In the last post we looked at a passage from 1 Peter;
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 1 Peter 2:9
We discussed how in this passage Peter was not just utilizing some interesting metaphors for the church but was actually drawing his readers back to Sinai and God’s original declaration to Israel that he was setting his followers apart as a royal priesthood and a holy nation. Peter uses these references to encourage the church to be on mission with God as a light to the nations. But Peter doesn’t stop there, he goes on in the very next verse.
Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. – 1 Peter 2:10
On the surface level, Peter is simply helping the church see the place that they have come from. He tells them what they used to be and what they have become because of God’s love in their lives. But it goes even deeper because Peter is reminding them of their story.
Hosea was a prophet who lived during the 8th century BCE. He prophesied to the Kingdom of Israel, the northern tribes, trying to bring them back to God and avoid exile. Part of his role was to be a living parable. He was called to live out God’s love and faithfulness to Israel. Hosea was called by God to marry a prostitute (probably one of the shine prostitutes, but a prostitute none the less). He marries Gomer and she bares him three children. Each of these children is given a special name. The first is named Jezreel as a sign that God will soon punish King Jehu’s dynasty. The second was named Lo-ruhamah which means not loved because God will no longer show love or mercy to Israel. The final child is named Lo-ammi which means not my people because God will no longer claim Israel as his people. Hosea’s children are forced to serve as an example to Israel that God is tired of their sin and their apostacy and he’s going to allow them to follow their foreign gods and be taken into exile. Each time Hosea calls his children it will be a reminder of the consequence of Israel’s sin. After a time Gomer leaves but God commands Hosea to bring her back, to love her and care for her as a sign that even though Israel has sinned, God will call her back and love her again just as before. God’s love never ends.
Peter draws on the names of Hosea’s children when he tells of God’s love and faithfulness to the church. The church is a royal priesthood and a holy nation set apart for God’s purposes. But, there was a time when God would not claim them or love them because of their sin, because we as humans had turned from God, because we failed to follow him. Yet, God is renewing his promises. Just as the story of Hosea is one in which Hosea loves his adulterous wife and brings her back into the family God loves his people (his bride) and brings them back into his family. Once we were Lo-ammi, not God’s people. But now we are God’s people. Once we were Lo-ruhamah, not loved. But now we are loved and have received mercy. Once we were separated from God because of our sins and our selfish behavior. But now, God has called us and loved us back into his family.
What does all of this mean? It means we have even more reason to proclaim the one who called us out of darkness into his wonderful light. Not only has God formed us into a royal priesthood and a holy nation to be a light to others, but he reminds us that our special status doesn’t make us any better than anyone else. We have been chosen not because we are great or perfect, but in order to be God’s instruments, to testify to the world of God’s love and mercy. We have been set apart not so that we can go to heaven, but so that we can live a life now that proclaims God’s greatness. Because we understand that there was a time when we were Lo-ruhamah, we were Lo-ammi, but now we are the chosen and loved people of God; so that we might declare his praises to others; so that God might receive the glory.