“History is more or less, Bunk”….Henry Ford famously said in 1921.
His quote was taken out of its context then (and often is now).
On the face of it, it sounds he believed that the study of history is worthless…and that was what he was accused of when he said it.
But if he believed that why would he have built a history museum that is even now visited by almost 2 million people each year?
What he meant was that written history reflected little of people’s day to day existence.
He later said…
“History as it is taught in the schools deals largely with…wars, major political controversies, and the like. When I went to our American history books to learn how our forefathers plowed the land, I discovered that the historians knew nothing about plows. Yet our country depended more on plows than on guns or great speeches. I thought a history which excluded plows and all the rest of daily life is bunk and I still think so.”
Of course, he was right, human history is much more than the epic events.
But not many people want to read a history book at all, let alone one about a farmer behind his plow day after day.
There is a need for balance…most of history is farmers behind plows (using that as our symbol of every day, mundane life).
But there are events that have shaped the world in dramatic fashion, for better or for worse because they are so epic in nature.
As you read the Old Testament, it is history with epic events, but God is clearly at work in the mundane, the days behind plows, which was mostly what life was about for them, as it is for us.
For instance, Moses’ experienced the epic…the burning bush, power encounters with the King, miracles, the Exodus, Ten Commandments…but his life in it’s totality was mostly non-epic.
40 years of tending sheep, 40 years in the wilderness…there is no verse like this in the book of Exodus:
“One time Moses stayed up all night watching sheep, he was tired and it was hard and boring and nothing else happened.”
But if you think about it, that is mostly what his life was about.
And we need to go to the Old Testament to make sense of 1 Peter 2, because Peter, may have been a fisherman in his former life, but he was no theological novice.
His letters are deep waters…and he blends the Old and New Covenant together to form a single picture.
Peter works hard at bringing the epic into the normal lives of his readers.
He gives some practical “what” and “how”…but he then he gives the epic “why” for our lives as followers of Christ.
Let’s do an OT flyover, then go to 1 Peter 2.
After Moses, the Exodus, the conquest of Canaan…Israel has experienced the covenant promises of God over and over.
And they have broken their side of the bargain over and over…but it will get worse.
The time of the Judges will be God’s faithfulness and the unfaithfulness of his people in “groundhog day” fashion…same cycle over and over.
Then will come the times of the Kings, they will get one good one, but he will have a major moral failure.
A few okay ones, but all will fail.
In come the prophets who keep reminding the people of God’s covenant promises and of their ongoing failure to keep their commitment to God.
But one major lesson of all that messy history is that…
The Lord brings judgement, but he never rewrites his promises…he only keeps them.
David has a son, Solomon, who trades wisdom for idolatry.
Solomon has a son who isn’t even wise, and he splits the Kingdom.
The North, called Israel will be destroyed in 722bc.
The South called Judah, and its capital, Jerusalem, will fall about 140 years later.
But we need to back up a bit…a hundred years or so before Judah falls, a prophet named Isaiah speaks truth to power in that nation.
He is important for us today because Peter will refer to his writing several times.
Isaiah speaks the truth of judgment: Things have already gone too far, the people had broken faith with God too many times, and the nation will fall…it is a settled fact.
He speaks the truth of Hope: God will one day fulfill all the covenant promises.
-A King from David’s line will establish an everlasting kingdom.
About a century later…what Isaiah said would happen, did happen.
Henry Ford would probably not like a lot of Biblical history…because, again, we mostly get the big events, not the days when not much happened.
But what Isaiah is telling us is that God is at work in all of history.
It’s not all written down, but we know it is there, because it is real history…the guy working in a field, or the shopkeeper trying to make ends meet, or a mom chasing a 7th century BC toddler around the house.
In all of that individual history, national history, world history…God’s covenant plans were unfolding…as these everyday people were largely or completely ignoring the word of God.
Isaiah spent his entire adult life…day after day…calling these people back to God…warning of future epic events… judgment, salvation.
But it would not probably not have felt epic for Isaiah, since he had to do that day after day…and the things he spoke about were in the distant future, after his own death in fact.
So, what kept Isaiah engaged?
He was a man; he wasn’t superman…he didn’t live in the clouds and descend each day to deliver prophesy.
He lived in a house, ate food, got colds, and became tired…it was all, for the most part, rather normal.
Perhaps, Isaiah was able to stay faithful to his calling…just like we are able to do so…by keeping a compelling vision in the front of his mind.
Listen to his personal testimony of God’s encounter with him, Is. 6
In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphs…And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” At the sound of their voices the temple shook, and was filled with smoke. “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.” Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.” Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”
He had a vision where he experienced God’s holiness and he saw his own great sin.
God cleansed him of his sin.
God gave him a mission to go and speak and live for God.
