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Last week we began to look at the woe oracles. Jude mentioned Cain, Balaam, and Korah as examples of rebellious men that God judged. They were destroyed because of their actions that stemmed from an unrepentant heart void of Jesus Christ. Jude touched on those three men comparing their actions to the creepers and now he provides some graphic descriptions to help us understand the creepers even more.
Jude 12-13 says, “These are the men who are hidden reefs in your love feasts when they feast with you without fear, caring for themselves; clouds without water, carried along by winds; autumn trees without fruit, doubly dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up their own shame like foam; wandering stars, for whom the black darkness has been reserved forever.”
In v. 12 Jude mentions three of the creeper’s dangers. First, “These are the men who are hidden reefs in your love feasts when they feast without fear.” That’s kind of a mouthful so we need to break it down. They are hidden reefs. Hidden reef may also be translated blemish, stain, or spot. The parallel verse in 2 Pet. 2:13 tells us the false teachers, “suffer wrong as the wages of doing wrong. They count it a pleasure to revel in the daytime. They are stains and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, as they carouse with you.” Love feast sounds like something out of the 1960s, but was common in the early church. A love feast typically involved sharing a meal with a group of Christ followers. Following the meal, the Lord’s Supper would be observed. The creepers were, “hidden reefs.” If it seems like Jude is mixing metaphors, he is. A hidden reef is extraordinarily dangerous to ships and their crews. On the surface everything looks great right up until you run into the reef that lies just below the water. On the surface, the love feast looks awesome and wonderful, but not all is as it seems. The creepers were hypocrites, pretending to be something they were not. Remember they denied Jesus Christ. They misrepresented God’s grace and yet they were sitting there acting like they’re just one of the disciples. They snuck in pretending to be something they were not with the intention to lead people away from the truth.
Second they, “feasted without fear.” They ate during the love feast even though their lives were not characterized by the love of Christ. Do you see people today engaging in things that are not biblical or godly and there is no sorrow, no shame, no guilt, or conviction? Finally Jude goes on to say the creepers are, “Caring for themselves.” What’s so wrong with that, everyone needs to take care of themselves, right? Other translations have this phrase as, “shepherds feeding themselves.” This phrase is reminiscent of God’s words to Ezekiel in 34:2, “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel. Prophesy and say to those shepherds, ‘Thus says the Lord God, “Woe, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flock?” The creepers had taken on a leadership role in the church even though they were not Christians. They looked like Christians, but their theology was unbiblical. How can one be a Christian yet deny that Jesus is the Christ? They were leaders that were unconcerned for the people they supposedly led, and they were in it only for themselves.
Jude now provides four illustrations of the creepers from nature. They were, “clouds without water, carried along by winds.” This area of the Middle East is dry and dusty. They need rain to sustain the people, the crops, and the animals. When we’re particularly dry, we anticipate the rain; we pray for the rain. We see the storm clouds come with the promise of rain, but the winds push the clouds away and when no rain falls; we’re left disappointed and discouraged. These creepers promised hope, but brought despair. They were, “autumn trees without fruit, doubly dead, uprooted.” Yet another example of promising something, but getting nothing. Jude’s not talking about missing the opportunity to pick fruit and it’s all gone. He’s talking about a fruit tree that is supposed to produce fruit and does not. Try not to think about the beauty of the fall colors. That’s not the purpose of the tree; it’s supposed to produce fruit. Doubly dead is a bit more difficult to understand. It could indicate the second death after physical death. It could mean that no one expects a tree to produce fruit if it is no longer rooted in soil. It could mean the creepers produce no Christ like fruit in their lives. The precise meaning is unclear, but Jude is attempting to convey the utter hopelessness of following these men. They were, “Wild waves of the sea, casting up their own shame like foam.” Shame can also be translated indecent behavior which lines up with the fact that they defile or pollute the flesh from v. 8. Think of a time at the beach where the waves are really crashing and all this foam builds up. Jude is illustrating that the creepers leave behind something that is not appealing. He may be thinking to Is. 57:20 that says, “But the wicked are like the tossing sea, for it cannot be quiet, and its waters toss up refuse and mud.”
Finally Jude says they are, “Wandering stars, for whom the black darkness has been reserved forever.” Throughout history, the stars have aided people in finding their way. We know the wise men were guided by the star in the East to find the Christ child. (Matt. 2:9) Star comes from the same word that we get our English word asteroid and is also translated planet. Planets are not used for navigation because they orbit around the sun – a star. Stars are fixed in the sky; planets are not. If you want to get off course in a hurry, follow a wandering planet. That darkness points back to v. 6 and indicates wrath and judgment.
These creepers are bad news. Jude has gone to great lengths to graphically illustrate how these people are not what they appear. They snuck into the church without anyone noticing, but they should not remain this way. I wonder how many creepers are in the church today?