Lessons from Jude: Learning from Past Mistakes

In the introduction to Jude, we learned about the author, his audience, and his purpose in writing this book. We discussed the author’s warnings about the lies regarding our salvation slowly worming their way into the church unnoticed. We dissected those lies and found appropriate Scripture to defend the truth.

Today, we will focus on Jude 1:5-11 where the author draws references from the Old Testament reminding the audience of past sins and the lessons to learn from them.

Jude Reminds Us to Learn from Past Mistakes

“But I want to remind you, though you once knew this…” (Jude 1:5)

These are Jude’s introductory words before he pulls three significant references from the past indicating the sins of the people and the consequences:

  1. The Israelites
  2. The fallen angels
  3. Sodom and Gomorrah

Though the audience were very familiar with these incidents, people are forgetful, and he wanted to remind them. The past is an excellent teacher.

1. The Unbelief of the Israelites

First, Jude quotes the example of the Israelites.

“...the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe.” (Jude 1:5)

It was with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm that God brought the Israelites out of Egypt (Psalm 136:12). However, they quickly forgot God’s power and sovereignty. Their unbelief took over, and they doubted God on several occasions after their historic and divine exodus.

When Moses left Aaron in charge to go up to the mountain and receive the Ten Commandments, the people persuaded Aaron to build a golden calf for them to worship. This angered the Lord, and about three thousand men died that day (Exodus 32:28).

Despite having received their daily allowance of manna, the delicious food from heaven, the people still complained. They went so far as to reminisce and crave the food of Egypt, where they were slaves. This displeased the Lord, and His anger was aroused. He sent them more food, this time some quail. But while they were still chewing the meat, He struck them with a great plague (Numbers 11:33).

These are two of the many occasions where the Israelites forgot God’s power, might, and faithfulness as they grumbled and complained. Eventually, they angered God one last time after the spies who explored Canaan brought in strikingly different reports. They went so far as to say, “Let us select a leader and return to Egypt” (Numbers 14:4). And God decided to shun their generation from the promised land except for Joshua and Caleb (Numbers 14:29-30, 35).

Time and again, God came to their aide, parting seas, providing daily servings of food, and granting victory over enemies on every side. Yet, they were too quick to forget. Their faith had the focus of a goldfish. The mercies of God are abundant and last a thousand generations. Let us never forget His wonderful and marvelous works for us. For by them, we have the joy of salvation and the hope of eternal life.

2. The Pride of the Fallen Angels

Secondly, Jude brings up the example of the angels who lost their place in heaven.

“And the angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own abode, He has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day.” (Jude 1:6)

In Ezekiel 28:1-19, we find an account of the proclamation against the king of Tyre, which is a possible description of the fall of Satan. “Therefore I cast you as a profane thing Out of the mountain of God; And I destroyed you, O covering cherub, From the midst of the fiery stones.” (Ezekiel 28:16)

Satan’s sin was pride and considering himself above God. Isaiah 14:12-21 provides a detailed account of the fall of Lucifer, and his exact words that set the stage for his eternal exile from the heavenly abode.

“For you have said in your heart:

‘I will ascend into heaven,

I will exalt my throne above the stars of God;

I will also sit on the mount of the congregation

On the farthest sides of the north;

I will ascend above the heights of the clouds,

I will be like the Most High.” (Isaiah 14:13-14)

In addressing past sins, Jude wanted to mention this incident because God did not spare even the angels when they fell short of His standards (2 Peter 2:4). C.S. Lewis writes in his book Mere Christianity, “It was through pride that the devil became the devil: pride leads to every other vice; it is the complete anti-God state of mind.” We know for certain that God hates the proud and He will punish them (Proverbs 16:5). Let us guard ourselves against pride so that we don’t bring this just punishment on ourselves.

3. The Sexual Immorality of Sodom and Gomorrah

Finally, Jude cites the example of Sodom and Gomorrah.

“… as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them in a similar manner to these, having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.” (Jude 1:7)

In Genesis 19, we read about the destruction of these two cities that have now become a byword for sexual immorality.

In all three examples above, the people forgot or let go of their positions and sinned. They had a choice, yet they chose to sin. They forgot about God and His works and let their flesh take over.

Jude opens and closes this little section with phrases like “remind you” and “are set forth as an example.” If angels can fall, so can we. Let this be a warning to not forget the mercies of God. “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man” (1 Corinthians 10:12-13).

But the verse continues to say that “God is faithful” and that He will “make the way of escape.” Never forget that. And pray that you will find strength in Him to overcome temptation.

Why Was Jude’s Reminder Necessary?

After stating a few examples from the Old Testament, Jude talks about the ungodly men in his days and how they have forgotten these lessons from the past. They “defile the flesh, reject authority, and speak evil of dignitaries” (Jude 1:8).

Rejecting authorities and speaking evil of God’s appointed people is a sin. The Israelites succumbed to this sin when they went against Moses and built a golden calf. They repeated this offense when they rebelled against God’s appointed leaders (Numbers 16).

In the New Testament, we encounter commands to subject to our rulers and authorities and to obey the law (Titus 3:1; Romans 13:1). The same goes for any kind of authority in homes, workplaces, church, and elsewhere. God ordained order and He expects us to recognize and honor those patterns.

Jude then references an account (possibly from the “Assumption of Moses”) of a dispute between Michael the archangel and the devil over the body of Moses. The angel withheld his comments and accusations against the devil and left it in God’s hands (Jude 1:9).

But the people in Jude’s times, they “speak evil of whatever they do not know; and whatever they know naturally, like brute beasts, in these things they corrupt themselves” (Jude 1:10).

His warning is to stay calm when we fall short of understanding. This might be a hard one to practice as we live in a world bombarded with opinions by the second. Everyone has an opinion about everything, even without having all the facts. It’s a precarious situation God warns us to be careful of. If we don’t have all the facts, it’s better to remain silent. What we do know, we can use constructively for God’s glory.

Jude ends this section in verse 11 by comparing the sins of the present to those of three more people in the past:

  1. Cain, who recklessly ignored God’s prescribed form of sacrifice and brought his own (Genesis 4:3-8);
  2. Balaam who, for the love of money, ignored the angel of God and went on his way to proclaim a curse on God’s people (Numbers 22; 2 Peter 2:15); and
  3. Korah who with several others ignored God’s appointed people and caused a rebellion (Numbers 16).

Reflections

We’ve looked at several examples from the past, spanning hundreds of years. One common thread that runs through these stories is God’s faithfulness despite man’s selfishness, arrogance, and pride.

By His mercies, we’ve heard the word of truth, been saved and sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise. Those with faith in Christ live on the other side of the cross. We cannot use His grace as an excuse to forget His love, His faithfulness, and His scars. When we do, He forgives us because of who He is. But we will grieve Him in the process.

Let’s pause for a moment to reflect on the past, like Jude invokes his readers to do. Not so we can dwell on the past, but to learn from it.

What does Jude teach us about how God feels about your sin? What does the cross tell us about their cost? Reflect and resolve. Let God’s grace cover your past and pave the way for the grace-covered trails ahead.


Alice William is a wife and programmer with a passion for writing. She started the blog, Walking in the Word, by journaling her Bible Studies. Her desire is to encourage other women in their walk with God with words that He has used to strengthen her own walk with Him. Her recent eBook An Ode to the Word is a collection of 31 poems inspired by the word of God referenced in God’s word. Each poem is drawn from the verse that talks about the word of God, sparking your curiosity and inviting you to a deeper experience with God's word. You can connect with Alice on Instagram and Pinterest.  


Photo Credit: GettyImages/ZU_09

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