Click here for the reading: 1 Peter 5:6-11.
It is the will of God to exalt sinners. It is their stubborn refusal to receive exaltation that gets in the way. It is their stubborn refusal to humble themselves, to acknowledge that they are that lost coin or lost sheep that keeps them from receiving grace. And so Peter admonishes Christians to begin with humility. This is not the same degree of humility that he expects of Christians towards one another just before our pericope, for this is humility under the mighty hand of God. This humility is the prerequisite for self-denial in love for the brothers.
But the mighty hand of God does not oppress the Christian, as it does the sinner who keeps silent (Ps. 32:4). Rather, the mighty hand of God is over the Christian to shield him from all that would make him anxious. He cares for you, and so you can put your hope in him and not be ashamed. He means to exalt you, and so you can submit to his yoke and receive his burdens, for he has made them easy and light.
Being humble under the mighty hand of God enables the Christian to resist temptation and endure suffering. The devil is an active and constant adversary, but he can only strike where the guard is down and divine protection is set aside. Hence Peter’s call for sober-mindedness and watchfulness. It is not the fearful watching of one who does not know what lurks in the shadows or whether he is outmatched. It is the confident watching of one who knows his enemy and has the weapons to defeat him. It is a watching of one who is eager to remain sharp and attentive, sober and circumspect, because it could only be a self-inflicted tragedy to fall to such an enemy. That confidence and eagerness are rooted in faith, which believes in Christ’s suffering and death for the forgiveness of sins and judgment of the devil.
It is also a faith that unites the Christian to a brotherhood throughout the world. We watch and pray and suffer and endure not because we are alone and fearful, but precisely because we are not alone and stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our brothers in the ranks of a mighty force.