The Just God.

I have heard a message from the Lord,
    and an envoy has been sent among the nations:
“Gather yourselves together and come against her,
    and rise up for battle!
For behold, I will make you small among the nations,
    despised among mankind.
The horror you inspire has deceived you,
    and the pride of your heart,
you who live in the clefts of the rock,
    who hold the height of the hill.
Though you make your nest as high as the eagle’s,
    I will bring you down from there,
declares the Lord.

“Edom shall become a horror. Everyone who passes by it will be horrified and will hiss because of all its disasters. As when Sodom and Gomorrah and their neighboring cities were overthrown, says the Lord, no man shall dwell there, no man shall sojourn in her. Behold, like a lion coming up from the jungle of the Jordan against a perennial pasture, I will suddenly make him run away from her. And I will appoint over her whomever I choose. For who is like me? Who will summon me? What shepherd can stand before me? Therefore hear the plan that the Lord has made against Edom and the purposes that he has formed against the inhabitants of Teman: Even the little ones of the flock shall be dragged away. Surely their fold shall be appalled at their fate. At the sound of their fall the earth shall tremble; the sound of their cry shall be heard at the Red Sea. Behold, one shall mount up and fly swiftly like an eagle and spread his wings against Bozrah, and the heart of the warriors of Edom shall be in that day like the heart of a woman in her birth pains.” Jeremiah 49:14-22 ESV

Edom’s destruction was inevitable and unavoidable. God was going to deal them a fatal blow that would leave them permanently eliminated as a nation. They would suffer a fate similar to that of the sinful cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. While those two cities experienced supernatural destruction in the form of fire and burning sulfur falling from the sky, the cities of Edom would fall to the sword as the Babylonians swept through their land. Their fortified cities, well-protected by their seemingly impregnable locations on the cliff tops, would eventually succumb to the relentless pressure of Nebuchadnezzar’s forces.

“You live in a rock fortress
    and control the mountain heights.
But even if you make your nest among the peaks with the eagles,
    I will bring you crashing down,”
    says the Lord. – Jeremiah 49:16 NLT

There was not going to be any place of safety or seclusion from God’s wrath. They could hide, but God would find them. They could place their hope and trust in their fortified cities, but they would prove worthless against the sovereign will of God. And God makes it clear that He will be the one behind the fall of Edom.

“I will come like a lion from the thickets of the Jordan,
    leaping on the sheep in the pasture.
I will chase Edom from its land,
    and I will appoint the leader of my choice.
For who is like me, and who can challenge me?
    What ruler can oppose my will?” – Jeremiah 49:19 NLT

Who can stand against God? Who is capable of withstanding His judgment when it comes? In the face of God’s discipline and overwhelming power, the pride and arrogance of man is exposed for what it is: Weak and pathetic. Even the most powerful kings are nothing when compared to the God of the universe. The most secure and well-protected cities cannot stand the onslaught of a God whose will has called for their destruction. A legion of false gods will prove to be no match for Yahweh, the Lord of Hosts.

“The earth will shake with the noise of Edom’s fall,
    and its cry of despair will be heard all the way to the Red Sea.” – Jeremiah 49:21 NLT

As has been the case with God’s oracles against Egypt, Philistia, Moab and Ammon, He makes it clear that the people of Edom will be defenseless before Him. They will have no chance. They will have no hope. The will of God and the word of God will be fulfilled – just as He has said. And that should be a source of encouragement to the remnant of the people of Judah. While they themselves had suffered greatly at His hands, they should find comfort in knowing that God was going to pay back all those who had turned their backs on Judah, or who had taken advantage of their predicament. In spite of the unfaithfulness of Judah, God was still watching out for them. He was still holding all of their enemies accountable, and meting out the justice they deserved.

All of this was part of God’s plan.

“Listen to the Lord’s plans against Edom
    and the people of Teman.
Even the little children will be dragged off like sheep,
    and their homes will be destroyed.” – Jeremiah 49:20 NLT

Yes, His plan involved death and destruction. Many would suffer, including innocent children. But the sin of men has always had consequences. Rebellion against God has always carried a stiff price. And when we choose to ignore His will and His Word, there will always be ramifications. And while we may sometimes feel that the wicked get away with murder, both literally and figuratively, God is always watching. He is fully aware of what is going on. Nothing escapes His all-seeing gaze. And even if we may sense that He is ignorant of what is going on or simply indifferent to the wickedness taking place in the world, God is all-knowing and has a plan for dealing with all those who live in disobedience to His will or set themselves up as enemies of His people.

I said to myself, “In due season God will judge everyone, both good and bad, for all their deeds.” – Ecclesiastes 3:17 NLT

God will judge us for everything we do, including every secret thing, whether good or bad. – Ecclesiastes 12:14 NLT

It was King David who wrote so eloquently concerning the justice righteous judgment of God.

God is my shield,
    saving those whose hearts are true and right.
God is an honest judge.
    He is angry with the wicked every day.

If a person does not repent,
    God will sharpen his sword;
    he will bend and string his bow.
He will prepare his deadly weapons
    and shoot his flaming arrows.

The wicked conceive evil;
    they are pregnant with trouble
    and give birth to lies.
They dig a deep pit to trap others,
    then fall into it themselves.
The trouble they make for others backfires on them.
    The violence they plan falls on their own heads.

I will thank the Lord because he is just;
    I will sing praise to the name of the Lord Most High. – Psalm 7:10-17 NLT

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.

Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

The End of the Edomites.

 

Concerning Edom.

Thus says the Lord of hosts:

“Is wisdom no more in Teman?
    Has counsel perished from the prudent?
    Has their wisdom vanished?
Flee, turn back, dwell in the depths,
    O inhabitants of Dedan!
For I will bring the calamity of Esau upon him,
    the time when I punish him.
If grape gatherers came to you,
    would they not leave gleanings?
If thieves came by night,
    would they not destroy only enough for themselves?
But I have stripped Esau bare;
    I have uncovered his hiding places,
    and he is not able to conceal himself.
His children are destroyed, and his brothers,
    and his neighbors; and he is no more.
Leave your fatherless children; I will keep them alive;
    and let your widows trust in me.”

For thus says the Lord: “If those who did not deserve to drink the cup must drink it, will you go unpunished? You shall not go unpunished, but you must drink. For I have sworn by myself, declares the Lord, that Bozrah shall become a horror, a taunt, a waste, and a curse, and all her cities shall be perpetual wastes.” Jeremiah 49:7-13 ESV

Now, God turns His attention to the Edomites, descendants of Esau, the twin brother of Jacob, and the son of Isaac. Just before the boys were to be born, God spoke to Rebekah and told her:

“Two nations are in your womb,
    and two peoples from within you shall be divided;
the one shall be stronger than the other,
    the older shall serve the younger.” – Genesis 25:23 ESV

The two babies, we are told in Genesis, “struggled together within her” and when they were born, Esau came out first, but Jacob was clutching his brother’s heal. This was a premonition of what the relationship between these two boys would be like. The story goes on to describe Jacob’s eventual deception of his brother, in order to get him to give up his birthright. Then Rebekah and Jacob concocted a plan to deceive Isaac into giving to Jacob the blessing reserved for the firstborn. While their plan worked, it resulted in Jacob having to go into exile to escape the wrath of Esau. While the brothers eventually mended their personal grudge, the descendants of Esau would prove to be a constant source of trouble for the people of Israel. In fact, when they eventually made it back to Canaan after their 40 years of wandering in the wilderness after their exodus from Egypt, they were not given a warm welcome by the Edomites.

