Glory to God in the Highest Heaven, And on Earth Peace

On Earth Peace

Long ago an angelic chorus announced to a band of shepherds, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

The occasion, of course, was the birth of Jesus. When the angels ascended into heaven, both the sound of their voices and the glorious brilliance which shone around them dissipated. Their message did not.

The shepherds, like many of us today, struggled with the profound simplicity of their promise. Those far-reaching, never-achieving words, “favor” and “peace,” echoed like hollow rhetoric in their ears. But now the message came, not through prophets or teachers, but through angels.

An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’
Luke 2:9-12

The validation of the angelic message slept, as only babies sleep, in a manger.

Prince of Peace

Look around! Can you see it? Feel it? Hear it in the air? This message of peace for all the people?

While tornados rip apart communities, homes, and families, where do we find peace? We silently watch as military giants set siege to defenseless nations and ask again, “How will peace be found?” Floods destroy. Fires consume. Addictions devastate. Yet, God’s Word echoes eternally,

“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those o whom his favor rests.”
Luke 2:14

Peace, illusive peace, embodied the paramount blessing Israel looked for with the coming Messiah. The shepherds, like us, desired this state of tranquility, freedom from civil disturbance, security and order, as well as harmony in personal relationships.

The peace which God offered reached beyond the natural realms. Jesus, the Prince of Peace, came to extend peace within, dispelling confusion and discord, first in the hidden recesses of hearts and minds.

Isaiah spoke,

“For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government
and peace there will be no end . . .”
Isaiah 9:6,7

My heart longs for such good news, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace!”

Peace and Hope

Hope within the humble band of shepherds latched on to these words! Hope of peace spurred them into the streets of Bethlehem until they found Him.

When they looked into the face of the Christ Child, what did they see? Did they recognize the Holy Lamb of God who would pay a horrific price for their peace? This Gospel of peace declared first to them, would one day echo through the hills of Galilea, and eventually reach even us!

The message reached me when I was over twenty years old — my mind filled with confusion — suicidal and broken. As broken as the family, my internal peacelessness helped to break. Lost and without hope. Needing a Savior, I didn’t know. A Redeemer. An Advocate.

In a last ditch effort to take my life, He came to my ditch. He offered what no man could offer. He gave what no human could give. Peace with God! The peace of God.

In a single moment, the Messiah, Jesus Christ, not the Baby in a manger, but rather the glorified Lord, reached down to me, the worst of sinners, granting indescribable peace. Faith arose. Knowledge of Jesus bearing the sins of the world, even my sins, burst through disillusionment and despair. I believed Jesus died for my sins and was bruised for my iniquities to arise from the grave three days, all to give life. I knew in that instant the offer extended to me, to you, to all . . .

Not through angels, but Holy Spirit breathed words,

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

Shalom

The most common Old Testament word translated into “peace” is shalom. It embodies a sense of wholeness, soundness, health, well-being, and prosperity.

Though none of these immediately became outwardly evident, inwardly my heart filled with shalom! Why? God, the Author and giver of peace became my peace.

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.”
Romans 5:1

When we experience peace with God, nothing and no one can rob us! The peace and hope flowing from Him surpasses anything. Vertical peace — peace with God — inevitably becomes horizontal peace — peace with others. The evidence of internal peace expressed to others resounds the loudest,

“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rest.”
Luke 2:14

Let Peace Rule

Paul wrote to the church in Colosse,

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.”
Colossians 3:15

God grants peace to us, but we cooperate by letting His peace work and rule through us. With me, it is impossible. But God makes a way through His indwelling Spirit!

“The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.”
Romans 8:6

Jesus intends for the enduring “greatness of his government and peace” to operate consistently and continuously through us as we surrender the control of our minds (and hearts) to Him.

As we follow the path of peace, we ultimately follow the way of God, yielding our minds and motives to Him and purpose.

Jesus knew how much we would need to live at peace within an unpeaceful world. Three times after His ressurection, He says, “Peace be with you!” (John 20:19, 21, 26) Co-incidence? Not at all!

On Earth Peace

This earth, the broken, aching world, knows no peace. But it longs for it!

Our neighbors and communities, our friends and our families wait as the shepherds waited. They wait for someone, anyone, to bring them “good news that will cause great joy for all.”

God strategically places you and me to be His voices to herald the Good News, sharing the message of peace to those around us. Peace, perhaps greater than anything else, remains the most desired gift of this and every generation.

“When they had seen him (Jesus), they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child. And all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.”
Luke 2:19

When we see Him, we want to tell others about Him!

