Enlightened by Cain, Balaam and Korah

Jude - Ninth in a series

Ready insight. That is what we get when comparisons are drawn to well-known characters. In Jude 11 we gain deep understanding of the ungodly men by considering three examples from Scripture of like-minded misfits.

Woe unto them! for they have gone in the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Core. (Jud 1:11)

The story of Cain brings out a number of traits of a man who would rival God.

  • Carelessly prideful - He did not show proper respect for God by his offering. (Gen 4:3)
  • Vain, temperamental - He was angry that his offering was unacceptable though Abel's had been approved. (Gen 4:5)
  • Obstinate - He did not value God's reproof and assistance to reform. (Gen 4:6, 7)
  • Self-willed - To act out his anger against God's remonstrances, he murdered his brother. (Gen 4:8)
  • Unrepentant - He would not confess his sin and by his words did not consider it punishable. (Gen 4:9)
  • Juvenile - When punished, he whined and moaned. (Gen 4:13)

This is not a man anyone would want to emulate or be likened to. Yet, he does model sins that we commit from time to time; at least, I know I do.

The ungodly men reminded Jude of Balaam in their goal to be paid for supposed religious or prophetic service. Balaam was approached by Balak, a Moabite king, to curse Israel as the nation neared the Promised Land. However, the Lord prevailed upon Balaam to bless his people instead. He was directly charged by the Lord not to curse Israel, and his donkey prevented him from spiritual blindness (Num 22:27, 28). The words he spoke to bless Israel are beautiful:

…from the hills I behold him: lo, the people shall dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned among the nations… Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his! (Num 23:9, 10)… Surely [there is] no enchantment against Jacob, neither [is there] any divination against Israel: according to this time it shall be said of Jacob and of Israel, What hath God wrought! (Num 23:21-23) … How goodly are thy tents, O Jacob, [and] thy tabernacles, O Israel! As the valleys are they spread forth, as gardens by the river's side… as cedar trees beside the waters… (Num 24:5 --)

Three times Balak urged Balaam to curse Israel, from one altar to the next, but Balaam instead blessed God's people and refused payment (Num 24:13), prophesying again of Israel's preeminence among the nations: I shall see him, but not now: I shall behold him, but not nigh: there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel, and shall smite the corners of Moab… (Num 24:17) So, Balak and Balaam parted ways.

Then, after having been given the very words of God to bless Israel, and even though he had been in communion with the Lord in former times (Num 22:18-20), Balaam nevertheless revealed to Balak how to defeat Israel through luring them to eat food sacrificed to idols and to fornicate. (Rev 2:14) This advice succeeded to an extent, acknowledged by Moses (Num 25:3, 18; 31:16), Joshua (Jos 22:17), Peter (2 Pet 2:15) and John (Rev 2:14), as well as Jude. Balaam wanted his payment after all.

Thus, the evil men who infiltrated the church might find means of subverting some members. Perhaps, like Balaam, they knew God's mind to some extent, yet their motives were not pure. Maybe their proclamations would be successfully contradicted by strong pastors, but there is "more than one way to skin a cat." Where they failed in prophecy, they could succeed in persuasion by appealing to appetites so hard to deny.

In the early church of the book of Acts, the core group desired not to burden the new Gentile believers with regulations but offered four simple rules, two which recall Balaam's means of cursing Israel (Num 25:2, 3): abstain from meat offered to idols and from fornication. (Acts 15:29) The Moabites drew the Hebrews into idol worship by enticing them with meat, so tempting for men who had eaten only manna for nearly four decades. Then, once they had enjoyed the tasty and filling meal, their consciences could not find a reason not to fornicate, as part of the worship of Baalpeor… "Join our love feast!" For the early Christians, the two sins may not have been associated, yet either would gnaw away at conscience, leaving the soul to dessication.

The sin of Core, or Korah, was gainsaying, an old-fashioned word for contradicting or opposing. Core was proud of his ancestry. He was the great grandson of Levi. Why should he not rule along with Moses and Aaron who were his first cousins? (see Exodus 6:16-21)

Needless to say, ministry and calling have nothing to do with pedigree. The concept of men experiencing a call from God to the ministry is an important doctrine that needs to be promoted. While it is true that Christ's church is a "kingdom of priests," the man who would oppose a leader called by God must give good reason based on Scripture, not on personal opinion and boasting.

By considering the stories of Cain, Balaam and Korah, we will have discernment when imposters arise to trouble and harm the church and the body.

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