I can imagine this experience kept him going as he lived with opposition and had to feel like no one was listening…all those years behind the plow.
You might be tempted to think, “If I had an experience like that, I would be able to stay engaged as well.”
Maybe. Maybe not.
Because experiences, even like the one he had, all fade into grey if we don’t choose to keep them in the front of our minds.
Peter is going to tell us that WE have had an experience much like Isaiah did…at least in terms of the work of God and the calling of God in our lives.
Finally, Isaiah dies, and the people probably said, “So much for that old fool’s rantings.”
But a hundred years later, a hundred years of people thinking God will not act…a hundred years of farmers and politicians and priests…all doing whatever they wanted.
And the kingdom falls, just as foretold…they lose their homes, many lose their lives, most lose all hope.
But again, The Lord brings judgement, but he never rewrites his promises.
They will return to the land, after years of captivity…but they will never have a kingdom like the one they lost…they weren’t supposed to…all this points to a different, better, lasting kingdom.
And so, for hundreds of more years after the return from exile…the people will walk behind their plows, history will be as Henry Ford was pleased with…mostly just people doing what people do…again, the word of God will fade into the background of their lives.
Then, sorry Henry…the most important event in human history…foretold by Isaiah will occur…it is epic, and it is not bunk.
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end.
Now, let’s go to Peter, because he will bring us back to Isaiah…or he will bring Isaiah to us.
Chapter two picks up the argument where Peter left it in 1:22.
1 Peter 2:1 (grammatically goes back to: love one another deeply, from the heart)…therefore,
rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind.
So, he is unpacking what it means to love one another deeply from the heart.
We are to “rid ourselves” of bad stuff like malice (wishing harm), deceit (intended deception), hypocrisy (putting a mask on our true hearts), envy (the opposite of looking to the success of others), slander (speaking words with the intent to harm).
All this interpersonal nastiness we are to proactively get rid of…its why we put the heart attitudes on the wall…to keep them in front of our minds.
We are not to wait for God to do it to us or for us…if you are a Christian, he has already empowered it and he is all for it…it just remains for us to be all for it as well.
So, Peter says, “rid yourselves of these things…throw them out!”
How do we proactively live these changed lives that are our birthright in Christ?
How do we grow up in our faith expressed in love for others?
2 Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, 3 now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.
This is the “how” for the “what”.
The “what” is to live as God’s changed people…a change that shows up most clearly in our relationships with others.
*If we are growing in love for God, we will be growing in love for others…these things always go together
The “how” is to continually grow through ongoing nourishment in God’s word.
The same truth that has brought us new life in Christ grows us up in Christ.
In the book of Hebrews, Christians are challenged to give up their diet of milk for meat…to not stay stuck in immature beliefs…so milk, there, is a metaphor for immaturity.
Peter is not using milk as a metaphor for immature beliefs, here he is using it to describe what is to be our lifelong desire for God’s word.
We are to crave God’s word like a baby craves milk.
He is casting a vision for what we talked about last week…treasuring God’s word.
Look at verse 3, how can our experience of the goodness of the Lord be a reason to long for the words of Scripture?
Again, remember last week: Peter knows that the words of Scripture are the very words of God.
So, to hear, read, study the Bible is to hear the Lord speak, to understand him and his will and his ways.
*I know full well that people have different ideas about what books should be in the Bible, what translations are good, what parts of the Bible are major and minor issues.
*But my point last week, and my settled conviction is…this is the very word of God.
-Whether we get it all right or not doesn’t change this fact…we can get it right, because what we have is his word.
If you believe that God has given us his word and that we can accurately and adequately know it…then these other issues, while important, will not keep you from continually tasting the goodness of God.
So, Peter writes, you have tasted that the Lord is good…he has changed your life through the gospel…now taste his goodness over and over as you take his words into your heart.
So, Peter again gives us the “what”…live as changed people, who grow in love for others.
And the “how”…by staying nourished through the word of God.
Next, he will cast vision for the big “why”.
Here is where he will bring the Old Testament into our time and show how as we walk behind our plows, day by day, we are a part of God’s epic plan.
Remember, he is talking to a suffering church, people who needed to hear this…just like you might need to hear it.
As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him— you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
Peter was given his name by Jesus, it means rock.
By now Peter has realized that Jesus is the Rock, the cornerstone.
He must have smiled when he realized he was not the only one who would be called “Rock” he wasn’t as special as he thought.
All believers were to be living stones built on the foundation of Jesus into a living temple, the church.
Peter is showing the superiority of Christ to the Old Testament temple made of dead stones.
But though Christ is superior and precious, the world doesn’t see him that way.
He was rejected by men.
Peter describes our relationship with Christ from different vantage points
We are the living stones of God’s new temple, the place where God dwells now is in his people…the church.
