Wrestling with the pigs

But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil,
was disputing about the body of Moses,
he did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment,
but said, “The Lord rebuke you.” Jude 9

There’s an old adage that says, “Never wrestle with a pig, you’ll both get dirty and the pig enjoys it.” If you listen to the political rancor today, or watch the videos of the protests and riots, and you find this adage to be proven true.  Talking heads, or masked masses, scream and yell at each other, attacking not just the ideas but the people behind them, and seemingly getting a thrill out of the spectacle that they’re making. I watch and listen, trying to understand what’s happening in the world around me, and all I see and hear is arrogance, pride, a blatant disregard for the lives and dignity of others; ultimately, a flat out rejection of the imago dei

This is the cantancorous spirit of the false teachers that Jude is rebuking, those who had crept into the church and were twisting the grace of God into sensuality and denying the Lord and Master Jesus Christ (Jude 4). Verse 8 ends with the charge that these false teachers “blaspheme the glorious ones,” a phrase that needs further explanation, and thankfully, Jude gives it.

In verse 9, Jude refers to an apocryphal story about the burial of Moses. We’re told in Deuteronomy 34:5-6 “So Moses the servant of the Lord died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the Lord, and he buried him in the valley in the land of Moab opposite Beth-peor; but no one knows the place of his burial to this day.” Illustrating the attitude of the false teachers, Jude shares the story of Michael the archangel contending with the devil, disputing about the body of Moses.  It is likely that Jude is drawing from the aprocryphal work called The Assumption of Moses, which included this story of Michael the archangel contending with the Devil over Moses’ body. The Reformation Study Bible notes that this was “likely a historical event that was preserved in Jewish memory, which was then picked up and written down in the Assumption of Moses, from which Jude may have drawn,” or it was simply a story of legend that all the young Jewish children would have known.

One can imagine that the Devil was arguing that Moses shouldn’t belong to the Lord because he was a sinner. Or, as Calvin suggests, it was possible that the Devil wanted to take Moses’ body and create a shrine.  “Satan almost in all ages has been endeavoring to make the bodies of God’s saints idols to foolish men” (Calvin).  What we know for certain is Michael’s response. Here’s the archangel, the chief of the angels, contending with the devil himself, and he refuses to get into the details, to go back and forth in debate. He simply declares, “the Lord rebuke you!”

The New Covenant Commentary summarizes this well:

Ultimately, the point is that the arrogance of the infiltrators is placed in stark contrast from the meekness of the powerful heavenly being who, though he could be justified in claiming a greater sense of authority than mortals, nevertheless approaches delicate matters with a decided sense of humility. Even while representing God, Michael the archangel never presumes the role of Judge; that role belongs to God. Rather, by appealing to God’s authority, he is able to invoke God’s judgment without undermining God’s position. By implication, those infiltrators making judgments of others are in essence playing God, by virtue of which they put themselves in danger of divine judgment. 

Mbuvi, Andrew M. Jude and 2 Peter: A New Covenant Commentary. Ed. Michael F. Bird and Craig Keener. Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2015.

The church could and should learn a lot from Jude today. How often do we put ourselves in the place of judge, jury, and executioner?  We are certainly called to discern the truth from lies, to hold fast to, and even contend for, the faith. We must point out errors, according to the word of God, in order to correct and train in righteousness. 

But through all of this we must resist the temptation to put ourselves in the place of God in pronouncing judgment on one another. We tend to use worldly means to fight spiritual battles, plotting out well-devised debates, looking for a mud-pit to roll around in for a while.  Even Michael, the archangel, with all of his authority, knew better.  He engaged the devil with humility, and in respect for the authority of Christ, so that he refused to even pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but entrusted the matter to the Lord.  If the greatest of the good angels refused to speak evil of the greatest of the evil angels, surely we should refrain from speaking evil of one another.

Along with this teaching from Jude, Psalm 44 offers a great reminder:

For not in my bow do I trust,
nor can my sword save me.
But you have saved us from our foes
and have put to shame those who hate us.
In God we have boasted continually,
and we will give thanks to your name forever.

