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Prophecy and Scripture

Idiosyncrasy is defined by Dictionary.com as “a characteristic, habit, mannerism, or the like, that is peculiar to an individual.” It could be well said that “idiosyncrasy” was in loud and colorful display at this last week’s Billboard Music Awards. During the program, various artists such as Ed Sheeran, Bruno Mars, Celine Dion, and Cher showcased their music.

In our highly individualistic society, musical ability, blended with a singular look or style, can be wildly affirmed by the public. Such “idiosyncrasy” was not valued at all in the writing of Scripture as brought out by Peter. “Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own (Greek “idios,” where we get the foundation of the word idiosyncrasy), interpretation” (2 Peter 1:20).

Peter himself had experienced the pitfall of allowing his own interpretation to color the Scriptures. In the latter stages of the life of Jesus, the Lord asked His disciples the pointed question, “Who do people say the Son of Man is” (Matt. 16:13)?

Peter strongly affirmed that, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven” (Matt. 16:16-17).

Here Jesus clearly states that Peter would not have known that the humble carpenter from Nazareth was the Messiah unless the Father had supernaturally revealed it to him. Spiritual things are spiritually discerned. And while the clear majority of the religious teachers saw the travel worn carpenter as a “root out of dry ground” (Isa. 53:2), Peter had been supernaturally enlightened to see the glory of God hidden beneath the garb of humanity.

Despite getting the nature of Jesus right, Peter almost immediately stumbles by allowing his own preconceived opinion about the Messiah to interfere with the revelation Jesus had clearly spoken. “From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you” (Matt. 16:21-22)!

Within just a few short verses, Peter had experienced both the blessing of receiving a revelation from God and the disappointment of allowing his own idiosyncrasies to cloud the clear message of the suffering Messiah such Isaiah 53 (the Lamb led to the slaughter) and Psalms 118:22-23 (the stone the builders rejected).

Just six days later, Jesus leads Peter, James, and John up to a lonely mountain at night where “He was transfigured before them” (Matt. 17:2). Despite, being rejected by the religious leaders, the voice from the cloud affirms Christ’s connection with the Father. “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him” (Matt. 17:5).

The peaks and valleys Peter personally experienced during this one week of his life must have profoundly affected him. And perhaps it could be said that it provided some of the foundation for the two epistles that he wrote later on in his ministry.

First of all, having suffered many griefs in his own life, the great apostle is able to urge the believers to not reject suffering as he once did but to embrace it as part of the Christian life. “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials (1 Pet. 1:6).

Although he had been initially ignorant of the Suffering Messiah motif as outlined in the Scriptures earlier, he now sees that it was a major theme for contemplation by the prophets which had gone before him. “Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow” (1 Pet. 1:10-11).

In the second epistle, Peter now draws some very interesting contrasts which paralleled his own life as just discussed in Matthew 16:13-17:5.  

We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain (2 Pet. 16-18).

In this text Peter hearkens back to the revelation given on the Mount of Transfiguration as positive proof that they had not followed something they had “cleverly invented.” That audio-visual experience, when the glory and voice of God came down from heaven and touched the mountain, certainly surpassed any Billboards music awards theatrics!

You would think that Peter would cite that great revelation on the Mount as the ultimate evidence for faith. But what Peter tells us next is that the written Scriptures themselves are “more fully confirmed” than the audio-visual extravaganza on the Mount of Transfiguration.  “So we have the prophetic message more fully confirmed. You will do well to be attentive to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.” (2 Pet. 1:19 NRSV). 

Perhaps what Peter is saying here is that the same glory and voice that came down in the darkness to reveal the Son’s connection with the Father back then is residing in the written Scriptures today. Although the Word does not appear as initially flashy as the Lord’s Epiphany on the Mountain, it still contains the same Divine presence for those who are humbly seeking the Lord’s will today.

Peter affirms the divine and not human origin of all Scripture at the end of 2  Peter 1. “Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own [Greek, “idios”] interpretation of things. For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Pet. 1:20).

In our highly individualistic society, filled with idiosyncrasies and personal interpretations, the church is called to balance the unique revelation of God’s will as revealed in the Bible with the unique filters we all possess. Although there might be a plurality of opinion governing many areas of faith, there is a line somewhere between the narrow and broad way which cannot be crossed without peril. Like Peter, each of us is called upon to highly value the revelation on the one hand and grow in our understanding of that revealed truth on the other.

 

Image Credit: Video still from Billboard Music Awards 2017.

 

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