Jeremiah Chapter 48
Lessons from the text
Trusting in Your Works
In verse seven, God said that destruction would come upon the Moabites because they trusted in their own works and their riches. They did not need God in their lives. They were content with their false god, Chemosh, and their current way of life. They had conquered territories, accumulated riches, and planned on enjoying their success. God, however, had a different plan for them.
Humans tend to build a future for themselves. We pour into jobs, homes, and hobbies to create the life that we think we want. Once we achieve our goals, it is very easy to settle down and think that we have no need for anything. We are trusting that the work we put in to get us to this point in life will be enough to carry us through the rest of our life. It may be that you think your well-paying job will give you retirement. You may think that your teaching skills will allow you to always find a good job. You may even think, and maybe are correct in thinking, that you smart enough to learn whatever career you choose. These are not necessarily bad things, but they are lacking God.
If God has placed you in a good paying job or giving you great skills, then you do not owe your job or your skills for your success; you owe God. We have a tendency to put God far from us and take the credit for what we have in our lives. We trust in the works of our hands and not in the One who gives us the ability to work. When this happens, God is forced to remind us that we are not the ones in control of our future.
With the Moabites, God had to destroy their nation and put them into captivity to knock down their pride and demonstrate that their god and their works were not enough to provide for their needs. The Moabites, like all humans, need God in their lives. If we fail to give Him that due respect, then He will forcefully remind us. If we reject this chastisement, then we are in danger of dying lost and going to hell. From this we can see how important it is to acknowledge God as the source of all of our wisdom and goods and to not trust in own our abilities or our surroundings to provide for us.
Verse by Verse Commentary
1-9 Like the Philistines in chapter 47, the Moabites will be destroyed for their sins of idolatry, pride, and fighting against God’s chosen people, Israel. All praise will be taken out of the cities as they receive the just reward for their "madness." None shall escape this judgment from Babylon; all cities will be filled with weeping and destruction. Nebo is a city that was conquered by Israel but later reclaimed by the Moabites (see Num. 32:3, Isa. 15:2).
10 Anyone who does “work of the Lord deceitfully” will be cursed. This would be the person who appears to be doing God’s work but is doing so for reasons other than glorifying God. Noteworthy is that this curse is extended to failing to fulfill the judgment of God against another nation, here symbolized by withholding a sword from the Moabites.
11 Moab has become so comfortable that it will settle for the sediment at the bottom of the barrel (lees). To empty from vessel to vessel means to relocated; the sense is that Moab has settled for a long time in one spot.
12 God will force Moab to wander. He is discomforting them to make them aware of their need for Him; the person who is content where he is has no need for a savior or God to teach him a better (righteous) way to live. God often stirs up one’s life to prevent one from becoming settled and content with one’s lees.
13 Once God displaces the Moabites, they will realize that the object of their confidence, Chemosh, can only offer false security. Chemosh is their god. Part of God’s judgment in one’s life is to expose false gods for what they are: useless.
14-24 Like Egypt which thinks of itself as mighty yet in reality cannot defend itself, Moab thinks of itself as a powerful nation yet God questions their strength (Jer. 46:1-6). He knows that they will be beaten. The people of the world may lament its fall, but the phrase, “come down from thy glory,” shows that God views the coming events as dethroning Moab’s pride. The glory of the world will fail when God challenge’s one’s strength and righteousness. Note that God calls Himself the “King.” As the Lord of Hosts, He is ruler over an army, but more importantly, He is simply the highest ruler in existence; no one has authority over Him.
Aroer and Dibon are cities built by the children of Dan after the Israelites first subdued the land after the Exodus (Num. 32:34); Kiriathaim, Nebo are cities Dan conquered and rebuilt (Num. 32:37-38); Kerioth and Holon are cities that Judah possessed (Josh. 15:25, 51); Arnon, Mephaath, Beth-meon, and Jahazah belonged to Rueben (Josh. 13:16-18); and the remainder (Bozrah, Beth-diblathaim, and Beth-gamul,) are cities the Moabites never lost. All these places are part of Moab by Jeremiah’s time. Noteworthy is how much Israel has lost of the territory that it conquered under Joshua.
25-29 In Scripture, a horn represents a throne and/or king. Since his arm is broken, the king of Moab will no longer have a long or strong reach but instead will be small and feeble. The reason for this judgment is that Moab has magnified itself against the Lord. Their pride has caused them to skip for joy at the calamity of God’s people (the destruction in Israel from both the Egyptian and Babylonian conquests). The image of being drunk and wallowing in vomit displays the derision and the gross consequences that accompanies sin; any sane person knows not to wallow, or roll around in, vomit, yet those in sin wallow in pride, idolatry, and other destruction behaviors without even realizing the grossness of their situation.
30-32a Instead of repenting, Moab is angered by its downfall. When destruction or judgment falls on sinners, they may feel infuriated. Believing themselves to be righteous, they may feel like they are being treated unfairly. God replies that no matter what type of tempter tantrum one throws, it will not change the outcome of judgment for one’s sins. Whatever justification a sinner uses (such as lies) will not dissuade God’s punishment. In a very important way, God mourns over such people; refusing to repent, they have no hope of escaping judgment in this life and in eternity.
32b-39 God gives a detailed description of the judgment against Moab. Joy and gladness will be taken away, the waters will be dried up, the priests will be killed, whatever monetary gain they had will be lost, all the people will be in mourning, and their spirit will be broken to the point that they are wandering around aimlessly and without hope. Noteworthy is that God is explicit in stating that part of Moab’s judgment is the death of idolaters; God will avenge Himself of those who have led people away from the truth and into the lies and darkness of false religions.
40 “He” refers to Nebuchadnezzar.
41-46 God repeats the judgments against Moab. They will be completely destroyed for their sins. God is being explicit with the coming judgment as a warning; as with Nineveh, if the people repent God may not perform the judgement, but, if they continue in sin, total destruction is coming (Jon. 3:10).
47 Despite all their sins and God’s judgment, God demonstrates mercy by leaving a remnant that will one day return to Moab. God’s goal is not to destroy mankind. He wants to eliminate sin but has no desire to harm men. It is man’s refusal to repent that forces God to caste souls into destruction and eternal separation from Him. His will, however, is for all to come to repentance (II Pet. 3:9).
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