Fake News Pundits: Your 15 Minutes of Fame Is Up!
Jude has charged the Fake News! purveyors about whom he is warning the readers in his book, of perverting the truth of grace into immorality and denying Jesus as being a real person. He demonstrated from the First Testament that these Fake News! teachers were like:
- the children of Israel who did not believe;
- the angels who could not keep themselves pure;
- and the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.
In addition, he accused them of:
- being dreamers,
- indulging in sexual licenses,
- rebellers against existing orders of authority,
- presumptuous in their speaking,
- and followers of their own primitive instincts.
Jude now takes up another First Testament illustration of these purveyors of Fake News! He says that they are like Cain, Balaam, and Korah.
He wanted his readers to be well aware of the character of the Fake News! teachers. His first hearers, the Jews, had a contemporary view of Cain, Balaam, and Korah. It is likely that Jude used the contemporary view to pursue his understanding of the character of the Fake News! purveyors who had slipped into the ecclesia of the first century.
Previously, he discussed three groups of sinners, but now he turns to three individual sinners. We can be sure, because of these three illustrations, that Jude believed that these men were teaching Fake News! as if it were true. The illustrations are all centered around men who taught others to sin.
In our current society, there is a lot of teaching going on even in what is supposed to be a conversation. In the church, there are those who are contaminated with different flows of theology. Take fundamentalism as an example as a form of a religion that upholds belief in the strict, literal interpretation of their beliefs. Several years ago, I was in an online conversation with a self-proclaimed atheist. He was sure beyond a reasonable doubt that his way of thinking was absolutely true. During the conversation, I suggested that while arguing with Christians and pointing out their fundamentalist beliefs that he, in fact, was practicing the same kind of thinking in his own atheism.
Of course, that did not sit well with him. He thought that a fundamentalistic point of view could only be seen in Christians. I pointed him to visit a dictionary online which stated that fundamentalism could be seen in a “strict adherence to any set of basic ideas or principles.” Like most folks who are still carrying scars from their own fundamentalistic points of view within the Institutional Church, he could not hear that his view was plagued with fundamentalist ways of thinking and expressing his point of view.
In our own time and place, we are individuals, communities of faith, family units, groups who hold a particular political point of view and are to some degree plagued by an unnoticed allegiance to a fundamentalistic concept, namely, I’m right and you are wrong, especially in the current political climate of 2018.
Without knowing it, we press our arguments for and against an issue or person, built on our own biases about almost any subject. It might just be that folks are polarized because of their own fundamentalistic point of view even though they may think they have “progressed” beyond such thinking while they look down on those who disagree with them.
Old Testament Illustration #3 Jude 11
Woe to them! This is not a curse. It is a pronouncement of catastrophe upon the Fake News! teachers. Jesus had similar thoughts about those who would lead his children astray (Matt. 23.13-16, 25-26, 29). In all of the letter of Jude, there is not a single sound of hope for these apostates. In Jude’s eyes, they were eternally doomed.
His point of view was righteous. Our point of view, not so much!
Jude chose three First Testament characters to tell Jesus followers who would read his letter about these Fake News! teachers. First, they have taken the way of Cain. The ancient Jews saw Cain as a lover of self, a rebel against God who relied on his own resources. He was also understood by them to be an instructor in sensuality. He had committed the first murder. He was known by the first century Jews as one who was guilty of greed, violence, and lust, a corrupter of humankind. For Jude, all these beliefs were true of the Fake News! teachers. They, like Cain, were leading the saints into sensuality and corrupting their minds.
Think of sensuality as anything that makes you feel good, like a massage, eating chocolate, having a bath or shower, or it could also be eating tasty food and drink in a nice restaurant. Sensuality doesn’t have to be sexual.
Cain’s story is found in Genesis 4, Hebrews 11.4, and 1 John 3.12. The most remembered thing about Cain is that he killed his brother. What led to this crime of murder? Most often the answer is given that Cain’s offering was not acceptable to God and Abel’s was, so in a fit of anger, Cain violently slaughtered his brother. It was Cain’s attitude, however, not his offering, which God rejected. As we often do, we have read other parts of the First Testament into this story, thus, misreading and misunderstanding it. According to Deuteronomy 8, God has room for both kinds of sacrifice. It was the arrogant attitude of Cain that God rejected. When God rejected Cain’s offering, Cain’s face glowed with his anger. God questioned him concerning it and told Cain that he could master what was going on inside of him.
