Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be

Steve Viars October 14, 2001 Isaiah 9:

 

- In his book “Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be”, Corneilus Plantinga recalls a scene from a film where an attorney breaks out of a traffic jam and attempts to bypass it by taking a side road...

 

- his new route takes him to streets that grow darker and darker and then more deserted and before he can turn around, his expensive car dies.

- he uses his cell phone to call for a tow truck, but while he’s waiting, five gang members show up and threaten to beat him up and steal his car.

- before they can act on their threats, the tow truck driver, a man named Simon shows up and breaks into the gang.

- he looks at one of them and says…

- Man, the world ain’t supposed to work like this.

- Maybe you don’t know that, but this ain’t the way it’s supposed to be.

- I’m supposed to be able to do my job without asking you if I can.

- And that dude is supposed to be able to wait with his car without you rippin him off.

- Everything’s supposed to be different that what it is here.

 

- Simon may or may not have studied theology, but his point is exactly right.

- the conditions in that neighborhood were significantly different then the way things ought to be.

 

- now I’ve been talking for less than two minutes but I’ve already raised a rather significant theological issue.

- because the title of Plantinga’s book, and the speech made by Simon the tow truck driver, gets at the heart of the challenge of understanding the concept of the will of God in human history.

- here’s the question --- was it God’s will that the gang members surround this man and threaten to rob him?…please be careful how you answer because it is purposely a trick question.

- the best answer would be something like…it depends on which aspect of God’s will you’re asking about…

- theologians rightly speak about two aspects of God’s will…his prescriptive will and His permissive will.

- His prescriptive will is the truth He has given us in His Word…

- this is what is right and wrong…

- this is what I want people to do…

- this is how I want the world to function…

- thus sayeth the Lord…that is God’s prescriptive will

 

- well, let me ask you this…does God make people obey Him like little robots?

- no?

- well, then…every time a person sins…does that mean that their behavior is somehow outside of His control…and therefore He is not sovereign or powerful?

- no…that’s where God’s permissive will comes into the picture…

 

- He has told human beings what He wants them to be and do…

- but He allows us to make choices and those choices are known to Him in advance…

- they are part of His permissive will…what He has allowed us or others to do…

- and the beauty is, He can even use the sinful choices that we or others make to accomplish His plan for His world…

 

- so to go back to our story…was it God’s will for the gang members to rob the attorney?

- of course not…such behavior violates a half dozens commands of God…its not His prescriptive will…

- but was it part of God’s permissive will?

- of course…He’s a sovereign God…and He could use their sinful behavior for the spiritual good of any person who would love Him and seek this purposes.

- now, why are we talking about that this morning?

- because the events of the last five weeks show us just how much human history is Not the Way it’s Supposed to Be.

- Is God sovereign?…of course He is.

- Can He use these events for His glory and our spiritual good?…of course He can.

 

- But perhaps part of the way He wishes to do that is for people like you and me to compare our current world condition to His prescriptive will…

- to the way He designed this world to function, the way He wants this world to function, and the way some day He will cause this world to function…

- and the purpose of the comparison is not to simply perform a mental or moral exercise…

- but instead, to glorify Him as we think about the beauty of His will, and His Word, and His ways…and how different that is from the way things are today…

- and to evaluate ourselves, the way we live, to see if our contribution to our families, and our offices, and to our church, and to our community…does our contribution to those places make them more like God’s prescriptive will or less?

 

- with that in mind, let me invite you to open your Bible to the Old Testament book of Isaiah chapter 9.

- that’s on page 493 of the front section of the Bible in the pew in front of you.

- Isaiah chapter 9 is a favorite for students of God‘s Word because it is messianic…in other words many passages in this book tell about the coming Messiah and the kind of kingdom, the kind of world that he will one day initiate…

- read Isaiah 9:1-7  [before reading 6 – please note one of the primary characteristics of the Messiah highlighted in these next two verses, and how different that is from the conditions of our world today]

 

- one of the key words in this passage is the Old Testament word shalom, or peace.

- Isaiah prophesied that the Messiah who would come would be the Prince of Peace, and there would be no end to the increase of His government, or of peace.

