Beautiful poetry about something very ugly.
If you’re planning a day at the beach, clouds without water sounds like a good thing. But this metaphor from Jude 1: 12-13 was spoken to herdsmen and farmers in an ancient culture dependent on the understanding of weather. A cloud without water was not a scientific impossibility but a hopeless disappointment.
These are the men who are hidden reefs in your love feasts when they feast with you without fear, caring for themselves; clouds without water, carried along by winds; autumn trees without fruit, doubly dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up their own shame like foam; wandering stars, for whom the black darkness has been reserved…
Where have you read a more damning condemnation?
Hidden reefs can wreck a vessel along with its passengers. The threat is not seen until the danger is immanent.
Shepherds who feed only themselves. The job description for shepherds includes guarding the sheep round the clock, placing their bodies as barriers between the defenseless sheep and predators, leading the sheep to nutritious grazing and clean water. The helpless sheep will perish without their shepherd. A shepherd is meant to put the needs of the flock before his own, their lives before his own.
Clouds without water, carried along by winds promise refreshment and life, but deliver nothing. They appear to be made of life-giving water, but they pass by leaving one parched and disappointed.
Dead, uprooted autumn trees without fruit. At harvest season, these are threes with dead branches and no potential for fruit. There’s no chance of future growth–the trees have no root.
Wild waves casting up foam which is shame. Picture turmoil, tumult, forceful waves assaulting the shore, spewing poison, depositing on the sand regret and bitter shame.
Wandering stars in black darkness Stars wandering aimlessly in the vast emptiness of space, futile and purposeless.
Such are those described who preach without truth.
Why would someone preach who has nothing to say? This is a wise question at the heart of discernment.
The clouds without water from the book of Jude were false teachers within the church who represented themselves as teachers of God’s truth and sources of God’s wisdom but they spoke their own falsehoods, sold their own foolishness, lead their listeners astray, then abandoned them.
They wanted a position of leadership but lacked any qualifications. Qualifications included belief in some truths, and the truths had to be the real ones. Firm convictions to base teaching upon; commitment to teach in the face of opposition, and willingness to suffer for their beliefs. A willingness to stand for The Truth, which they did not invent.
True leaders were possessors of a conviction that the standard of the truth was completely trustworthy. The author of that truth was a Person they knew, who had offered ample evidence that his truth is The Truth.
Though the teachers in Jude appear as guides to the lost, they only intend to help themselves. These teachers are dangerous; they will leave their students’ lives shipwrecked. These shepherds will lead their followers to a desolate place and abandon them. Like clouds without water, these teachers have no spiritual refreshment to offer. Their students will die of thirst.
They themselves are lifeless like dead branches; they are barren. How will their followers bear fruit? They are rootless with no foundation.
They are constantly pushing and spinning with activity, sound and fury, but to no purpose. They are not ashamed but their followers will be burdened with shame. The purpose of their aggressive work is self-aggrandizement so others are not helped. Their guidance leaves followers stranded in the empty darkness searching for home.
Today we have the same false teachers in any direction we look, who claim to speak with God’s voice.
But today there are also those who go about proselytizing for the faith of No Truth. These preach without truth and sometimes express outrage because anyone claims to know.
We have more than one generation which has been unburdened with a concept of objective truth. They are not fighting for or against any truth; they have been taught that there is no truth.
Certainty is a trigger. Certainty seems to produce outrage and incredulity. It is vain to suggest that we are all certain about something. We are all certain of what we believe, or else we don’t believe it. No one believes nothing.
Without a certainty that some things are true, independent of subjective opinion, we always become the poor victims of those false teachers described in Jude. We live as those shipwrecked travelers or those lost sheep, exposed to predators and hunger…disappointed and parched, unable to gather or bear fruit…without good influence and unable to ourselves give hope…ashamed, wandering aimlessly, without purpose.