Where To Find Peace And Joy

By David L. Cooper, Th.M., PH. D., LITT.D.

All non-religious men confess in their moments of sober thinking and honest reflection, that there is a great void in the depths of their souls which the world with all its pleasures and allurements, does not and cannot satisfy. Their innermost nature craves peace, satisfaction, and joy. The turmoil's and disappointments of life draw heavily upon their innermost being, frequently driving many into discouragement and despair, which not infrequently result in many men's attempting to end their troubles by self-destruction.

A second consideration, admitted by all in their earnest reflection upon life, is that man is out of fellowship with God, the Creator and Sustainer of the universe. The thought of dying brings dread and fear to his soul, for his heart and conscience condemn him because he has not been true to that which he knows, in his heart to be right. This consciousness of failure makes him dread coming before the holy, eternal God, his Maker. The question--the most important of all--is, How may I make my peace with God, enjoy life, serve Him and be prepared to meet Him when my life's work is over?

I. The Answer--Through Sacrifice

The question just asked is answered in the Torah, In Lev. 21. God spoke to Moses concerning the priests thus: "For the offerings of Jehovah made by fire, the bread of their [the priest] God, they do offer: therefore they shall be holy." In the ancient Semitic world the heathen considered their offerings and sacrifices as food which they gave to their deities and which the latter were supposed to consume. Thus God, using this common phraseology, spoke of the various sacrifices and offerings which He commanded the priests to offer. Israel, who lapsed constantly into idolatry, often in his thinking, dropped to this low heathen conception of God's offerings. The psalmist (Ps. 50:7-15) corrected this error.

Concerning the burnt offerings, the Lord said that the worshiper should "offer it at the door of the tent of meeting, that he [the one making the sacrifice] may be accepted before Jehovah ... and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him" (Lev. 1:3,4). The word translated "to make atonement" appears in Genesis and refers to covering the ark with pitch. Therefore the primary idea of this word is "to cover." The imagery, when used to refer to atonement, is that this animal sacrifice covers one's sins, hiding them completely from the sight of God. The sacrifice being made by the sincere worshiper and accepted by the Lord, the worshiper no longer needs to dread and to fear since that which alienated him from God has been removed from sight.

"For the life of the flesh is in the blood; and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that maketh atonement by reason of the life." (Lev. 17:11). The animal sacrifices were commanded and demanded of Israel by the Lord in order that atonement might be made. His explanation in this verse, as to why animal sacrifices are necessary is, "For the life of the flesh is in the blood. God is loving, just, righteous and holy. His love and mercy provided a means of atonement: His justice and righteousness demand the punishment for sin--eye for eye--tooth for tooth, and life for life (Lev. 24:18-20).

The same sacrifices, year after year, were made. The recurrence of these yearly sacrifices makes it clear that they were insufficient to atone for man's sins. The very nature of his conscience and innermost being and his innate conception of righteousness and justice teach him that the sacrifice of an animal cannot make atonement and complete satisfaction for man's sins. It takes ten dollars to pay a bill of ten dollars. The sacrifice of a mans son (Micah 6:6,8), because of man's sinful nature, cannot atone for his sins; neither can a man, by giving up his life, redeem his brother (Ps. 49:7-8). Since the sacrifices commanded in the Torah could not atone for man's sins and restore him to complete fellowship with God where he enjoys peace, satisfaction, and joy, God through Isaiah foretold the sacrifice of King Messiah which He would make for man. "Yet it pleased Jehovah to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of Jehovah shall prosper in his hand" (Isa. 53:10). King Messiah, whose atoning death in behalf of Israel and the world is related in Isaiah 52:13-53:12, is God manifest in the flesh, according to Isaiah 7:14, "Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel" Isa. 9:6,7: "For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to establish it, and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from henceforth even for ever" Micah 5:2: "But thou, Bethlehem Ephrathah which art little to be among the thousands of Judah, out of thee shall one come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting." Such a sacrifice as that of King Messiah, He being God in human form, can meet the demands of righteousness and justice and completely satisfy the demands of conscience, bringing peace to the soul.

