These are hidden reefs at your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear, shepherds feeding themselves; waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever.
These two verses will center and contextualize around Jude exposing the access point of those who were attempting to deceive the gathering believers. Jude warns that these deceivingly shrewd men are using Oi Giortes tes Agapais (the love feasts), or as we know it Theia Koinonia (Holy Communion), to exploit unsuspecting Christians. This was a calculated strategy – disingenuous at its best, evil at its worst, as the early church weekly love-feast/communion meal were graciously and lovingly open and welcoming to anyone confessing a faith in Messiah. Jude repeats the phrase “These men are” in verses 16 and 19. Jude is thinking of the prophecies of apostasy found in the Old Testament apocryphal literature, or early Christian prophecy, and saying that these men fulfill it. The love-feasts provided the formational setting for the Holy Communion in the early church and very quickly became a mechanism for control and spiritual through greed, disorder, prejudice, partiality, and immorality (1 Corinthians 11:20)
Defining Men Who are Hidden Reefs: The NRSV and NIV translate as “blemishes” (“stains”) while the NLT, NJB, and ESV use “dangerous reefs.” The parallel to Jude in 2 Peter 2:13 uses the Greek word spilos; meaning “stain,” “blots,” or “blemishes,” but the term here is actually spilas; which is spelled similarly and carries the meaning of a “hidden reef” or “rocky hazard hidden by waves”, The wordplay or semantic range with the two words spilos/spilas indicates that the false teaching given to Jude’s audience presents “a danger to the spiritual purity and protection of the community,” and that is indeed possible. [contextualize forward]
The False Teaching of Hidden Reefs: In keeping with Jude’s metaphor; God is bound by His promise to provide believers with smooth sailing on peaceful and calm waters. The misguided expectation of this teaching is the greatest threat to shipwreck. Shipwreck because of dangerous hidden reefs just beneath the surface of the water. Dangerously hidden reefs that are no longer taught about, watched for, and certainly presented as needless concern or non-importance.
Jude continues to expound on the invective in four striking metaphors. As is his style Jude once again reflects on the importance of God’s order and His authority over that His order. The clouds, trees, waves, stars all derived from the natural realm, nonetheless a realm God alone orders. If one is to teach, preach, and to instruct others on the ways of God and the kingdom of heaven, then one must not attempt to ever change God’s order or His authority. If one does so, there is consequence at the hand of the God of the universe.
Defining Clouds Without Water: In the Mediterranean (even more so in dry Palestine), rain was essential for crops and therefore for life. The picture here is derived from Proverbs 25:14, “A person who promises a gift but doesn’t give it is like clouds and wind that bring no rain.” One would see the clouds driven in from the sea with the promise of moisture, only to be sadly disappointed. Similarly, these false teachers gave the hope of life from their teaching but failed to deliver anything but empty promises.
The False Teaching of Clouds Without Water:
Personalities, Brands, Trends; Voices who look as if they carry with them a much-needed rain. Upon closer examination, and accountability have nothing of substance or source to meet the spiritual needs of the people. First, the false teachers are “like clouds blowing over the land without giving any rain” (verse 12). In the Mediterranean (even more so in dry Palestine), rain was essential for crops and therefore for life and prosperity. The picture Jude paints here is derived from Proverbs 25:14, “A person who promises a gift but doesn’t give it is like clouds and wind that bring no rain.” One would see the clouds driven in from the sea with the promise of moisture, only to be sadly disappointed. Similarly, these false teachers gave the hope of life or prosperity from their teaching but failed to deliver anything but empty promises.
Autumn Trees Without Fruit: [uprooted and doubly dead] Jude refers to the relatable and crucial harvest time in the Julian calendar (August 11 to November 10) when the hope of fruit (particularly olives and figs, and also pomegranates) is at its highest. Yet the trees are found fruitless. Like the first image of clouds without rain, there is all the hope of fruit but a complete failure to deliver on that promise. But here Jude adds a further image, that of judgment. These trees (metaphorically, the false teachers) are “doubly dead,” since they have been “pulled up by the roots.”
