Are All Peacemakers Blessed?

by Gary W. Summers

All Bible students have the obligation to study the Scriptures to ascertain their true meaning. Many problems in the Lord's church, not to mention the religious world in general, could have been avoided with more of an honest investigation into God's Holy Word. Too often has a verse been lifted out of context and used to establish a position that contradicts numerous other passages. Some have, for example, taken verses which emphasize the grace of God (Ephesians 2:8-9) to mean that obedience is totally unnecessary, despite the fact that Titus 2:11-14 explains what the grace of God actually requires. Some have perverted passages that teach the security of our salvation into the "once saved, always saved" doctrine, which is one of the most easily-refuted errors ever devised by men.

One passage which lends itself to misinterpretation is: "Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God" (Matthew 5:9). Jesus did not mean that all forms of peace are better than all forms of conflict, which becomes obvious just a few chapters later :

"Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to 'set a man against his father; a daughter against her mother , and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law '; and 'a man 's enemies will be those of his own household'" (Matthew 10:34-36).

This is an odd statement for the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6) to make. So we must ask the question: "What kind of peace was Jesus talking about in Matthew 5:9?" He did not refer to political or social peace; He meant spiritual peace, which is obtained through salvation.

The only worthwhile peace is that which results from the knowledge that one's sins have been forgiven. Those on the day of Pentecost knew that, after they repented of their sins and were baptized (Acts 2:38, 41), their sins were forgiven, they were saved, and that they now had peace with God. Saul of Tarsus was certainly plagued by internal conflicts when He discovered that the One Whom he had been persecuting was actually the Lord. He fasted and prayed for three days (Acts 9:9, 11). We can only imagine the anguish he experienced, but it was turned into peace once he arose and was baptized (Acts 9:18).

Those who help bring about peace between God and men are truly blessed. There is nothing greater that could be done for fellow human beings than to bring them to Christ by teaching them the truth about salvation. Some, like Saul, may not know that they are opposed to Jesus; such discord must be made known first, but then genuine peace can be theirs.

Certain types of peace are actually wrong. as evidenced by Jesus' own example. He did not make peace with the Sadducees and the Pharisees, but rather He challenged and exposed their false religious concepts. He called Herod a fox rather than try to placate him (Luke 13:32) and pronounced several woes upon the Pharisees; He even asked the politically incorrect question: "Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell?" (Matthew 23:33). Serpents and brood of vipers were not terms of endearment. One might consider this verse strife-provoking and narrow-minded. It did not result in social peace.

Jehoshaphat, the Misguided Peacemaker

Over all Jehoshaphat was a good king: "And he walked in all the ways of his father Asa. He did not turn aside from them, doing what was right in the eyes of the LORD" (I Kings 22:43). This description is truly commendable, and there are not many kings that received such high praise. Surely, such faithfulness encompasses many areas of life in which the king exercised a positive influence in the lives of the people.

As with most kings, however, certain imperfections characterized Jehoshaphat. We read further: "Nevertheless the high places were not taken away, for the people offered sacrifices and burned incense on the high places" (1 Kings 22:43). His father Asa had done a great deal to rid the nation of idolatry: "for he removed the altars of the foreign gods and the high places, and broke down the sacred pillars and cut down the wooden images. He commanded Judah to seek the LORD God of their fathers, and to observe the law and the commandment. He also removed the high places and the incense altars from all the cities of Judah, and the kingdom was quiet under him" (II Chronicles 14: 3-5). "Also he removed Maachah, the mother of Asa the king, from being queen mother, because she had made an obscene image of Asherah; and Asa cut down her obscene image, then crushed and burned it by the Brook Kidron" (II Chronicles 15:16).

In the latter part of Asa's reign, some of the high places must have been restored, and Jehoshaphat allowed them to go unchallenged. This was certainly a flaw in an otherwise excellent reign as king. The Scriptures provide us one other complaint, however, against this ruler: "Also Jehoshaphat made peace with the king of Israel" (1 Kings 22:44).

One might not expect to see making peace with a neighboring king listed as a fault, but when the king is as evil as Ahab, one can immediately understand God's rationale. Under normal circumstances, obtaining political peace would be praiseworthy. In this instance, however, Ahab was an evil man, who allowed his wife to kill the prophets of the Lord (I Kings 18:13), as well as the innocent man, Naboth (I Kings 21:1-16). The responsibility for his death cannot be put off entirely on Jezebel; surely, Ahab had some inkling of the means by which she would obtain his vineyard. Elijah was told by God to ask Ahab: "Have you murdered and also taken possession?" (I Kings 21:19).

Jezebel (whose name means "chaste," one of the most obvious misnomers in the Bible), actively supported idolatry. The 850 idolatrous prophets of Baal and Asherah ate at her table (I Kings 18:19). When Elijah killed the 450 prophets of Baal. Jezebel vowed vengeance against him (I Kings 19:1-2).