As we seek to contend for the truth of the gospel, let us do so always trusting that the Lord will fight the battles for us. It is the Lord who saves, the Lord who preserves. Let us, in humility and faith, look to Christ and walk with Him.

SDG 

Some Post-Election Thoughts

“Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded,
set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
(1 Peter 1:13, ESV)

The dust from Election Day is settling, and there is a President Elect.  While praying for a peaceful transition of power, I also recognize that there is a lot of pain, disappointment, heartache, and grief.  Of course, some are rejoicing that their candidate won, and others are dejected because their candidate lost.  And then you have those who liked neither of the two leading candidates, and while they may be happy that one candidate lost, they can’t quite be happy that the other candidate won.  It’s a really strange time. I didn’t get my sticker for having  voted, but had I a choice, I would have picked this one:

cried

The Social-Media platforms are on fire today with flaming arrows coming from either side.  There are two basic comments being made. Those whose candidate lost are lamenting how these uneducated, unsophisticated, basket of deplorable troglodytes could actually come together to pull off this upset vote.  Those whose candidate won are acting as if the world is finally right again, that Utopia is finally within reach, and that the losing side are finally getting their due.  The thing is, what I’ve just written could have been said regardless of who had won the election, and it will be the reaction every time there is an election of this magnitude.

With this in mind, I thought I’d offer a Pastoral word on avoiding this Post-Election Division and Dysphoria.  These are in no particular order, and since I was up pretty late awaiting the election returns, I simply pray they make some sense to you and are helpful in these coming days.

  1. We need to repent.  Both sides of the ticket.  We have calumniated those we disagree with, assumed they have the worst intentions, and harbored hatred in our hearts.  If you think you haven’t done this, ask yourself, “When did I honestly and sincerely pray for the candidate of the opposing party?”  We tend to objectify those who differ from us politically, and refer to them as “They” or “Them,” and feel no compunction of saying the most vile things about them.  Is this how a Christian should speak of others?  Let us repent, and commit to pray for and support our elected officials, regardless of whether we voted for them.
  2. Avoid two tendencies that are sides of the same coin.  The first is the tendency to vilify the other.  As I mentioned above, this is an easy trap to fall into.  Let us rise above this, for the sake of the grace that has been given to us in Christ Jesus.  Paul writes in Romans 12:14-18, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all” (Romans 12:14–18).
    The other tendency is to idolize the victor.  Our candidate is the only one who can fix the economy, stop global warming, ensure our liberty, bring and end to war and usher in a season of peace; Our candidate will save the world!  That may seem extreme when all crammed together, but individually, they have all been said at one point or another.  If you’re walking away from the election results thinking that finally the dark clouds have passed and we’re about to enter 4 years of unprecedented growth, peace, and prosperity, then perhaps you’ve put your hopes in the wrong place.
    Let us remember Psalm 146 –
    “Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation. When his breath departs, he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish. Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, who keeps faith forever; who executes justice for the oppressed, who gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets the prisoners free;” (Psalm 146:3–7, ESV)
  3. Finally, let us not take our eyes off our goal, Jesus Christ, who is the author and finisher of our faith.  I’d never survive if my hopes and fears were answered by the 2-year/4-year cycles of political elections.  All the promises made and broken, all the mud-slinging and campaigning – it gets to be too much. I heard someone today (the day after the election!) say something about the next presidential campaign starting a year from now.  Lord help us!
    Rather than ride these waves of the political storm, let us fix our eyes on Jesus.  Let us be the righteous ones who are like tree planted by streams of water (Psalm 1:3): firm, fixed, unwavering, unmovable.  Let us pursue the righteousness of Christ, that we may shine like the brightness of the sky above… like the stars forever and ever.  Let us grow in maturity in Christ, “so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes” (Ephesians 4:14).

Knowing that Christ is our Lord and King, and that all these earthly kingdoms will rise and fall, let us walk in faith and obedience before him, loving Him by loving one another.  His reign is forever, and His power is great.  Therefore, keep calm, and carry on in faith!

Grace and peace,

SDG