The Epistle of First Peter was written to a group of believers who had been removed from their homeland because of persecution. They were thus aliens, temporary residents in a foreign place. While many would have considered this a disadvantaged position, Peter proposed that their current situation mirrored the spiritual reality of believers in any age. Peter used the Old Testament to exhort his audience to remember what God had done for them and embrace their alien status.
(1) In 1 Pet 1:2, Peter noted that his audience was elect and marked by the blood of Jesus, recalling when Moses sprinkled blood upon Israel in Exod 24:3-8. In Exodus 19, the Lord appeared to Moses and Israel on Mount Sinai. There the Lord gave Israel the law (Exod 24:1-2). Moses offered burnt offerings and fellowship offerings to the Lord and sprinkled some of the blood on the people, saying, “This is the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you concerning these words” (Exod 24:8). Peter told his audience of exiles that their election by God was confirmed by God Himself, sprinkling the blood of Jesus upon them so that they would be marked as His people of the new covenant.
(2) In 1 Pet 1:16, Peter quoted Lev 19:2, exhorting his audience to embrace their status as elect aliens. In Leviticus 17-24, Moses commanded Israel to live distinctly unto the Lord in their religious practices and community life. As Israel lived unto the Lord in the Promised Land, they would display God’s glory and capture the interest of the surrounding nations (Deut 4:1-8). Thus, Moses recorded the word of the Lord in Lev 19:2, “Speak to the entire Israelite community and tell them: ‘Be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy.’” Peter told his audience that as temporary residents of the earth, they should live as those who are distinctly other (1 Pet 1:13-16). He urged the elect exiles to embrace their alien status by living self-disciplined lives and fixing their hope entirely upon God’s grace that will be revealed at Christ’s return (1 Pet 1:13). Peter concluded his exhortation by reminding his audience of the Lord’s word to Israel, “Be holy, because I am holy” (1 Pet 1:16).
(3) In 1 Pet 1:24-25, Peter used Isa 40:6-8 to describe the enduring word of God that had given his readers new hearts to sincerely love one another. In Isaiah 40, the prophet announced the coming day of the Lord’s grace upon His people. Isaiah prophesied that the Lord would send His messenger to prepare the way for His glorious appearing (Isa 40:3-5), which was interpreted by the Evangelists and Jesus as a reference to John the Baptist’s ministry (Matt 3:3//Mark 1:3//Luke 3:4-6//John 1:23). The Lord’s messenger would cry out contrasting the glory of man that fades and the glory of the enduring and powerful word of the Lord (Isa 40:6-8). Peter wanted his audience to alienate themselves from their former empty ways of selfishness and participate as loving members of God’s kingdom. Their alien status began when they were born anew by hearing the enduring word of the Lord (1 Pet 1:24-25), just as Isaiah had prophesied. Having been born again, the audience had the capacity to sincerely love one another from a pure heart.
(4) In 1 Pet 2:3, Peter quoted Ps 34:8 to encourage his audience to partake of pure spiritual nutrition in Christ. David wrote Psalm 34 after he took refuge for a time with the Philistines (1 Sam 21:10-15). When those in the court of the Philistine king realized who David was, they reported their concerns to the king. David feared for his life and pretended to be insane with the result that the king of Gath sent David away. In Psalm 34, David recounted the Lord’s faithful deliverance and exhorted his readers, “Taste and see that the LORD is good” (Ps 34:8). Peter urged his audience to crave the spiritual truth of Christ just as a newborn craves its mother’s milk. The elect aliens knew that the Lord is good, and Peter wanted them to feast on Christ just as David wanted his readers to know of the Lord’s goodness (1 Pet 2:3).
(5) In 1 Pet 2:6-7, Peter assembled Isa 28:16, Ps 118:22, and Isa 8:14 to reiterate Jesus’ status as One who, like Israel, simultaneously enjoyed God’s favor and the world’s ire. In Isa 28:14-22, Isaiah chastised the complacent in Israel, those who thought that they could make a deal with death and be spared in the day of God’s wrath upon their sin. Isaiah countered that the Lord laid in Zion a chosen and precious cornerstone such that the one who believed in Him and amended their ways would not be shaken (Isa 28:16). To the stone imagery of Isa 28:16, Peter appended Ps 118:22 and Isa 8:14, passages that also include stone imagery. In Psalm 118, the psalmist praised God for delivering His people. The psalmist likened the reversal of fortunes that he and Israel had enjoyed to a stone that was at one time rejected only later to be used as a cornerstone (Ps 118:26). In Isa 8:11-22, the prophet distinguished himself from the false prophets of Israel. Isaiah prophesied that though the Lord had offered Himself as a sanctuary to His people, since they rejected Him, He became a stone that caused them to stumble and trip (Isa 8:14). Peter’s synthesis of Isa 28:16, Ps 118:22, and Isa 8:14 portrayed Christ as God’s chosen cornerstone Who rejected all those rejecting Him.
(6) In 1 Pet 2:9, Peter employed Exod 19:5-6 and Hos 1:10; 2:23 to delineate the favored status his audience enjoyed as part of the people of God by faith in Christ. The Lord came upon Mount Sinai and the mountain shook so violently that the people were afraid to come near. There the Lord told Moses to remind Israel that if they obeyed the covenant commands He was giving them, then they would be His special possession out of all the peoples of the earth (Exod 19:5-6). Hosea announced the day when the Lord would turn and have compassion on His people such that those who were alienated from Him would be called His people and sons of the living God. In 1 Pet 2:9, Peter reminded his readers that though they were exiles, they were elect, God’s special people established to declare His praise through their holy conduct.
(7) In 1 Pet 2:22, 24-25, Peter quoted from Isaiah 53 to remind his audience of God’s faithfulness to Christ during His sufferings so that they would rely upon God during their sufferings. In Isaiah 53, the prophet described the Lord’s servant as one who would suffer on behalf of God’s people. Peter reflected upon the atoning work of Jesus Christ and then called his audience to imitate Him while enduring hostility from government or worldly powers. Just as Jesus committed Himself to God during His sufferings, and found God faithful, the elect aliens of Peter’s audience would also enjoy God’s power as they cast themselves upon His grace.