And there came an angel of the LORD, and sat under an oak which was in Ophrah, that pertained to Joash the Abiezrite…
The theme presented by this text is, the peace which the gospel brings. "It is a great mercy to have the gospel of peace, but it is a far greater mercy to have the peace of the gospel."
I. THE NATURE OF THIS PEACE. We call it in our form of benediction "The peace of God." It is so called with great propriety, because it is the peace which God has designed and provided. It was arranged for in the far-back ages of eternity, when the stupendous plan of our redemption in Christ Jesus was determined upon. The peace which Jehovah-Jesus gives is not the peace of exhaustion, nor the peace of satisfied sensualism, nor the peace of mental torpor and inaction, nor the peace of apathy, nor the peace of death — no; but it is the peace which attends pardon, and renewal, and consecration, and activity, and life, in its fullest and most perfect plan. An incident in Grecian history illustrates the nature of this peace. Thrasybulus was one of the chief men of Athens about the year 400 B.C. He came to the head of affairs after many political changes, which had left behind them great bitterness of feeling. To prevent the existence of heartburnings, and to secure peace among the Athenians, Thrasybulus exerted his influence to secure the passage of a law, which they called Amnestia, from the Greek word signifying no recollection, or no memory, and from which our word amnesty comes. This law provided that all former wrongs should be forgotten, and the people pledged themselves henceforward to live lovingly and peaceably towards each other, and as if all the wrongs and offences of the past had never taken place. Among men, with such infirmities as cling to us, it may be very easy to make a law like this, but it must be very hard to carry it out. Yet this is a fair illustration of the peace which the gospel brings to us. It is a peace founded on an act of amnesty. But this act is fairly and fully carried out.
II. THE FOUNDATION OF THIS PEACE. This peace rests on the atoning work of Christ, "He made peace," says the apostle, "through the blood of His Cross" (Colossians 2:20). And in another place the same apostle teaches us to connect the thought of this peace with "the blood of the everlasting covenant" (Hebrews 13:20). "There are depths in the ocean," we are told, "which no tempest ever stirs; they are beyond the reach of all the storms which sweep and agitate the surface of the sea. And there are heights in the blue sky above to which no cloud ever ascends, where no tempest ever rages, where all is perpetual sunshine, and nothing exists to disturb the deep serene. Each of these is an emblem of that peace which Jesus imparts to His people." "The foundation of God standeth sure," says the apostle. But we must have a clear knowledge of what this foundation is, and that we are certainly built upon it, if we would have the full enjoyment of the Christian's peace. A young minister in Wales, having to spend a night in a very exposed locality, slept at a farm-house, situated on the highest point of land in that part of the country. After he had retired to rest, the wind rose suddenly, and blew a tempest. He thought he felt the house rock, as the tempest beat upon it in its fury, and he feared it would fall. He could not sleep; so he rose and sat by the fire to be ready for the worst. But the morning dawned at last, and the house stood unharmed. When the family assembled the minister told of his fears, and expressed his wonder that they could sleep securely amidst the peltings of such a storm. "Why," said he, "I was afraid every moment the house would fall." "Oh," said the farmer, "I never have a fear of the house falling — for I know that it is founded upon the rock."
III. THE INFLUENCE EXERTED BY THIS PEACE.
1. It is an extensive influence. It sweeps through the whole circle of our relationships. It is the peace of God, and peace with God. It is peace with the angels and all holy beings. It is peace with the providence of God, and all the complicated mechanism of its far-reaching agency. If I possess this peace, then, go where I will, I need not fear. A traveller met an aged Christian once, who lived alone in a cottage, on the top of a mountain, far away from any human habitation. "Are you not afraid," said he, "to live in this lonely place?" "What have I to be afraid of," was the reply, "when Providence is my next-door neighbour?" And then the circle of this peace contracts itself to the bosom of every believer. Its centre is here; its circumference widens out to the farthest boundaries of the universe. If I am at peace with God, then I may go forth in the path of duty, anywhere, without a fear, for all the universe is at peace with me. But are there not evil men and evil spirits who are at peace with no one? True, there are. May they not work me ill, through the wrath that is in their hearts? They would, indeed, if they could. But they are never, for one moment, beyond the clear knowledge and efficient control of that Providence "whose everlasting purposes control all agencies and accidents, converting them to good."
2. It is a protecting influence. The apostle Paul brings out this view of the matter very clearly when he says, "The peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Jesus Christ" (Philippians 4:7). The word rendered "keep," has a military aspect, and denotes to guard or garrison the soul. A garrison is put into a fortress or citadel for its defence and protection, And this is what the peace of God is designed to do for our souls. God intends that we shall find protection in it. Somewhere in the East there is said to be a tree which is a non-conductor of electricity. The people in that region are aware of the fact, and when the terrible thunderstorms come, which prevail in those parts, they flee for safety to this tree, and always find it there. What a beautiful emblem of that protection vouchsafed to all who seek peace beneath the shadow of the Cross!
3. And then it is a comforting influence which this peace exerts. It is the key-note which must be struck in our bosoms before we can know anything of the joy and comfort of the heavenly world. That quaint old writer, Quarles, imagines the possibility of our gaining the possession of earth, and air, and sea, and sky, yea of all things, apart from the presence or the peace of God, using the two terms as interchangeable, and then winds up his comparison in this impressive way —
"Without Thy presence earth gives no refection;
Without Thy presence sea affords no treasure;
Without Thy presence air's a rank infection;
Without Thy presence heaven's itself no pleasure;
If not possessed, if not enjoyed in Thee,
What's earth, or sea, or air, or heaven to me?"To have this peace is to have our wills moving in harmony with the Divine will; it is to have our affections subordinated and controlled by the holy law of God; it is to have our desires elevated — our fears of trouble and death subdued — and our hopes of immortality strong, and bright, and abiding.
4. And then it is a peace that is useful in its influence. Jesus called attention to this feature of its influence when He said, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God." Those who really possess this peace will go on their way cultivating the things that make for peace. The spirit of peace, when properly exercised in the paths of daily life, has a power to turn evil into good, in a thousand ways more mighty than any magician with his fabled wand has ever claimed to exercise. If this peace is ours, let us try to show, in our lives, its elevating and satisfying power. Let all our aims and influences be in the interests of peace. But, if we are not Christians, there is no peace for us. No peace with our own consciences — no peace with God — no peace with the universe. How can we remain another hour in such a state? It is possible to make peace now: to-morrow it may be too late for ever.
(R. Newton, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And there came an angel of the LORD, and sat under an oak which was in Ophrah, that pertained unto Joash the Abiezrite: and his son Gideon threshed wheat by the winepress, to hide it from the Midianites.
WEB: The angel of Yahweh came, and sat under the oak which was in Ophrah, that pertained to Joash the Abiezrite: and his son Gideon was beating out wheat in the winepress, to hide it from the Midianites.