Beware of Wolves Who Baaa
Reading: Isaiah 13-17, 2 Timothy 4
Paul has come to the end of his earthly journey. From his prison he writes to Timothy, his son in the faith, this letter of encouragement—and warning. Three times the old man tells the younger to beware of those who would corrupt the truth. These are enemies of the Gospel who come as much from the inside, from within the church, as they do from the pagan world.
Oddly enough the apostle who was so conscious of the grace of God in his life, now mentions God the Judge, as he comes to the close of that mortal life (4:1, 8). Paul knows that though there is no question of condemnation, there is a question of God sifting through the thoughts and actions of those who profess His name and judging their quality (2:20, 21). He warns Timothy to stand firm. Paul writes: “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry” —2 Timothy 4:2-5, NIV.
I am intrigued by Paul’s references to judgment that sandwich this advice and warning to Timothy. Those who deviate from the truth, and those who cause that deviation can look forward to some unpleasant moments before “the Lord, the righteous Judge” as Paul describes Him (4:8, NIV). Paul is confident that he has finished well (4:7) and wants Timothy to do the same by avoiding the temptation to become like those who give people what they want to hear even when it means straying from the truth.
Though there is no direct link between the New Testament and Old Testament reading for today, I was struck by some parallels. Isaiah 15 and 16 describe the judgment that God was to deliver on the nation of Moab. Moab, the father of the nation, was the son of Lot and one of his daughters (Genesis 19:30-38). Lot was the nephew of Abraham. He knew the truth and is described in 2 Peter 2:7 as a “righteous man.” Still, he exposed himself to the evils of a pagan society causing his family to reap the consequences of some poor choices, including giving his kids the benefit of enjoying society rather than living in isolation in a tent out in the wilderness. The nation that grew out of Moab became a pagan nation and a thorn in the flesh of God’s people. But God had a heart for them and the Isaiah passages lament Moab’s punishment even as they announce judgment on her. “My heart cries out over Moab…” and “My heart laments for Moab…” (Isaiah 15:5; 16:11, NIV) writes the Lord through the prophet.
Paul knew that though it broke the Lord’s heart to call to account His own because of their turning from truth, He would still do it. There are consequences to twisting truth to suit our fancies. Even God’s children are not exempt and Paul warns his young friend to stay true, no matter what the pressures that would be brought to bear on him to do otherwise.
It’s hard to stand firm against the evils of society. Strangely enough the enemies of our souls on the outside are perhaps not a dangerous to us as the enemies that are disguised as friends and brothers who inhabit the very community that we should be able to consider safe.