‘Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.’ John 14:27.
The ESV footnote says: “The expression peace (Hb. shalom) had a much richer connotation than the English word does since it conveyed not merely the absence of conflict and turmoil but also the notion of positive blessing, especially in terms of a right relationship with God.” It then refers the reader to the following Scriptures:
‘The LORD bless you and keep you;
the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.’ Numbers 6:24-26.
‘May the LORD give strength to his people!
May the LORD bless his people with peace!’ Psalm 29:11.
‘The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former, says the LORD of hosts. And in this place I will give peace, declares the LORD of hosts.’ Haggai 2:9.
The ESV continues: “(It) also conveys the idea that “all is well” in one’s life. This may be manifested most clearly amid persecution and tribulation”. It points the reader to John 15:18-19:
‘If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.’
and John 16:33:
‘I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.’
The idea of shalom – peace in the midst of the storm – has been illustrated beautifully in the hymn ‘It is well with my soul’ which was written by a Chicago lawyer, Horatio G. Spafford. The story of the writing of the hymn is as follows:
Horatio G. Spafford and his wife, Anna, were pretty well-known in 1860’s Chicago. And this was not just because
of Horatio’s legal career and business endeavors. The Spaffords were also prominent supporters and close
friends of D.L. Moody, the famous preacher. In 1870, however, things started to go wrong. The Spaffords’ only
son was killed by scarlet fever at the age of four. A year later, it was fire rather than fever that struck. Horatio
had invested heavily in real estate on the shores of Lake Michigan. In 1871, every one of these holdings was
wiped out by the great Chicago Fire.
Aware of the toll that these disasters had taken on the family, Horatio decided to take his wife and four
daughters on a holiday to England. And, not only did they need the rest — DL Moody needed the help. He was
traveling around Britain on one of his great evangelistic campaigns. Horatio and Anna planned to join Moody in
late 1873. And so, the Spaffords traveled to New York in November, from where they were to catch the French
steamer ‘Ville de Havre’ across the Atlantic. Yet just before they set sail, a last-minute business development
forced Horatio to delay. Not wanting to ruin the family holiday, Spafford persuaded his family to go as planned.
He would follow on later. With this decided, Anna and her four daughters sailed East to Europe while Spafford
returned West to Chicago. Just nine days later, Spafford received a telegram from his wife in Wales. It read:
On November 2nd 1873, the ‘Ville de Havre’ had collided with ‘The Lochearn’, an English vessel. It sank in only
12 minutes, claiming the lives of 226 people. Anna Spafford had stood bravely on the deck, with her daughters
Annie, Maggie, Bessie and Tanetta clinging desperately to her. Her last memory had been of her baby being
torn violently from her arms by the force of the waters. Anna was only saved from the fate of her daughters by a
plank which floated beneath her unconscious body and propped her up. When the survivors of the wreck had
been rescued, Mrs. Spafford’s first reaction was one of complete despair. Then she heard a voice speak to her,
“You were spared for a purpose.” And she immediately recalled the words of a friend, “It’s easy to be grateful
and good when you have so much, but take care that you are not a fair-weather friend to God.”
Upon hearing the terrible news, Horatio Spafford boarded the next ship out of New York to join his bereaved
wife. Bertha Spafford (the fifth daughter of Horatio and Anna born later) explained that during her father’s
voyage, the captain of the ship had called him to the bridge. “A careful reckoning has been made”, he said, “and
I believe we are now passing the place where the de Havre was wrecked. The water is three miles deep.” Horatio
then returned to his cabin and penned the lyrics of his great hymn.
The words which Spafford wrote that day come from 2 Kings 4:26. They echo the response of the Shunammite
woman to the sudden death of her only child. Though we are told “her soul is vexed within her”, she still
maintains that ‘It is well.” And Spafford’s song reveals a man whose trust in the Lord is as unwavering as hers