Psalm 119…the longest chapter in the Bible, longer than some books! It is a highly structured acrostic poem containing 22 eight-lined stanzas (one for each letter of the Hebrew alphabet). All eight lines within a stanza begin with the same Hebrew letter. The theme of this Psalm is the love of God’s word. In fact, only 7 verses out of 176 do not mention God’s word directly!
It is a bit ironic that we begin Psalm 119 on the same day as 1 Peter 3 – which contains both controversial and difficult to understand “words” of God!
First Peter 3 begins as an extension of Chapter 2. Peter applies the principle of submission to authority to several contexts…citizens submit to governments, slaves submit to masters and at the beginning of Chapter 3, he teaches that wives should submit to their husbands. This isn’t a gender issue – this is a marriage issue. Women are not commanded to submit to men. Wives are commanded to submit to husbands. There is a big difference!
God has patterned marriage to mirror the trinity… The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are equal in divine essence, but each has a separate role. Peter acknowledges that women and men are “[both] heirs [in] the grace of life” (3:7) – but similar to the trinity, husbands and wives have different roles in the relationship.
Submission (in any context) is offensive to our modern culture. But Christ’s submission to the Father resulted in him laying down his life! Are we above Christ that we are exempt from submission in our relationships? I don’t think so.
Peter then switches gears slightly to address suffering – which the church was already undergoing. It is in this context that we find the very confusing passage describing Jesus preaching the gospel to imprisoned spirits from Noah’s day (1 Peter 3:18-21). What in the world is Peter talking about?? Well, I don’t think Peter meant for these verses to cause such a conundrum. His point was that if Jesus was righteous and still suffered at the hands of the unrighteous, then the church shouldn’t be surprised if they suffer in the same way (1 Peter 3:13-18).
There are varying interpretations of these verses. Some believe that Jesus spoke through Noah to the evil generation in Noah’s day. Others believe that Jesus went to hell after he died and spoke to all the evil spirits – including the unrighteous of Noah’s day. However you understand these verses, Peter is illustrating that Jesus suffered for doing right – just as the church is called to suffer for doing right.
Then Peter links the flood waters to baptism (vs. 21) and concludes by describing the result of Jesus’ suffering… “[He] has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him” (1 Peter 3:22).
So to summarize, Peter begins this section by commanding us to submit to different authorities. He then holds up the suffering Christ as the ultimate example of submission, and he ends with the truth that now all angels, authorities and power are subjected to Him.
Wow! What an amazing teaching!! God’s Word is deep and wide and living and active. His precepts are tantalizingly good!
In the way of your testimonies I delight
as much as in all riches.
I will meditate on your precepts
and fix my eyes on your ways.
I will delight in your statutes;
I will not forget your word (Psalm 119:14-16).