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Last week it went from bad to worse as Peter told us that these false teachers had eyes full of adultery that evaluated every woman they saw as a potential participant in their ungodly ways. They turned their backs on the right way and followed after the greed loving Balaam. This morning, a rebuke comes from the unlikeliest of places. This should have been included in last week’s message, but there wasn’t enough time.
2 Pet. 2:16-17 says, “But he received a rebuke for his own transgression, for a mute donkey, speaking with a voice of a man, restrained the madness of the prophet. These are springs without water and mists driven by a storm, for whom the black darkness has been reserved.”
A funny thing happened on the way to Israel. Peter picks up the story of Balaam from Numbers 22 as he was making his way to meet Balak to discuss this cursing of God’s people. Please remember that Balaam is not a true prophet of God. He’s in it for the money. He’s in it to maintain his soft, cushy lifestyle. So Balaam is on his way to meet up with Balak under the pretense of godliness, but is really driven by greed. “But he received a rebuke for his own transgression, for a mute donkey, speaking with the voice of a man, restrained the madness of the prophet.” (2 Pet. 2:16) Balaam is supposed to be a prophet of God, but doesn’t recognize the Angel of the Lord standing in front of him. You’ve got to go back and read Num. 22:21-35 to get the full picture. Balaam is arguing with a donkey. If the donkey didn’t see the Angel of the Lord, v. 33 says that He would have killed Balaam and let the donkey live. Balaam admitted to sinning against God after he was told.
Even though Balaam appears godly, the contrast from v. 35 tells us the real story: “But you shall speak only the word which I tell you.” It gives the indication that he had his own agenda. Balaam listened because the donkey spoke with the voice of the man. We would call this a miracle – a sign that so many people look for. The rebuke from the donkey was because Balaam was going to meet with Balak. The donkey, “restrained the madness of the prophet.” The donkey had to get involved. It’s pretty bad when someone that calls himself a prophet of God doesn’t know the way of God and doesn’t recognize God when He’s standing in front of him. Balaam was not literally crazy. Peter is saying that any way that is contrary to the right way, the straightway, the pure way, the holy way, the Jesus way is utter madness. If the donkey didn’t get involved, Balaam would have been killed right there instead of dying while fighting against Israel. Unrighteousness always leads to judgment.
Peter has talked about the character of the false teachers. They intentionally lead Christians astray. They malign the way of the truth. They indulge the flesh. They’re daring and self willed. They’re not scared when they revile angelic majesties. They’re unreasoning animals. They lure or entice unstable souls. They revile where they have no knowledge. He has clearly established the character of the false teachers is less than what is expected of a vibrant relationship with Christ. Peter now illustrates the affect they have on other people. It’s always nice to illustrate what you mean so Peter compares things that would be understood by his readers. He says the false teachers are like, “Springs without water.” When you go to a spring, you expect water. Think about traveling in the Middle East. There is a lot of wilderness and rugged terrain and it’s hot. A spring would be a welcome opportunity to rest and recharge. A spring without water is useless. This is a comparison to the deception of the false teachers. Teachers of God’s Word should provide clarity, should provide water for thirsty souls, but in the end people expecting help were left parched, frustrated, and confused. There is a parallel from Jeremiah: “For My people have committed two evils: they have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, to hew for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns that can hold no water.” (Jer. 2:13) They promised solid Bible teaching, but their teaching led people away from the straight way. Pro. 13:14, “The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life, to turn aside from the snares of death.” The false teachers are, “Mists driven by a storm.” Again, thinking of Israel as that dry and parched land in desperate need of rain, the mists that could bring relief are blown away. The results of both comparisons are the same. When you need to satisfy a deep thirst, you need water. It’s like giving someone an empty glass to quench their thirst.
These false teachers did not deliver what they promised. They promised no judgment, but God always judges sin. The wages of sin is death. “Black darkness has been reserved” for the false teachers. Once again, Peter hammers coming judgment for these people. Don’t be seduced into thinking that what we do doesn’t matter.