- now, we’d like to organize our time around five primary questions…

I.  What is Peace?

II.  How Important is Peace to God?

III.  Who and What Interrupts Peace?

VI.  Are Shortcuts and Substitutes to Peace Acceptable?

V.  What Can We Do to Make things More Like They’re Supposed to Be?

- now, lest you think this is an esoteric discussion about peace that you really don’t need to listen to or that really doesn’t apply to you, let me show my cards, so to speak, and let you in on the kind of persons I’m especially concerned about this morning…

1)  Individuals who do not have a personal relationship with God, who would say this morning, “I don’t have any peace in my heart, or my life”…its not just a matter of things not being the way they are supposed to be in the world, they are not the way they are supposed to be in my life…

2) Believers who haven’t thought about the joy of heaven in some time [or who don’t think about the joy of heaven nearly as often as we should]…

- these verses should make us long for heaven…and therefore have less attachment to the world in which we live…

3) Believers who understand that while the conditions of peace that are spoken of in passages like Isaiah 9 will not be fully realized until the future kingdom that Christ will establish on this earth…the conditions ought be being realized now in the lives and relationships of His people because we are personally related to the king.

- its possible when we’re done this morning, that we won’t just be saying…the lack of peace in our world is not the way its supposed to be---but the lack of peace in our hearts, and in our families, and in our churches, and our offices, and our communities…and our contribution to the problem…is not the way its supposed to be either.

 

I.  What is Peace?

- this word shalom is one of the most important words in the Old Testament.

A.  Root word includes the idea of completeness and retribution.

- now, I realize you might say, those two things don’t even go together.

- that’s why it is important for us to think about this for a moment.

 

1)  Completeness – Nehemiah 6:15 - So the wall was completed on the twenty-fifth of the month Elul, in fifty-two days.

- now which word do you think has the same root as peace/shalom?

- based on what we said, it’s the word “completed”

- peace brings wholeness to relationships, or people…

- when you don’t have peace, there’s something missing…an emptiness…

2)  Payment/retribution – II Kings 4:7 - …And he said, "Go, sell the oil and pay your debt, and you and your sons can live on the rest."

- this is an event from the life of the prophet Elisha…and he tells a widow who has miraculously been given oil to sell the oil and pay her debt.

- well, again, based on the way we set this up, it ought to be obvious which word comes from our root shalom – “pay” your debt.

- point is --- the act of paying creates a condition of peace because the debt is erased and the parties are reunited.

 

- this word peace also includes the idea of…

B.  The absence of strife.

I Kings 4:21-25 - Now Solomon ruled over all the kingdoms from the River to the land of the Philistines and to the border of Egypt; they brought tribute and served Solomon all the days of his life…For he had dominion over everything west of the River, from Tiphsah even to Gaza, over all the kings west of the River; and he had peace on all sides around about him

- Solomon, whose name means “man of peace” was so blessed by God that he had dominion over all his enemies…

- and that is described in this text as the condition of shalom, the absence of strife…

C.  Inward state of mind and heart

- “completeness, harmony, and fulfillment” - New International Dictionary of Theology and Exegesis

- many passages use shalom this way…

- Isaiah 26:3 – Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee.

 

D.  Outward state of relationship with God and others

- “unimpaired relationships with others and fulfillment in ones undertakings” - New International Dictionary of Theology and Exegesis

- Psalm 147:14 - He makes peace in your borders; He satisfies you with the finest of the wheat.

 

- the Bible also makes it clear that true…

E.  True Peace finds its source in God.

- many verses use Shalom this way…

- Psalm 4:8 - In peace I will both lie down and sleep, For Thou alone, O LORD, dost make me to dwell in safety.

[if time, could hit Judges 6:24 – Gideon and the altar to YaHWeH Shalom]

 

- now what’s the point of all of this…

- when God says that the coming Messiah will be the Prince of [Shalom] Peace, and that under His government, there would be no end to [Shalom]peace, that message would have had an incredible impact on His hearers.

- a life and a world where there were the absence of strife, where people had peace in their hearts, and were in a state of peace with God and with all the people in their life…it would have been an overwhelming thought.

- Plantinga said it this way…

The prophets dreamed of a new age in which human crookedness would be straightened out, rough places made plain.  The foolish would be made wise, and the wise, humble.  They dreamed of a time when the deserts would flower, the mountains would run with wine, weeping would cease, and people could go to sleep without weapons on their laps.  People would work in peace and work to fruitful effect.  Lambs could lie down with lions.  All nature would be fruitful, benign, and filled with wonder upon wonder; all humans would be knit together in brotherhood and sisterhood; and all nature and all humans would look to God, walk with God, lean toward God, and delight in God.  Shouts of joy and recognition would well up from valleys and seas, from women in streets and from men on ships.

