has God doing all the work.  Others don’t agree. 

I believe it is about repentance.  Furthermore, that we have to do some of the work and God will do the rest.  Below is the explanation.  One thing to note first though.  The text I use for the excerpt from Isaiah is from the NIV, as usual.  The comments below come from someone who used the New King James Version.  I think it’s relatively easy to see where the comments go, given that the verses are included.  However, in some cases where the words are very different, I’ll explain that as well.

§ 40:1 Comfort … comfort. The verbs are plural in form. God is addressing His heavenly court and the prophetic messengers who participate in it (v. 6; 44:26). Other heralds will be encouraged to spread the good news (vv. 9–11; 52:7). The repetition is for emphasis and occurs in 51:9, 17; 52:1, 11; 57:14; 62:10.

Comfort, comfort my peopleComfort, in this context, means God has compassion for His people.  There are other possible meanings for comfort, but given that it’s God’s expression towards His people, this is the only one that makes sense.

My people. Though they have rebelled, they are still treated as the people of God. The phrase occurs frequently in Isaiah (1:3; 3:12, 15; 43:20; 51:4, 16; 53:8; 58:1; 65:10, 22). See 43:1 note.

It’s worth remembering though, in the immediate context, the time after the exile, “His people” meant the ones who stayed faithful during the darkest period in their history.  As we’ll see in a moment, they were the ones who paid the price for their sins.  It was the sins of the Israelites that led to their defeat and the exile of about 1/4 of the population to Babylon.

§ 40:2 warfare … iniquity. Isaiah refers to the exile of Israel and Judah of which he has spoken repeatedly. The suffering came on account of sin. See note 27:9.

Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and proclaim to her
that her hard service has been completed

It wasn’t necessarily warfare, at least not in the physical sense.  The war was lost before the exile.  During the exile, the “war” was the spiritual kind of warfare to remain faithful to the God of Israel.  The battle to not become like their Babylonian captors.

As such, the NIV used their hard service has been completed, rather than talking about warfare. 

Double for all her sins. God has judged the punishment to be sufficient and is ready to forgive (43:25; 44:22; 48:9).

that her sin has been paid for,
that she has received from the LORD’S hand
double for all her sins.

Yes, the Hebrew word does mean double.  However, in this sense it’s not that God was unjust. It’s an emphasis that their sins were fully paid for.  Remember, this is Old Covenant.  Here’s a comparison between Old and New.

40:2 iniquity has been removed … Double for all her sins. Cruel slaughter and captivity at the hands of the Babylonians were sufficient payment for past sins; so someday after worldwide dispersion, Israel will return to her land in peace and in the glory of Messiah’s kingdom. 

Old Covenant – the Israelites paid the price for their sins.  Past sins.  However, Jesus ushered in a New Covenant.

40:3–5 A prophetic exhortation told Israel to prepare for the revelation of the Lord’s glory at the arrival of Messiah. Scripture sees John the Baptist in this role (Mt 3:3; Mk 1:3; Lk 3:4–6; Jn 1:23). It likewise sees the future forerunner who is to be like Elijah preparing for Christ’s second coming (Mal 3:1; 4:5, 6).  8)MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Is 40:2–5). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

Under the New Covenant, whether we pay the price for our sins or not depends on how we respond to the Gospel – the Good News.  If we do, then Jesus pays the price for us.  If we reject Him, we pay the price.

either way, there’s something for us (the people) to do. We’re about to find out what our part is.

§ 40:3 voice. Though the voice may have included earlier prophets, such as Isaiah, it finds fulfillment in the ministry of John the Baptist (Matt. 3:3; Mark 1:3, 4; Luke 1:76; 3:4, 5; John 1:23).

Isa 40:3 A voice of one calling: 

wilderness … desert. These are metaphors for alienation and anguish (14:17; 27:10; 64:10). God alone can transform the desert into a blooming and fruitful oasis, a figure for the fullness and joy of His salvation (32:15, 16; 35:1, 6; 41:18, 19; 43:19, 20; 48:21; 51:3).

“In the desert prepare
Whether the translation is to wilderness or wasteland, what’s coming isn’t going to be an easy task.

Prepare … Make straight. “Prepare” means to “clear away obstacles” (57:14). God will remove all obstacles at His coming, but He expects His people to prepare for the kingdom (62:10) and requires the nations to assist the progress of His salvation.

the way for the LORD;
make straight in the wilderness

This is one of the disputed portions.  Who is supposed to clear away the obstacles to make that “straight highway”?  To answer that question, let’s go to the passage containing Isaiah 62:10.  Again, it’s quite long, so I was going to include only enough to get the context of what’s happening.  The problem is, most of it is needed to get the full picture of this prophecy.  

Zion’s New Name

In the first two verses, God is saying things are going to be the way they could have been.  Even should have been.  The one catch is that the people had to be faithful in order for that to happen.  They weren’t, so things were very different.  Now, the truly faithful ones are about to be rewarded.

