Cleverly Devised Myths | 2 Peter 1:16-21
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. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. 2 Peter 1:16-21 | ESV
“Cleverly devised myths.” Now we’re talking Old Testament in estimation of many. Just drop the word “clever.” Many in our generation would retain “devised” and “myth” but instead of “clever” would substitute “backwards,” “banal,” or “unsophisticated.” I recently heard it expressed this way: “Sure, old books collected by a bunch of illiterate goat herders is meant to shape our destinies.” Such a view would see the Old Testament as not only irrelevant but as actually malevolent and harmful. And certainly the Old Testament has been used to justify quite the list of man’s inhumanity to man – everything from genocide, to gender oppression, to slavery. Of course, abuse says much more about the abuser than the abused. We seem possessed of an endlessly creative capacity to take the best of gifts given and twist them into curses. Peter points our gaze higher. And while he would likely have no issue with “myth” as a primal story with great shaping and formative power, he clearly takes issue with “myth” as contrived fiction meant to control. He also would undoubtedly take issue with descriptors like “backwards,” “banal,” and “unsophisticated” – okay, he might actually not object to that one. I can see him picking up the word “unsophisticated” and running with it; after all, he insists that these are not “cleverly devised myths.” We tend to see the Old Testament as a dark place, and I suppose we’re right in that for a good chunk of it. But Peter looks at the whole of it and sees not a dark place, but a light shining in a dark place. A light shining just brightly enough, though it often seems to flicker, to dispel the darkness of the room until the Sun rises with healing in its wings. Maybe that’s why we find such graphic honesty in the Old Testament about the darkness in and around this story. The darkness only serves to draw our attention to the light shining in the midst of it all, the same light shining in the midst of our darkness – the light pointing to the full day.
What parts of the Old Testament especially strike you as “cleverly devised myths”? What parts ring most true? Why?
Lord, it’s so easy to be pulled into the darkness like a black hole, rather than to be drawn to the light. Help me to see the light that shines through the story of the Old Testament right into the pages of the New, and on into the pages of my own life. Give me grace not to kick at the darkness of this story – or at the darkness in all the stories I encounter this day. Turn on the light instead, and help me to see it. Through Jesus.
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