Paying close attention to how the New Testament uses the Old Testament is vital for our knowing how to interpret the Old Testament. A specific dimension of how the New Testament uses Psalm 34:12-16 in 1 Peter 3:10-12 provides an excellent example that teaches us a valuable point about interpreting the Old Testament.
The Use of Psalm 34:12-16 in 1 Peter 3:10-12
Lining up Psalm 34:12-16 with the corresponding statements in 1 Peter 3:10-12 helps us to compare the two passages and identify important differences:
|Psa 34:12 What man is he that desireth life, and loveth many days, that he may see good?||1Pe 3:10 For he that will love life, and see good days,|
|13 Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile.||let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile:|
|14 Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it.||11 Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it.|
|15 The eyes of the LORD are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry.||12 For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers:|
|16 The face of the LORD is against them that do evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth.||but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil.|
This comparison reveals two noteworthy points.
First, Peter’s beginning verse 10 of 1 Peter 3 with the word for shows us that he is using Old Testament teaching in Psalm 34:12-16 to support his teaching us as Christians about how we are to live in our day. By comparing the preceding teaching in both Psalm 34 and 1 Peter 3 (Psalm 34:11 with 1 Peter 3:8-9), we learn that Peter is teaching us some specific aspects of how we are to fear the Lord (for further explanation of this point, see this post).
It also provides a good example of teaching that was specifically addressed to believers in the Old Testament that still applies to our lives as New Testament believers. This observation should confirm to us a key dimension of the continuing value of the Old Testament for us (Rom. 15:4; 1 Cor. 10:6; 2 Tim. 3:15-17; for more on this point, see Are You Profiting from the Old Testament the Way God Wants You To?).
Second, in Peter 3:12, Peter inserts the word for between statements (1 Pet. 3:11 and the rest of 1 Pet. 3:12) that correspond to statements that were merely juxtaposed in Psalm 34:14-15. I have previously explained the significance of this important difference this way:
From the citation of Psalm 34:12-16 in 1 Peter 3:10-12, we learn that we who would lead a blessed life of fearing God must keep our tongues from evil and our lips from speaking deceit (1 Pet. 3:10). We must turn away from evil, do good, seek peace, and pursue it (1 Pet. 3:11).
Peter then explains these directives by inserting for at the beginning of 1 Peter 3:12, which is not in Psalm 34:15. By doing so, however, he does not change the original meaning; he brings out the logical connection that was there all along but was unstated. We are thus called to inherit a blessing (1 Pet. 3:9) through heeding certain directives about fearing God (1 Pet. 3:10-11) because His eyes “are toward the righteous, and His ears attend to their prayer” (1 Pet. 3:12a-b), but His face “is against those who do evil” (1 Pet. 3:12c).
Peter’s use of Psalm 34:12-16 in 1 Peter 3:10-12 thus supports our carefully examining other seemingly unrelated statements that are juxtaposed in the Old Testament to see if there is a clear but unstated logical connection that we are supposed to understand from the flow of thought in the passage.
This second point is especially noteworthy because the failure to consider such a possibility likely means that we are often missing intended meaning in the Old Testament that God desires would profit us as New Testament believers.