Play It Again, Peter
With the prevalence of media in our everyday culture, most of us recognize when we hear, "Do you feel lucky, punk?" that someone is quoting a movie. The same goes with “Play it again, Sam,” and “I don't think we're in Kansas anymore, Toto.” The problem is that as popular as these lines are, they do not appear in Dirty Harry, Casablanca, or The Wizard of Oz. They are misquotations that have lived on in our public conscience, albeit incorrectly. This can happen so easily because we very often will rely on our memory of the movie instead of actually watching it again.
There is a similar phenomenon when we read the scriptures. Very often there will be a New Testament writer who is quoting from the Old Testament, and instead of going back and looking at the context of the original statement, we will rely on our impression of what is being said. The problem is that we can be mistaken, and sometimes misunderstand what God wishes us to hear.
A good example of this can be found in I Peter 2:4-10. Peter quotes from several places in scripture in rapid succession to describe how we are living stones that are built on Jesus who is the “precious cornerstone” from Isaiah 28:16. Then, he describes how this “stone” was rejected, but has become the most important corner stone, quoting from Psalm 118:22. Using the idea of “stone” again, Peter describes those who had rejected Jesus as having stumbled over Him, as in Isaiah 8:14.
All of these passages are worthy of investigation on their own, and are excellent uses of Messianic prophecy to make a point about those who have come to Jesus, versus those who have rejected Him. However, Peter doesn’t stop there, because then he describes the new state of those who have come to Jesus.
Using Exodus 19:5-6 and a few other passages describing Israel’s special place in God’s plan, Peter applies those national promises God made to the church, which was made up of Jews and non-Jews alike. This was an amazing revelation, that God would think about the church with the same kind of love and care He had for Israel. This is especially important to those people who had come from Gentile backgrounds.
Coming to the quotation in question, Peter then describes how those in the church had previously been “not a people” but had become “the people of God” there quoting from Hosea 2:23. Further than that, they had previously “not received mercy” but now, in Christ, they have “received mercy.” What a great prophecy about the inclusion of the Gentiles into God’s plan, right? Not exactly.
The whole of the quotation of Hosea 2 is about the unfaithful Israelites who had constantly violated their covenant with God. Hosea was even instructed to name his children, had with a prostitute he married, Lo-Ruhamah and Lo-Ammi to make a point to Israel. These names, respectively, mean “no compassion” and “not my people.” (Hosea 1:6-9)
God’s restoration promises applied to the Gentiles, but it was not they who failed to act as God’s people to the point at which He would no longer have compassion on them. It was His own covenant people who had constantly disobeyed and rebelled. For this reason, the gospel message was made so that He could offer “peace to him who is far and to him who is near.” (Ephesians 2:17, cf. Isaiah 57:19)