“You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” (Isaiah 26:3) 

Sometimes a single verse stops me in my tracks. A friend had posted this verse – Isaiah 26:3 – on his Facebook feed this week and it simply leapt out at me. It came as a word of comfort, a word of great reassurance, a word of enabling strength. I went on to read it in some other translations for the extra insights they might give. The Complete Jewish Bible has a lovely way of putting this verse: “A person whose desire rests on You, You preserve in perfect peace, because he trusts in You.” It fills my mind with an image of relaxing into the arms of the Lord, of being enfolded in God’s embrace, of being protected by His strong arms around me and shielding me.  

The Orthodox Jewish Bible, a Hebrew text, gives further insight and imagery: You will “keep him in shalom shalom, whose yetzer (mind-set) is stayed on You.” Our English language translations of “perfect peace” or “complete peace” reflect the repeated and emphatic use of ‘shalom’ in the Hebrew. The Hebrew text implies that God gives a ‘double peace’ or a ‘peaceful peace’ or ‘the peace of all peace’ to those whose mind-set is fixed on the Lord. How lovely: God gives us a supreme peace, an all-encompassing peace, an overwhelming peace for the strife, the struggles and the sorrows that oppress us.

And that word ‘yetzer’ refers to much more than a one-off resolve or decision or choice formed in the midst of a crisis. It speaks of our consistent impulse or core inclination being a yearning for God, a reaching out to Him, a steady desire to hold on to God. Our ‘yetzer’ can be an inclination for good (yetzer ha tov) or an inclination for evil (yetzer hara). It is matched by God’s yetzer to bring us always to a place of peace, of blessing, of safety, of good: “in all things God works for the good of those who love him” (Romans 8:28). 

May we each be kept in God’s overwhelming peace of all peace. May we each be unwavering in desiring God and His goodness. 

“Peace, perfect peace, in this dark world of sin?
The blood of Jesus whispers peace within. 

“Peace, perfect peace, by thronging duties pressed?
To do the will of Jesus, this is rest. 

“Peace, perfect peace, death shadowing us and ours?
Jesus has vanquished death and all its powers. 

“Peace, perfect peace, our future all unknown?
Jesus we know, and he is on the throne. 

“It is enough: earth’s struggles soon shall cease,
and Jesus call to heaven’s perfect peace.” 

(Edward Henry Bickersteth 1825 – 1906, written in 1875 as he kept vigil at the bedside of a dying relative)