"Like Precious Faith" - The Casting of Lots?|
II Peter Studies
Studies in II Peter
"Obtained like precious faith" The Casting of Lots.
I sat in a men's breakfast meeting and heard a dear brother give thanks for men of "like-precious faith." What did he mean by this? Is it significant or was it just colorful words that he added to his prayers to make us feel more holy or religious? It turns out in fact my friend was quoting II Peter 1: 1.
"Simon Peter, a bondservant and apostle of Jesus Christ. To those who have obtained like precious faith with us by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ" (NKJV).
Peter, (and my friend), was acknowledging that we had received or obtained something of great value - a precious faith that joined us to other believers. Let's take a look at this phrase in more depth. We will focus on two words "Obtained" and "like-precious." I want to take "like-precious" first.
Peter uses the Greek word which is translated "precious" numerous times in his writing. It reveals the high value he placed on his faith and the promises he had been given. The use of the word precious here is actually a compound word "isotimos." It is a combination of two words iso, - like, similar to, or an equivalent position that does not fluctuate. The second word is Timos - dear, of value, great value or esteem, and of the highest honor. Therefore the combination of the two are "like-precious." isotimos. Peter stresses that the faith that he and his readers share is the same kind of faith - and the highest of value.
Peter also states that this "like-precious" faith has been "obtained". Upon investigation we find that this word "obtained" is very interesting indeed. The meaning denotes something of value that has been acquired, or received by the "casting of lots". Remarkably it is the same Greek word, lagehano, used in the Gospel of John 19:24,
"They divided My garments among them, And for My clothing they cast lots."
In a staggering moment Peter takes us back to the crucifixion of Christ where we see the Roman soldiers fulfill the prophecy of Psalms 22:18 by casting lots for the robe of Jesus at the foot of the cross. The blood soaked robe of Jesus, the most precious of garments, is "obtained" by ignorant and sinful men - the same men who killed him. They received this precious item by no efforts or merit of their own.
There is more!
The casting of lots was seldom referred to in the New Testament but was common in the Old Testament. It was a revered practice by the Children of God to aid them in learning of the will or the choices of God in specific matters of utmost importance. It was by no means the heathen practice of resorting to random luck or chance to determine an outcome, such as the flipping of a coin or the rolling of dice.
Casting lots by the Hebrews was serious business and God ordained the practice to make His will known. God instituted the casting of lots for many decisions such as the distribution of the land to the tribes of Israel, (Jos 14:1-2). God identified Jonah to the mariners by the casting of lots. (Jo. 1:7). In the New Testament we see the Apostles casting lots to see who God wanted to replace Judas. (Acts 1:23-26).
Another example of "casting of lots" occured when God commanded the casting of lots by Aaron to determine which animal would be the scapegoat - the sacrificial goat which was released into the wilderness (Azazel). A second goat (also chosen by lots), would be the Lord's sacrificial goat during the High Holy Day of Atonement, (Yom Kippur).
The sacrifice of the released goat was made "outside the camp" (Heb. 13:10-14). This is where God did the choosing and it was not left to the judgment of men or chance. (Lev 16:7-10, 20-22, 26).
Proverbs says it well
"the lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord" (Prov. 16:33).
Now let's quickly fast forward to where Peter confirms to us that the "like-precious faith" that he holds so dear is not gained by an individual's efforts but the providence of God Himself. Peter seems to equate the "obtaining" of "like-precious faith" to the soldier's "obtaining" the precious robe, the covering or "Atonement" of Jesus - our sacrifice!
We, like the Romans, are at the foot of the Cross, having received the precious gift of faith and… "that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast." (Eph.. 2:8-9). Thus we may say that the Roman soldiers obtained the cloak of Jesus by the deliberate design of God! The same can be said of how we "obtained" our precious faith.
Peter, by virtue of his Hebraic mindset, his knowledge of Scripture, Greek and especially the leading of the Holy Spirit employed an intricate and subtle use of two languages, three cultures and spaned thousands of years of redemptive history to present us a clear path.
This path leads us from the doctrine of obtained faith, to the undeserved atonement at the foot of the cross, to the fulfillment of the Psalmist's prophecy and finally back to the Levitical selection of the goats on the Day of Atonement. Peter, supervised by the Holy Spirit, does all of this and more with the use of four critical words!
"Obtained like-precious faith."
Biblical Imagery - Ryken (IVP, Downers Grove, ILL) 1998
NKJV - Scofield New King James Version, Oxford Press, NY) 2002 ed