May we all follow the example of the shepherds, spreading the Good News. Jesus makes Himself as available to all people as He was to the shepherds long ago. May the message of peace and hope be loudly and broadly proclaimed, not just at Christmas, but every day.

“Glory to God in the highest realms of heaven! For there is peace and a good hope given to the sons (and daughters) of men.”
Luke 2:14 TPT

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Intimately Close! In Darkness God Does His Greatest Work

Intimately Close

When I don’t sense God’s Presence, He is intimately close; when I don’t see His face, I am known, found and seen by Him. He directs each of our lives with intricate precision.

In some areas, I can already see beauty and purpose coming from burnt-out ashes. Other places of my life still appear unproductive at best, and honestly desolate at other times. I see woven through the years God-given relationships and opportunities that no human could have orchestrated..

Daniel said,

“Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever;
wisdom and power are his . . .
He reveals deep and hidden things;
he knows what lies in darkness,
and light dwells with him.”
Daniel 2:20-22

When fear attempts to convince me that things have become so dark and desperate, even God can’t see, I’m reminded that He does His greatest work in the deepest darkness. Light lives within Him and originates from Him.

Deep Darkness

The first words of the Bible give a strong clue to the consistent thread of God’s Presence.

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.”
Genesis 1:1

Confusion and foreboding drenched the formless, empty darkness of pre-creation. Right there! Amid that darkness, God was. This darkness preceded and surpassed anything humans have experienced. Nothing we could ever know compares to it.

God Created

Here God performs His first work, speaking all of creation into existence and transforming complete chaos into divine order. Elohim, the first Hebrew word to define God, contains within its context “the God of covenant.” Before we existed, God already reveals Himself as One who is intimately close.

The Paradox

We always find within the magnitude of God a paradox. Light and darkness is one.

“This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you; God is light, in him there is no darkness at all.”
1 John 1:5

And,

” . . . God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light . . . “
1 Timothy 6:15-16

God possesses light, spoke light into existence, lives in light, and is light. And yet . . .

“The LORD reigns, let the earth be glad;
let the distant shores rejoice.
Clouds and thick darkness surround him;
righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.”
Psalm 97:1-2

When God brings about His divine works, He often chooses the cover of darkness. Here the psalmist proclaims God’s redemptive work under the cover of thick darkness. Here, in darkness, God comes intimately close.

Conceived in Darkness

At night

This morning, I read again how God chose a young woman, Mary, to bring forth His Son through a sovereign work of the Holy Spirit. She humbly surrendered, though the details were scant and personal cost great.

Who saw that move of the Holy Spirit? No witnesses presided over the occasion of God whooshing through the dark night impregnating a virgin with divine life. Under the cloak of darkness, God became man. Under the cover of darkness, He was born. To humble shepherds, “living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night,” angels came, brightening the starry sky with intense light while declaring the good news.

God came to dwell with man — intimately close.

The Darkest Dark

“At noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”) . . . With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last. The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.”
Mark 15:33-38

Though it was high noon, suddenly God turned day to night. Once more, in darkness, He moved toward mankind, obliterating all separation between Him and His created ones.

Storm Night

Such intimate closeness is not to be gawked at by ignorant scoffers and mockers.

Conceived in darkness and born in the night, Jesus died alone on a cross in eerie untimely darkness. For me and you! For all! In darkness, Jesus crushed the head of Satan, delivering a mortal wound!

Before Morning Light

For three days He lay breathless surrounded by utter darkness, wrapped in grave clothes, hidden in a cold dank tomb. A handful of women came with spices to pay Him final honor.

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance.”
Luke 20:1

Before dawn

“While it was still dark,” He conquered the last and greatest foe. Jesus did it! He rose from the dead and through His resurrection granted the same life to all who would believe.

Intimately Close

I have no idea what you are facing today. It may very well seem to be the greatest darkness you have ever encountered. Circumstances beyond your control may have snatched all hope from your future.

Take courage. Just as in the past, God is intimately close today, right now, where you are. Nothing and no one can keep Him away.

“We need never shout across the spaces to an absent God. He is nearer than your own soul, closer than our most secret thoughts.”
A.W. Tozer

Above the Darkness

Though I don’t have opportunity to fly often, it amazes me how above the clouds the sun shines every day and the stars light the sky at night. Storms may rage below, but above the clouds visibility seems endless.

May we all learn to view things from above, rather than below. May we develop a sense of God’s deep moving and grand work amid our darkest times. Later, we will see clearly how intimately close He has always been; now we trust.