Brit Hadashah Reflections 48
Hebraic understanding of the Apostolic letters
1 Peter 2 : 1 to 3 : 22
Peter needs little introduction! A giant of the faith. Bold, flawed, loyal, boisterous, impetuous, enthusiastic, spokesman, obedient to his calling. He was a leader to be admired and a study of his life is rewarding. A fervent Torah observant Jewish believer who met face to face with the resurrected Messiah, with a strong desire to see followers of Yeshua live lives worthy of their calling. This letter was probably written from Rome in the mid 60’s C.E. and it remains something of a mystery that Peter does not mention the Apostle Paul in his letters, other than to comment on the difficulty in understanding his letters! (2 Peter 3:15, 16)
In my Bible today’s reading begins with the word “therefore”. That means it has relevance to what has immediately gone before it. So it would be wise to check that out. The key is in 1 Peter 1:16 and 23. “Be holy, for I am holy” and “having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible through the word of God.” “Therefore”, Peter said, “desire the pure milk of the word that you may grow thereby.” Now let’s get some perspective here. This letter is written to the Jewish communities in the ‘diaspora’ (the dispersion). Specifically, Peter writes to believers, messianic Jews. What was the “word” that was to ‘be desired’ for their spiritual growth? The only “word” they had of course. The Hebrew Scriptures. Certainly they might also have read Paul’s encouraging teaching letters (which Peter thought were difficult to understand!) but they were not ‘the Scriptures’ of that time.
Peter’s expectation was that as these believing Jews, being chosen by God and precious, grew in the ‘pure milk of the word’ and then became as living stones, a holy priesthood, used in building a ‘spiritual house’ where spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God through Yeshua, were offered. It is difficult for gentile believers today to grasp that concept, but Jews have no difficulty with it. Offering prayers and thanks to God three times every day is still the common practise of orthodox Jews. If nothing else, it is the sacrifice of ones time to spend with God, but it is much more than that. The references in Isaiah and Psalms about ‘the chief cornerstone’, the foundation of this ‘spiritual house’, is obvious to believers today, as indeed it was to the diaspora believers. Paul wrote in Romans 11:25 about the ‘blindness in part’ of the Jew, which we believe prevents them today from understanding that Yeshua is that ‘chief cornerstone’. But I am concerned for the part we might play in obscuring His identity too! It is very well to talk about Him as the Messiah of God, but when He is presented to them as one who abolished the Torah, the very word which Peter proclaims to be the ‘pure milk of the word’, I think we are treading on extremely ‘thin ice’. And finally Peter charges them with the fact that the point at which change occurs, when ‘stumbling’ (unbelief, walking in darkness, disobedience to the word) ceases, is the point at which they become ‘the people of God’. It is absolutely no different for us. The point at which our ‘stumbling’ (unbelief, walking in darkness, disobedience to the word) ceases, we become “a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people.”
Peter took time to spell out the way such persons should behave in the society in which they lived. He progressed from the exhortation to live as examples, with a good reputation among our fellow citizens, to the need (in chapter 3) for exemplary conduct in our homes. The relationship between husband and wife is personal. Many husbands enthusiastically embrace Peter’s exhortation as he addressed wives. “do not let your adornment be merely outward – rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.” but are less enthusiastic when he addressed the husband’s responsibility. (on a personal note, I pay tribute to my own wife, who was no ‘shrinking violet’! but through a very long marriage exhibited such love and wisdom in her conduct in our home, drawing great love and respect to herself from my whole family in return) It is all brought together when Peter said “Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tender-hearted, be courteous, etc.”
One of the most quotable verses of Scripture came from the pen of Peter in this letter. “Sanctify Messiah as Lord (Nestle-Aland Greek text) in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defence to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear (reverence).” The word ‘sanctify’ means consecrate, set apart for worship, treat with great care, value immensely. And just before this Peter quoted from the Psalms, with which I close this ‘refection’. Could it be that a person who really does “Sanctify Messiah as Lord” would not need words of his own to convey the message of salvation because his life would be living testimony of the ‘hope that is in him’? The Psalmist needs no comment from me.
“He who would love life and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips from speaking deceit. Let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous. And His ears are open to their prayers; but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”