Moses sent messengers from Kadesh to the king of Edom: “Thus says your brother Israel: You know all the hardship that we have met: how our fathers went down to Egypt, and we lived in Egypt a long time. And the Egyptians dealt harshly with us and our fathers. And when we cried to the Lord, he heard our voice and sent an angel and brought us out of Egypt. And here we are in Kadesh, a city on the edge of your territory. Please let us pass through your land. We will not pass through field or vineyard, or drink water from a well. We will go along the King’s Highway. We will not turn aside to the right hand or to the left until we have passed through your territory.” But Edom said to him, “You shall not pass through, lest I come out with the sword against you.” And the people of Israel said to him, “We will go up by the highway, and if we drink of your water, I and my livestock, then I will pay for it. Let me only pass through on foot, nothing more.” But he said, “You shall not pass through.” And Edom came out against them with a large army and with a strong force. Thus Edom refused to give Israel passage through his territory, so Israel turned away from him. – Numbers 20:14-21 ESV

In the prophesies of Obadiah, we are given further insights into the reasons for God’s coming judgment on the Edomites.

“You have been deceived by your own pride
    because you live in a rock fortress
    and make your home high in the mountains.
‘Who can ever reach us way up here?’
    you ask boastfully.” – Obadiah 1:3 NLT

“Because of the violence you did
    to your close relatives in Israel,
you will be filled with shame
    and destroyed forever.
When they were invaded,
    you stood aloof, refusing to help them.
Foreign invaders carried off their wealth
    and cast lots to divide up Jerusalem,
    but you acted like one of Israel’s enemies.” – Obadiah 1:10-11 NLT

The Edomites were prideful and arrogant, convinced that they were invincible in their mountain fortress. But there would be no place they could hide from the wrath of God. They had made the mistake of turning against the people of God, their very own relatives. When Israel had been attacked, they looked the other way, refusing to come to their aid. And God was going to repay them for their cold-hearted abandonment of Israel. His destruction would be complete. Nothing and no one would be spared. While grape gatherers might leave some gleanings in the field for the poor, God would leave nothing behind for the survivors in Edom. While a thief might be willing to leave a few things untouched, God was going to completely wipe Edom out. There would be nothing left when the judgment of God was complete.

“But I will strip bare the land of Edom,
    and there will be no place left to hide.
Its children, its brothers, and its neighbors
    will all be destroyed,
    and Edom itself will be no more.” – Jeremiah 49:10 NLT

But in the midst of all the devastation, notice the words of the Lord:

“But I will protect the orphans who remain among you.
    Your widows, too, can depend on me for help.” – Jeremiah 49:11 NLT

Even in His wrath, God will show mercy on the helpless, those who have no advocate and who are seen as outcasts within the community. God assures the widows and orphans that they will have Him as their protector and provider. Even in the midst of all the devastation, they will somehow be preserved by the merciful hand of God.

These pronouncements of doom are difficult for us to read and even harder for us to comprehend. They seem to paint God in a very negative light, portraying Him as a hateful, vengeful deity who uses His omnipotence to wreak havoc on mankind. We view His judgments from our limited human perspective and deem them as little more than the actions of some kind of divine playground bully. But there are things we cannot see. There are behind-the-scenes plots to which we are oblivious. And there is a plan that God has devised from before the foundation of the world that He is implementing and of which we are not privy. And while we might find it easy to question God’s motives or wonder about His methodologies, we must always remember that He is God and we are not. His ways are not our ways. His judgments are always right and good. His actions in regards to mankind are always righteous and beyond reproach. And as difficult as it may be for us to comprehend His ways, we have no right to question His integrity or doubt His goodness.

He is the Rock; his deeds are perfect. Everything he does is just and fair. He is a faithful God who does no wrong; how just and upright he is! – Deuteronomy 32:4 NLT

The LORD is righteous in everything he does; he is filled with kindness. – Psalm 145:17 NLT

“Listen to me, you who have understanding. Everyone knows that God doesn’t sin! The Almighty can do no wrong.” – Job 34:10 NLT

One of the problems we face as human beings is our inability to see past the here-and-now. We are not omniscient. We lack the ability to see into the future and view how everything will turn out. So, we are left to deal with what we can see. But looks can always be deceiving. What may appear as unjust and unfair may actually be the righteous and fully just actions of God. We simply can’t see the ultimate outcome. But it always pays to give God the benefit of the doubt. It is wise to trust that He knows best and that His ways are perfect. In time, we will see the method behind His seeming madness. We will one day have the ability to look back and see how the gracious, merciful and loving hand of God was working all things together for our good and His glory.

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.

Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Justice and Mercy.

Concerning the Ammonites.

Thus says the Lord:

“Has Israel no sons?
    Has he no heir?
Why then has Milcom dispossessed Gad,
    and his people settled in its cities?
Therefore, behold, the days are coming,
    declares the Lord,
when I will cause the battle cry to be heard
    against Rabbah of the Ammonites;
it shall become a desolate mound,
    and its villages shall be burned with fire;
then Israel shall dispossess those who dispossessed him,
    says the Lord.

“Wail, O Heshbon, for Ai is laid waste!
    Cry out, O daughters of Rabbah!
Put on sackcloth,
    lament, and run to and fro among the hedges!
For Milcom shall go into exile,
    with his priests and his officials.
Why do you boast of your valleys,
    O faithless daughter,
who trusted in her treasures, saying,
    ‘Who will come against me?’
Behold, I will bring terror upon you,
    declares the Lord God of hosts,
    from all who are around you,
and you shall be driven out, every man straight before him,
    with none to gather the fugitives.

“But afterward I will restore the fortunes of the Ammonites, declares the Lord.” Jeremiah 49:1-6 ESV

Now, God turns His attention to the Ammonites. They were a relatively small kingdom located to the north and east of Moab. If you recall, their king, Baalis, was the one who plotted with Ishmael to have Gedaliah, the Babylonian-appointed governor of Judah, assassinated. The Ammonites had also taken advantage of the fall of the northern kingdom of Israel and had moved in and taken over many of their abandoned cities. Like the Moabites, the Ammonites were opportunistic, even working with the Babylonians when they invaded the land of Judah, offering their services as mercenaries. But they would also plot against King Nebuchadnezzar, a decision that would be in direct conflict with God’s will. So, not only had they taken advantage of Israel’s fall to Assyria, they were profiting from Judah’s troubles with Babylon. Then when they saw that Babylon had every intention of bringing all of Palestine under their domain, they determined to rebel against them. But God had other plans for Ammon.

The first thing God addressed is their occupation of land belonging to the tribe of Gad.

“Are there no descendants of Israel
    to inherit the land of Gad?
Why are you, who worship Molech,
    living in its towns?” – Jeremiah 49:1 NLT

When Israel had fallen to the Assyrians and the people had been removed as slaves to Assyria, the Ammonites had moved into their deserted cities. But as far as God was concerned, that land still belonged to Israel. He had given it to them. And just because He had chosen to punish them for their sin and unfaithfulness, did not give the Ammonites the right to take the land as their own. On top of that, God was not going to tolerate them giving the credit for their “victory” to their false god, Molech, and setting up shrines to worship him in land that belonged to the people of Israel. So, God warns the Ammonites about what was going to happen.

“I will sound the battle cry against your city of Rabbah.
It will become a desolate heap of ruins,
    and the neighboring towns will be burned.
Then Israel will take back the land
    you took from her,” says the Lord. – Jeremiah 49:2 NLT

God tells them to weep and mourn, because their fall is certain and He delivers some devastatingly bad news: “your god Molech, with his priests and officials, will be hauled off to distant lands” (Jeremiah 49:3 NLT). Like the Moabites, they had suffered from pride and arrogance. They thought they were untouchable and that their success would be ongoing. They had enjoyed much success and had been blessed by living in a fertile land that produced plenty of food and met all their needs. But they had not been satisfied. They got greedy and wanted more. So, God levels His accusation against them.

“You trusted in your wealth,
    you rebellious daughter,
    and thought no one could ever harm you.” – Jeremiah 49:4 NLT

Notice that God refers to the Ammonites as a “rebellious daughter.” This is most likely due to the fact that they were, like the Moabites, distant relatives of the Israelites. This all began with Lot, the nephew of Abraham. When Abraham and Lot were forced to part ways because their herds had increased to such a degree that they could no longer share the same land, Abraham gave Lot the first choice of the land. Lot, being somewhat greedy, chose the best land. But then we find that he settled near the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Eventually, he moved into Sodom and raised his two daughters there. But when God eventually destroyed these two wicked cities, He rescued Lot and his two daughters. But in the immediate aftermath of this terrible event, Lot’s two daughters got him drunk and had incestuous relations with him. The byproduct of these immoral acts were two sons: Moab and Ben-Ammi, from whom the Ammonites were descendants. The Moabites and Ammonites, while relatives of the Israelites, would prove to be a constant problem for them. And because they were technically related to the Jews, God would treat them like rebellious daughters, wayward children who needed His divine discipline.

And while they thought they were untouchable, God let’s them know that they will suffer greatly for their idolatry, pride and rebellion against His will.

“But look! I will bring terror upon you,”
    says the Lord, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.
“Your neighbors will chase you from your land,
    and no one will help your exiles as they flee.” – Jeremiah 49:5 NLT

They would suffer the same fate as the peoples of Israel and Judah. Their fertile valleys would become vacant and their once-productive fields would lay fallow. Their great cities would be destroyed and then occupied by outsiders. Their pride would be shattered. Their fame would fade. Their fortunes would be reversed. But then, God provides them with good news.

“But I will restore the fortunes of the Ammonites
    in days to come.
    I, the Lord, have spoken.” – Jeremiah 49:6 NLT

Just as God had promised to Egypt and Moab, He promises to restore Ammon. While this promise was partially fulfilled when the people of God returned to the land after their 70-year exile, this will actually take place when Christ sets up His millennial kingdom on earth. It will be a time of peace and prosperity, and Christ will reign in justice over all the land. But it is important to recognize that any blessings these nations will enjoy will because God has chosen to bless Israel. He will restore Israel to favor and return them to the land of promise, where they will reign alongside their Messiah. He will give them new hearts and a new capacity to worship Him in faithfulness and perfect obedience. He will do for them what they could never have done for themselves. And for the first time in history, the people of God will be examples of true godliness for the nations of the world. They will be a blessing to all those around them, because they will be totally obedient to God, serving Him with their whole hearts.

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.

Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Terror, Pit and Snare.

“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.

Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

The Theology of Glory.

“Judgment has come upon the tableland, upon Holon, and Jahzah, and Mephaath, and Dibon, and Nebo, and Beth-diblathaim, and Kiriathaim, and Beth-gamul, and Beth-meon, and Kerioth, and Bozrah, and all the cities of the land of Moab, far and near. The horn of Moab is cut off, and his arm is broken, declares the Lord.

“Make him drunk, because he magnified himself against the Lord, so that Moab shall wallow in his vomit, and he too shall be held in derision. Was not Israel a derision to you? Was he found among thieves, that whenever you spoke of him you wagged your head?

“Leave the cities, and dwell in the rock,
    O inhabitants of Moab!
Be like the dove that nests
    in the sides of the mouth of a gorge.
We have heard of the pride of Moab—
    he is very proud—
of his loftiness, his pride, and his arrogance,
    and the haughtiness of his heart.
I know his insolence, declares the Lord;
    his boasts are false,
    his deeds are false.
Therefore I wail for Moab;
    I cry out for all Moab;
    for the men of Kir-hareseth I mourn.
More than for Jazer I weep for you,
    O vine of Sibmah!
Your branches passed over the sea,
    reached to the Sea of Jazer;
on your summer fruits and your grapes
    the destroyer has fallen.
Gladness and joy have been taken away
    from the fruitful land of Moab;
I have made the wine cease from the winepresses;
    no one treads them with shouts of joy;
    the shouting is not the shout of joy.

“From the outcry at Heshbon even to Elealeh, as far as Jahaz they utter their voice, from Zoar to Horonaim and Eglath-shelishiyah. For the waters of Nimrim also have become desolate. And I will bring to an end in Moab, declares the Lord, him who offers sacrifice in the high place and makes offerings to his god. Therefore my heart moans for Moab like a flute, and my heart moans like a flute for the men of Kir-hareseth. Therefore the riches they gained have perished.” Jeremiah 48:21-36 ESV

The Moabites were evidently a prideful people. And, as God continues His oracle against them, He focuses His attention on that particular characteristic. They were a nation that had experienced its fair share of success. They had enjoyed a relatively peaceful existence and had developed a reputation for being excellent vintners. Their wine was of an excellent quality and was highly sought after. God has already used weaved into His oracle several references to wine.

“Moab has been at ease from his youth
    and has settled on his dregs;
he has not been emptied from vessel to vessel… – Jeremiah 48:11 ESV

…I shall send to him pourers who will pour him, and empty his vessels and break his jars in pieces.” – Jeremiah 48:12 ESV

And God is not done. He continues to utilize references to wine as declares His coming judgment against Moab.

“Make him drunk, because he magnified himself against the Lord, so that Moab shall wallow in his vomit, and he too shall be held in derision. – Jeremiah 48:26 ESV

The Moabites would become like a man who drinks wine with a care-free attitude, seemingly without a problem in the world, only to end up staggering drunk and walloing in his own vomit. And God makes it clear that the real issue behind His anger with Moab is their insolence and pride. They saw themselves an blessed in some way. Perhaps they believed that their false god, Chemosh, was the source of their ongoing success. They probably believed that their worship of him had brought them peace and prosperity. And as they found themselves enjoying relatively good times and a trouble-free existence, they began to believe that they were invincible and destined for further greatness.

This kind of attitude is what Martin Luther referred to as “the theology of glory.” It was a religious belief put man at the center of all things. A theology of glory makes the god who is being worshiped, a distributor of blessings. He becomes like a grand gift-giver, who hands out health, wealth, happiness and success to those who worship him well. Pleasing your god brings you his pleasure, in the form of tangible blessings, like protection, ease, comfort, victories over your enemies, and a trouble-free existence. In a theology of glory, there is no place for pain, suffering, sickness or struggle. Those are the signs of a displeased deity. And they are to be avoided at all costs.

But the Moabites were about to discover that Yahweh, the God of the Jews, was not happy with them. Their theology of glory did not take into account the one-and-only God of the universe. He had had enough of their pride, arrogance, and self-inflated sense of self-importance.

“We have all heard of the pride of Moab,
    for his pride is very great.
We know of his lofty pride,
    his arrogance, and his haughty heart.
I know about his insolence,”
    says the Lord,
“but his boasts are empty—
    as empty as his deeds.” – Jeremiah 48:29-30 NLT

Their theology of glory was about to run headlong into the theology of God’s judgment. Their prideful arrogance was going to be dealt a deadly blow by God’s righteous indignation. And once again, God reverts back to His wine comparisons.

“Joy and gladness are gone from fruitful Moab.
    The presses yield no wine.
No one treads the grapes with shouts of joy.
    There is shouting, yes, but not of joy.” – Jeremiah 48:33 NLT

They had believed that they were blessed by their god. They had been convinced that Chemosh was happy with them and it had shown up in all kinds of ways. Their wines were shipped across the seas and the profits flowed back into their hands. Their wealth had increased. Their reputation had grown. And their pride had swelled. But God has bad news for them. “Therefore the riches they gained have perished” (Jeremiah 48:36 ESV). When He was done with them, their pride would be broken, their vineyards destroyed, their reputation sullied, their wealth taken from them, and their theology of glory exposed for what it is: A lie and a delusion.

They had left the one true God out of the equation. They had concocted a god of their own making. These descendants of Lot, who had at one time been worshipers of Yahweh, had determined to leave Him in the dust and seek out their own god. But their disobedience would not go unpunished forever.

“I will put an end to Moab,” says the Lord, “for the people offer sacrifices at the pagan shrines and burn incense to their false gods.” – Jeremiah 48:35 NLT

Idolatry is an abomination to God. He will not tolerate the worship of false gods. He will not put up with men who make gods of their own choosing, and who then become boastful and arrogant when they begin to believe that their success is due to their lifeless, helpless deity. God will not share His glory with anyone or anything. God will not tolerate the worship of anything other than Himself. And the pride of the Moabites had become nothing less than just another god they worshiped. They served the god of self. It was all about them – their pleasure, success, happiness, comfort, and health. But God was going to turn their pride into humiliation, their joy into sorrow, their success to failure, and their confidence into defeat.

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.

Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Emptied From Vessel to Vessel.

“Cursed is he who does the work of the Lord with slackness, and cursed is he who keeps back his sword from bloodshed.

“Moab has been at ease from his youth
    and has settled on his dregs;
he has not been emptied from vessel to vessel,
    nor has he gone into exile;
so his taste remains in him,
    and his scent is not changed.

“Therefore, behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I shall send to him pourers who will pour him, and empty his vessels and break his jars in pieces. Then Moab shall be ashamed of Chemosh, as the house of Israel was ashamed of Bethel, their confidence.

“How do you say, ‘We are heroes
    and mighty men of war’?
The destroyer of Moab and his cities has come up,
    and the choicest of his young men have gone down to slaughter,
    declares the King, whose name is the Lord of hosts.
The calamity of Moab is near at hand,
    and his affliction hastens swiftly.
Grieve for him, all you who are around him,
    and all who know his name;
say, ‘How the mighty scepter is broken,
    the glorious staff.’

“Come down from your glory,
    and sit on the parched ground,
    O inhabitant of Dibon!
For the destroyer of Moab has come up against you;
    he has destroyed your strongholds.
Stand by the way and watch,
    O inhabitant of Aroer!
Ask him who flees and her who escapes;
    say, ‘What has happened?’
Moab is put to shame, for it is broken;
    wail and cry!
Tell it beside the Arnon,
    that Moab is laid waste.” Jeremiah 48:10-20 ESV

The heading of this particular blog post comes from a line found within God’s expanded oracle against Moab.

“Moab has been at ease from his youth
    and has settled on his dregs;
he has not been emptied from vessel to vessel…” – Jeremiah 48:11 ESV

This somewhat obscure lines is a reference to the very common practice in that day of pouring wine from one container into another in order to remove the sediments. The object was to allow the wine to sit undisturbed for a period of time, causing the sediment to settle to the bottom of the vessel. Then the contents were carefully poured into yet another vessel, allowing the impurities and dregs to remain behind. All the effort was expended in order to arrive at a sediment-free product. That is the image that God uses to describe Moab, a city known for its wine production. The wine has been allowed to settle, but there has been no one to disturb the vessel and pour its contents. In other words, God had allowed Moab to remain trouble-free for a prolonged period of time. Their geographic location had kept them off the radar screen of the various nations that had invaded Canaan over the centuries. The city of Moab was like a young child who had gotten away with all kinds of chicanery, receiving no punishment or discipline for any of the evil things they had done. But all that was about to change. The judgment of God was going to catch up with them.

Their days of complacency and casual comfort were going to come to a screeching halt.

“But the time is coming soon,” says the Lord,
    “when I will send men to pour him from his jar.
They will pour him out,
    then shatter the jar!” – Jeremiah 48:12 NLT

The jar was going to be smashed, contents and all. Over the centuries, the people of Moab had grown comfortable and complacent, trusting in their false god, Chemosh. They had been no reason to doubt that their god was all-powerful and had done a great job of protecting them from their enemies. But God had bad news for them.

“At last Moab will be ashamed of his idol Chemosh,
    as the people of Israel were ashamed of their gold calf at Bethel.” – Jeremiah 48:13 NLT

Here, God refers to an event from Israel’s history. After King Solomon had proven to be unfaithful to God, the nation of Israel was split in two, with the northern tribes forming the nation of Israel, and two of the southern tribes forming the nation of Judah. King Jeroboam, who had been the newly appointed king of Israel, out of fear that the people of Israel would want to return to Jerusalem in order to worship Yahweh at the temple, decided to make his own gods, build his own shrines, and appoint his own priests.

So on the advice of his counselors, the king made two gold calves. He said to the people, “It is too much trouble for you to worship in Jerusalem. Look, Israel, these are the gods who brought you out of Egypt!”

He placed these calf idols in Bethel and in Dan—at either end of his kingdom. But this became a great sin, for the people worshiped the idols, traveling as far north as Dan to worship the one there. 1 Kings 12:28-30 NLT

That shrine would remain in place for generations, until King Josiah of Judah, during many of his ongoing reforms, had it destroyed.

The king also tore down the altar at Bethel—the pagan shrine that Jeroboam son of Nebat had made when he caused Israel to sin. He burned down the shrine and ground it to dust… – 2 Kings 23:15 NLT

But from the time of Jeroboam until Josiah, the people of Israel had worshiped the golden calves that Jeroboam had erected there. And it had taken the intervention of God to bring this idolatrous practice to a close. Now, He was going to do the same thing to the god of the Moabites. They were going to learn that their much-beloved god was not match for Yahweh, the God of Israel. Chemosh would be hauled off as just another piece of booty by the Babylonian troops.

And not only would the Moabites be ashamed by the ineptitude of their god, they would find out that their once mighty army was also no match for the judgment of God.

“You used to boast, ‘We are heroes,
    mighty men of war.’
But now Moab and his towns will be destroyed.
    His most promising youth are doomed to slaughter,” – Jeremiah 48:14-15 NLT

The cities of Moab would fall. The god of Moab would be taken as property. The mighty men of Moab would be scattered and slaughtered. And the allies of Moab would be left to cry over the fate of their former neighbor. And God sarcastically taunts the people of Dibon as well, telling them:

“Come down from your glory
    and sit in the dust, you people of Dibon,
for those who destroy Moab will shatter Dibon, too. – Jeremiah 48:18 NLT

They would be humbled and humiliated by God. Every city in Moab and all the surrounding regions would feel the full force of God’s wrath and judgment. And the devastation would be so comprehensive and complete that it would leave everyone simply asking, “What has happened there?” It will be beyond belief, like nothing anyone could have ever imagined. But God will provide the answer to the question:

“Moab lies in ruins, disgraced;
    weep and wail!
Tell it by the banks of the Arnon River:
    Moab has been destroyed!” – Jeremiah 48:20 NLT

Moab would be emptied of people, possessions and pride. Like wine poured out and its vessel smashed, Moab would find the hand of the Lord heavy and their treatment by Him devastatingly complete. God would hold nothing back. His justice and judgment would be fully meted out and no one, including the might warriors of Moab or their almighty god, Chemosh would stand in His way.

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.

Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Thus Says the Lord…

Concerning Moab.

Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel:

“Woe to Nebo, for it is laid waste!
    Kiriathaim is put to shame, it is taken;
the fortress is put to shame and broken down;
    the renown of Moab is no more.
In Heshbon they planned disaster against her:
    ‘Come, let us cut her off from being a nation!’
You also, O Madmen, shall be brought to silence;
    the sword shall pursue you.

“A voice! A cry from Horonaim,
    ‘Desolation and great destruction!’
Moab is destroyed;
    her little ones have made a cry.
For at the ascent of Luhith
    they go up weeping;
for at the descent of Horonaim
    they have heard the distressed cry of destruction.
Flee! Save yourselves!
    You will be like a juniper in the desert!
For, because you trusted in your works and your treasures,
    you also shall be taken;
and Chemosh shall go into exile
    with his priests and his officials.
The destroyer shall come upon every city,
    and no city shall escape;
the valley shall perish,
    and the plain shall be destroyed,
    as the Lord has spoken.

“Give wings to Moab,
    for she would fly away;
her cities shall become a desolation,
    with no inhabitant in them.” Jeremiah 48:1-9 ESV

Moab, Nebo, Kiriathaim, Madmen, Heshbon, Horonaim, Luhith, and Chemosh. This is like a Who’s-Who of who’s that? Besides Moab, most of these other names are probably unfamiliar to us. And yet, God has His prophet, Jeremiah, call out each of these cities and Chemosh, the god of the Moabites, in particular, providing them with specific words of warning concerning their future fates. Moab was the son of Lot, the nephew of Abraham. So, the Moabites were distant relatives of the Jews. But they had been a thorn in the side of the Israelites since the days of King Saul and King David. David’s great-great grandmother, Ruth, was a Moabite. And Solomon, David’s son and successor to his throne would have many Moabite concubines, who would entice him to erect a shrine near Jerusalem, to Chemosh, the Moabite god.

We are not told when this oracle against Moab was given. But it is clearly a prediction by God of their looming destruction and, while this passage does not provide us with the reasons behind God’s anger with them, we can determine their guilt based on other passages. The Moabites are listed among those nations that joined King Nebuchadnezzar’s forces by providing raiding parties to destroy Judah.

During Jehoiakim’s reign, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon invaded the land of Judah. Jehoiakim surrendered and paid him tribute for three years but then rebelled. Then the Lord sent bands of Babylonian, Aramean, Moabite, and Ammonite raiders against Judah to destroy it, just as the Lord had promised through his prophets. – 2 Kings 24:1-2 NLT

Because of the disobedience of the nations of Israel and Judah, God was obligated by His justice to punish them for their sin and rebellion against Him. So, He used the nations around them to bring about their destruction. His primary tool would be the Babylonians, but other nations would join in the feeding frenzy like sharks drawn to blood in the water. The Moabites would opportunistically take advantage of the fall of the people of God, hoping to benefit from their elimination. But God would hold them responsible for the part they played. While it is clear that God sovereignly ordained the roles the Babylonians, Moabites, Ammonites and others played in Judah’s fall, that does not mean they were forced to do so. It is not an indication that they did so against their wills. It simply means that God orchestrated the timing and sovereignly utilized the natural proclivities of these pagan nations to accomplish His divine will concerning Judah. These nations were naturally blood-thirsty and opportunistic. Their leaders were predisposed to conquer and destroy. God did not make Nebuchadnezzar invade Judah against his wishes. But God did orchestrate Nebuchadnezzar’s rise to power and the timing of the Babylonian invasion of the land of Judah.

And while God would also use the Moabites to accomplish His divinely ordained destruction of Judah, He would also hold the Moabites responsible for the part they played. Once again, they played their part willingly and eagerly. God simply used the natural predisposition of the Moabites to accomplish what He had ordained. And He would see that they paid for their part in Judah’s fall.

“What sorrow awaits the city of Nebo;
    it will soon lie in ruins.
The city of Kiriathaim will be humiliated and captured;
    the fortress will be humiliated and broken down. – Jeremiah 48:1 NLT

Nebo and Kiriathaim were two major cities in the land of Moab. God specifically mentions a number of towns located throughout the land of Moab, signifying that the destruction would be widespread. The entire nation would feel the impact of God’s wrath and subsequent judgment. The Moabites would attack Judah when they were down and out, but God would hold them responsible for their opportunistic treatment of their distant relatives. And God makes it painfully clear: “All Moab is destroyed” (Jeremiah 48:4 NLT). He warns them in advance to run for their lives and escape the coming destruction, because the fall of Moab will be inevitable and unavoidable. God also provides a not-so-subtle indictment against Moab’s idolatry and prideful self-sufficiency.

“Because you have trusted in your wealth and skill,
    you will be taken captive.
Your god Chemosh, with his priests and officials,
    will be hauled off to distant lands!” – Jeremiah 48:7 NLT

Even Chemosh, the Moabite god, would be hauled away as booty, a fitting fate for a god who was non-existent and totally incapable of providing protection for itself, let alone the people who worshiped it. Moab’s destruction will be complete.

“All the towns will be destroyed,
    and no one will escape—
either on the plateaus or in the valleys,
    for the Lord has spoken.
Oh, that Moab had wings
    so she could fly away,
for her towns will be left empty,
    with no one living in them.” – Jeremiah 48:8-9 NLT

As with God’s prediction of the fall of the Philistines in chapter 47, this oracle concerning Moab’s fall is clearly meant to let the people of Judah know that the God they have forsaken is in control. He is all-powerful, completely sovereign over all the nations, and fully capable of accomplishing all He has promised to do, using any and every resource at His divine disposal to make it happen. And each and every actor in God’s divine drama will play their part, but also be held responsible for the role they play. No one, including the people of Judah, will escape God’s justice. No nation or king will walk away unscathed or guiltless in this God-orchestrated, divinely-ordained chain of events. Pagan kings, false gods, mighty nations, opportunistic neighbors, large cities, small villages, and people of all walks of life would feel the wrath of God. When the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel speaks, everyone may not listen to or obey what He has to say, but they will all experience the full impact of His sovereign will.

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.

Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

The Sword of the Lord.

The word of the Lord that came to Jeremiah the prophet concerning the Philistines, before Pharaoh struck down Gaza.

“Thus says the Lord:
Behold, waters are rising out of the north,
    and shall become an overflowing torrent;
they shall overflow the land and all that fills it,
    the city and those who dwell in it.
Men shall cry out,
    and every inhabitant of the land shall wail.
At the noise of the stamping of the hoofs of his stallions,
    at the rushing of his chariots, at the rumbling of their wheels,
the fathers look not back to their children,
    so feeble are their hands,
because of the day that is coming to destroy
    all the Philistines,
to cut off from Tyre and Sidon
    every helper that remains.
For the Lord is destroying the Philistines,
    the remnant of the coastland of Caphtor.
Baldness has come upon Gaza;
    Ashkelon has perished.
O remnant of their valley,
    how long will you gash yourselves?
Ah, sword of the Lord!
    How long till you are quiet?
Put yourself into your scabbard;
    rest and be still!
How can it be quiet
    when the Lord has given it a charge?
Against Ashkelon and against the seashore
    he has appointed it.” Jeremiah 47:1-7 ESV

In this oracle from God, His attention turned to the nation of the Philistines. We are not given any indication as to when this prophecy was given to Jeremiah, but obviously, it was well before the events discussed actually took place. We know that Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians defeated Ashkelon in 604 B.C. In 605 B.C., the Babylonians defeated the Egyptians at the battle of Carchemish. So, this prediction of the fall of the Philistines at the hands of the Egyptians would have probably been given to Jeremiah sometime before that, most likely around 609 B.C. But regardless of its exact date, the content of the oracle is indisputable and its outcome certain.

“A flood is coming from the north
    to overflow the land.
It will destroy the land and everything in it—
    cities and people alike. – Jeremiah 47:2 NLT

The “flood” from the north is a reference to the Babylonians. At some point, before they made their way to Egypt, King Nebuchadnezzar and his forces invaded Gaza and destroyed the Philistines. Their arrival happened so quickly that the Philistines were totally caught off guard and unprepared to defend themselves. God describes the fathers running for their lives, not even bothering to look back and abandoning their helpless children to fend for themselves against the Babylonian forces.

God makes it clear that He is going to wipe out the Philistines once and for all, and He is going to use King Nebuchadnezzar to do so. The Philistines were not natives to the land of Canaan. They had originally showed up in the land as refugees from Caphtor (Crete). But in the book of Amos, God makes it clear that their presence in the land of Canaan had been His doing.

“Are you not like the Cushites to me,
    O people of Israel?” declares the Lord.
“Did I not bring up Israel from the land of Egypt,
    and the Philistines from Caphtor and the Syrians from Kir?
Behold, the eyes of the Lord God are upon the sinful kingdom,
    and I will destroy it from the surface of the ground,
    except that I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob,”
declares the Lord. – Amos 9:7-8 ESV

God had been behind the formation of the various nations and their migrations and subsequent settlements around the globe. And God spoke through Amos, indicating that He was going to bring complete destruction on these sinful nations, but would refrain from completely destroying the house of Jacob. But the Philistines, who had long been the enemies of God’s people, were going to experience His wrath. Unlike the Egyptians, who had never turned against the Israelites or treated them poorly, the Philistines had been a perpetual thorn in the side of the people of God for generations. But God makes it clear that their 15 minutes of fame were about to expire.

“The time has come for the Philistines to be destroyed,
    along with their allies from Tyre and Sidon.
Yes, the Lord is destroying the remnant of the Philistines,
    those colonists from the island of Crete.
Gaza will be humiliated, its head shaved bald;
    Ashkelon will lie silent.
You remnant from the Mediterranean coast,
    how long will you cut yourselves in mourning?” – Jeremiah 47:4-5 NLT

God even throws Tyre and Sidon into the mix. Perhaps they were allies of the Philistines, but we are not told why there were included in God’s judgment. More than likely, God is using geographic points of interest to indicate that His judgment will be complete and will encompass the entire nation. Tyre and Sidon were on the northern perimeter of the land of the Philistines, while Gaza and Ashkelon were at the southern-most tip. His wrath would be meted out upon the whole nation, from one end to the other. No one would escape.

Verse six contains a heartfelt plea that God might cease from the slaughter. This is likely a glimpse into how those who witness the coming devastation will respond. They will beg that God call an end to the horror of it all. The fact that this horror is the result of God’s judgment will be clearly evident and it will be to God that the cries will go out.

“Now, O sword of the Lord,
    when will you be at rest again?
Go back into your sheath;
    rest and be still. – Jeremiah 48:6 NLT

But verse seven gives the response to this call for mercy.

“But how can it be still
    when the Lord has sent it on a mission?
For the city of Ashkelon
    and the people living along the sea
    must be destroyed.” – Jeremiah 48:7 NLT

God’s will must be done. His judgment must be fulfilled. His sword will not return to its scabbard until His will concerning the Philistines is completely fulfilled. These oracles concerning Egypt and the nation of the Philistines are intended to remind the people of God of His sovereignty. He is in control of all things. He is sovereign over all the nations. There are no kings who reign without His express permission. There are no dictators or despots who rule without His will making it possible. Like flood waters that overflow their banks and devastate the land, the nation of Babylon would overwhelm the nations of the world, bringing destruction and fulfilling the sovereign will of God Almighty. No one escapes His judgment. No one operates outside of His will. No kings rule without His permission. No governments exist that He has not willed into existence. It was Daniel who said of God:

“Praise the name of God forever and ever,
    for he has all wisdom and power.
He controls the course of world events;
    he removes kings and sets up other kings.
He gives wisdom to the wise
    and knowledge to the scholars.
He reveals deep and mysterious things
    and knows what lies hidden in darkness,
    though he is surrounded by light.” – Daniel 2:20-22 NLT

Despite all that had happened in Judah, and regardless of how bleak things appeared to the people of Judah, God was still in charge. And the words of psalmist provide us with a powerful reminder of God’s sovereign, unstoppable hand in the affairs of man.

