As the pilgrims journeyed toward the holy city, they were thirsty for peace. It was more than just a passing concern for them; peace is a steady theme throughout the ascent psalms (122:6-8, 125:5, 128:6). It’s fitting that as they approached Jerusalem (“the city of peace”), they sought the greater, higher peace of God. In the same way, we look forward to the complete peace of heaven.
Until then, there’s work to do.
The work of peace starts and is sustained with the recognition that there is no real peace, nor can there be, apart from God. As simple and straightforward as this is, it is also true that we are bombarded daily with narratives suggesting otherwise. The news media, music we listen to, movies we watch, influencers on social media are all increasingly feeding us spiritually bereft storylines. Eugene Peterson notes how:
. . . they claim to tell us who we are and omit everything about our origin in God and our destiny in God. They talk about the world without telling us that God made it. They tell us about our bodies without telling us that they are the temples of the Holy Spirit. They instruct us in love without telling us about the God who loves us and gave Himself for us.
This is why Psalm 120 begins with the writer calling “on the Lord in my distress” (v. 1). It is a distress fueled by the “lying lips” and “deceitful tongues” that suggest ways of understanding and viewing life that don’t include God. Any explanation like this does not lead to peace—it “hates peace” (v. 6) and promotes “war” (v. 7). Harsh words to be sure, but there’s little point in mincing words when you are distressed and in need of peace.
No God, no peace.
Know God, know peace.
“You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve. Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:67-68).