We are a holy priesthood…priests were the ones authorized to go directly into God’s presence in the temple…you can go directly to God for yourself and others.
We offer spiritual sacrifices…spiritual doesn’t mean “non-physical” here…but rather all that we do in loving God and others (this is very tangible, physical in nature) is done in the power of the Spirit.
There is the theme of continual progress embedded in this passage…we are living stones, “being” built into a spiritual temple.
The OT temple was built of dead stones, it did not grow, it was inorganic.
The NT dwelling place of God is his people…as we continually come to Christ in worship, prayer, service…we are continually being built into a place where God more fully dwells.
At salvation, we get all of God(full access to him)…as we grow in our faith…he gets more of us.
As he gets more of us, we experience more of him.
Let’s go on.
For in Scripture, it says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.”
This comes from Isaiah (28).
Zion is a word with flexible usage in the Bible.
It was a mountain fortress that David captured and became the center of the Jerusalem.
It came to be synonymous with the nation of Israel…and it came to denote God’s spiritual kingdom.
Zion is the center of the Kingdom (Or reign) of God…earthbound then, eternal now.
But when Isaiah wrote, many of the people had hardened themselves to the Word of God…they had become merely “earthbound”…all mundane…nothing epic no big “why”…no larger vision.
They had become the center of their own little universes.
How do I know this?
Let’s look at the chapter this verse comes from, Is. 28.
In this chapter Isaiah is speaking the word of the Lord about future judgment and future hope.
But the people respond with disdain.
It is described in graphic terms…the people, even the priests are drunk, partying…the tables, he says, in verse 8, are covered with their vomit.
Great party huh?
What is going on?
Maybe the people had just gotten word that the alliance with Egypt against their enemy to the north, Assyria had just been signed.
So, they are throwing a party to celebrate…we are good, Egypt will save us.
In chapter 30 Isaiah will say…why did you put your trust in Egypt and not in God, what is wrong with you?
Well, because they don’t trust God…but now they really don’t believe they have to because they have a powerful ally in Egypt…so they are throwing a party.
Drunk, puking…you know, having a great old time.
And they are mocking Isaiah and his doom and gloom prophecies.
Is. 28:9 “Who is he trying to teach, does he think we are babies?”
“All his do and do…rule on rule…whatever Isaiah!”
But it gets worse…listen to this unbelievable boast.
“We have entered into a covenant with death, with the grave we have made an agreement. When an overwhelming scourge sweeps by, it cannot touch us, for we have made a lie our refuge and falsehood our hiding place.”
They act as if they have life and death under their control…they had made a deal with death…they are untouchable.
“We are taking refuge in a lie; our hiding place is a falsehood.”
These people, living 2500 years ago, believed in “my truth” over “the truth”
No, Isaiah replies…
Here is THE “Truth”
Your covenant with death will be annulled; your agreement with the grave will not stand. When the overwhelming scourge sweeps by, you will be beaten down by it.
You might think this is ridiculous…who would actually say…”death won’t touch us.”
It’s actually a fairly common mentality (subconscious, but common)…that’s why the Psalmist wrote, “Teach us to number our days so we will gain a heart of wisdom.” Ps 90:12
We can live in our minds as if we are immortal, we don’t really think that…but we can’t imagine we will actually die.
In his award-winning biography of General Douglas MacArthur, William Manchester writes,
“MacArthur mostly believed in MacArthur.”
MacArthur was a brilliant man and a great leader…but he did believe mostly in himself.
He started early on referring to himself in the third person and kept up that habit until his death.
“General MacArthur won’t be attending the dinner.”
He was said to relish the idolatry of his underlings…and he appeared to believe himself to be invincible.
He had remarkable courage and was successful in battle…but he had not made any deal with death and he was not special.
He is now long dead.
But again, to Henry Ford’s comparison between history’s “greats” and “normal” people…it’s not just men like MacArthur who believe mostly in themselves…and subconsciously think they have a deal with death.
Everyone who refuses to put their confidence in God is putting their confidence in themselves.
So, Peter writes, there are two ways to live…and only two ways.
Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe, “The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone,”8 and, “A stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall. “They stumble because they disobey the message—which is also what they were destined for.
The difference in the two ways of living life are dramatic here…to some Christ is precious, to others, he is a trip hazard, a nuisance…something they stumble over.
Christ is the dividing line in human history.
But…now to Peter’s final piece of the compelling “Why”…a vision we must keep in front of our minds to empower us to live faithfully behind our plows…without losing sight of the glory of our calling or the meaning of our efforts.
9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
This parallels Genesis 12 where God speaks to Abraham
God chose Abraham to be the father of a nation…not because Abraham had done something to merit God’s favor, but because of God’s sovereign choice.
