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Fearful Conduct in Exile (1 Peter 1:17-21)

Series: 1 Peter (Living in Exile)

Joseph had been exiled from the land of promise to Egypt. He was sold by his brothers and had become the slave of Potiphar. He was unjustly mistreated. He was all alone. He heard nothing from his father. He received no more dreams from God. From our perspective, it seems he had been completely abandoned. That kind of aloneness can really eat away at a person. The desire we all have to know and be known can grow and become ferocious. Having a secret pal to lie with in his exile could have been a great comfort.


But when Potiphar’s wife invited him, he refused her. Not only would this be a complete betrayal of his master’s trust, he said, “How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” Day after day he refused her. One day when he went in the house to do his work and no one else was there she grabbed his garment. “Lie with me,” she said. But he ran.


That kind of integrity and fearful respect for God and for others doesn’t happen accidentally. It takes a lot of heart work to foster. But brothers and sisters, it is that kind of fear that will save our lives and spare us tremendous pain. How can we live with that kind of sobermindedness, loyalty, and fear in our exiles?


As Peter writes to Christians who are also exiles dispersed and enduring a difficult trial, he instructs them, “Conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile.” He gives them three reasons, motivations why they should live with this kind of fear.


1. We Call on a Father Who Judges Us Impartially (1:17)

Being able to call on God as “Father” is such a tremendous privilege. Fathers stand ready to jump into action to help their children at a moment’s notice. Fathers realize that everything falls on them - to plan, provide, and protect. For children, being able to call on our fathers relieves so much fear and anxiety. Just knowing they are there when we need them is a comfort. You realize that even more when you lose a father or grandfather. When my grandfather died I suddenly felt more weight on my shoulders. I just lost someone that I could call on. In one sense, I felt like I was just given some of the burden he was carrying. 


It is a privilege to call on our God as Father. The fact that he would be willing to respond to that title as we use it of him is astonishing. After the past year we have had with our two kids, I am scared to have more children. Being willing to be called father means you take responsibility for them. It means submitting yourself to the rollercoaster that is their lives. God could say, “I will be their King, their Lord,” but he goes further and says, “I will be their Father.”


May we conduct ourselves with fear out of respect for the one we call on as Father. I don’t know how that kind of respect for a father is developed. Some children look on their fathers in this way. Some children totally disrespect their fathers. Why disrespect the one who gave you life? Why disrespect the one who would give anything in the whole world for you? Fear him. Respect him. Call on him. Lean into him. Feel his love and protection. Listen to him.


But let us recognize this: the Father we call on judges us impartially during our exile. Bad theology has crept into the church in recent years as different forms of Calvinism have made a resurgence. Some oversimplify the Bible and say we won’t be judged by our life but instead by Christ’s righteous life that has been imputed to us. This is the key tenant of Calvinism. We who believe in Jesus need to know that we are declared innocent and forgiven by faith in Jesus. But we who are exiles need to understand that God judges each one’s actions impartially to determine if we really do believe in, trust in, give allegiance to Jesus. One person said it well, “Our knowledge of Him as Father must not dispel our dread of him as our Judge.” (Beare, 1970: 100) Another person said it like this to help us see God really is our impartial judge, “The pagan life that God abhors will be no less abhorred it is is lived by one who professes to be a Christian.” (Jobes)


How can we develop fear like Joseph’s? See God as our precious Father who we call on and respect him for that. See God as our Father who judges us impartially.


2. We Have Been Ransomed with Christ’s Precious Blood (1:18-19)

The more I see my daughters do the wrong thing, the more clearly I see myself in them, and the more I see the truth of this statement. We really did inherit futile ways from our forefathers. When we gathered for my grandmother’s funeral and we listened to stories about my grandparents and her parents, sometimes I thought, “Wow, it’s cool how their legacy has been passed on,” and sometimes I thought, “Eek, here we are a hundred years later doing the same things our parents, grand parents, and great grandparents did.” 


Peter says here that God is redeeming us from those ways. Here I am trying to be the best father I can possibly be, but God is saying, “Please let me adopt your children ASAP so I can rescue them from the mess you are making.” So often we can be proud of the heritage and way of life that has been passed down to us. And, we can be thankful for that. Timothy should have been thankful for the faith of his mother and grandmother that lived in him. But we also need to have humility to recognize we have inherited the futile ways of our forefathers as well. All the way back to Adam and Eve, our parents have been teaching us the same empty-headed behaviors. And it feels there isn’t anything we can do about it. It seems we are all doomed to repeat our parents’ failures and pass them on forever.


But God has done something spectacular to stop the cycle. He has ransomed us from our slavery at the cost of the precious blood of Jesus. How can we develop this fear? Have a respect for the blood that was spilt to set us free from those old ways. If we respect Jesus at all, we should have a fear inside us that we would profane his sacrifice. In case we are tempted to ever say, “Sin is just not that big of a deal,” God is sending an opposite message here: sin is so worthless, so debasing, so destructive, so vandalizing of our lives and of the world that it required the blood of Jesus to set us free. This is what God tried desperately to teach the people of Israel about in Leviticus through the sacrificial offerings. Blood wasn’t just brought before God’s throne on the Day of Atonement. Everything had to be cleansed. The people. The altar. The tent. The articles in the tent. Why? Their sin didn’t just separate them from God. It vandalized everything. It trashed the world. It trashed God’s sanctuary. But now we have been redeemed from those futile, vandalizing ways through the blood of Jesus. May we conduct ourselves with fear because of that.



3. “Your Faith and Hope Are the Result of God’s Eternal Plan to Raise and Glorify Christ” (1:20-21) (Jobes)

Let me put what Peter is saying here in the form of a rhetorical question. Live with fear, or do you not realize that your faith and hope in God are the result of a massive, orchestrated plan to raise and glorify Jesus? He says here twice that what was planned and what happened with Jesus was to cause us to believe in and hope in God (vs. 20, “for the sake of you,” vs. 21, “so that your faith and hope are in God.”). 


Here is the lens. We are all stuck in futile ways resulting in dishonor and death. We are all hopeless losers. But God foreknew before the world Jesus. Jesus who would take on all that hopelessness, dishonor, and death. God planned in advance to raise him from the that dishonor and death and instead glorify him. Why? So we would see how God gave life and glory to that dead dishonored man and put faith and hope in God that he might give life and glory to we who are dead and dishonored as well.


Peter wants us to conduct ourselves with reverent fear in our exiles because of our awe and respect for the careful plan of God to bring us to trust him. Our trust and hope in God were not easily or haphazardly accomplished.



Think about how that same fear was in Joseph. He was powerless and all alone, but his hope was in God, not in the comfort that is found between the sheets. Potiphar say that Yahweh was with Joseph. How did Potiphar know about Yahweh? Why would he think Yahweh was with Joseph? Because Joseph talked about him. Why? Why would Joseph talk about this God? The God of a father who did nothing to rescue him? The God who promised he would be exalted above his family, but now he was the slave of an Egyptian? Because: he believed in the plan God foreknew and delivered to him by dreams even though God seemed silent. And so he feared because of that. He didn’t want to ruin what God had planned. And when God did bless him in Potiphar’s house, Joseph gave glory to Yahweh before his master and continued living fearfully in exile. His hope was in God and he was not about to throw that away no matter how much of his family he lost or how debased he became before the world.


And that fear saved Joseph’s life.


We have the privilege of calling God our Father. We are judged impartially by him. We have been set free from our futile ways by the precious blood of Jesus. Our faith and hope in God are the result of God’s carefully orchestrated plan. Let us fear because of that. It will save us when the tempter comes to entreat us with other comforts while we wait.

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