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Completeness, shalom. It’s what we all strive for. It’s a return to the Garden of Delights (Eden), where there is no separation, no struggle. The words of this popular contemporary song convey this:
I can only imagine what it will be like, when I walk by your side.
I can only imagine what my eyes will see, when your face is before me
I can only imagine.
Surrounded by your glory, what will my heart feel?
Will I dance for you, Jesus? Or in awe of you be still?
Will I stand in your presence? Or to my knees will I fall?
Will I sing hallelujah? Will I be able to speak at all?
I can only imagine. I can only imagine.
(I can only Imagine by Bart Millard)
Until that day comes, we will continue to put up with wasps, persecution, quiche, late trains, irritations, pesky cats, illness, trauma and misdemeanour in a world of ra (do you remember this word, the opposite of shalom). But He gives us a touch of heaven in this world, for those who accept His invitation. He gives the shalom of salvation, the greatest shalom available to us, the completeness of being reconciled with our Maker. Then, once we are in God’s family, we should be concerned with the shalom of unity, finding our place in this wonderful endeavour, whether we have a local, national or even global purpose. Finally, a task for the Church as a whole, an unfulfilled task, but one that has the importance of being a Biblical imperative, the shalom of oneness.
There is another way of visualising this, if we consider God’s temple in Jerusalem. At the time of Jesus it was comprised of a series of courts. On the outside was the Court of the Gentiles, separated from the rest by a wall. Within this wall was the Court of Women, separated from the Court of Israel by a wall. Within this was a wall separating it from the Court of Priests which, in turn, was separated from the Holy Place and, finally, the Most Holy Place. This hierarchy of courts reflected a hierarchy of privilege. Gentiles stayed on the outside, then Jewish women were allowed to venture a little further and ordinary Jewish men further still. But Priests could go further, right into the Holy Place, but only the High Priest could venture into the Most Holy Place and, even then, only once a year on the Day of Atonement.
When Jesus died on the cross we read the following:
At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. (Matthew 27:51)
The separation between the Holy Place and the Most Holy place was no more. The physical Temple had reached its fulfilment and, from that point onwards, is redefined spiritually.
Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? (1 Corinthians 3:16)
This temple has no barriers and, if we remember our Ephesians 2 passage, the dividing wall of hostility (vs. 14), the wall that separated the Court of the Gentiles from the rest, is no more and all courts are as one, with even Gentiles now able to enter the Most Holy Place, to access God Himself through prayer. Imagine trying to explain this to a Jew before the time of Jesus, that this whole system, with its hierarchies, rules and restrictions was to collapse into nothing and that everyone – including the Gentiles – would, in future, have the temple living within them! Mind-boggling! This is surely true Shalom, but the Church still hasn’t really got it.
We need a truly balanced Church, of the far off and the near people, of Gentile and Jew. We need the Jew to find a welcome home without prejudice and we need the Gentile to commit to making a fresh start, unburdened by a frightful history. It’s a worthy enterprise and some have already made a start to it. We believe we did so at Foundations 10, though it was more a case of God orchestrating events rather than anything we consciously did ourselves.
But we need to see One New Man through to the end. Whether the ideas in this book can play a part in oiling a few gears, then so be it, only God knows this. However it happens, I get a feeling that it needs to happen, on a level that we may not currently be able to conceive. Perhaps we are over-involved with thoughts of the present – our day to day living as God’s ambassadors in an indifferent world – or of the future – with the ‘blessed hope’ sometimes expressed as a ‘I’m a Christian, Get me out of here!’ attitude. Maybe One New Man is more important than we think?
This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 3:6)
Think about these words, ‘together’ (mentioned three times) and ‘one body’ and ask yourself if the Church is living in this mystery? There is currently very little ‘together’ with regards to Jews and Gentiles in the Church, so we are living in ra, in this respect. The only way we can be in shalom is to work together towards a solution. And the onus is with the Gentile Church. Here is some reinforcement, with Paul’s exhortations to the Gentile Church:
Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. (Ephesians 2:19-22)
A House fit for all is what’s required, with the wall of partition broken down. Let’s get to work through our prayers, attitudes and actions!
This is an extract from the book, Shalom, available for £10 at https://www.sppublishing.com/shalom-239-p.asp
How do we achieve true Shalom?
Written by: Rufus Olaniyan
todayDecember 20, 2021 63 1
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