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Last week we learned that certain people crept into the church – the creepers. Jude gave us three reasons why their judgment was right and just and told us the judgment for sin was determined long ago. They were ungodly, used grace as license, and denied Jesus Christ. Jude now provides three examples – remember he likes trifectas – of past judgment to his readers.
Jude 5 says, “Now I desire to remind you, though you know all things once for all, that the Lord, after saving a people out of the land of Egypt, subsequently destroyed those who did not believe.”
Here’s Jude’s preface. The first phrase of v. 5 is a transition. His examples serve as a review of what they know. In Ec. 1:9 Solomon that said, “There is nothing new under the sun.” It’s always good to review what we know and Jude is no different. He set up this letter by telling his readers what’s going on in the church because they failed to recognize it. People got into the church and were teaching things that were not consistent with the Bible. They taught things that were not consistent with the traditions of the apostles, were not consistent with what the people knew to be correct, and still no one in the church noticed these things. He starts off by saying, “Now I desire to remind you, though you know all things once for all.” Did you catch that phrase? Jude said his readers, “Know all things once for all,” This makes a connection with, “The faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.” Jude reminded them of the gospel message they already knew because it was preached to them and they made a decision to follow Christ. He’s not saying they know everything. In contrast to the creepers, Jude’s readers knew the Gospel and the creepers did not because they were turning the Gospel into something it was not. On one hand, his readers knew what they were talking about. On the other hand, just because they do know the truth doesn’t mean reminders aren’t helpful. It’s good to be reminded of the power of the Gospel. It is that power that affects change within us in such a transformative way that only God could get the credit. Jude reminded them because his readers, like us, are sometimes susceptible to forgetting the truth.
Remember Egypt! Jude gives his readers the first example of God’s judgment. This was an event of such significance that it was likely talked about around dinner tables like we talk about Pearl Harbor, or the Challenger disaster, or 9/11. What began as an incredible miracle of God turned into a judgment from God for many Israelites. Jude reminds them, “The Lord, after saving a people out of the land of Egypt, subsequently destroyed those who did not believe.” Why was Israel in Egypt? Let’s set Mr. Peabody’s WABAC machine to around 1898 B.C. to find out why. Here’s the Cliff Note version. Father Abraham had many sons, many sons had father Abraham. Isaac was one of them and he had twin sons named Jacob and Esau. Jacob was one of Israel’s patriarchs because first born Esau sold his birth right for a pot of stew. Jacob and his mother Rebekah subsequently tricked Isaac into blessing Jacob instead of the first born Esau. Jacob has a dream in which a ladder is set atop earth reaching to heaven and God tells him, “I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie, I will give it to you and to your descendants. Your descendants will also be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and in you and in your descendants shall all the families of the earth be blessed.” (Gen. 28:13-14) True to the dream, Jacob has 12 sons and the last of them he names Joseph. God changes Jacob’s name to Israel. Gen. 37:3 tells us that, “Israel loved Joseph more than all his sons.” Gen. 37:4 says Joseph’s brothers, “hated him and could not speak to him on friendly terms.” It didn’t help that Jacob made Joseph a, “varicolored tunic” or what we call a coat of many colors. Adding to the hatred of the brothers was the fact that Joseph had two dreams in which he was placed in authority over his brothers. The brothers conspire to kill Joseph, but his brother Reuben steps in and says, “Let us not take his life. Shed no blood. Throw him into this pit that is in the wilderness.” (Gen. 37:21-22) Reuben planned to rescue Joseph later, but some Midianite traders were passing by and the brothers decide to sell Joseph for 20 shekels of silver and Gen. 37:28 tells us, “Thus they brought Joseph into Egypt.” Exodus tells us a slave is worth 30 shekels of silver and Joseph was sold for less. It gives you the sense of just how poorly they thought of Joseph. By my calculations, that’s a price of about $152 in today’s money. The conspiracy deepens as the brothers take Joseph’s stylish coat, kill a goat, and dip the coat in the blood and show it to their father Jacob who concludes that Joseph was, “torn to bits” by a wild beast. (Gen. 37:33) So Joseph arrives in Egypt courtesy of his brothers and the Midianite traders and is then sold to one of Pharaoh’s officers that was captain of the bodyguard and the Bible tells us the Lord was with Joseph. (Gen. 37:36) Joseph became overseer of Potiphar’s house and managed it well right up until Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce him and Joseph literally ran out of his coat leaving it in her hands. She accuses Joseph of rape; he’s thrown in jail where he rises to a position where he’s in charge of the other prisoners such that the chief jailer didn’t even supervise him. (Gen. 39:23) Joseph has the opportunity to interpret a dream for Pharaoh in which there would be seven years of abundance and seven years of famine. Joseph develops a plan to store up grain for seven years and then distribute that food during the famine. Because of his great planning skills and dream interpretation, at the age of 30, he’s elevated to a position just below Pharaoh, ruler of Egypt. As the famine spreads throughout the world, Egypt had plenty of food so people were flocking there to get grain that they were allowed to buy with cash, goats, horse, livestock, and whatever people could find to sell – even selling their lives as they willingly entered servitude to Pharaoh. So who shows up in Egypt but Joseph’s eleven brothers seeking food. After some back and forth exchanges with his brothers, the family is reunited. Joseph gets the last word to his brothers when he says, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.” (Gen. 50:20)
In order to get back to Jude, we need to look at Ex. 1:5-14. If you continue studying Exodus, you’ll see Moses raised up to go against Pharaoh in order to let God’s people go. Israel flees Egypt and is led to the Promised Land in Israel where milk and honey flow. God leads them by a pillar of clouds by day and fire by night. All the while, the people are complaining against Moses and Aaron saying they’d rather be in Egypt as slaves than be in the wilderness.
Now Jude brings it home. The Israelites saw the miracles of God with their own eyes and still rebelled. These weren’t your typical the sun’ll come up tomorrow things. These were incredible and numerous miracles. From the plagues that hammered Pharaoh, to the Red Sea, to the manna from heaven, to the quail to the Israelites clothes not wearing out on their journey. Jude reminds them that God’s judgment came from their disobedience. Of the twelve spies that were sent into the Promised Land, only two came back saying let’s go! With God on our side, we can take them! “The Lord, after saving a people out of the land of Egypt, subsequently destroyed those who did not believe.” Believe is the verb form of faith. Jude conveys the principle that a faith that is not in action, a faith that is not moving is dead. Our faith is not passive. There cannot be a profession of faith without a life of obedience. The disobedience of the people demonstrated their unbelief. That is why God judged them.
Jude’s point, like Peter, is that continued faithfulness is the primary way to demonstrate that we are children of God. Perseverance is one of the distinguishing marks of an authentic believer according to 2 Pet. 1:6. Christian belief – faith – means action. That’s why Jude is reminding the people. When we forget the past, we are doomed to repeat it.