Ron Thomas
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By Pastor Ron Thomas
Rodgers Baptist Church
801 West Buckingham Rd. - Garland, TX 75040
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Peace Like A River
Preached 6/22/2008

Text: Isaiah 48:16-22. "Come ye near unto me, hear ye this; I have not spoken in secret from the beginning; from the time that it was, there am I: and now the Lord GOD, and His Spirit, hath sent me.

17 Thus saith the LORD, thy Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel; I am the LORD thy God which teacheth thee to profit, which leadeth thee by the way that thou shouldest go.

18 O that thou hadst hearkened to my commandments! then had thy peace been as a river, and thy righteousness as the waves of the sea:

19 Thy seed also had been as the sand, and the offspring of thy bowels like the gravel thereof; his name should not have been cut off nor destroyed from before me.

20 Go ye forth of Babylon, flee ye from the Chaldeans, with a voice of singing declare ye, tell this, utter it even to the end of the earth; say ye, The LORD hath redeemed His servant Jacob.

21 And they thirsted not when He led them through the deserts: He caused the waters to flow out of the rock for them: He clave the rock also, and the waters gushed out.22 There is no peace, saith the LORD, unto the wicked."

Introduction: The Mississippi river has dominated the news all this past week. The rain, flooding, and runoff in states such as Iowa and Indiana, have swelled the waters of the mighty Mississippi, causing it to run over it's banks, and break through the levees, which protect cities, towns and farmland. People all along the river are facing the loss of their homes, cities, and livelihoods. To all these people, peace is not a river! Right now in their lives, the river is a great source of anxiety!

In our text, God is speaking to the nation Judah through Isaiah the prophet, concerning their release from Babylonian captivity. God had placed Cyrus as king over the Chaldeans, and soon by his policy, Judah would be allowed to return to her homeland. In verse 18, God laments at what might have been. God tells His captive people how much better it would have been, if they had listened to Him through the prophets in the past. The past seventy years of captivity, would have never been necessary. Instead of pain and suffering, God would have sent His "...peace like a river."

This month, we are giving thought to a particular name of God in the Old Testament. The name is Jehovah Shalom, the Lord our peace. The passage before us speaks about this peace that flows from God, who is the fountainhead of true, lasting, peace. In verse 17, the Lord tells Judah and He tells us today, "I am the LORD thy God which teacheth thee to profit, which leadeth thee by the way that thou shouldest go." God desires to be our teacher! He longs to teach us about His peace. God desires to lead us! God longs to lead us in paths of peace. Why settle for what might have been? We need not repeat the mistakes of Judah! Instead of being captives of sin and experiencing the consequences of disobedience, we can live lives that are characterized by God's peace! What would God teach us as we stand beside the mighty river of His peace?

First: God is the source of all peace. Verse 18b says, "then had thy peace been as a river." God is Jehovah Shalom, the source of all true peace. The word "peace" is actually found in the Bible about 430 times. Obviously, God has a lot to say about peace. The Hebrew word for "peace" is shalom, which can be used to say hello or goodbye. It speaks of safety, well-being, happiness, prosperity and favor. The Greek word for "peace" in the New Testament is eirene (i-ray'-nay). This is where we get the name Irene. It means to be at rest, quietness and prosperity. (You can experience this peace either by living with Irene, or living with God. Ha!)

God is the source of all peace, and His peace is like a river! What are some of the characteristics of a river? A river is constant. The level of a river may rise and fall, but it is always flowing. It ceases to be a river, if it stops flowing or dries up. A river flows over all sorts of terrain. You can find rivers flowing through the mountains, valleys, plains, and even through deserts.

Like a river, God's peace continues, it keeps flowing in all sorts of circumstances. This is not the case as man defines peace. The Webster dictionary definition of peace is a state of tranquility or quiet, freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions, harmony in personal relationships. This kind of peace, can be interrupted by noise, a nuisance, natural disasters, or a never ending set of situations and circumstances. God's peace is different. It is constantly available regardless of the situation or circumstances!

A river receives fresh supplies of water from feeder streams. God's peace is sustained by fresh supplies of grace from the Holy Spirit. The Lord told the apostle Paul as he was experiencing a trial which he had allowed to rob him of peace, "My grace is sufficient for thee!" If God chooses not to remove the thorn, the hardship, or trial, He will give you fresh grace to bear it, and thereby give you peace as the thorn or trial remains in your life!

A river grows in size as it moves from its headwaters. God's peace grows as we grow spiritually. A little baby's peace is disturbed very easily. Children get upset over trivial things! The older and more mature we become, our temperament should become more stable. As we mature, it should take greater, more important things, to disturb our peace!