The webbing together of God, humans, and all creation in justice, fulfillment, and delight is what the Hebrew prophets call shalom.  We call it peace, but it means far more than mere peace of mind or a cease-fire between enemies.  In the Bible, shalom means universal flourishing, wholeness, and delight – a rich state of affairs in which natural needs are satisfied and natural gifts fruitfully employed, a state of affairs that inspires joyful wonder as its Creator and Savior opens doors and welcomes the creatures in whom he delights.  Shalom, in other words, is the way things ought to be.

II.  How Important is Peace to God?

- How would you answer that question?-- very important, for a hundred different reasons…

- here’s a couple, though we could develop this for hours….

A.  The garden of Eden was characterized by peace.

- what was one of Adam’s first tasks?  [to name the animals]

- did he have to be afraid of them?…no….[develop what it must have been like to nuzzle up to a lion…] --- that’s shalom

- not just peace with the creation…but peace with God…they walked together in the garden in the cool of the day…think about that --- that’s shalom

- and what about his wife…naked and not ashamed….there were no guilt, there was no miscommunication, there was no sinful anger, there was no misplaced priorities…a husband and wife experiencing perfect shalom….that’s the way God created this world…that’s the way things are supposed to be…

- what about the other side of the spectrum…is perfect shalom gone forever?…not on your life…

B.  Christ’s kingdom will be characterized by peace.

- Isaiah 32:16-18 - Then justice will dwell in the wilderness, and righteousness will abide in the fertile field.  And the work of righteousness will be peace, and the service of righteousness, quietness and confidence forever.  Then my people will live in a peaceful habitation, and in secure dwellings and in undisturbed resting places;

- now we could honestly multiply passages on these two points, or talk about a number of other ideas under this overall heading…but the Scripture is very clear…God highly values shalom….He highly values peace and He has created, and He will create again, an environment where human beings enjoy this kind of relationship with Him and with one another.

- and what does that then mean to the day and age in which we live?

- the conditions of our world are greatly displeasing to Him…terrorist attacks, wars, hatred, poverty, abuse, neglect…

- this isn’t the way it is supposed to be.

- now, here’s the easiest question of the morning….

III.  Who and What Interrupts Peace?

- the answer is sin, and ultimately Satan himself.

- I love the way Plantinga puts that…”Shalom is God’s design for creation and redemption; sin is blamable human vandalism of these great realities and therefore an affront to the architect and builder…sin is culpable disturbance of shalom”

- think about all the examples of that in the Scripture…

- what happened in the garden of Eden when Satan was done…

A.  In the Garden of Eden.

- Shalom was destroyed between Adam and Eve…

- they went from a relationship of peace to one of guilt and blaming one another

- it was destroyed between themselves and God…

- so they went from walking in the garden in the cool of the day to being banished from the garden because of their sin…

- and all you have to do is turn to the next chapter and hear one of Adam’s descendants writing the first recorded song in the Bible, extolling the fact that he had just killed someone who offended him, and not only had he done it, but he was proud of the fact that he had done it.

B.  In the upper room.

- here’s one of the most intimate moments in human history, when Jesus Christ, just before going to the cross, is sharing the Passover meal with his disciples…

- but is it a time of Shalom?

- hardly…the disciples have been arguing about who’s going to be the greatest in the kingdom, and then Jesus tells them that they will fall away when he is taken, and Peter in pride says, though everyone else deny you, I will not…

- what does Jesus say….Simon, Simon….who?…..Satan has desired to tempt you, so that he will sift you as wheat…

- sin and Satan destroy Shalom…

 

C.  In the early church.

- you would think after Jesus was resurrected, that the new church that was being established would be filled with peace…

- everyone is selling things and bringing them and laying them at the apostle’s feet, to minister to the poor and provide for the expansion of the church…

- but what happens in Acts 5?

- Ananias sells a piece of land and then gives a portion of the sale to the church, which would have been perfectly appropriate, until he lied and said that he had given it all…

- and Peter said to him, Acts 5:3-5 - Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit, and to keep back some of the price of the land?  While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control? Why is it that you have conceived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men, but to God.  And as he heard these words, Ananias fell down and breathed his last; and great fear came upon all who heard of it.

