Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: (Hebrews 12:14, NKJV)
Peace without holiness is a facade that quickly falls away when rattled by the stresses and trials of life. Just as buildings crumble under the force of an earthquake, peace is shattered where holiness does not hold it together. Peace is much more than brokering a truce between enemies. Genuine peace is not merely the absence of conflict. Lasting peace includes the presence of tranquility and harmony. For peace to exist and thrive, Christians must inject the purity of holiness into every situation and relationship. Our text says to chase after peace with everybody. Another inspired text says, “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:18). So, let us couple our pursuit of peace with the pursuit of holiness. Allowing holiness to direct our words and deeds will promote the peace we pursue. Unholy anger, bitterness and resentment will only sabotage the peace we intend to seek. Furthermore, without holiness, we will not see the Lord, who is holy (1 Peter 1:13-16).
1 The righteous perishes, and no man takes it to heart; Merciful men are taken away, while no one considers that the righteous is taken away from evil. 2 He shall enter into peace; They shall rest in their beds, each one walking in his uprightness. (Isaiah 57:1–2, NKJV)
Because Israel’s watchmen were blind and silent, the righteous among them perished. There was no mercy in the land; sin and suffering had taken control of the land. The death of the righteous was a blessing in disguise. By death, the righteous were extracted from the impending calamity of judgment brought on by the nation’s sins. We can get so wrapped up in thinking about life here and now, that we forget the blessing death will bring. For sure, death brings sorrow of loss and separation. But Christians see it as much more. For the righteous, death gives passage away from merciless evil, to a place of rest and comfort (Luke 16:19-25). Let us view death as an exit and an entrance. Death is our exit from a sin-filled world, and our entrance into joyful peace. “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints” (Psalm 116:15). May we walk in uprightness, and see the blessedness of death’s deliverance from pain, into an abiding rest for the soul.
11 Yes, they are greedy dogs which never have enough. And they are shepherds who cannot understand; They all look to their own way, every one for his own gain, from his own territory. 12 “Come,” one says, “I will bring wine, and we will fill ourselves with intoxicating drink; Tomorrow will be as today, and much more abundant.” (Isaiah 56:11–12, NKJV)
By the time Isaiah spoke God’s word to a rebellious people, the prophets, priests and kings of Israel had become consumed with greed, self-interest and sinful indulgence. Instead of being God’s watchmen, warning Israel of danger, they were blinded by personal gain (Isaiah 56:10). The shepherds were fleecing God’s sheep (Ezekiel 34:1-6). The Lord God brought His judgment upon them for their faithless dereliction of duty (Ezekiel 34:7-10). Today, those who are charged with leading God’s people, teaching and warning them from God’s word of sin’s danger, must refuse the temptation of personal advancement and lure of personal gain. Elders of churches have become corporate CEOs tending capital, instead of shepherds tending souls (Hebrews 13:17; Acts 20:28). Gospel preaching has become a career path, instead of a servant’s calling (2 Timothy 4:1-5). All the while, Christians starve for spiritual guidance, while “greedy dogs” indulge themselves. Harsh words? This warning is intended to convict and convert, lest a worse fate befall all who serve themselves, instead of serving the Lord and His people.
9 All you beasts of the field, come to devour, all you beasts in the forest. 10 His watchmen are blind, they are all ignorant; They are all dumb dogs, they cannot bark; Sleeping, lying down, loving to slumber. (Isaiah 56:9–10, NKJV)
A watchdog that cannot bark is not a good watchdog. When the devouring beasts approach the sheep, the watchdog must be able to see the danger and bark a warning to prevent the sheep from being devoured. A blind watchman cannot successfully fulfill his job. Watchmen who do not warn of spiritual danger, are blind. This was a real problem in ancient Israel; the watchmen were blinded by ignorance, and silent in the face of danger. They loved to comfort themselves, and were not ready and watchful to warn of the spiritual dangers of idolatry and immorality. In our time, God has put watchmen on the walls of Zion (pastors, evangelists, and every Christian). God’s watchmen must be vigilant to warn of spiritual danger. When they refuse to do so, fearful of jeopardizing their personal comfort, they are like Israel’s blind watchmen. They have become “dumb dogs.” The church is exposed to spiritual dangers when her watchmen do not “bark” and warn of the enemy’s approach (1 Peter 5:8). Sound the warnings against worldliness, false teaching and spiritual complacency. Be God’s watchman; not a dumb dog.
I have set watchmen on your walls, O Jerusalem; They shall never hold their peace day or night. You who make mention of the Lord, do not keep silent, (Isaiah 62:6, NKJV)
Jehovah’s prophet, Isaiah, speaks of the heavenly Jerusalem, God’s people under the new covenant of Christ (Galatians 4:24-26; Hebrews 12:22). This is a prophetic reference to the church of Christ. God is pictured giving protective watch care over His people. Just as ancient cities had watchmen on their walls to warn of approaching danger, the Lord God has equipped His church with watchmen, who watch for our souls. Elders in every church “watch out for your souls” (Hebrews 13:17). Gospel preachers are to be “watchful in all things” (2 Timothy 4:5). Each Christian is to “watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong” (1 Corinthians 16:13). Christians watch for spiritual danger to themselves, and to their brethren. What a blessing it is to be warned of spiritual danger! God’s watchmen “never hold their peace” as they speak of the Lord and His salvation. God has placed on the walls of Zion. Instead of refusing the watchman’s warnings of sin, hear and heed the warnings given from the Lord. To do so is to accept God’s protection of your soul.
28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. 29 For our God is a consuming fire. (Hebrews 12:28–29, NKJV)
The kingdom of God will not be destroyed by evil men under the power of the devil. It is a spiritual kingdom that endures, even as the kingdoms of men fall (Daniel 2:44). Therefore, Christians are to live unshakable lives of faith. We graciously serve God according to His will, to be accepted by Him (whether or not people accept us). Our service is to be marked by awe and pious dread of displeasing our God. Boisterous, impious, irreverent conduct is not acceptable service to our holy God. We are kingdom citizens and kingdom servants, remembering our place before our King. God is a “consuming fire” against all who do not fear Him and fail to faithfully serve Him. Make no mistake; God does not favor those who dishonor Him with disobedient, sinful and shameful living. He will punish sin, even as He reward the faithful. Choose wisely, and serve the King acceptably.
But if you do not do so, then take note, you have sinned against the Lord; and be sure your sin will find you out. (Numbers 32:23, NKJV)
The tribes of Israel, which on the east side of the Jordan River, were commanded by God to help their brethren subdue the land of the Canaanites before settling their own territory (Num. 32:20-22). Failure to obey the Lord’s will would mean they had “sinned against the Lord.” Omitting God’s will from our lives is sin against God (James 4:17). Furthermore, we cannot hide our sins from God. We are accountable to Him for every one of our sins. We may hide our sins from others, but we will answer for every one of them to Almighty God. Everything is open to His eyes (Hebrews 4:13). This becomes an incentive for us to “lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us” so that we may “run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1).