"And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God. And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth. And he shall be their peace." (Micah 5:4-5a ESV*)
"And he shall be their peace." (5:5a) Literally, “this one will be peace”. By "this one" is understood the Shepherd-King previously mentioned (5:2-4), so some translations have, "and he will be..." Also translators have varied as to which possessive pronoun should be understood here, whether to add to the text either “their", "our", or "your". "Their peace" would be those who would trust Messiah in that future generation. But "our" would be viewing Messiah from the reader's perspective, as the peace of Israel past, present, or future. And we could certainly apply to ourselves -- "your peace" -- as believers in Christ today.
And he will not just bring peace or establish it, but he IS peace. He is the source and essence of peace. The well-being our hearts long for is found in a Person ("this one"). When Simeon looked upon the baby Jesus, he said, “my eyes have seen your salvation” (Lu 2:30). He did not say, "savior" but "salvation". The completed work that Simeon saw was Jesus himself, even as a baby. He WAS the salvation promised. Likewise, when Jesus was teaching his disciples later in his life, he did not say to them, “I will show the way, tell the truth, and give the life”, but rather, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” (John 14:6) And so truly, "And he shall be their peace."
In the Old Testament "peace" is shalom. It denotes well-being, or dwelling securely. More than just a feeling of peace, or of peaceful circumstances, it means the restoration of relationships, and the absence of war or conflict. Sometimes it is translated as “completeness, soundness, welfare, peace,
tranquility, safety, or comfort.”
We, like the Israelites, tend to equate peace either with feelings of well-being (we are secure, all is right) due to circumstances, or to a confidence that things will turn out well because of capable political leadership, a strong military, a thriving economy, having good harvests and weather, and religious activity, usually pluralistic in form (idolatry). In Micah's day the popular (false) prophets were proclaiming "peace" (at least when they were paid well) (Micah 3:5). But the Lord says through Isaiah, "'There is no peace,' says the LORD, 'for the wicked'." (48:22)
Peace, or actual well-being, comes from God and involves a restoration of good relationships with God, with others, and with the land (creation). Hence, peace is never considered apart from righteousness. See, for example, Isaiah 9:6-7 ... "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given... and his name shall be called ... Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore."
There is true security and lasting peace only under the reign of God's Messiah, Jesus Christ.
At his second advent (coming) he will end all injustice, judge the nations, and bring an end to history as we know it. This will be the peace which will be restored over all creation (Isaiah 11:1-9; Philippians 3:20-21; 2 Peter 3:11-13), where the wolf lies down peacefully with the lamb. Just as Jesus said, “Peace, be still” and stilled the storm and sea he can do this for all of creation.
Meanwhile, we live between the two advents. He has come as a baby born in Bethlehem (Micah 5) and he will come again upon the clouds of heaven (Daniel 7). How do we experience his peace today, between these two comings of Jesus?
(1) The peace of being reconciled to God. "Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ."
(Romans 5:1; cf. Isaiah 53:5) We can have assurance that Christ’s death is the answer not just for sins, but for our sins, my sins, your sins. And thereby we are reconcile to the Father, who gives us peace that we belong to him forever as his children. The Lord Jesus says to us today what he said to the woman in Luke 7... "Your sins are forgiven... Your faith has saved you; go in peace." (Luke 7:48-50) In the words of Charles Wesley, "Glory to the newborn King: peace on earth, and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled!" (“Hark the Herald Angels Sing.")
Further, when we proclaim the gospel to others we are "publishing peace". In evangelism we work for reconciliation of others with God. "How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, 'Your God reigns.'" (Isaiah 52:7) Once again, peace comes with righteousness, when we come under the reign of God, not when we seek to be apart from it.
(2) Confidence in facing trials and the opposition of the world. In Jesus' last discourse with his disciples before being arrested (John 14-16) he spoke much about the peace he gives. "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. " (John 14:27; see also 16:33) He gives a peace unlike the world. The world promises security through power, self-confidence, wealth, good health, having powerful friends or politicians, etc. However, he promises a well-being which doesn't come from changing circumstances, but rather from the unchanging character and power of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Further, when we face needs and anxieties, we can, through prayer and thanksgiving, experience his peace. The Apostle Paul wrote from jail, "...do
not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:6-7)
(3) When we work for the upbuilding and unity of God’s people, he gives us grace to live in harmony with others: "So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding." (Romans 14:19) We are to be "eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." (Ephesians 4:3) When we work for reconciliation between people and other people, when we forgive and receive forgiveness, when we work that others may have justice and fairness in life... we are acting as peacemakers. (Matthew 5:9) When we are careful not to promote racial, ethnic, cultural, or moral superiority, then we are helping to break down dividing walls: "For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility..." (Ephesians 2:14)
Where others find their peace in wealth, good health, military, power, politics, education, science, culture, and technology, we know that lasting, true,
eternal, objective, and righteous peace is only found in the Prince of Peace. As valid as these things may be in their place for our well-being, they do not in themselves bring us lasting security, or a peace with God that will enable us to face him in the final day of judgment.
Is the Lord Jesus himself -- himself alone -- your peace?
*All Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2007 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved.