“For every head is shaved and every beard cut off. On all the hands are gashes, and around the waist is sackcloth. On all the housetops of Moab and in the squares there is nothing but lamentation, for I have broken Moab like a vessel for which no one cares, declares the Lord. How it is broken! How they wail! How Moab has turned his back in shame! So Moab has become a derision and a horror to all that are around him.”
For thus says the Lord:
“Behold, one shall fly swiftly like an eagle
and spread his wings against Moab;
the cities shall be taken
and the strongholds seized.
The heart of the warriors of Moab shall be in that day
like the heart of a woman in her birth pains;
Moab shall be destroyed and be no longer a people,
because he magnified himself against the Lord.
Terror, pit, and snare
are before you, O inhabitant of Moab!
declares the Lord.
He who flees from the terror
shall fall into the pit,
and he who climbs out of the pit
shall be caught in the snare.
For I will bring these things upon Moab,
the year of their punishment,
declares the Lord.
“In the shadow of Heshbon
fugitives stop without strength,
for fire came out from Heshbon,
flame from the house of Sihon;
it has destroyed the forehead of Moab,
the crown of the sons of tumult.
Woe to you, O Moab!
The people of Chemosh are undone,
for your sons have been taken captive,
and your daughters into captivity.
Yet I will restore the fortunes of Moab
in the latter days, declares the Lord.”
Thus far is the judgment on Moab. – Jeremiah 48:37-47 ESV
The destruction of Moab is as good as done. God has described it in vivid terms that leave little to the imagination. But the precise moment when it will all take place remains a mystery. That will come suddenly and as a surprise. “The enemy swoops down like an eagle, spreading his wings over Moab” (Jeremiah 48:40 NLT). And the results will be devastating, leaving the people of Moab in a state of mourning. They will shave their heads and cut off their beards. They will practice self-mutilation, cutting their hands. Their once sumptuous clothing will be exchanged for sackcloth, another sign of mourning. In the streets and on the rooftops, the sound of wailing will be heard. The loss of life will be great. The fall of Moab will be more than its citizens can imagine or bear.
“How it is shattered! Hear the wailing! See the shame of Moab! It has become an object of ridicule, an example of ruin to all its neighbors.” – Jeremiah 48:39 NLT
Moab would become an object lesson to all the other nations surrounding them. They would witness the fall of Moab and respond with either ridicule or pity. But they would not miss the unmistakable and unbelievable greatness of Moab’s fall. The devastation of Moab would be comprehensive and complete. Nothing and no one would be spared.
“Its cities will fall,
and its strongholds will be seized.
Even the mightiest warriors will be in anguish
like a woman in labor.
Moab will no longer be a nation,
for it has boasted against the Lord.” – Jeremiah 48:41-42 NLT
And the reason for their fall is clearly stated by God. They had boasted against Him. They had set themselves up as opposing Him. These descendants of Lot, the nephew of Abraham, had abandoned Yahweh for the worship of Chemosh, a god of their own making. Not only that, they had taken sides with the Babylonians when they invaded Judah. They had used the invasion as an opportunity to kick Judah while they were down. And in doing so, they had attacked the people of God. This was not something God would allow. All the way back in the book of Genesis, we have recorded God’s covenant with Abraham, when He called him out of Ur.
“I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt.” – Genesis 12:3 NLT
Later on, Isaac would pass that same promise on to his son, Isaac.
“All who curse you will be cursed, and all who bless you will be blessed.” – Genesis 27:29 NLT
And God would honor that commitment. He would stand by the people of Israel for generations. He would patiently endure their unfaithfulness and disobedience. He would bless them even when they failed to keep His commands and, instead, chose to worship false gods. And while God would eventually discipline His people and use foreign nations to do so, He would still hold responsible all those who harmed His people in any way. That included Babylon and Moab.And there would be no escape.
Once the terror began, there would be nowhere to run. Any attempt to escape God’s judgment would be like a frightened animal running from its pursuer, only to fall into a pit. And if the animal was lucky enough to escape the pit, it would only find itself caught in a snare. It’s fate was sealed. And so was that of Moab.
“Those who flee in terror will fall into a trap,
and those who escape the trap will step into a snare.
I will see to it that you do not get away,
for the time of your judgment has come,”
says the Lord.” – Jeremiah 48:44 NLT
But just as was the case with Egypt, God promises to restore Moab at some future date. This will take place in a partial sense after the people of God are returned to the land after their 70 years in exile. But the complete fulfillment of this promise will take place in Christ’s millennial kingdom.
“But I will restore the fortunes of Moab
in days to come.
I, the Lord, have spoken!” – Jeremiah 48:47 NLT
The ways of God are difficult to understand. His methods seem strange to us. Why would He call on a nation to punish His people, then turn around and punish that nation for having done exactly what He wanted? We have to understand that none of these nations did what they did out of love for Yahweh. They were acting out of their own selfish interests. They were participating in the will of God unknowingly. Their motives were purely selfish. And because they did what they did out of hatred for the people of God, they would be punished for the tole they played. But God, who is great in mercy, will one day restore these very same people and allow them to not only return to their land, but to come to Him.
The book of Revelation records a remarkable event that will take place in the distant future. It reveals a time when all the nations of the earth will stand before the throne of God, worshiping Him for who He is.
After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” – Revelation 7:9-10 ESV
Just a few chapters earlier in John’s Book of the Revelation, he records yet another future scene. He describes seeing a figure who is clearly a representation of the resurrected Christ.
“Then I saw a Lamb that looked as if it had been slaughtered, but it was now standing between the throne and the four living beings and among the twenty-four elders.” – Revelation 5:6 NLT
John describes the Lamb as coming to the throne of God and taking from His Father’s hand a scroll.
“He stepped forward and took the scroll from the right hand of the one sitting on the throne. And when he took the scroll, the four living beings and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb.” – Revelation 5:7-8 NLT
And the four living beings and the 24 elders sing a song.
“You are worthy to take the scroll and break its seals and open it. For you were slaughtered, and your blood has ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.
And you have caused them to become a Kingdom of priests for our God. And they will reign on the earth.” – Revelation 5:9-10 NLT
From a terror, pit and a snare to a Kingdom of priests. From running for their lives to reigning with Christ. From guilt to innocence. From captivity to freedom. That is how our God works. His ways are not our ways. His means and methods are strange to us. But He is a good God who has a perfect plan that will involve Him blessing people from every tribe, nation and tongue. In spite of man’s unfaithfulness, God will faithfully restore a remnant from every people group on earth and make them a part of His eternal Kingdom.
English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.