The accurate interpretation here is that these trees are dead first by the fact that they have stopped bearing fruit by virtue of being torn out at the roots. Jude’s false teachers fit this image very well. They were dead in their own fruitlessness and then doubly dead in the judgment they faced from God.
False Teaching of Autumn Trees Without Fruit: Two sayings of Christ are absolutely relative for a teachable moment here: (first), the good and bad trees in Matthew 7:16–20, in which false prophets are known by their bad fruit, with the result that they are “chopped down and thrown into the fire” (Matthew 7:19); (second), John 15:1–8 speaks of the branch that stops bearing fruit being “thrown away” and then “gathered into a pile to be burned” (John 15:6). In both, the judgment of the fruitless tree is emphasized.
Wild Waves of the Sea: [casting up their own shame like foam] There is little doubt Isaiah 57:20 lies behind this image, as it conjures up the restlessness of the wicked and their continual production of filthy scum, such as is found littered about the seashore when the tide recedes.
But the wicked are like the tossing sea, For it cannot be quiet, and its waters toss up refuse and mud. “There is no peace,” says my God, “for the wicked.”
The word epaphrizō (‘foam out’) is very rare. The poet Moschus uses it of the seaweed and other rubbish borne on the crest of the wave and then deposited on the beach.
False Teaching of Wild Waves of the Sea: Part of God’s calling on our lives is for us to learn by faith to trust Him – He calls on us to trust in Him and His unfathomable ways for us. When we do not we are usually trusting in ourselves, someone else, or something else altogether which most assuredly ends in various forms of disaster or destructiveness. That debris and garbage that washes ashore is the result of our lack of faith and trust in God.
Wandering Stars: [destined to become eternal darkness] …whose doom is to be imprisoned in darkness forever. Jude is thinking not of planets, but of shooting stars that fall out of the sky and are engulfed in darkness—to the confusion of all who watch them. For this metaphor, he goes to 1 Enoch once more, where the angel shows Enoch ‘a prison for the stars of heaven’. Later, he sees stars bound together, and is told, ‘these are the stars which have transgressed … and this is the prison of the angels in which they are kept forever’. This suggests that Jude is thinking of the doom of the fallen angels (of which he had spoken back in verse 6), when he talks of the doom reserved for wandering stars. This conclusion is confirmed by the fact that Jude goes on to quote Enoch again in the next verse.
False Teaching of Wandering Stars: The question is, ‘whom do we believe has “the power in the heaven both day and night to establish “the orders of the stars.” The ancient Jews believed that angels regulated the movements of the planets. When the planets wandered from their proper place, it was believed that this was due to disobedient angels, and falling stars were fallen angels being cast out of heaven. But God wanted to give Job wisdom and perspective when He asked him some profound questions about creation’s great realities.
Job 38: 4-8, 12-13, 19-24
Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding, who set its measurements? Since you know. Or who stretched the line on it? On what were its bases sunk? Or who laid its cornerstone when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?
Have you ever in your life commanded the morning, and caused the dawn to know its place, that it might take hold of the ends of the earth, and the wicked be shaken out of it?
Where is the way to the dwelling of light? And darkness, where is its place, that you may take it to its territory and that you may discern the paths to its home? You know, for you were born then, and the number of your days is great! Have you entered the storehouses of the snow, or have you seen the storehouses of the hail, which I have reserved for the time of distress, for the day of war and battle? Where is the way that the light is divided, or the east wind scattered on the earth?
The point of Jude’s instruction here is directed to those who follow wandering stars. Jude’s message: If you follow wandering stars you will end up in a darkness in which there is no light. You don’t know anything about that kind of utter darkness or the absence of any resolute light – but I do. Trust Me God says. You don’t want to lose yourself there in that place. Don’t follow every shiny wandering star no matter how brightly they seem to shine, they are only headed for darkness.
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