Christian Family Fellowship

Scripture of the Week

Psalms 118:24 (ESV)

This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.


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Teaching Of The Week
Contending Over the Body of Moses

  We have now reached our central section, verses 9-13, that deal with contending with evil.  It starts with an example of apostasy in the supernatural realm, noting how Michael contended with the devil over the body of Moses.  Jude contrasts the arrogance of these filthy dreamers with the behavior of the archangel Michael, who, when challenging Satan himself would not speak arrogantly, but used the Word of the Lord.

  The mention of this is one of several allusions to Old Testament events that are found only in the New Testament.  This is an example of the figure of speech hysteresis or subsequent narration.  It is where further details of long prior events are given.  No where else, do we read about this contention.

  Other examples include:  the Second Coming prophecy of Enoch (Jude 14 & 15), that Noah was a preacher of righteousness (II Peter 2:5), that Lot was a righteous man (II Peter 2:7), the names of the two magicians in Egypt who withstood Moses (II Timothy 3:8), that Elijah prayed for the rain to stop for 3 1/2 years (James 5:17, the account in I Kings 17 & 18 never linking the long drought in Ahab’s day to Elijah’s prayers.  See also Luke 4:25) and that the Pharaoh of the Exodus was not Egyptian (Acts 7:18, “another” being heteros, of a different kind; compare Isaiah 52:4).  Another similar example of information being found in an unusual place is our Lord’s statement that “it is more blessed to give than to receive” that is found in Acts 20:35 instead of in one of the four gospels.

  I mentioned as I closed the last section that Jude would be using a specific illustration from the supernatural realm to clarify the point he made of not speaking evil of dignities in this section.  I asked the question that if Michael the archangel acts with courteous regard and respect for the devil, how should we act?

  Jude wouldn’t use this as an illustration if his readers were unaware of it.  Although we find nothing written of in the Old Testament it would not have been a very effective illustration if it left his readers scratching their heads in wonder.

Jude 9:
Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed [dialegomai, “had a dialog with” used 13 times 10 of which are in Acts] about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee.

  In my thinking this is quite a strange example.  If I were to give an example of not speaking evil of dignities, I’m not sure this is where my thoughts would go.  Surely, God’s archangel on assignment from God would have the authority to dress down, reprimand or scold the devil.  However, he does not.  Michael, despite the fact that he is dealing with his adversary, still has to recognize his rank.  Jude describes Michael’s action with another triplet:  he disputed about the body of Moses, he dared not bring a railing accusation and he said, “The Lord rebuke thee.”

  Among the biggest errors God’s people make when dealing with the adversary is to ignore or not recognize him and to treat him glibly, flippantly.  Even though Michael was doing the will of God in obedience to divine command, and even though the devil opposed him seeking to avert God’s purposes, Michael resisted the temptation to bring a railing accusation and simple said, “The Lord rebuke thee.”

  The point seems to be that if Michael, who has so much power, authority and knowledge of the truth, is careful to respect the God-given dignity of a fallen angel, then why should we, mere men, speak contemptuously of the principalities and the powers in high places?

  “Archangel” is the Greek, archangelos, a combination of archē (leader, chief) and angelos (messenger, agent, or angel).  It is always used in the singular.  There can be properly only one archangel, one chief or head of the angelic host.  Michael is designated here as the chief of the spirit messengers who remained faithful to God after Lucifer and his cohort of angelic accomplices fell.  (To read a record of a similar situation, see Zechariah 3:1-2.  To read more about Michael, see Daniel 10:10-13, 21; 12:1; Revelation 12:7.)  Michael may have only been given this appellation after Lucifer vacated the position.  “Michael” means “he who is like unto God.”

  However, questions still remain.  What is this about the body of Moses?  Why are either of them concerned about it?  There are over 500 Old Testament references to Moses, and only one refers to his body.

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.
6 And he [the Lord] buried him in a valley in the land of Moab, over against Bethpeor: but no man knoweth of his sepulchre unto this day.

  Moses was not allowed to go into the Promised Land.  He was allowed to go to the mountain tops to see the Promised land, but he was not allowed to enter therein.  Moses even made several requests until God finally told him to not bring it up again.  He could see it from afar, but he could not go into it (Deuteronomy 3:23-28).  He dies, and the Lord buries him.  He does it personally without an agent acting on His behalf.  It is like when he closed the door of the Ark (Genesis 7:16). 

  Targums are the distinctive designation of Aramaic translations, paraphrases or commentaries on the Old Testament.  The Targum of Jonathan tells of the tradition that sprung up about how Michael and Satan fought over the body of Moses.  (There is another book, The Assumption of Moses, that also deals with this traditional teaching.)  I am not bringing this up suggesting that the targum validates Jude.  Jude is true because it was authored by God.  The targum just validates how the Israelites knew about the example. 

  For some reason God wanted the place of Moses’ burial kept secret.  He wanted to deny people access to it.  Knowing how Israel turned the brazen serpent into an idol (Numbers 21:8 & 9 and II Kings 18:4), it would seem logical that the devil wanted to use Moses’ body in the same way to lead Israel astray into idolatry.  The Roman Catholic veneration of the bones of the saints, placing remnants of them in every church altar provides further reason to think the devil may have had that in mind.  The incident recorded in II Kings 13:21 where a dead body was brought to life when the corpse made contact with the bones of Elisha may lend further support for that idea.  It seems that God simply wanted to remove the temptation to turn the body of Moses into a fetish by denying people access to it.

  But for Jude, the main point isn’t why Michael disputed, but how he disputed with the devil.  It said that Michael dared not “bring against him a railing accusation, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!”  Michael did not mock or accuse the devil.  Neither has God called us to judge the devil, to condemn the devil, to mock him or accuse him.  Rather we are to battle against him in the name of the Lord.  The manner of Michael’s fight is a model for spiritual warfare.  Even he did not contend on his own authority; instead he contended with the Lord’s authority.  This relates to the certain men in a “how much more” line of thinking.  If Michael dared not bring a railing accusation (literally a judgment of blasphemy) against the devil, an evil dignity, how much more should these certain men not speak evil of godly dignities.

Jude 10:
But these speak evil (blasphēmeō) of those things which they know [oida] not: but what they know naturally, as brute beasts, in those things they corrupt themselves.

  Jude contrasts how these certain men, these filthy dreamers acted with how Michael acted.  Michael dared not bring a railing accusation, a judgment of blasphemy, against the devil, while these men speak evil [blasphēmeō] of dignities and other things which they know not.

  Jude uses the same words as Peter describing these certain men as “brute beasts.”  They use the simile to show how theses men conduct themselves as animals.  Animals are incapable of reasoning; they are controlled by their animal nature.  Their chief aim is to satisfy their hunger and fulfill the desires of their bodies.  Describing someone as a dumb animal is quite shocking.  But remember, this description is for the instruction of God’s people so they can be wary of those the devil may send their way.

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