I believe we always think of the Bible while wearing rose colored glasses, in other words, when we look back on the good ‘ol days of our past, we remember the good times and the great things – but for as much as the Bible is a book about what to do and how to live, it also contains examples of what “not to do.”
Yes, the Bible has heroes and heroines and people to look up to – but, the Bible is quick to admit their faults and to be transparent about their weaknesses. Yes, David was Israel’s mightiest King and he had a strong faith and he was a man “after God’s own heart” …but he kinda had a thing for the ladies…. and he didn’t care who he hurt to get what he wanted.
In Jude, our author gives a few examples from Israel’s history who were examples of rebellion and poor choices.
1. ISRAEL v5 / Exodus 32
v5 Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe.
Jude reminds his readers that sure, God saved everyone from Egypt, but soon after that, God destroyed some of his own people. There were Israelites within the camp who caused splits and factions, and who spread lies and who encouraged idol worship. So yes, the Israelites were God’s chosen people, but sometimes even the chosen make mistakes.
2. FALLEN ANGELS v6 / Gen 3:15 / 2 Peter 2:4
v6 And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day—
So his second example is Angels who sinned, messengers who did not submit to their authority – in other words Angels who rebelled. And Jude doesn’t give us a “for instance” here, but we still understand that he is saying that even the angels in Heaven are not exempt from making poor choices, right? Even Angels can rebel.
3. Sodom and Gomorrah v7 / Genesis 19
v7 just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.
Jude says even the twin cities of Sodom and Gomorrah rebelled against God and when they were consumed by fire – that was an example of the punishment to come.
4. Michael and Moses v8-10
v8-10 Yet in like manner these people also, relying on their dreams, defile the flesh, reject authority, and blaspheme the glorious ones. But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, was disputing about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you.” But these people blaspheme all that they do not understand, and they are destroyed by all that they, like unreasoning animals, understand instinctively.
Now… what is this?
What is Jude talking about here?
Because I don’t remember this story, do you? The archangel Michael talking to Satan about Moses’ body? You don’t remember that story? That’s because it’s not in the Bible. It’s actually in a Jewish history book called The Assumption of Moses – and it’s more than likely a Jewish fable.
According to the story, the Archangel Michael had a run in with the devil – and in Jude’s opinion – Michael wasn’t stern enough or forceful enough in his dealings. In other words, Jude says that when the enemy is in front of you – that’s not the time to pull punches or to tread lightly. So he criticized him for that….
Now we have three more examples and they all come from verse 11
v11 Woe to them! For they walked in the way of Cain and abandoned themselves for the sake of gain to Balaam’s error and perished in Korah’s rebellion.
5. Cain v11 Cain’s actions of not bringing a blood sacrifice in Genesis 4 could be seen as a poor choice and an act of rebellion.
6. Balaam v11 Balaam tried to profit from his own people – even though he knew the truth (Numbers 22-25)
7. Korah v11 (Numbers 16) Korah and his followers actually started a mutiny against Moses and tried to over throw his leadership.
And so listen to Jude’s summary from verses 12-13 (CEB)
v12-13 These people are like jagged rocks just below the surface of the water waiting to snag you when they join your love feasts. They feast with you without reverence. They care only for themselves. They are waterless clouds carried along by the winds; fruitless autumn trees, twice dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea foaming up their own shame; wandering stars for whom the darkness of the underworld is reserved forever.
Look at all of those word pictures: People who feed only themselves, clouds without rain, trees without fruit, wild waves and wandering stars. Jude warns against people who are self seeking, people who make promises but never deliver, people who stir up trouble and or who drift in and out without a home.
I gotta say, for a guy who was going to write about salvation, his letter sure turned into a depressing blast from the past didn’t it?
But we as modern readers of the Bible, can still “learn” from the mistakes of the Bible can’t we? I mean, that’s why they’re there. Any other editor would take all of this out, you’d want to present a clean and clear presentation of your religion’s history. Certainly we don’t want to believe we came from murders and adulterers and lay-abouts.
Well.. but that’s the truth.
You see the temptation is to want to hide out past – to tuck it away ad forget about it, but our past is a true part of our lives and what I’ve found is rather the more people who know my past, the more people who know my crap, the more freeing and liberating it is.
I don’t believe Jude dredges all of this up to be shaming, I think he exposes it to the light to say “SEE! LOOK!” These situations were bad and they were overcome!
The past is better fought head on, through boldness and truth.
As long as we continue to hide it…. it will continue to have power and it will continue to eat away at us.