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Last week Jude presented us with a sinful trifecta further proving that the creepers were not men of God. The creepers defile the flesh, reject authority, and they revile angelic majesties. We saw that last phrase was not easily understood. Jude continues to build his case against the creepers and offers a contrast to a very special being and we’ll also see why cross references are so important as we let scripture interpret Scripture.
Jude 9 says, “But Michael the archangel, when he disputed with the devil and argued about the body of Moses, did not dare pronounce against him a railing judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!”
There are some difficulties with this verse. This letter contains several difficult verses and v. 9 is no different. Let’s do the best we can to understand what Jude is telling us. He begins with the word, “but.” We know this word represents a contrast. It’s really a comparison to something he has said. We’re familiar with comparisons and contrasts. In Hamlet, did he say, “I want to die.” No, he said, “To be or not to be, that is the question.” Did President Kennedy say, “We need your help.” Nope, he said, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” It was FDR that said, “There is nothing to fear except fear itself.” Using comparisons and contrasts is really effective in writing and speaking. In v. 9, Jude is continuing the thought from v. 8. He started with a comparison, “Yet in the same way.” Now in v. 9 he offers the contrast by saying, “But.” He compared the sins of the creepers to the sins of Israel, to Sodom and Gomorrah, and to the angels.
He says, “But Michael the archangel.” We saw from a couple messages ago that angels are very, very popular in our culture. Here are some interesting facts about angels. A basic definition of an angel is a spiritual being serving God and supporting mankind. Ps. 103:21 says, “Bless the Lord, all you His hosts, you who serve Him, doing His will.” Neh. 9:6 and Col. 1:16 say that they are created beings. Job 38:7 says they were around prior to the creation account in Genesis so they were created before humanity. Ps. 91:11 says, “For He will give His angels charge concerning you, to guard you in all your ways.” The Bible distinguishes between good or faithful angels and fallen angels or demons. They have free will and are not impervious to temptation and sin. Job also tells us they had free access to God after their fall. According to Revelation there are, “myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands” angels. (Rev. 5:11) They stand, sit, see, speak, eat, and foretell the future. Angels are not to be worshiped according to Colossians and Revelation. Getting back to Michael, Paul said in 1 Thes. 4:16, “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.” Michael is a prominent angel, one of three named angels in Scripture, but the only one identified as the archangel. Archangel defines Michael’s authority as the chief angel. Rev. 12:5-9 tells us, “There was war in heaven, Michael and his angels waging war with the dragon. The dragon and his angels waged war, and they were not strong enough, and there was no longer a place found for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.” There is a hierarchy to angelic beings and Michael is their leader under God’s final authority. Michael is important.
So what about Michael the archangel? Apparently there was a dispute. Let’s look again at v. 9. We know Moses was God’s chosen man to deliver His people from the land of Egypt. According to Num. 20:12, Moses was not allowed to enter the Promised Land because he struck the rock twice instead of speaking to it to bring forth the water that the people needed. For that one instance of disobedience, Moses would not lead the people into the land flowing with milk and honey. At the end of Moses’ life, God showed him the land that was promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and Moses was able to look into the Promised Land from the plains of Moab. Moses died and according to Deut. 34:6, God Himself buried Moses and no one knows exactly where. The argument with the devil concerned the body of Moses. The physical body of Moses. It’s interesting that Michael and the devil can even have a conversation, but that gives you insight into what is happening in the spiritual realm. Paul told us that, “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Eph. 6:12) I don’t believe there’s a demon hiding behind every door or under every rock, but I do believe they have incredible influence in our lives and most people don’t even realize it. The word struggle in that passage comes from the word that means intense physical or nonphysical force. Remember there are two types of people in the world. Saved or lost. Children of righteousness or slaves of sin. If I could get really simple right now, Satan is trying to do just two things. Keep lost people lost. Ruin or damage the testimony of Christians. The book of Genesis described him as, “More crafty than any beast of the field which the Lord God had created.” (Gen. 3:10) He is devious, he is deceptive, he is discouraging. The tactic he used in the garden was to introduce doubt in the mind of Eve. He still does that today.
What does this have to do with Moses? The name Satan means adversary and devil means accuser. They are legal terms so this gives us the idea that the dispute was a legal type issue over Moses’ body. What was the exact nature of the dispute is not at all clear from Scripture, but the contrast to the creepers is clear. The creepers, “revile angelic majesties,” (Jude 7) but Michael the chief of angels, didn’t do that. Given the opportunity and authority, Michael chose to let the Lord take care of things. Michael, “Did not dare pronounce against him a railing judgment, but said the Lord rebuke you!” This phrase alludes to another time when Satan accused a servant of God named Joshua. The story is told in Zechariah about Satan accusing Joshua the High Priest of wearing filthy garments. Zech. 3:2 says, “The Lord said to Satan, “The Lord rebuke you, Satan! Indeed, the Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is this not a brand plucked from the fire?” The Lord is our advocate. When Satan accuses us, Jesus stands in as our helper, our mediator before God. When the Lord rebukes, it is a final judgment.
This is a very difficult verse to understand because we don’t have the full back story. We know Moses sinned when he murdered the Egyptian, he sinned by striking the rock, as well as other recorded shortcomings yet God still used him to lead His people. Satan wants to bring us down, wants to destroy us, but Jesus is there to help us, He is there to mediate for us. I want to quote a very powerful passage that we must get and keep in our hearts.
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written,
“For Your sake we are being put to death all day long;
We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom. 8:31-39)
Wow. Keep going. Fight to the end. Don’t give up, don’t quit.