There are some very difficult and mysterious passages in the Bible...and this is one of them! We shouldn't ignore or gloss over such challenging areas, but study them in order to learn something new. There is something of the Old Testament in Peter's writing. I will be referring to William Barclay's excellent commentary this morning. I think it is safe to say that the references Peter gives here would have been familiar to his first readers. We know about Noah and we can read about Lot's escape from Sodom and Gomorrah-although we cannot read in Scripture of the glowing character reference Peter gives him here! Peter gives us three notorious examples of sin and its destruction and in two cases, he demonstrates that righteousness can be rescued even when sin is being obliterated. The FIRST example: The sin of the angels. This is taken from Genesis 6 v 1-5, where the angels are called 'sons of God'. We can read elsewhere, for instance Job 1 v 6, that angels were commonly called by this title. The idea in Genesis is that the sons of God seduced mortal women and the offspring of their union was a race of giants who brought with them great wickedness, which resulted in God's punishment of the world in the Flood. We read about their continued presence in Numbers 13 v 33 and the story is developed in the book of Enoch, Wisdom and Ecclesiasticus-Old Testaments books of the Apocrypha. Strangely, we can read small allusions to this in Job 4 v 18 and 1 Corinthians 11 v 10, where Paul speaks of women having their hair covered because of the angels, reminding his readers that it was supposedly the long hair of the women which moved the angels to desire them. These words have caused huge controversy for Christian leaders over the centuries, but what Peter is asserting is that the Christians whom he opposed were turning their religion into an excuse for blatant immorality. The second example is the Flood and the rescue of Noah. This leads on from the first example and is much more familiar. The great Jewish historian, Josephus in his book 'Antiquities' writes about how Noah tried to get the sons of God's descendants to behave and how he remained faithful to God. The third example is the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and the rescue of Lot. We can read the full story in Genesis chapters 18 and 19 and it makes for very grim reading. If we think promiscuous behaviour is on the increase in twenty first century England then we still have far to go before this tale becomes commonplace! To summarise: what Peter writes here reminds us that sin is an ancient behaviour and the temptation to sin has always been a huge issue for anyone who has ever lived. Even Jesus we are told, 'was tempted in every way as we are'.
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