Shalom is best understood as peace with God.
Once again, the only way to see this is in the context of covenants. Peace with God is not a reward; it is a context we are driven to build. It is the protective shade of Eden, available only by hanging around the gate where the Flaming Sword stands waiting.
The only proper way to tell of this is through parables, symbols, figures of speech taken from the Bible. The whole idea with the Flaming Sword is that you turn that blade on your own fallen nature. It’s the same idea as nailing your fleshly nature to the Cross. The Flaming Sword is simply the older symbol from Genesis, while the Cross is the foundation of the New Testament. Either way, the whole point of God’s redemptive revelation is to bring you to the point of self-death.
There is a proximity factor here. The closer you get to God’s truth, the better things can be. The whole idea of the Law Covenants was to draw you closer to Eden. You can gain some measure of blessing without quite reaching the threshold of self-death. But the whole point was to bring you to that place where you no longer trust your fleshly capabilities. You should stop trusting your talents, intelligence, and human reason to answer the important questions. The only valid answer is divine revelation.
Eden represents full and natural communion with God in an unfallen condition. It’s what we were designed for from the moment of Creation. It has us in a form that is not bound by space-time, but can move within it. This the meaning behind the image of the Tree of Life. Adam and Eve bought into the lie of Satan that their own human capabilities were enough to judge what was morally good and evil. The Tree of the Knowledge, with its the Forbidden Fruit, represents judging good and evil without reference to God’s revelation. We were designed to operate under communion with the Holy Spirit through our hearts; our hearts are supposed to dominate our intellects.
So the Fall was closing off our minds from our hearts, and ignoring that “still small voice” in our souls that knows the truth instinctively. Where we stand today, we’ve had our minds trained and conditioned by centuries of lies. We are far, far from the shady borders of Eden. We have labored and all we have is thistles and thorns, nothing really useful for our human existence. We cannot enjoy the shade of Eden until we move back in that direction. The question is: How good is your shelter from God’s wrath on sin? Moral nakedness is full exposure to wrath. Eden’s garden canopy is a complete shelter, but the Law Covenants were meant to provide partial covering, to get us on the right path (skins instead of fig leaves). The path of revelation brings us closer to Eden. A partial truth will work better than none at all. The whole point of the Law Covenants is then to get us moving in the right direction, back toward Eden.
The Law of Moses offered blessings for those who would not walk the whole way. The blessings of shalom are there in part for those whose consciousness never fully awakens to the moral sphere. An element in that partial blessing is living with folks who have been fully awakened. That’s part of the proximity principle that makes evangelism and missions so powerful.
Thus, as far as the fallen world is concerned, shalom carries a massive element of pragmatism. It is in this sense that “all truth is God’s truth.” Figuring out how this reality actually works is a part of shalom and some elements are within reach of minds that are simply closer to divine revelation. This is why we can characterize shalom as “social stability.” In broad terms, whatever social stability God offers under Biblical Law is the best anyone can hope for without Christ.
We further break shalom down into comfortable prosperity, better health and disease resistance, safety from human and natural threats, and a stable social order based on how humans are actually designed. Biblical Law is more practical than anything humans can cook up without revelation, though the two will surely overlap some. For example, the Red Pill men’s movement does reflect to some degree the biblical truth of human nature after the Fall. The Red Pill will not give you the full wisdom of distinguishing between divine design and what we have because of the Curse of the Fall, but it will explain what we are facing right now in terms of human nature. There are a whole range of things where we can find revelation overlapping with things humans can discern, if they begin moving back toward Eden.
Dare I say that shalom also blesses things like tech support and sanity with using computers? Or that shalom includes good automotive maintenance? This is along with communion and peace with the natural world, and good stewardship of natural resources.
A critical element in Biblical Law is how to make the most of the situation after the Fall. The best way to deal with that is to begin the process of weakening the fleshly nature and strengthening the divine nature we all have. Jesus on the Cross paid for a shortcut to the breakpoint of self-death, but that in turn is a call to then spend the rest of our human lives restoring the reign of revelation through our hearts. Church is the place where we gather and study how to implement shalom. There is no other accomplishment that matters; church is not about growing in membership, wealth or social/political influence. Those are nice things, but not the goal. It’s all about shalom as the divine heritage we reclaim.
Let’s not get lost in artificial absolutism. There is no perfect paradise on this earth. The realization of shalom is meant to be fuzzy, not sharply defined. It involves multiple people with their own individual callings and missions. It cannot conform to any human notions of precision. People inclined away from revelation should be able to ignore the difference it makes to serve the Lord. There has to be a measure of deniability because shalom requires volition. God will not violate the freedom of conscience in terms of living in this fallen world. Thus, our shalom is a matter of good or better, but perfection is not even on the map.
Our God is not a brittle and sharp objective standard; He is a real Person with a dynamic and flowing relationship we would expect from any person.