- I think Plantinga is right when he says, God hates sin not just because it violates His law, but because it violates shalom, because it breaks the peace, because it interferes with the way things are supposed to be.

 

- that’s why some of the most frequent occurrences of this word are in the book of Leviticus, where God’s Word speaks over and over about shalomim…peace offerings.

D.  This explains the frequent OT references to peace offerings.

- this is why we took the time at the beginning to show that part of the root of the word peace is payment, or retribution.

- peace offerings were made after a burnt offering was made to atone for sins, and a grain offering was made to signal consecration…

- then and only then could the worshipper have peace with God, and peace with others…a payment had to be made.

 

E.  This explains why Jesus was prophesied to be the Prince of Peace.

- Christ’s death on the cross makes it possible to have shalom

- Colossians 1:20 - and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.

- Romans 5:1 - Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,

 

- now, I’d like to get to the practical applications of all of this, but there is one more question we need to quickly deal with first…

VI.  Are Shortcuts and Substitutes to Peace Acceptable?

- and of course you that the answer to that question is “no”, but it is interesting that this topic is discussed quite often when the word peace is used in the Bible…

- here’s an example….

- Jeremiah 6:14 - And they have healed the brokenness of my people superficially, Saying, 'Peace, peace,' But there is no peace.

 

- the principle is that some people want to talk about shalom [peace], and want to achieve shalom, but are unwilling to take the steps God has outlined in order to achieve it.

 

- now we have a lot on the table…let’s spend the rest of our time talking about applications of this passage.

V.  What Can We Do to Make things More Like They’re Supposed to Be?

A.  Be sure that you have established a relationship of peace with God.

- every one of us knows what it is like to be estranged from God…

- to be separated from God…

- to feel alienated from God…

- friend, that’s not the way it is supposed to be.

 

- but because the price of our sin was so significant, our Messiah, the Prince of Peace, also had to be the Lamb of God.

- there had to be a peace offering…a sacrifice for our sin…before shalom could be established.

 

- can I ask you this morning…are you enjoying shalom with God?…are you really at peace with Him?

- and let me caution you about two things…

1) Please remember what we saw in Jeremiah 6:14 just a moment ago…

- there is a tendency to be satisfied with a shallow, superficial peace that is a poor substitute for the real thing.

- some people confuse church attendance with shalom…

- or busyness with shalom…

- or activity….

 

- friend, I’m asking you if you have trusted Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior.

 

2) The second caution is, please don’t say, I don’t know Christ, but I’ll be OK

- Isaiah 48:22 - There is no peace for the wicked, says the LORD.

- Isaiah 57:20-21 - But the wicked are like the tossing sea, for it cannot be quiet, and its waters toss up refuse and mud.  There is no peace, says my God, for the wicked.

 

- one of the points of this message has been that looking at the current war we’re involved in ought to cause us to conclude, this isn’t the way it is supposed to be.

- that’s true…but for those who don’t know Christ…the war with Afghanistan is not the worst war going…the Scripture describes those who don’t know Christ as being at war with Him.

B.  Work for shalom in your family.

 

- develop the issue of whether we are living in the kingdom of God…

- not in the full sense, but we are personally related to the king…and our relationships today ought to bear some resemblance to what Christ’s millennial kingdom will be like.

 

- yet the sad truth is, too many Christian families are experiencing precious little shalom.

- [develop]

 

- Romans 8:6 - For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace,

 

 

C.  Work for shalom in the church.

 

- Ephesians 4:3 - being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

 

 

D.  Work for shalom in your relationships with others.

 

- Matthew 5:9 - Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

- [blessed are the ….spreaders of shalom]

 

 

 

 

 

- Numbers 6:24-26 - The LORD bless you, and keep you;  The LORD make His face shine on you, And be gracious to you;  The LORD lift up His countenance on you, And give you peace. '

 

Steve Viars

B.S. - Bible, Baptist Bible College
M.Div. - Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min. - Westminster Theological Seminary

Pastor Steve Viars has served at Faith Church since 1987. He and his wife Kris were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and two grandchildren. Pastor Viars’ gifted teaching ministry, enthusiasm for the Word of God, and organizational skills are instrumental in equipping Faith Church. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith ministries and serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video