But God did not choose Abraham so he could simply live for himself and enjoy God’s favor…he chose him to be a blessing to all people.
Now, we are “God’s own people”
Even as he called Abraham to leave his country, family, the comfort of his father’s house and follow God.
So, Christ has said we are to forsake all and follow him.
We have received God’s mercy; and we are to declare his mercy to others…not just keep it to ourselves.
So, you see Peter’s strategy:
-Know the What? Love one another deeply from the heart.
-Know the How? Grow in your faith in Christ through his word.
-Know the Why? He has made you his own people…your lives are a part of his plan for the ages.
-You exist to proclaim his glory.
This is a dynamic process…we are the living temple of God…made of living stones…growing in faith in Christ and adding new stones to the building of God…all for the glory of God.
Think about the What: If love breaks down between believers (if we fail to love one another deeply)…then the church becomes sick and immobilized and ineffective.
Think about the How: If growth breaks down within believers (if we fail to develop our craving for the word of God)…Then we remain immature and the church is immobilized. We will lose sight of the goodness and reality of God.
Think about the Why: If vision is lost in mind of the Christian…then suffering, and boredom will sideline us…we lose sight of our purpose, we will grow weary in being faithful.
Let’s finish by going back to verses 2,3 and talk about nurturing our craving…as we come in for a landing.
Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, 3 now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.
We normally don’t think we have a choice in what we “crave”
There are some cravings that are “built” in.
For instance, if you are thirsty, you crave water.
But many of our cravings are not static, unchosen factors like…I am this tall and I am this old and I crave water.
There are many things we have trained ourselves to crave.
Peter tells us to choose to crave God’s word, because we have tasted the goodness of the Lord.
It is a myth that you have no say over what our heart desires…we train to crave, we choose what we let shape our minds, hearts, and lives…
What we do and think forms what we desire…not the other way around.
How do we “learn to crave” something?
First of all, Scripture says that a craving for God is built into the human heart…BUT just like when you are sick you lose the natural craving for food.
We can lose the healthy craving for God.
And Romans says we can trade God given cravings for unnatural…or bad ones.
Jeremiah wrote that God’s people had forsaken the well of living water, and they had dug their own broken wells that cannot hold water.
They had turned away from God’s built in desire for him…and they had tried to replace it with their own foolish cravings…broken wells, that can’t hold water.
Our hearts true craving for God…and for his word, can, and must be recovered.
A few weeks back we looked at how important it is to hold the truth continually before our minds.
Our minds are not going to be blank slates…they will hold on to something and what they hold on to will shape our lives…our feelings and our actions.
And we are back to where we began this morning. How Henry Ford got it right and wrong:
He was right, history is not just the epic events, God is the mundane…God is in the days of just working, living, being faithful.
He was wrong, because for the Christian, our very lives are embedded in the epic work of God in history.
As we live walking behind our plows…as we seek to be nourished and grow up in our faith…as we continue to try love each other well…
It is so important to keep the larger vision, the Big Why… in our minds.
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
This experience, the experience of every Christian, is like the experience Isaiah had.
Sure, you probably didn’t have visions of angels and burning coals touching your lips.
But you did, in fact, experience God’s mercy, you have been made God’s very own…you have a grand purpose…you are to declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness.
**This is the very word of God.
We can sometimes cry out…”Oh God, please speak to me…I don’t know what to do…what am I to give my life for.”
There it is…he has spoken clearly to us in his word.
The details you must work out…but the Big…what, how, why is there.
*I believe this, I aspire to this…I train with my friends to live this.
*But I, like you, like Peter, like his readers…know this hard.
*As I wrote this…I thought of my daughter and son in law as they sat in a hospital room in KC last week…long hours ticking off the clock as their child was desperately ill.
It is enormously difficult to see God’s larger purposes in these moments…but we can, we must…by faith, do so.
But not just in hospitals, at your desk, or putting a child to sleep, or losing sleep because a child won’t sleep.
In all of this it so important to keep the larger vision of God’s purposes before our minds…because this is the Word of God…it is true.
We choose our cravings by keeping the big why in front our minds.
You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light
If you have become a skeptic, or a cynic, or just have given up…you must change your mind on this.
You cannot trust yourself that much…you must trust God and his word.
Perhaps you have grown tired of life behind the plow…you are determined to go find the epic, on your own terms.
You will only find what the prodigal son found…life in the pig’s pen…away from your Father’s house.
The prodigal finally understood that being a servant in his father’s house was better than the life he had chosen for himself.
If you are a Christian, you have tasted the goodness of God.
Now you must learn to crave God’s word…so you will taste his goodness over and over and you will be empowered to keep a compelling vision even during the long days behind the plow.