“I warned the proud, ‘Stop your boasting!’
    I told the wicked, ‘Don’t raise your fists!
Don’t raise your fists in defiance at the heavens
    or speak with such arrogance.’”
For no one on earth—from east or west,
    or even from the wilderness—
    should raise a defiant fist.
It is God alone who judges;
    he decides who will rise and who will fall.
For the Lord holds a cup in his hand
    that is full of foaming wine mixed with spices.
He pours out the wine in judgment,
    and all the wicked must drink it,
    draining it to the dregs. – Psalm 75:4-8 NLT

 

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.

Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Faithful to the End.

The Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, said: “Behold, I am bringing punishment upon Amon of Thebes, and Pharaoh and Egypt and her gods and her kings, upon Pharaoh and those who trust in him. I will deliver them into the hand of those who seek their life, into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and his officers. Afterward Egypt shall be inhabited as in the days of old, declares the Lord.

“But fear not, O Jacob my servant,
    nor be dismayed, O Israel,
for behold, I will save you from far away,
    and your offspring from the land of their captivity.
Jacob shall return and have quiet and ease,
    and none shall make him afraid.
Fear not, O Jacob my servant,
declares the Lord,
    for I am with you.
I will make a full end of all the nations
    to which I have driven you,
    but of you I will not make a full end.
I will discipline you in just measure,
    and I will by no means leave you unpunished.”Jeremiah 46:25-28 ESV

Fear not. That seems to be a strange statement for God to make after all that He has said concerning the fate of Egypt and all those from Judah who had fled there. But in these closing verses of chapter 46, He says it twice.

“But fear not, O Jacob my servant,
    nor be dismayed, O Israel,
for behold, I will save you from far away,
    and your offspring from the land of their captivity. – Jeremiah 46:27 ESV

Fear not, O Jacob my servant,
declares the Lord,
    for I am with you. – Jeremiah 46:28 ESV

His words are meant for the nation of Israel, providing them with two messages of encouragement. He would save them and He was with them. This is meant to be a reassurance that God, in spite of Israel’s ongoing disobedience and unfaithfulness to Him, would one day restore them to prominence and to their position as His chosen people. The day would come when He would return them “from the land of their captivity” (vs 27) and promises them that a life filled with “quiet and ease” (vs 27). While this promise is partially fulfilled in the return of the people from captivity in Babylon under the leadership of Ezra and Zerubabbel, it is most likely a reference a the much-more future period of time after Christ has returns to the earth and reestablishes the nation of Israel in the land of Canaan. Jeremiah prophesied about this event earlier in his book.

“For the time is coming,”
    says the Lord,
“when I will raise up a righteous descendant
    from King David’s line.
He will be a King who rules with wisdom.
    He will do what is just and right throughout the land.
And this will be his name:
    ‘The Lord Is Our Righteousness.’
In that day Judah will be saved,
    and Israel will live in safety.” – Jeremiah 23:5-6 NLT

Christ will set up His kingdom on earth and establish His throne in the city of Jerusalem. And God will see to it that the people of Israel, spread all over the world at that time, will return to the land of promise, to sit under the rule and reign of Christ. God has a plan for the people of Israel, because He has made a covenant promise with them that He must and will fulfill. He will not break or fail to keep His covenant. In spite of their unfaithfulness, they remain His chosen people and He remains their God. And in that day, God will do for the Israelites what they could never have done for themselves. He will give them clean hearts, remove their sin, and provide them with a new capacity to serve Him faithfully.

“For I will gather you up from all the nations and bring you home again to your land. Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. Your filth will be washed away, and you will no longer worship idols. And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations.

“And you will live in Israel, the land I gave your ancestors long ago. You will be my people, and I will be your God. I will cleanse you of your filthy behavior.” – Ezekiel 36:24-29 NLT

But God is also going to restore the nation of Egypt. Unlike the nations of Babylon and Assyria, whom God would ultimately destroy for their treatment of Israel and Judah, God would reestablish Egypt. And this promise too, seems to be a reference to a future restoration that has yet to happen. The prophet, Isaiah, provides us with a glimpse what God is going to do at some future, as-yet-to-be-revealed date.

At that time five cities in the land of Egypt will speak the language of Canaan and swear allegiance to the Lord who commands armies. One will be called the City of the Sun. At that time there will be an altar for the Lord in the middle of the land of Egypt, as well as a sacred pillar dedicated to the Lord at its border. It will become a visual reminder in the land of Egypt of the Lord who commands armies. When they cry out to the Lord because of oppressors, he will send them a deliverer and defender who will rescue them. The Lord will reveal himself to the Egyptians, and they will acknowledge the Lord’s authority at that time. They will present sacrifices and offerings; they will make vows to the Lord and fulfill them. The Lord will strike Egypt, striking and then healing them. They will turn to the Lord and he will listen to their prayers and heal them. – Isaiah 19:18-22 NLT

Egypt had never been an enemy of Israel. In fact, Egypt had been a place of refuge for the people of Israel for centuries. Abraham himself had fled there to escape a famine in the land. Egypt had become the new home to Joseph after he had been sold into slavery by his brothers. It was there that he became the second-most-highest official in the land. And it was there that his father and brothers went to purchase much-needed food during yet another famine in Canaan. And at Joseph’s invitation, his father and brothers would move their families to Egypt to escape the famine. It was to Egypt that Joseph and Mary fled with the baby Jesus in order to escape the wrath of King Herod. And while the people of Judah in Jeremiah’s day had fled to Egypt for safety, they had done so without God’s consent. They had blatantly violated His command to remain in the land of Judah. And they would suffer the consequences. God makes it quite clear in this passage that He is obligated, because of His justice and holiness, to punish disobedience.

“…I will not completely destroy you.
I will discipline you, but with justice;
    I cannot let you go unpunished.” – Jeremiah 46:28 NLT

They would suffer because of their sin. The people of the northern kingdom of Israel were in captivity in Assyria. The people of the southern kingdom of Judah had just been taken captives to Babylon. And they would remain there for 70 years, until God miraculously arranged for their return to the land. But that return would be incomplete. Yes, they would rebuild the walls of Jerusalem and reconstruct the temple, but they would never be able to restore Israel to its former glory. They would have no king. They would still be defenseless and easy prey to the stronger nations around them. Eventually, they would find themselves occupied by the Romans. And that was the state of affairs when Jesus came to earth the first time. But when He returns again, He will restore Jerusalem to its former glory once and for all. He will set up His kingdom on earth.