II. Has Messiah Come and Made This Sacrifice?

Genesis 49:10 is recognized generally as a prophecy of Messiah. Jacob here declares that the sceptre (government) shall not depart from Judah "until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the obedience of the peoples be." Shiloh is the name of Messiah, who, according to this prediction, is to be the King of all nations and whom all shall obey. Since God's Word is absolutely true and every prediction will be fulfilled, it is certain that Messiah came before the destruction of the Jewish nation and the passing away of the civil power of Judah. It is a well-known fact of history that the Jewish nation was destroyed in the year A.D. 70, and that, from that day until May, 1948, it has had no organized government, being scattered among the nations. These facts are incontrovertible. Israel's Messiah, therefore, came before the year A.D. 70. But, according to other predictions (Isa. 53:1-9; Zech. 12:10, etc.), Israel did not recognize Him. Additional proof that He has already come is seen in Daniel's prediction found in Daniel 9:24. From verse 2 it is very clear that the prophet Daniel had read of the seventy years of captivity in Babylon; therefore he was thinking in terms of years and expecting the reign of righteousness at the expiration of these seventy years. The angel Gabriel came and informed him that instead of the coming of the reign of righteousness and peace, there would be seventy weeks (of years) until that era of peace. From verses 25, 26 it is clear that sixty-nine weeks of years, or four hundred and eighty-three years, were to pass from the issuing of the decree to restore Jerusalem, which was made by Cyrus (Isa. 44:24-28; Ezra 1:1-4), unto the execution of Messiah the Prince. Though the chronology of the Persian Period of universal history is very indefinite, it is certain that at the expiration of the four hundred and eighty three years after the issuing of the decree, Messiah was "cut off." From the standpoint of this scripture He has long since come and has been rejected.

Of all the Jewish men who have lived during the period from Cyrus to the present time and who can be considered as a possible candidate for the messianic claims, Jesus of Nazareth is that one. In His life, death, burial, and resurrection, which accounts are found in the Gospels of the New Testament, were fulfilled the hundreds of predictions made by the prophets concerning the humiliation and the rejection of the Messiah. Those prophecies which relate to His glorious kingdom upon the earth, according to many other predictions, will be fulfilled when He returns in glory and power.

III. Receiving Joy and Peace Through Messiah

John the Baptist, of whom Josephus speaks as "a good man" (Antiquities of the Jews, Book 18, Chapter 5), and whose ministry is recorded in the Gospel records, spoke of Jesus saying "Behold, the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29). Jesus was and is the one who was typified by the animal sacrifices of the Torah. Those who realized that He was the atoning Lamb of God and put their trust in Him as the sacrifice for sin were accepted by Him and became children of God. "But as many as received him, to them gave he the right to become children of God, even to them that believe on his name; who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God" (John 1:12,13). Jesus himself declared that "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosever believeth on him should not perish, but have eternal life" (John 3:16). Again the Apostle John declared, "He that believeth on the Son hath eternal life; but he that obeyeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on Him" (John 3:36). To believe on Christ is to be convinced that He was and is the Messiah foretold by the prophets--God manifest in human form--who gave His life a ransom for lost man, and also to trust Him absolutely for salvation peace, and joy. The faith, however, which thus surrenders to Him is, according to the last scripture verse quoted, is an obedient faith, one that cries out, "What shall I do, Lord?" The first act of obedience which the Lord asks of the believer is with the mouth to confess Him openly before men (Rom. 10:8,10), and to confess Him in the open act of baptism (Matt. 28:19,20; Acts 2:38).

The Christian life is a life of faith, a life of obedience. It is a growth in grace and in the knowledge of the truth. God's grace is sufficient for everyone who trusts Him. He will provide all of one's needs richly in Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:19).

He by the Spirit will shed abroad the love of God in the heart (Rom. 5:5) and fill one with joy and peace in believing (Rom. 15:13). The Spirit abiding in the heart of the surrendered, yielded life will produce the fruit of the Spirit, which is "love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, self-control" (Gal. 5:22, 23).

One turns from everything to the Lord to serve the living, and true God and to wait for Jesus, His Son from heaven, who will deliver us from the wrath to come (Thess. 1:9,10).