Isa 62:1 For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent,
for Jerusalem’s sake I will not remain quiet,
till her righteousness shines out like the dawn,
her salvation like a blazing torch.
Isa 62:2 The nations will see your righteousness,
and all kings your glory;
you will be called by a new name
that the mouth of the LORD will bestow.

As you read the next verse, notice that “hand” is there twice.  Also that crown and diadem are both included, although both of them signify some type of crown.

Isa 62:3 You will be a crown of splendor in the LORD’S hand,
a royal diadem in the hand of your God.

3. Israel will be a crown of glory. The word translated as diadem is the same root word used to describe the headdress of the high priest. Note that the crown and headdress are not on the head of Jehovah; but rather, both are in His hand. Two different Hebrew words are translated as hand. The first indicates the open hand, which implies power; and the second denotes the palm, which indicates the function of displaying an object. The idea is that God is displaying Zion in all of her glory, which is ultimately a manifestation of His redeeming power. One could also deduce from this that Israel will be a nation of kings and priests.  9)Hindson, E. E., & Kroll, W. M. (Eds.). (1994). KJV Bible Commentary (pp. 1412–1413). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

So the repetition isn’t for emphasis in this case.  Rather, it’s to show two characteristics of God’s people.  One of their beauty and the other of their royalty.

What does beauty mean?  It’s certainly about things that can be seen about the people.  More on that is coming.  But there’s another possible approach to viewing this.  Given that this is a prophecy about the Messiah, looking at it from a New Testament viewpoint yields another meaning.  

The New Testament uses the Greek word for diadem only in the Book of Revelation (Rev. 12:3; 13:1; 19:12). The New Testament also makes a clear distinction between a diadem and a Crown. A crown was a garland or a wreath awarded for faithfulness in service, such as a crown of righteousness (2 Tim. 4:8), while a diadem always symbolized royal authority.  10)Youngblood, R. F., Bruce, F. F., & Harrison, R. K., Thomas Nelson Publishers (Eds.). (1995). In Nelson’s new illustrated Bible dictionary. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Given what’s going on here in terms of faithfulness and the future righteousness from Jesus in the New Covenant, the New Testament meaning isn’t out of line.  In that regard, the beauty of the people has to do with what they’ve received from Christ.  And in both cases, the priesthood / royalty image of the diadem also applies.

And in any case, the crown and diadem, with their associated meanings, come from God. 

Verse 10 is another one where scholars don’t agree on what it means.  Some have God doing these things.  Others have the people doing them.  One explanation that made the most sense to me had to do with the fact that surrounding verses spoke of God in the third person – as in verse 11 where it says The LORD has made proclamation.  With that in mind, verse 10 is a directive to the people from Isaiah.  Acting as a prophet, yes.  But the directive is for the people to do the things referred to in verse 10.

Isa 62:10 Pass through, pass through the gates!

There’s lots of different ideas about exactly which gates this refers to.  For purposes of this discussion, the more important questions relate to the next four lines.

Prepare the way for the people.

Some people are preparing the way for others.  In the time of the exile, the way was to return from Babylon.  But for the coming of Messiah, it’s indicative of what John the Baptist did and said.

Build up, build up the highway!

This is like making straight paths, as in what John the Baptist said.  It’s not literal paths.  Not streets, roads, highways, or even alleys.  It’s about spiritual “pathways”.  Even though God is all around us, things prevent us from going “straight” to Him.  Things like sin, guilt, shame, anger, and the like.  So building up the highway is about those things.

Remove the stones.

Things like removing the “stones”.  Like those obstacles that we just looked at.  Them and all the other things that get in the way of building our spiritual path to God.  

Raise a banner for the nations.

And don’t do it quietly.  Let everyone see what we’re doing.  Actually, the Israelites should have been doing this all along, just like they should have been faithful to God all along.

But then, as I always way – we Christians shouldn’t say anything about the Israelites.  We haven’t exactly done a good job at those things either.  We God’s compassion and grace just as much as they did.

And in that light, there we have both the Old and New Covenant views of verse 10. 

Isa 62:11 The LORD has made proclamation
to the ends of the earth:
“Say to the Daughter of Zion,
‘See, your Savior comes!
See, his reward is with him,
and his recompense accompanies him.’ ”

There are two things to note here. 

First, while it says Zion, that doesn’t mean it applies only to Hebrew / Jewish people.  Remember, Jesus also has the same gift for us if we choose to follow Him.  When Jesus spoke of His flock, He also included us.

The Shepherd and His Flock

Jn 10:14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. 17 The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”

The other flock that “are not of this sheep pen” is what I’m talking about.  Jesus was speaking to the Jewish people – so they were the ones “of this sheep pen“.  The other one is those of us who choose to become Christians. 

The second thing to note is that the passage includes both the word reward and recompense.  What’s the difference between the two?  Aren’t they the same?  Actually, no.  The Hebrew word we read as recompense has several meanings.  It could be reward, work, or payment. 

One way that makes sense in this context is that a reward is recompense, but not all recompense is a reward.  The reward is for faith, for following Jesus.  Something we can obtain because we accepted God’s gift of salvation through our belie

This post first appeared on God Versus Religion, please read the originial post: here

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