This same growth should take place in our lives as Christians. Where there is "depth," there is peace. In the Christian life, our depth comes by learning to "abide in Christ," through getting into the Word, and seeking His face. Isaiah 26:3 promises that the believer who is able to focus and fix his or her mind on the Lord, will be kept in perfect peace. Paul in Philippians 4:6-7 promises the believer that the more he or she refuses to be anxious about things, but instead prays about them, "the God of peace which passes all understanding" or comprehension, will keep their hearts and minds through Jesus Christ! What threatened your peace as a young Christian, need not threaten it today. The peace that Jesus gives, is not the absence of trouble, but is rather the confidence that He is there with you always. Is there a growing, maturing confidence in the Lord in your life, fellow Christian?

What a great picture of God's peace! God's peace flows from His throne like a mighty river! The first three verses of Psalm 46 describes a scene filled with conflict, chaos, catastrophe. The seas are raging. Mountains are being shaken, even removed and cast into the sea. Then we come to verse 4, which says, "There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High." Hallelujah! A river of peace flows from the throne of God today to every believer! A bumper sticker reads, "No God, No peace. Know God, know peace." Job 22:21 says, "Acquaint now thyself with Him (God), and be at peace: thereby good shall come unto thee."

Second: God's desire is for us to experience His peace. Notice verse 18 again. "O that thou hadst hearkened to my commandments! then had thy peace been as a river, and thy righteousness as the waves of the sea." You can hear God's heart in this passage. It was in God's heart all along to bless His people, not curse them. God is for us, not against us! This is good news! Why? Our sin inherited through the headship of Adam, has broken our relationship with God. Sin puts us at odds with a God who is holy beyond our imagination. In our sin, we have nothing to look forward to, except the judgment of God! Until our sin, which separates us from God is removed, there can be no peace with God.

How can it be taken out of the way? The answer is Jesus Christ. We can have peace with God through the shed blood of Jesus Christ upon the cross. Jesus incurred the judgment and wrath of God for our sin, while on the cross. He took our rap! When we by faith trust in the finished work of Jesus Christ on our behalf, we are "justified," or declared righteous by God, and peace returns. Romans 5:1 reads, "Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ."

Salvation brings peace. Our load of guilt is removed because our sin is removed. We no longer walk in fear of judgment or condemnation. John 5:24 says, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on Him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life." Instead of being the enemies of God, Jesus Christ enables us to belong to the family of God, and become citizens of Heaven.

While God does not force us to accept His peace, He has opened the flood gate of peace, so that it reaches every troubled soul! In Acts 10, Peter stands and preaches to the house of Cornelius and says in verse 34b, "Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons:

35 But in every nation he that feareth Him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with Him.

36 The word which God sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ: (He is Lord of all." Peter is declaring that God is "in Christ" reconciling the world to Himself, to both Jews and Gentiles!

This is the peace God desires for you today! When we are saved, this peace with God transforms our lives, especially our relationships with others! We become "peacemakers." Everywhere we go, we seek to extend the peace of God by sharing Jesus Christ. We want everyone to experience this peace like a river!

Third: We often stop the flow of God's peace in our lives through disobedience. Have you ever heard of a dry river bed? I have stood in the middle of what was once a significant river. You can see where the rocks have been worn smooth by the constant current of the river! Rivers can take a detour, or dry up altogether! While we cannot lose our standing with God "in Christ," as Christians, we can sabotage our own personal peace! Notice verse 22 of our text passage. It says, "There is no peace, saith the LORD, unto the wicked."

Everyone desires peace. I do not know anyone of sane mind and decent character, who would chose conflict and chaos over peace.

Many are longing for political peace. This is an election year, and candidates tell people what they want to hear. Promising peace and prosperity stands a better chance of getting you elected. People fear that the nations of the world with their powerful weapons, will annihilate each other. Washington D. C. has a large assortment of peace monuments. They build one after every war! There is always talk of peace, yet today our world is torn by conflict and war. Rhetoric will not change it! We must never forget, the final world ruler, the Anti-christ will speak great swelling words and establish a platform of peace!

People long for personal peace, peace of mind. The local, state, national, and world news is enough to drive us over the edge! Everyday we are bombarded with stories involving terrorist attacks, genocide, rape, murder, natural disasters that threaten us. People are haunted by their own personal demons and histories. Broken lives, dreams, and relationships can rob us of peace. Sad to say, many turn to alcohol and drugs for a temporary sensation of peace.

Others are craving physical or financial peace. The experts tell us to invest wisely for the future, obtaining financial security. They say, "A nest egg will give you peace in hard times." Then we are told to exercise, eat properly, get plenty of rest, and we will live long healthy lives. We can do all this, but the Dow drops, our blood pressure rises, and we quickly move from peace to panic.

Some long for domestic peace. There are many who are plagued by constant conflict and fighting in their homes. Homes can become a battle zone. Conflict with a husband or wife is inevitable in marriage. Wives can forget what it means to submit to their husbands as God's leader in the home. Husbands can forget with it means to love their wives as Christ loved the church, and gave Himself for it. Husbands and wives can become self focused, losing sight of each other, their children, and the welfare of their home! The fact that you are a Christian does not mean that you are immune from such things. Even Christian couples can have second thoughts about their marriage and commitment. There may be some present today, who desire domestic tranquility.

In each situation, most people are waiting for some change to take place so that peace can visit their lives. In their minds, something outside of themselves needs to change, or better yet, someone else needs to change! In their quest for peace, they do not begin with themselves or with God. They desire peace on their own terms!

It is one thing to desire peace, and another to make room for it. Someone said, "All men desire peace, but few desire those things that make for peace." There are enemies of peace. The enemies of peace are fear, ambition, envy, anger, selfishness and pride. When we embrace these, refusing to change, refusing to acknowledge our own sins, we forfeit peace. Don't wait for someone else to change! Don't wait until your circumstances demand you to change. You can have peace of heart and mind right now, but you must experience a change of heart, mind and behavior!

Peace comes through obedience to God and His Word. Verse 18a reads, "O that thou hadst hearkened to my commandments! then had thy peace been as a river." Since God is peace, we must obey His voice, place ourselves in His will for our lives, and surrender to Him, to experience His peace. If there is something you are doing that is contrary to God's Word and will, then stop doing it! If there is something you are not doing that God's Word and Spirit has commanded you to do, then start doing it! True peace comes when we obey God's commandments! In Philippians 4:9 Paul writes, "Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you." When we live in harmony and unity with Jesus the Prince of Peace, we can experience that peace that surpasses all understanding! By surrendering ourselves to Jesus, His strength can become our peace! Erwin Lutzer said, "Emotional peace and calm come after doing God's will, and not before." What do you need to deal with in your life? What do you need to deal with in your home and marriage? Does it seem impossible? If so, remember, God loves impossible situations! God's doing the impossible, begins with you!

Fourth: God's peace can flow again in our lives. The good news is that God had not given up on His people through those seventy years of captivity. God was ready to begin again. Actually the Lord never stopped thinking about them or forfeited His plans for them! Notice the words of the prophet Jeremiah in Jeremiah 29:10. "For thus saith the LORD, That after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place. 11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end." Soon Judah would be released from bondage and that peace would be restored as she returned home. God's will or strong desire for His people, is that they might have "....peace like a river."

What wonderful news! God never stops loving you. You may give up on God, but He never gives up on you. You may stop thinking about God, but He never stops thinking about you. You may stop considering God and including Him in your future plans, but He never stops considering you and including you in His plans. God thoughts, plans and desires are for your peace! God has not given up on you, your home, your marriage, your children, your ministry, or your future!

Verse 22 of our text reads, "There is no peace, saith the Lord unto the wicked." What Isaiah is telling Judah and us today is that without God, there is no peace. There will always be external conflict until Jesus Christ rules from a throne in Jerusalem as King of kings and Lord of lords. There will always be internal conflict until Jesus Christ rules from the throne of your heart. The good news is we can have "peace like a river" in our hearts today through Jesus Christ. The conflict that is in your life today, robs you of peace, but Jesus Christ is greater than that conflict. You can have "peace like a river" today in your life. God's peace like a river is flowing to you today!

Stop and think about yourself for just a moment.

Has there ever been a definite time and place when you asked Jesus Christ into your heart and life, and the God's peace flooded your soul? Have you experienced peace with God through repentance of sin and faith in Jesus Christ? A living relationship with Jesus is the fountainhead of peace!

Is there peace in your heart and life now? Do the enemies of peace, fear, ambition, envy, pride, selfishness and anger roam your heart and thought life? Are you always upset about something or someone? Do you need to grow deeper in your commitment and focus on Jesus Christ?

Is there peace in your home? Are you doing everything you can to bring peace and harmony to your home? God can restore the peace in your home today.

God's peace can flow like a river in your heart today. God's has made the first move toward peace, now it is your move.

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