Translating Peace

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He shall command peace to the nations. Zechariah 9:10

In every nation anyone who fears God and does what is right is acceptable to him. You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ—he is Lord of all. Acts 10:35–36


A seminary professor of mine used to say “all translators are liars.”

By this, he meant that the cliche is true…a lot really is lost in translation. Linguistically or culturally, there is no such things as perfect, straight translation. Every language has a cultural setting, and every idea has a historical setting…and unless time is taken to research both, much can be lost when translating across languages, cultures, or eras.

In the short verse from Zechariah, there is a phrase that carried a lot of meaning in its original context. “The nations” (Goyim in Hebrew) referred to “the Gentiles,” a phrase that simply means “everyone who isn’t Jewish.” In the worldview of the writer of Zechariah, there are two kinds of people in the world; Jews, and everyone else who isn’t Jewish.

Multiple times in the book of Isaiah, the chosen people are described as “a light to the nations,” (Isa. 42:1, 6 & 49:6) reflecting the idea that part of Israel’s calling was to spread the light and peace of the Messiah to the entire created world. The Zechariah passage above would be easy to just read over quickly without this backstory. In light of the entire arc of Israel’s story, these few words carry a lot of weight. God will command peace to the nations…through the Messiah, and through the chosen people. This is clear in the Acts passage; the Messiah isn’t just for the Jews. He is Lord of all. Peace is for all.

Today, these passages remind me that I am called to be a person of peace, regardless of the situations in which I find myself. In fact, my life can BE the translation of God’s love and peace into those situations. Between right now and when I fall asleep tonight, I will be presented with many opportunities to choose peace…as will you. May we hold each other in prayer today…that we stay true to the calling we have…a calling that stretches back to our spiritual ancestors. May we be people of peace today, reflecting that peace in ways small and great. After all, Christ is Lord of all.


God, make me a person of peace today. When I am in situations in which it would be easier to react, give me pause. When I am with people who frustrate me, soften my heart. When I feel overwhelmed, remind me I am part of something so much larger than the situations I face, because I am a small part of your love and peace flooding the world. Help me to be part of that flood today. Amen.


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