First Peter 1:13-21
Towards Hope

Authored By Rev. Takao Kiyohiro, Tokyo, Japan

1. Every year, the first Lord's day worship in November after All Saint's Day, we worship the Lord and we line the sanctuary with photographs of those who have already completed their life spans on this earth. We do this because not only is Jesus the Lord of us who are living, but he is also the Lord of these [deceased in these photographs]. The scriptures have it written like this: "The reason Christ died and has been alive is that he is both Lord of the dead and the living," (Romans 14:9). And the indisputable fact is that we too will be added to this collection of photos before too long. On this side we are limited in the number of years we may offer up worship [unto the Lord]. In today's passage of scripture we find the word "tents, booths, shelters" in the text. The scriptures express our lives on this earth with the word "tents." I think what it says is accurate. The photographs of these persons eloquently tell the factual story that these [souls] no longer live on this earth and that life on earth is "a temporary shelter." So, for that reason during this memorial service, we not only think of those who have left this old world, but we need to come face to face right on with these temporary containers of our own [which we call] lives. We need to come to terms with what this temporary shelter period is and with how we ought to be living. That's why today's passage has been given to us. I would like for us to remember the words in verse seventeen in particular. "Furthermore, because you call 'Father,' the one who judges fairly in accordance with each person's deeds, as long as we are keeping a tent on this earth, we ought to live with fear towards him," (First Peter 1:17).

Towards The Land Of Promise

2. First of all, we must accurately understand what Peter is illustrating here with the word "tents." To do that, we would need to carefully take into account two events which Peter has in mind. Those two events are "the Israelites' exodus from Egypt" and "Christ's resurrection."

3. We must first understand the word "tents" in its connection to the Israelites freed from Egypt. First off, et's stop to look over at what is written just before it. Peter exhorts them with "Imitate the holy one who called you and be holy yourselves in all areas of your lives," (verse fifteen). As the basis for it, he quotes words from the Old Testament. "It is written, 'Be holy. For I am holy.'," (verse sixteen). This is an OT quote from Leviticus chapter nineteen and verse two. These words from Leviticus were originally given in the wilderness at Sinai. They were in the wilderness of Sinai because they had been led there by God out of Egypt. As a freed people, they were traveling through the wilderness desert. And the main thing was that they had a destination before them. They were traveling towards the promised land. Sinai was not their permanent home. Literally they were using "tents" and camping out. The image that was in the mind of Peter is first of all the figure of these Israelites.

4. We see that also from the words in verse eighteen. There the text says, "As you know, it was not according to decaying things like gold and silver that you were redeemed from your ancestral and vain way of life, but according to the precious blood of Christ like a lamb without wound or defilement," (1:18). That night, when God set the Israelites free from Egypt, the Israelites slew lambs and daubed their blood on the lintel and the posts [of the door ways]. God commanded them to. It was so that when God's judgment came upon all the land of Egypt, the blood would be a sign and the judgment of God would pass over the homes of Israel. In that way then, through the lamb's blood the [former] slaves in Egypt were saved and set loose. In the same way as that, according to the blood of Christ shed on the cross, we have been set loose from the debt of sin, set free from our vain old ways of life apart from God and given a new God guided life. We see here also that the way of life of a believer in Christ can be compared with the life of the Israelites when they were led out of Egypt.

5. So then, when Peter was speaking on "tents," he did not mean just that the length of our lives was limited or that life was temporary. That's not just what he was saying; he meant that they were on a journey to a destination point. In similar "tents" also, people without a worthy purpose to move towards are "wanderers." Peter was not speaking about "wanderers or vagrants" [though]. He was speaking about life as the people of God heading for the promised land, walking led by God.

Towards Resurrection Day

6. Also, we must understand even more the word "tent" in connection with the resurrection of Christ. Do we believe in any ol' god and live out our lives? Look at verse twenty-one. Peter addressed us with this, "In Christ you believe in the God who raised Christ from the dead and glorified him. Therefore, your faith and hope all have to do with God." (1:21).

7. Here Peter uses the word "hope" in his speech. But, I don't think he meant us to take it in the sense of a hope bound to the world that we see on this [physical] earth or the lives we busy ourselves with camped out in this world. The historical processes which have been unfolding in this world don't seem to be moving towards hope. Instead, it all looks to our eyes like we build something and it falls apart, then we put it back together again, and as we keep doing it over and over, when all is said and done, it seems all to be moving towards ultimate collapse. Our lives are the same as well. Perhaps, in a sense, whether we have any real hope or not may not be a compelling issue so much for us when we are young. But, when we reach a certain age, it changes. We come to the point where we can't escape notice of the process of things disappearing from our encamped lives on this earth. We lose our abilities, we lose our health, we lose our friends, we lose touch with society, then before we know it, we lose our earthly lives, and arrive at death. As we cast our eyes on life the way it is like this, can we still speak of "hope?" I don't think we can [within those parameters].

8. But oh no wait, what we see in this earth is not only not related to hope, but it is totally incomprehensible as well. We know that this world never works in a way that makes much sense to our minds. Incredulous, unexplainable, absurd things happen. "What's this about!" is an oft sounded cry we want to make. Good is not always rewarded. Bad is not always brought to justice. Things don't move fairly and justly. Whether we apply it in our minds globally or individually, we can't help but say how truly baffling and absurd things are.

9. However, God sent Christ into this very kind of world on this earth we're on, and then he made Christ rise from the dead after he died on the cross and he then glorified him. Through these acts, he has shown us a major point: "What we see on this earth is not yet completed unto perfection."

10. Talk about absurdity, nothing is more illogical as the sinless Christ getting crucified and murdered. The pure son of God getting the death penalty is the most absurd thing of all. If that was it and nothing more, it would have been hopelessness to the nth degree. But, God rose Christ from the dead and glorified him. As the one worthy of glory received it, the events [pertaining to] the Christ had come unto perfection. The part up to the cross wasn't it all.

11. Similarly, our lives on earth seem, so to speak, "like just the part up to the cross." So if that's all we look at, it will look illogical and absurd, and we'll not have any hope. But, we don't need to live looking just at life on earth. -- Because we believe in "the God who raised Christ from the dead and glorified him." And because we know that our life on earth may seem to be the part up to the cross but it is only a part of the journey. In that sense, we're no more than campers in "tents." We have a destination we should move towards. We have a promised land, right up ahead, which God has shown us through the resurrection of Christ.

How We Are To Make Our Tent Life

12. So, it is none other than God who will ultimately bring everything to complete fulfillment. Just as God glorified Christ, we know that he will bring both world history and our lives to a just conclusion. That means that "God will reward and judge fairly" in that certain sense. Therefore, we must keep in mind the words of today's message given at the very beginning, "Also, because you call 'Father' the one who will reward justly in accordance with each and everyone's deeds, we should live with fear while we camp out on this earth," (First Peter 1:17).

13. In a sense it also means we should "feel fear" of God as the final judge. Knowing the one who is truly worthy of our fear and awe is a great blessing. It is also security for us. Additionally, it also brings release from various other fears. Therefore, "feeling fear" of God is important.

14. But, as we've already seen, living a life with fear and respect for God doesn't mean just living scared stiff shaking over God's punishments. Life is not a prison cell on death row where the inmate awaits his day of execution. As God guided the journey of the Israelites, he will still be a God who guides us with his great patience and compassion. Through the resurrection of Christ, he gives us a living hope and causes us to walk towards hope. [God] has let us be people who call him 'Father.' So it's important that as obedient children we love the Father, respect him, and live trusting him. That's how we are to live our camp style lives.

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