Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Don’t Become Part of the Accursed Brood – 2 Peter 2:13-16

They will be paid back with harm for the harm they have done. Their idea of pleasure is to carouse in broad daylight. They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their pleasures while they feast with you. With eyes full of adultery, they never stop sinning; they seduce the unstable; they are experts in greed — an accursed brood! They have left the straight way and wandered off to follow the way of Balaam son of Beor, who loved the wages of wickedness. But he was rebuked for his wrongdoing by a donkey — a beast without speech — who spoke with a man's voice and restrained the prophet's madness. (NIV)

Peter continues to warn us about false prophets and teachers who would lead us astray if they could. We need to be alert by observing their actions in public and elsewhere. Peter warns that they carouse in broad daylight. This simply means that they don’t try to hide their immoral behavior. It could be drinking, partying, or sexual immorality. They really don’t care what others think of their behavior. People who call themselves Christians and worse, Christian leaders, who do this give Christianity a bad name. Jesus said in Matt 7:20 “Thus you will know them by their fruits.” (RSV) Peter does a good job describing their fruit. They seem to fall into two areas, sexual sin, and greed.

It isn’t just false prophet that fall into these sins. You can probably list several prominent Christian leaders who have had the same problem. The only difference between them and the false prophets is that they did it in secret, but it was exposed and then they fell from their position. So without dwelling on either the false teachers or the fallen Christian leaders, perhaps we should look inside and see if we are susceptible to the same sins, whether they are committed in secret or in public.

What about these eyes that are full of adultery? How do we stack up in this area? Job 31:1 I made a covenant with mine eyes; why then should I think upon a maid? (KJV) After looking at different versions and the original Hebrew, I think that the KJV did the best job translating this verse. Job wasn’t talking about just seeing someone or a glance but looking then thinking and letting his mind engage in knowing all about this maid. The warning in James 1:14 comes to mind, but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. (NIV )

Our society is in almost total acceptance that either sex can look all they want as long as they don’t touch. That is filthy hogwash. Peter says that the next step is to seduce the unstable. James says that it gives birth to sin. Jesus also commented on it. Matt 6:22-23 "The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” (NIV) What we allow ourselves to see and dwell upon can lead to light or darkness. If we let our eyes constantly view sexually explicit images we will have lustful hearts leading to lustful practices. If we watch violence and play games of violence then our hearts will become accustomed to it want more. This can easily turn into violent behavior, road rage for example. If we read good books and watch uplifting movies then we will have light in our hearts leading to a life more pleasing to the Lord.

In Num 22, God gave us Balaam as an unusual example. He is a confusing figure because he actually talks with God, as did many of the O.T. prophets. He obeys God, at first. Yet when the emissaries from Balak return, he doesn’t tell them he can’t go with them but asks them to stay the night so that he can see what God will say. (There is a hint – he doesn’t take God at His word but wants to double check to see if there is a way he might get some money from these Moabites.) Strangely enough, God lets him go with Balak’s people in order to curse Israel. But God also tries to kill him on the way. Obviously, God could have killed him, but it served as a warning that Balaam must speak only what God wants. And Balaam does speak what God wanted. He blesses Israel four times over and finally ends up cursing Israel’s enemies.

You would think that Balaam would be listed as an example to follow, but that isn’t so. Later references to Balaam in the Bible are bad. Here was a guy who was in communion with God but let his greed get the best of him. It isn’t explained when he did it, but Balaam counseled Moab how to infiltrate Israel and draw them away from God. Greed can do that to any of us. It may not be greed for money, but for power, our own time, or our own space. We think that just a little more time at work and then I’ll read the Bible or pray. A little more TV and then I’ll pray. We can even pursue good things like exercise or community service and neglect time with the Lord. The pull of the world is so strong that we must constantly be alert to the things that would draw us away from God. I don’t think Balaam set out to be classified with an accursed brood.

When God speaks clearly and we know what He has said, we need not look for any way out. In 1 Kings 13 there is an interesting story of a prophet from Judah who was plainly told by God to go to Israel, make a prophesy over the alter that King Jeroboam had built, then go home without eating or drinking in Israel. A second, older prophet in Israel lies to the first and tells him that God said to eat and drink with him, so the first does, but it cost him is his life.

Balaam lost his life because of his attempt to get around the clear blessing God had given through him. The prophet from Judah died because he listened to someone who countermanded God’s clear instruction. We need to make sure we are listening to God and can recognize His voice (know the Bible) vs. the voice of false teachers. If we don’t, the consequences could be deadly.

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