Summary: In this passage, it almost seems like Peter is heavily focused on persecution of the Christians he's writing to... and then he just switches gears and talks about something totally unrelated. It seems that way, but it's not.
OPENING: When I asked you to turn to I Peter 3:13 this morning, did you realize that about 800 years ago… you couldn’t have done that?
Do you know WHY you couldn’t have turned to I Peter 3 back then?
Because there were no chapter divisions. That didn’t happen until 1227, when Stephen Langton (Archbishop of Canterbury) went through the Bible and created the chapter numbers we now have. If he hadn’t done that I’d have been saying something like “Turn to I Peter and go through it a few pages till you find a sentence that begins with (whatever).”
Chapter divisions are a good thing. They help us to be able to find places in the books of the Bible that would have been much harder to identify before Archbishop Langton performed this service for us. Being able to find places in our Bibles quickly is the main advantage of having our Bibles divided up into chapters and verses.
BUT, the disadvantage of those divisions is that sometimes those chapter numbers create a break in the middle of a thought, and we lose the continuity of what the writer is trying to tell us.
That’s what’s happened here in I Peter 3 and 4.
Now, before I get into that part of the message I want to remind you of something I spoke of a few weeks ago. The people Peter is writing to here are under persecution. And the entire letter is dealing – in one form or another - with the struggles the believers there are having with that discrimination and harassment.
So, the first part of I Peter is dedicated to reminding the Christians there of their blessings.
• They’ve been chosen (1:2).
• They’ve been sanctified (1:2).
• They’ve received mercy and forgiveness (1:3)
• They’ve been given hope in a hopeless world (1:3)
• And they’ve received an inheritance that this world can’t take away (1:4)
And that’s just for starters.
The reason Peter starts the letter this way, is because the Christians there are hurting They're being persecuted for their faith. And when people face hardship and mistreatment because of their faith - they have a tendency to respond to those persecutions by asking “Why?”
Why is this happening to me?
Why has God forsaken me?
Why isn’t God listening to my prayers?
Now, keep your finger in I Peter and turn with me to Genesis 39.
I want you to listen very carefully as I read the first few verses of this chapter. And you’ll hear one phrase show up two times as I read it to you:
“Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt. Potiphar, an Egyptian who was one of Pharaoh’s officials, the captain of the guard, bought him from the Ishmaelites who had taken him there. The LORD was with Joseph and he prospered, and he lived in the house of his Egyptian master. When his master saw that the LORD was with him and that the LORD gave him success in everything he did, Joseph found favor in his eyes and became his attendant. Potiphar put him in charge of his household, and he entrusted to his care everything he owned.” Genesis 39:1-4
What phrase did you hear repeated in that story?
That’s right: “And the Lord was with Joseph.”
Now listen again as I read the last few verses of that chapter:
“Joseph’s master took him and put him in prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined. But while Joseph was there in the prison, the LORD was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden.
So the warden put Joseph in charge of all those held in the prison, and he was made responsible for all that was done there. The warden paid no attention to anything under Joseph’s care, because the LORD was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did.” Genesis 39:20-23
Did you hear it again?
Yep, there it is: “And the Lord was with Joseph.”
Four times that phrase shows up in this chapter.
Twice while Joseph is a slave, and twice when he’s a prisoner.
Why? Why does it show up so often in this story?
Well, it’s not for Joseph’s benefit. He didn’t read the story - he lived it.
God repeats that phrase for so that we’ll see He was there in Joseph’s trials and tribulations.
If we hadn’t read that phrase throughout this part of Joseph’s story we might be tempted to believe that God had abandoned Joseph in the midst of his difficulties. But God repeats this over and over and over again: “The Lord was with Joseph” so that you’ll KNOW He was there.
And that’s what Peter is doing in his letter that we’re reading today.