In what ways did Jehoshaphat make peace with Ahab? We first read of a tremendous mistake that the king made: "Jehoshaphat had riches and honor in abundance; and by marriage he allied himself with Ahab" (II Chronicles 18:1). It may be that he thought this action was politically expedient — that it might stave off war. But one must consider all things when making important decisions, including, "Is this idea in harmony with what God thinks? Will He be pleased if I do it?" Although it may have seemed politically wise, the alliance was spiritually foolish. Why would anyone want to be linked with the most morally and spiritually corrupt monarch ever?

Did Jehoshaphat think of the effects this marriage would have on the people of Judah? Did he not consider that it might cause them to be more tolerant of idolatry? Certainly, he did not consider the future of Judah or the welfare of his own son. Athaliah, the daughter of Ahab and Jezebel, was no spiritual encouragement to her husband Jehoram (Jehoshaphat's son). He became so evil that "the Lord struck him in his intestines with an incurable disease" (II Chronicles 21:18). When he died, "his people made no burning for him, like the burning for his fathers" (v. 19). Sadly, we read: "He reigned in Jerusalem eight years and, to no one's sorrow, departed. However they buried him in the city of David, but not in the tombs of the kings" (v. 20).

Not only did Athaliah fail to help her husband, but when her son Ahaziah was killed, she attempted to kill all the remaining royal offspring. And she succeeded — except for one who was rescued and hidden for six years (II Chronicles 22:10-12). Athaliah ruled over the land during that time, usurping the throne and exercising total power until the rightful heir was established at the age of seven. Jehoshaphat probably never imagined such events, but he made them all possible by allying his son by marriage with the house of Ahab — by making peace.

But Jehoshaphat went even further than the marriage partnership; he went up to visit Ahab and agreed to fight with him against an enemy: "I am as you are, my people as your people, my horses as your horses" (I Kings 22:4). What? This display of poor judgment nearly cost him his life (I Kings 22:32-33). Ahab was killed in the battle, but as Jehoshaphat journeyed home, Jehu the seer met him and asked him: "Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the LORD? Therefore the wrath of the LORD is upon you" (II Chronicles 19:2). The king should never have made peace with Ahab because the king of Israel was a wicked and idolatrous man. He was spiritually and morally perverted, and God's servants have no business making peace with such an individual.

A far better example is seen in the actions of Jehu the king. Actually, although he had been anointed king by Elisha (II Kings 9:1-10), Joram, Ahab's son, remained king in Israel, although he had been wounded. King Ahaziah from Judah was up visiting him when Jehu came to avenge the blood of the prophets upon Ahab's house. As he drove furiously toward Jezreel, two emissaries rode out to him, and asked him: "Is it peace?" Jehu rode on past them (2 Kin. 9:17-19).

Finally, Joram and Ahaziah rode out to meet him; Joram asked, "Is it peace, Jehu?" (v. 22). Jehu might have answered: "Why, yes, I can think of nothing more important than peace existing in the kingdom. After all, if we do not have a solid, united front, all of our enemies will try to take advantage of us. Peace in Israel is probably the highest priority we should have. The things we have in common far outweigh all of our differences." But Jehu did not utter those words; instead he said: "What peace, as long as the harlotries of your mother Jezebel and her witchcraft are so many?" (v. 22).

Unlike Jehoshaphat, who was faulted for making peace with the king of Israel, Jehu killed both kings and then came to the gate of Jezreel. Jezebel sarcasticallyasked Jehu: "Is it peace, Zimri, murderer of your master?" (v. 31). She had seen the killing of her son and knew full well what was intended against her. Jehu did not relent and say: "Yes, I have dispatched two monarchs today; it is time for peace." He knew that she was the source of Israel's problems (despite A & E's March 25, 2002, attempt to exonerate her by gathering favorable opinions of her from liberal "Biblical scholars" on Biography). Jehu asked: "Who is on my side? Who?" He demanded them to cast Jezebel down the wall, which they did (v. 32-33). Truly, there is "a time to kill," "a time of war, and a time of peace" (Ecclesiastes 3:3, 8).

Jehu refused to be at peace with God's enemies, but Jehoshaphat failed in that regard. After Ahab's death (but before Joram came to power), another of Ahab's sons reigned briefly. Jehoshaphat tried to ally himself with this wicked king also in a business venture. They were building ships to go to Tarshish, but God destroyed them (II Chronicles 20:35-37).

Jehoshaphat accomplished many good things for the people of Judah; he trusted in God, but he had this flaw of wanting to make peace with those who hate the Lord. Christians are warned in the New Testament: "Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God" (James 4:4). Neither are we to assist anyone who does not abide in the teachings of Christ (II John 9-11).

We ought to pursue peace with all who are striving to serve God; peacemakers are greatly needed in the kingdom. We should be peacemakers in the sense of leading the lost to Christ. We need, however, to avoid at every opportunity the invitation to make peace (compromise) with the world or with false teachers. God has set standards of doctrine and morality for us to match. May all of the children of God labor with diligence to, above all else, be at peace with Him.