The term taken denotes the motions and movements involved in following the way of Cain, i.e., having an arrogant attitude. People can be recognized for what they are by their attitudes. In following the way of Cain, the Fake News! teachers separated themselves from true reality by their ignorant pursuit of the hypothetical news that they thought to be real.
Second, they have rushed for profit into Balaam’s error; Balaam was understood as the unprincipled person who taught others to sin and then wished to be paid for his Fake News! teaching. Numbers 22.21 was understood in Jewish exegesis of the time to mean that Balaam wanted to go and prophesy and that in so doing he was sent to his destruction. Error in this passage means to wander from the right path. Balaam gave instructions, which would lead Israel into immorality.
The record of Balaam appears in Numbers 22-25. There is a later reference to him in Numbers 31.8 and 31.16. There his guilt is established and his end is described. When Israel was about to enter the Promised Land, Balak who was King of Moab, endeavored frequently to convince Balaam to curse the people of Israel. God would not allow Balaam to curse his children. Frustrated by his inability to receive the pay which was promised to him for bringing a curse on Israel, Balaam set forth a diabolical scheme to cause the children of Israel to fall. He convinced the women of Moab and Midian to entice the Israelites and lure them into sexual relationships (Num. 31.16). He knew that God would have to punish them if they sinned. For this scheme, Balaam would receive the wages, which had been promised him. The plan succeeded but Balaam perished in his own sin.
William Barclay states the following about these men:
Out of this composite story, Balaam stands for two things. (a) He stands for the covetous man, who was prepared to sin in order to gain reward. (b) He stands for the evil man, who was guilty of the greatest of all sins, the sin of teaching others to sin. So Jude is declaring of the wicked men of his own day that they are ready to leave the way of righteousness to make gain; and that they are teaching others to sin. To sin for the sake of gain is bad; but to rob someone else of his or her innocence, and to teach another to sin is the most sinful of sins.[ref]Barclay, Jude, 225.[/ref]
For Jude the association between the apostates and Balaam is clear. The term rushed indicates a settled willingness and determination to rush in and commit sin and teach others to do so, also
Finally, They have been destroyed in Korah’s rebellion. Korah was understood as an insubordinate who wished to be what he was not called to be. Along with Dathan and Abiram, he led a rebellion against the authority of Moses (Num. 16.1-35; 26.9-10; Psm. 106.16-18). The record of Korah is in Numbers 16.1-35. He was a descendant of Levi and the cousin of Moses.
Korah’s rebellion was the “speaking against the authority of God” as it had been given to Moses. This was the very spirit of revolt that the Fake News! teachers were demonstrating among the Jesus followers. There is no doubt in the mind of Jude that punishment awaited these Fake News! teachers and anyone who follows them.
How can we think about this in our own time and space? The Fake News! teachers are lovers and rebels who rely on his or her own resources and claim it to be “sources” who are always unnamed. They are unprincipled people who taught others to follow information that is not true but largely made up out of biased whole cloth. They appear on TV news shows in progressive pulpits delivering a message of resistance and then wished to be paid for their Fake News! proclamation. Finally, they want to be understood as experts wanting to be thought of as something they could not be because of the over-the-top false information they deliver publically.
One should note how Jude ends each of his three illustrations, i.e., the groups of vs. 5-7 and the individuals of v. 11 with a comment about judgment. He ends with Korah because, as with Sodom and Gomorrah, it discusses judgment. He does not want his readers to stray far from his main theme—judgment for sin, especially the sin of leading others to sin is a part of God’s ways.
Fake News! teachers persist in delivering stories and thoughts without any thought of judgment, but will surely be judged as not worthy of being listened to in the long run.
Listen up, those of you that peddle Fake News! in ChurchWorld or in the PoliticalWorld!
One should always remember that God loves obedience better than sacrifice. Our difficulty is that we often do not know what we are supposed to obey because we have not been taught the guidelines for obedience set out in Scripture. In the final verses of Jude, we will look at some of these guidelines that we need to obey so that we can keep ourselves from error.
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