Of Murkiness, Prophecy, and How to Keep Looking Forward
For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. 2 Peter 1:16-21
I’ve spent time this week meditating on and trying to memorize this passage and found myself needing to untangle some of the reasoning behind Peter’s thoughts here. Peter asserts that the body of prophecy in the Old Testament has pushed past any accusation of trickery or delusion (myth) in the radical moments of transfiguration “on the mount.” His faith is no longer just on the paper of old scrolls but neither has it left those those scrolls behind. His enlightenment has exposed the Scriptures as “more fully confirmed.”
And yet this non-mythical and confirmed Messianic hope we have in Jesus is still something we draw near to as a “lamp shining in a dark place.” Per commentators the word for “dark” here implies not only a poorly lit but also a murky and dirty place. The immoral environment obstructs our view of what is true. Our lamp is brighter (“more fully confirmed”) than it was for those in the Old Testament but it is still a lamp and not the sun itself. As believers we are people who still sit in a place of hope. We look to the horizon. We “will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place.” Limitation is implied and yet confidence is asserted.
It is very striking to me (and to commentators) that the second coming of Jesus put in the imagery of the morning star is said to eventually rise “in your hearts.” The second coming will be subjectively as well as historically experienced. It implies what I know from experience to be true…that my heart is still one of these dark and murky places…a place that needs hope and light. Our hearts are the place we experience the darkness of sin but also the place where we sit in hope, the organ for looking expectantly, and the place that will be transformed when he comes again.
As ministers of the gospel we hold this hope out in the murky and dark places of the world. We hold it out with an objectivity of confidence in prophecy confirmed in history, a prophecy “more fully confirmed.” We give way neither to the cynicism of agnosticism nor the premature pretending that all is clear and we have somehow arrived. It is dark but we have a sure lamp and wait for the sure rising sun. “And you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark (and murky) place until the day dawns and the mornings star rises in your hearts.”
-Paul Van Allen