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Last week we discovered that the creepers slandered the way of the Lord; they reviled things they did not understand. They are unreasoning animals driven by instinct and passion rather than truth and reason. Their way of life leads to destruction. Jude now begins a three verse string that is known as the woe oracles. Remember this letter is designed to be read at one time. We won’t get through all three verses today, but we will look at three examples of people that were destroyed because of their actions.
Jude 11 says, “Woe to them! For they have gone the way of Cain, and for pay they have rushed headlong into the error of Balaam, and perished in the rebellion of Korah.”
What is woe? Woe is a word we hear Jesus say often. He used the word seven times in Matt. 23. He is consistent in His use of the word in that chapter referring to the Pharisees. Jesus spoke of their exclusivity. He called them blind guides, fools, and hypocrites. He said they focused on the minor and ignored the more important, weightier matters of doctrine. Jesus said they were clean on the outside, but filthy on the inside. He said the Pharisees were like whitewashed tombs – beautiful on the outside and full of dead man’s bones on the inside. On the outside they appeared righteous, but on the inside they were full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. Jesus called them vipers and serpents and asked them, “How will you escape the sentence of hell?” (Matt. 23:33) The word woe is an expression of grief or denunciation and it can also mean a terrible pain that is to come. Jesus used the term effectively denouncing the attitudes and values of the Pharisees. This is the same usage of the word Jude employs in describing the seriousness of lifestyle and behavior of the creepers. This is hardly the picture of tolerance that many people in the world and even in the church claim that Jesus represents. People that make this false claim of Jesus have not consulted the Scriptures. He is particularly intolerant of religious leaders that claim one thing and do another.
Jude calls out three Old Testament people that were severely denounced. “Woe to them,” woe to the creepers! The first example of woe. Jude starts out with the earliest example of poor decision making and sibling rivalry when he says, “They have gone the way of Cain.” If we go back to Gen. 4, we’ll see that Cain was the first child of Adam and Eve and grew to be, “A tiller of the ground.” Abel was the second born and, “Was a keeper of flocks.” All was going just great until Cain brought an offering from the ground and Abel brought an offering from the flock. God had regard for Abel’s offering and not Cain’s. God says to Cain, “If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.” (Gen. 4:7) The word desire is the same one used in Gen. 3 when God told Eve, “Yet your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” Sin wants to control you, and Scripture says we must master it. Cain didn’t and murdered his brother.
The second example concerns Balaam. The creepers, “For pay . . . have rushed headlong into the error of Balaam.” When we consider the Old Testament writings about Balaam, it can be a bit confusing. On the surface it seems like Balaam was a decent guy; a prophet of God. When Balak wanted to pay him to curse Israel, Balaam said, “Though Balak were to give me his house full of silver and gold, I could not do anything, either small or great, contrary to the command of the Lord my God.” (Num. 22:18) It took a donkey to reveal Balaam’s true character. We even see God speaking to Balaam and telling him what to say. But Balaam was anything but a true prophet. Peter said that Balaam, “Loved the wages of unrighteousness.” (2 Pet. 2:15) God concludes, “Your way was contrary to Me.” (Num. 22:32) and in we see in Num. 31:8 that he was killed fighting against Israel. Jude draws a comparison between the creepers and Balaam. The creepers rushed headlong into the error of Balaam and they did it for money. Likely they are traveling teachers seeking to make some cash. There are numerous companies and booking agents that will arrange to have a famous pastor/preacher/teacher for your event and they do it at a cost. There is nothing wrong with earning a living or being compensated for what you do. I often joke that I’m a professional Christian because I get paid to be a minister of Jesus Christ. The truth is I’ve been doing what I do for a long time and it is my privilege to do so. I have done, I do, and would do it without compensation. I still offer much of what I do for free. Counseling. Weddings and funerals. Coaching. Home repair consultation. Much of what I provide is to people that may attend C4, but are not members. Most of the counseling I do is for people from other churches or people that are not affiliated with any church and may not even be a Christian. Scripture is very clear that the minister of God must not be in it for the money. There’s nothing wrong with paying your pastor or church leader. Paul told Timothy, “The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching.” (1 Tim. 5:17) But Balaam was in it for the money and it looks like the creepers were too. This gives us the idea that the creepers knew what they were doing. Back in v. 4 Jude said they, “Deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” How is it remotely possible that they got into the church and were teaching and still no one noticed that their theology was whacked?
Jude’s not done as he provides the third example of Korah. This is another O.T. reference. Jude obviously loves the O.T. providing some solid evidence that the O.T. is still applicable and relevant for today. Korah and two of his buddies formulated a plan to overthrow Moses and Aaron with the help of 250 others from the assembly of Israel. What is significant about this is that according to Num. 16:2 they were, “chosen in the assembly, men of renown.” Korah and the rest were leaders. God had chosen them. It wasn’t enough for them to be leaders they, particularly Korah, wanted to be in total control. They told Moses, “You have gone far enough.” (Num. 16:3) Korah rebelled against the leadership God had chosen for Israel. Numbers tells us that Korah gathered his 250 rebels with their sensors at the entrance of the tabernacle. Keep in mind the ceremonial procedures for the tent of meeting and incense and offerings were still in place. This attempted coup resulted in some serious consequences. The Lord told Moses to get back and for the people to get back. God opened the ground and swallowed Korah and the rebels. Korah and his people rebelled against the authority God gave them which means they rebelled against God. Three examples of judgment for rebellion of God’s authority.
Do not rebel against God or against the leaders He has appointed. No where are we saying blind obedience or devotion to the leader. The creepers were not wondering or questioning the leaders. They were intentionally undermining the authority of Scripture by teaching things that were not accurate. If you don’t understand something that is going on here or you wonder about something . . . ask! I enjoy a respectful conversation about Scripture, and I will easily admit I don’t know everything. I’m not sure about some things. Can God use you to show me something? Absolutely. The examples Jude mentions didn’t do that. Do not revile things you do not understand.