“In that day I will restore the fallen house of David.
    I will repair its damaged walls.
From the ruins I will rebuild it
    and restore its former glory.
And Israel will possess what is left of Edom
    and all the nations I have called to be mine.”
The Lord has spoken,
    and he will do these things.

“The time will come,” says the Lord,
“when the grain and grapes will grow faster
    than they can be harvested.
Then the terraced vineyards on the hills of Israel
    will drip with sweet wine!
I will bring my exiled people of Israel
    back from distant lands,
and they will rebuild their ruined cities
    and live in them again.
They will plant vineyards and gardens;
    they will eat their crops and drink their wine.
I will firmly plant them there
    in their own land.
They will never again be uprooted
    from the land I have given them,”
    says the Lord your God. – Amos 9:11-15 NLT

We serve a faithful God. He is a promise-keeping God who never fails to do all that He has said. When He warns of judgment, it comes. When He promises restoration, it takes place. When He says that His Son will one day return, you can count on it. When He tells the people of Israel that they are His own. He means it.

God is not a man, so he does not lie. He is not human, so he does not change his mind. Has he ever spoken and failed to act? Has he ever promised and not carried it through?
 – Numbers 23:29 NLT

In a world where nothing is reliable and no one is trustworthy, we have a God who is faithful, just and true. His promises never fall short. His word never fails.

 

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.

Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Refusing to Take Refuge in God.

The word that the Lord spoke to Jeremiah the prophet about the coming of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon to strike the land of Egypt:

“Declare in Egypt, and proclaim in Migdol;
    proclaim in Memphis and Tahpanhes;
say, ‘Stand ready and be prepared,
    for the sword shall devour around you.’
Why are your mighty ones face down?
    They do not stand
    because the Lord thrust them down.
He made many stumble, and they fell,
    and they said one to another,
‘Arise, and let us go back to our own people
    and to the land of our birth,
    because of the sword of the oppressor.’
Call the name of Pharaoh, king of Egypt,
    ‘Noisy one who lets the hour go by.’

“As I live, declares the King,
    whose name is the Lord of hosts,
like Tabor among the mountains
    and like Carmel by the sea, shall one come.
Prepare yourselves baggage for exile,
    O inhabitants of Egypt!
For Memphis shall become a waste,
    a ruin, without inhabitant.

“A beautiful heifer is Egypt,
    but a biting fly from the north has come upon her.
Even her hired soldiers in her midst
    are like fattened calves;
yes, they have turned and fled together;
    they did not stand,
for the day of their calamity has come upon them,
    the time of their punishment.

“She makes a sound like a serpent gliding away;
    for her enemies march in force
and come against her with axes
    like those who fell trees.
They shall cut down her forest,
declares the Lord,
    though it is impenetrable,
because they are more numerous than locusts;
    they are without number.
The daughter of Egypt shall be put to shame;
    she shall be delivered into the hand of a people from the north.” Jeremiah 46:13-24 ESV

Egypt’s defeat at battle of Carchemish would just be the beginning of her misery. Not long after his victory, Prince Nebuchadnezzar would return to Babylon, where he would receive his coronation as king. replacing his father Nabopolassar. Then, the newly crowned king of Babylon would set his sights on the land of Palestine, subduing Canaan and then moving west to once again to battle with Pharaoh, but this time Nebuchadnezzar would bring the fight to the land of Egypt. And the outcome of this conflict would be worse than the first. All of this would take place in 568-567 B.C., in exactly the manner God had prophesied.

Earlier in the book of Jeremiah, God had warned, But suppose a nation or a kingdom will not be subject to King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. Suppose it will not submit to the yoke of servitude to him. I, the Lord, affirm that I will punish that nation. I will use the king of Babylon to punish it with war, starvation, and disease until I have destroyed it.” (Jeremiah 28:8 NLT). A few verses earlier, in that same chapter, God refers to “my servant, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon” (Jeremiah 28:6 NLT). Nebuchadnezzar was an instrument in the hand of God to accomplish His divine will concerning the nations. 

Just as God had previously warned the nations of Edom, Moab, Ammon, Tyre, and Sidon; He would warn the cities of Egypt. He specifically mentions Migdol, Memphis and Tahpanhes. These happened to be major cities in Egypt and are the same cities to which the refugees from Judah had fled.

They went on to Egypt because they refused to obey the Lord, and came to Tahpanhes. – Jeremiah 43:7 NLT

The Lord spoke to Jeremiah concerning all the Judeans who were living in the land of Egypt, those in Migdol, Tahpanhes, Memphis, and in the region of southern Egypt. – Jeremiah 44:1 NLT

Once again, these prophecies were intended as a warning to the people of Judah more than they. were for the Egyptians. Jeremiah would have shared these pronouncements from God with his own people as a reminder that their disobedience was going to have consequences. They had run away to Egypt against the will of God. They had placed their faith in a foreign land rather than listening to the words of Yahweh. And God had already warned them what was coming.

“Because of this, the Lord God of Israel who rules over all says, ‘I am determined to bring disaster on you, even to the point of destroying all the Judeans here. I will see to it that all the Judean remnant that was determined to go and live in the land of Egypt will be destroyed. Here in the land of Egypt they will fall in battle or perish from starvation. People of every class will die in war or from starvation. They will become an object of horror and ridicule, an example of those who have been cursed and that people use in pronouncing a curse. I will punish those who live in the land of Egypt with war, starvation, and disease just as I punished Jerusalem.’” – Jeremiah 44:11-13 NLT

But the people had no intention of returning to the land of Judah. They were stubborn and refused to heed Jeremiah’s warning. So now, God was making it all official. He was predicting the actual events that would bring about their judgment and Egypt’s fall. And God indicates that the many gods of Egypt would be helpless and hopeless in the days ahead.

Why are your mighty ones face down?
    They do not stand
    because the Lord thrust them down… – Jeremiah 46:15 ESV

They would be exposed for what they were: lifeless, powerless fabrications of men’s minds. They were not gods at all and therefore, they would be no help at all in the day of trouble. Egypt would experience the very same fate that Judah had. Their great cities would fall. Their people would die as a result of starvation or by the sword. Their troops would flee before the Babylonians. And eventually, thousands of the Egyptians would taken back to Babylon as slaves. Even the mercenary troops that Egypt had hired to assist them would turn and run like fattened calves. Their lives would be offered like sacrifices before the Lord of Hosts.

The description is one of utter defeat and devastation. The great cities of Egypt would be looted of all treasure and then burned to the ground. Its once formidable army would fall like a house of cards. The many gods of Egypt would prove useless, becoming little more than booty for the Babylonians to haul off when they returned home. Even the forests of Egypt would be cut down to make the siege engines used to destroy the walls or its cities. Everything would be laid waste. And the people of Judah would find that their chosen place of refuge was anything but that. They had run from Judah because they feared the wrath of Nebuchadnezzar. But God had told them that if they stayed in Judah, He would have protected them. It would have gone well for them. But they had chosen to ignore God’s promises. They had made the fateful decision to seek refuge somewhere else. And now, they would pay the price for the disobedience and lack of faith in God.

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.

Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson