2 Peter — Read the Old Testament
There is a tendency among many Christians to read the New Testament and Psalms extensively, while ignoring the rest of the Old Testament. Why? Because it is not easy to read the Old Testament. Reading and studying it requires effort and diligence — you cannot read through the Old Testament books casually. But difficulties apart, it is important that we first understand why the Old Testament is to be read and how it can affect us. Let us hear what Peter has to say in his second letter.
2 Peter 1:3–4 I can pray this because his divine power has bestowed on us everything necessary for life and godliness through the rich knowledge of the one who called us by his own glory and excellence. 4 Through these things he has bestowed on us his precious and most magnificent promises, so that by means of what was promised you may become partakers of the divine nature, after escaping the worldly corruption that is produced by evil desire. [NET2]
If you ask “How can I partake in the divine nature? How can I become more Christlike?”, Peter’s answer would be this: through God’s promises. The promises of God revealed in the Old Testament Scripture are the key to partaking in the divine Nature. But let’s get specific. If you ask, “How can God’s promises enable me to live a holy life? What is the connection?”, there are several things that can be said:
Firstly, God’s promises reveal God’s plan for us; His promises tell us what God has in His heart and mind toward us; they reveal more of God to us.
When God promised Israel that he was taking them to a land flowing with milk and honey, it told them what God had in their heart for them. It revealed God’s plan for them. His promise resounded God’s special love for them. The same will happen to us and in us when we read and understand all the promises of Old Testament in the context of the new covenant. We’ll see God’s heart and appreciate His love; We’ll see more of the Promiser; we’ll get to know God more and praise Him all the more! The more we read God’s promises, the more we’ll understand His heart. And we will be moved to respond according to what is in God’s heart.
Secondly, by telling us what God has in his heart toward us, God’s promises give direction to our life
When we know what God wants for us, we’ll rest in peace in Him and learn to trust Him and humbly walk in that direction as He leads us. We will not fret like unbelievers who wander in darkness without meaning or purpose in life, trying to build their own. Trusting in God’s promises, direction and purpose for our life, we can pursue a holy life without worrying about our dark past or uncertain future or present dangers. Without these, we will wander into worldly ways and try to build our own lives and become miserable.
Thirdly, God’s promises empower, stir and incline our heart, mind and will to respond to challenges, trials and temptations of life in ways that are pleasing to God.
And when we do, this will bring transformation to our lives, leading to holiness. When we walk with His promise, plan, purpose and assurance, we can face trials with courage, hope and His divine sustaining strength, knowing that God is with us, no matter what our circumstances are. We can pursue holiness despite all odds — knowing that the One who promised is faithful and that He is strengthening and leading us in life, taking us to a better place and a better inheritance, eternal and unfading. Knowing God through His promises will help us take hold of all the power that is needed to live a godly life.
Without God’s promises, we cannot do all the above. We cannot know God’s heart or have any sort of assurance or encouragement as we grapple with life’s questions and struggles. Ponder awhile:
Jeremiah 29:11 For I know what I have planned for you,’ says the LORD. ‘I have plans to prosper you, not to harm you. I have plans to give you a future filled with hope. [NET2]
Joshua 1:5b …I will be with you. I will not abandon you or leave you alone. [NET2]
We can immediately grasp the implications of the above verses, can’t we? This is just a drop in the tiny ocean — there are more such promises. We’ll get to know more when we read more.
2 Peter 1:19–21 Moreover, we possess the prophetic word as an altogether reliable thing. You do well if you pay attention to this as you would to a light shining in a murky place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. 20 Above all, you do well if you recognize this: No prophecy of scripture ever comes about by the prophet’s own imagination, 21 for no prophecy was ever borne of human impulse; rather, men carried along by the Holy Spirit spoke from God. [NET2]
Peter also asks us to pay attention to the “Prophetic Word” — the Old Testament Scriptures. He calls it a totally “reliable thing” and exhorts us cling to it.
2 Peter 3:1–2 Dear friends, this is already the second letter I have written you, in which I am trying to stir up your pure mind by way of reminder: 2 I want you to recall both the predictions foretold by the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles. [NET2]
Peter is specifically referring to the “prophets” (3:2) and their “prophetic” Word (1:19). Why are they of such importance? I can think of two reasons:
1. The Prophetic Words that have been fulfilled — the words foretold about the life, death and resurrection of Christ — tell us more about Christ, His mission, what He has done for us and how much we need Him.
Notice what Peter tells us in his first letter:
1 Peter 1:10–12 Concerning this salvation, the prophets who predicted the grace that would come to you searched and investigated carefully. 11 They probed into what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating when he testified beforehand about the sufferings appointed for Christ and his subsequent glory. 12 They were shown that they were serving not themselves but you, in regard to the things now announced to you through those who proclaimed the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven — things angels long to catch a glimpse of. [NET2]
Peter is telling that the Prophets were serving us by giving us their prophetic words! They had written down all of that for us — so that we could recognize Christ and know Him clearly. It is true that Christ is revealed in the New Testament but, we must remember that Christ’s incarnation, life, death and resurrection were not something that suddenly happened. The Prophets had foreseen them long ago and were anticipating them. The plan had been there from the beginning.
If it is true that the New Testament narrative is a fulfilment of the Old Testament Prophecies, how can we know what was fulfilled and what was accomplished unless we read the Old testament? The Old Testament provides the context in which we can fully understand Christ’s life. Without the context, our “faith” in New Testament Scriptures will be hanging in the air — this is not an exaggeration but sadly, the faith of most Christians are like this. A good understanding of Old Testament Scriptures is indispensable to understand Christ’s work.
2. The Prophetic Words that are not yet fulfilled — about the second coming, future judgement, future hope and new heaven and earth — fuel our hope and encourage us to look up to Heavenly things and away from the fleeting pleasures and temporary indulgences of this world.
The fulfilled prophecies are there to remind us that these would also be fulfilled in God’s perfect time. Living patiently with our eyes fixed on them will make all the difference. The Prophets themselves have set an example for us, teaching us how to live.
James 5:10–11 As an example of suffering and patience, brothers and sisters, take the prophets who spoke in the Lord’s name. 11 Think of how we regard as blessed those who have endured. You have heard of Job’s endurance and you have seen the Lord’s purpose, that the Lord is full of compassion and mercy. [NET2]
The Prophetic words instil hope in us, inspiring us to greater endurance as we live the Christian life. Summing up, Peter desires that we diligently study the Promises and Prophecies of the Old Testament — and the teachings of the New Testament as well.
2 Peter 3:2 I want you to recall both the predictions foretold by the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles. [NET2]
We must not ignore the New Testament at the cost of the Old Testament. Reading them side by side will enrich our walk with the Lord.
More than everything, we must recognize the Authority behind all the Prophetic words:
2 Peter 1:20–21 Above all, you do well if you recognize this: No prophecy of scripture ever comes about by the prophet’s own imagination, for no prophecy was ever borne of human impulse; rather, men carried along by the Holy Spirit spoke from God. [NET2]
How much attention we pay to legal documents that bind us or to our bosses’ orders! O that we would place the Prophetic Words at a far higher pedestal, knowing Who He is that is really speaking to us through those words! I don’t want you to walk away reading this as just another piece of advice. I want you to take God’s Word with a seriousness and sobriety that you’ve never had before — ask God to instil that in your heart. Take every effort you can to study and imbibe God’s word. Make time. Weep. Repent. And read every part of it. The words we’ve been given are not man’s words!
Simon Peter answered him [Jesus], “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
[John 6:68, NET2]