So we’ve started a study on Peter’s first letter to the churches in Asia Minor, and we’re going to be learning how to have grace and peace in abundance.
“Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,
To God’s elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia…” (1 Peter 1:1).
We learned that these “strangers” were part of the diaspora, the dispersed of the twelve tribes of Israel who had been scattered by God because of their disobedience to His commands. The book of Hosea lists at least five sins for which God scattered them:
- Celebrating God’s feasts on the wrong days and in ways other than how God had commanded (Hosea 2:11; Hosea 5:7; 1 Kings 12:32-33).
- Praying to and offering sacrifices to false gods, statues and wooden idols (Hosea 2:17; Hosea 4:12-13).
- “Cursing, lying and murder, stealing and adultery” (Hosea 4:2).
- Rejecting the Law of God (Hosea 4:6).
- Breaking the covenant they had made with God (Hosea 8:1).
We learned that even though they were scattered from one end of the earth to the other (Hosea 8:8 says they were “swallowed up among the nations”), God had a merciful plan in His mind.
“…who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father…” (1 Peter 1:2).
So long ago, God knew that He would make a covenant with His people, even though they would not be faithful to Him!
Just ponder that for a second. What if I had a special gift, a very expensive and fragile vase, to give to my dear daughter, and yet when I gave it to her, she threw it to the floor and stomped on it, smashing it to pieces? What would I do? I would be crushed! Heartbroken! Not only because she rejected my gift, but also because she would be rejecting me, too.
But what if I knew that she would reject me? What if I were able to see ahead into time and knew… yet I gave it to her anyway?
And what if I figured out a way to pay for the broken vase, to replace it with something even better, and to most of all, restore our relationship? And knowing all this, I chose to give it to her anyway?
God, in His mercy, made a plan for redeeming His lost and scattered people. And beyond that, as they mixed with the nations, God’s precious gospel went out to all people, both Israelite and Gentiles alike.
“I, YHWH, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles” (Isaiah 42:6).
“Through him we received grace and apostleship to call all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith for his name’s sake” (Romans 1:5).
“…the message I proclaim about Jesus Christ, in keeping with the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all the Gentiles might come to the obedience that comes from faith” (Romans 16:25-26).
So this is why I feel like this book was written just for me. These people were scattered because of sin, but because they were scattered, the gospel was also spread. I also received mercy!
So from here on out, I’m going to speak as if this book were written just for me. “I have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father.”
More Than Just Chosen
The Father did more than just choose me, of course. I don’t wake up in the morning and just choose a pair of shoes. I choose them for a purpose. I plan to go somewhere with them. 🙂
“…through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood: Grace and peace be yours in abundance” (1 Peter 1:2).
God has a “sanctifying” work for me, too. (To sanctify means to set apart for a special purpose.) He has set me apart.
What does Peter say this purpose is?
- Obedience to Jesus Christ
- Sprinkling by His blood
And Peter says that when we accomplish this purpose, grace and peace will be ours in abundance.
Oh! Grace and peace in abundance! I want that! So it is vital that I figure out my purpose!
This word is hupakoē in the Greek. It means to hear or to listen attentively.
It’s funny, because as I was writing this, my son Andrew came in to ask if he could play on Lego Digital Designer on the computer. He had already used his computer time today, but he was hoping maybe he could get on a little bit longer.
But I was busy copying and pasting verses from 1 Peter, and looking up the Greek meaning of words like hupakoē , so the whole time he was asking me, I was mumbling and saying, “Mmm hmm…”
“Really, Mom?! I can get back on the computer? Really?”
Needless to say, I wasn’t listening very attentively. 🙂
Scripture says that lots of us have this problem.
“Son of man, you are living among a rebellious people. They have eyes to see but do not see and ears to hear but do not hear, for they are a rebellious people” (Ezekiel 12:2).
Our very youngest son has an auditory processing disorder that makes him sensitive to loud sounds. We’ve been taught that we need to work with him to:
- Hear the words
- Hear the meaning
- Hear the implication (source)
I think this is so good. His ears can hear, but he might not understand what we’re saying. He might understand what we’re saying, but he might not want to take action.
Only when he hears and understands and takes action is he fully obeying us.
God was very careful to make sure His people heard His Words, understood their meaning, and understood the implications if they did or did not obey. In Exodus 24, we read how He gathered them all around Mount Sinai, He had lots of thunder and lightning to really grab their attention, and in fact, He spared no expense or trouble to make sure they were listening.
“When Moses went and told the people all YHWH’s words and laws, they responded with one voice, ‘Everything YHWH has said we will do.’ Moses then wrote down everything YHWH had said” (Exodus 24:3-4).
And this happened more than once! And each time, they people agreed that they had heard, they had understood, and they would do.
And Peter says that if we will listen attentively by obeying, we will have grace and peace in abundance.
At Mount Sinai, God did something that is never repeated anywhere else in the Bible. He made a covenant with the people, but this was a special kind of promise ceremony, one that was sealed in blood.
First, the witnesses arrived at the ceremony.
“[Moses] got up early the next morning and built an altar at the foot of the mountain and set up twelve stone pillars representing the twelve tribes of Israel” (Exodus 24:4).
Twelve stone pillars were the witnesses.
Then sacrifices were made.
“Then he sent young Israelite men, and they offered burnt offerings and sacrificed young bulls as fellowship offerings to the Lord. Moses took half of the blood and put it in bowls, and the other half he splashed against the altar” (Exodus 24:5-6).
Then all the commands of God which had been written down were read again to the people. (“Are you really listening, People?”)
“Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it to the people. They responded, ‘We will do everything YHWH has said; we will obey'” (Exodus 25:7).
And here’s the unique part:
“Moses then took the blood, sprinkled it on the people and said, ‘This is the blood of the covenant that YHWH has made with you in accordance with all these words'” (Exodus 25:8).
I’ve spent two weeks printing out every verse I can find about “sprinkling” or “covenants,” and as far as I can tell, there is no other time in all of Scripture where the blood of an offering was sprinkled on people.
It would be rather gross. It would certainly be memorable!
I would think that if I were in the audience, the smells, the thoughts of the animals that had just been sacrificed, the feel of warm blood splashing my cheek — all would serve to forever remind me of the covenant or promise I had just made.
“We will do everything YHWH has said; we will obey…”
But yet Ezekiel says “they have eyes to see but do not see and ears to hear but do not hear, for they are a rebellious people.”
Oh, what can be done to rectify our human hearts? We are given every opportunity to obey, yet we rebel. We just will not!
A New Covenant
God says that it’s not that His commands are too difficult (Deuteronomy 30:11-14). No, it’s that our hearts are too rebellious. Moses said,
“At the end of the forty days and forty nights, YHWH gave me the two stone tablets, the tablets of the covenant. Then YHWH told me, ‘Go down from here at once, because your people whom you brought out of Egypt have become corrupt. They have turned away quickly from what I commanded them and have made an idol for themselves.’ And YHWH said to me, “I have seen this people, and they are a stiff-necked people indeed!” (Deuteronomy 9:11-13)
So God promised that someday, He would make a new covenant with His people.
“This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel
after that time,” declares YHWH.
“I will put my law in their minds
and write it on their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people.
No longer will they teach their neighbor,
or say to one another, ‘Know YHWH,’
because they will all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest,”
“For I will forgive their wickedness
and will remember their sins no more” (Jeremiah 31:33-34).
Note: He didn’t say He would make new laws or new commands. Those would remain the same.
The difference would be that
- The blood would be sprinkled from His own dear Son, rather than from the blood of animals. All the sacrifices in the world can never change my heart. They will remind me of my sin. I suppose I’ll “turn over a new leaf” and resolve to “pull myself up by my bootstraps.” But I just don’t have the ability to stick with it, to keep doing what is right. My heart is the problem. So Christ came and was the mediator of a new covenant (Hebrews 9:15). He sets me free from the sin that enslaved me before, and the power that raised Him from the dead can raise me up to new life as well.
- The laws and commands would be written on our hearts, so that we would no longer be rebellious but that we would want to obey. So that’s why His new covenant puts His law in my mind and writes it on my heart. Like a bad computer drive, I need to be re-written! Indeed, He puts His Spirit within my heart to teach me His laws and to remind me and to renew me. His Word lives.
The author of the book of Hebrews ends his letter with an amazing prayer.
“Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen” (Hebrews 13:20-21).
Because I’ve been sprinkled with the blood of my precious Savior, and because He has been raised from the dead (unlike the animals at Mount Sinai), the God of peace wants to equip me for “everything good for doing his will.”
That is just amazing!
God says, “Anne, I want to make a covenant with you, too. I want you to be one of my people. Now hear the words of my covenant. Let me sprinkle you with the blood of the covenant, the blood of my Son Jesus.”
So now I choose to obey. I choose to listen attentively. I choose to walk in covenant with Him, as one of His chosen people.
And I eagerly await His filling, as He writes His covenant laws on my heart, so that I may have His grace and peace in abundance as I walk in obedience.