I went through a series on 1 Peter in Sunday school a few years back and came to a passage that is familiar to many Christians (1 Peter 2:1-3). As I worked through the text and read through a few commentaries, I came away asking, “What is Peter admonishing his readers to do?” Are they to “crave, long for” the word of God (τον λογον του θεου)? The question I wrestled with was, “what was Peter’s intention with this command (επιποθησατε)?” In other words, what “is” Peter admonishing believers to “crave, long for?” Is it really the word (λογον) of God?
To most, and this includes several commentaries; the phrase “crave the pure spiritual milk of the word” refers to the word of God previously discussed in 1:22-25 (1:22, λογου ζωντος θεου; and 1:25, ρημα κυριου). But are the words (“word of God,” τον λογον του θεου) in the text? In order to determine what exactly Peter is discussing; the context must be considered; which many commentaries do. They go back to 1:22-25. But what about the ‘immediate context (vv. 1-3 of chapter 2)?’ I think the immediate context (2:1-3) can help provide with a possible understanding as to what Peter is admonishing his readers to “crave, long for.”
Three things within the context point to Peter’s admonition to crave, and it may not be the word of God. Rather, could Peter be admonishing his readers to crave the Lord God who is the believer’s spiritual nourishment? This is especially true in times of suffering and distress, which is the contextual background of the book of 1 Peter).
- 2:1 – both imperatives deal with attitudes. The participle in 2:1, (αποθεμενοι “put off, lay aside”) takes on an imperatival force of the main verb (επιποθησατε “crave”) in 2:2. Peter is exhorting his readers to do something that is behavioral, or attitudinally related. Their character is the issue. The issue for Peter’s readers may just be that they ought to crave the Lord God, who graciously saved them, by adopting attitudes & behaviors that will help them endure the new life they have begun in Christ. It is clear that these readers will suffer (1 Pet 3:13-17), so Peter is equipping them to reflect the hope that lies within them (1:2). This seems to be consistent with Ps 34:8, of which Peter quotes in the next verse (2:3). Quite possibly verse 8 captures the theme of the whole Psalm (see Ross, A Commentary on the Psalms, vol. 1, p. 743ff); that is, the psalmist urges his audience to experience the protection and provision of the Lord themselves.
- 2:3 – use of the Old Testament. Psalm 34 is a Psalm ‘of David’ when he was before Abimelech and was released. It is a psalm of thanksgiving for David’s deliverance from affliction. This is similar to Peter’s context in that he too is instructing his readers, who are enduring affliction, ‘to bear up’ through suffering by being faithful to the Lord, who will deliver them. Jobes states, “David was delivered from the afflictions he experienced while he was a resident alien among the Philistines, sojourning away from ‘home’ and outside his place of safety” (BEC, 138). David hoped in the Lord and was delivered. As described above, David’s situation is much like that of Peter’s readers, for they too experienced afflictions outside of a safe environment. They were strangers in a foreign land with nowhere to turn for help or hope.
- Peter uses Psalm 34:8 and changes the quote from “you taste,” the imperative form to “you have tasted,” the indicative form. He does so to imply that his readers, through their new identity (1:2-3), have already tasted that the Lord is good/gracious. His quote from the LXX begins with the particle ει and introduces a first-class conditional clause; typically relating a condition when reality is assumed (“[since] you have tasted that the Lord is good”). Therefore this OT quote provides a relationship between the tasting of the Lord’s goodness with placing hope in Him. In the context of Ps 34, it is hope for deliverance from shame, affliction, and want. It is these very things that Peter’s readers were experiencing because of their profession in Christ. Peter admonishes them to put their hope in God, or “crave/long for” Him.
- 2:2 – the word λογικον. This word (λογικον) is in the text and is “not” the same as λογον (“word”). λογικον is used only 2 times in the New Testament, here and Rom 12:1 (“which is your reasonable [λογικον] service”). What is “reasonable,” or “rational – true to ultimate reality,” is that Peter’s readers are reborn into the family of God. Or stated in conjunction with Peter’s use of Ps 34, your reasonable service is to hope [crave, long for] the Lord.
The Logic of verses 2 and 3, then, is “since [first class cond clause] you have tasted that the Lord is good,” = “crave.” Basically Peter is exhorting/admonishing his readers to “crave, long for” a reasonable life, or attitude that reflects a life or identity that has been graciously given to them. Although it is possible that Peter is admonishing his readers to crave/long for the word of God from the context of 1:22-25, I think in light of the context of 2:1-3 and Peter’s use of the OT he is stating that God in Christ alone both conceives and sustains the life of the new birth. They are to crave the Lord God for nourishment, for He alone is their hope.