And Moab shall be ashamed of Chemosh, as the house of Israel was ashamed of Bethel their confidence. — Jeremiah 48:13
Isobel Kuhn was a missionary in the mountains of China. Often she and her husband traveled over steep, narrow trails along the edges of cliffs. These had to be traversed in single file, and any slip could mean instant disaster. The proper way for women to travel was by a mountain chair, but Isobel discovered on her first “ride” that this demanded courage, especially on slippery paths. The chair was carried by two men, one in front and another in back. When the incline was especially steep, the chair would tilt backward. As they went along, the men would grunt and feel for a secure place to put their feet. If the narrow trail turned a corner, the chair swung out over the precipice. When she was new to this method of mountain travel, Isobel would not allow herself to look down or think about the result if one of the men lost his footing.
Through the years that Isobel ministered in China, she made countless trips up and down many mountainsides — sometimes riding a mule, sometimes in the mountain chair, sometimes walking. Always there was the issue of trust — trust in those carrying her or those guiding the mule, trust in the natives leading them, and trust in God to keep them safe. It was vital to their survival that they not misplace their trust.(1)
The people of Moab who were addressed in today’s chapter had misplaced their trust. In their idolatry, they trusted in their god Chemosh. The focus verse predicted that they would be ashamed of their god because, of course, he would be unable to deliver them from their enemies. This verse also refers to Bethel, where years before, Jeroboam had made a golden calf so the people of the Northern Kingdom could worship there instead of going to the Temple in Jerusalem. Israel, too, had been “ashamed” and had gone into captivity because their idol was no help.
Today, we must be certain that we are not misplacing our trust. Spiritually, this is even more important than trusting our lives to someone carrying a chair over a mountain trail. We want to be sure that our souls are trusting in God. This means more than just knowing about Him or saying we believe in Him. Our eternal destiny is dependent upon giving Him complete control of our lives. If we do this, He is trustworthy and will see us through all the difficult trails of life and into Heaven.
Among the judgments that Jeremiah prophesied against various nations, this chapter deals with Moab. Moab was a small country lying to the east of the Dead Sea.
The Moabites descended from Lot and had influenced the Jewish people toward idolatry. Moab had aligned with Nebuchadnezzar in raiding Judah, but later Babylon conquered the Moabites. The chapter is written in poetry, with the names of many of Moab’s cities interwoven.
In verses 1-10 the prophet described how Moab would be destroyed. Nebo and Kiriathaim were cities that had been possessed by the Jewish people but later were taken by Moab. “The going up of Luhith” and “the going down of Horonaim” referred to the roads that went to these cities. Chemosh was the primary god of this nation. It was common for armies to carry their idols to battle with them, and then the victorious army would take those idols home with them, and Jeremiah prophesied that “Chemosh shall go forth into captivity.” The phrase “give wings unto Moab” meant that anyone who wanted to escape the coming destruction would need to flee quickly, and a curse was placed on the conquerors if they refrained from completely destroying the nation.
This land was well known for its vineyards, and Jeremiah used wine as an illustration of what would happen to Moab (verses 11-12). Wine is allowed to rest (ferment) in order to enhance its flavor. However, if it sits too long on the sediment at the bottom (lees), it becomes bitter, so it needs to be poured from one container to another. As a country, Moab had been invaded and paid tribute, but it had not been destroyed or taken into captivity. Consequently, the people were used to being prosperous and at ease. They had deteriorated morally, and destruction was coming — their “bottles” would be broken.
The people of Moab had magnified themselves against the Lord (verse 26), rejoiced when Judah suffered (verse 27), and were “exceeding proud” (verse 29). Jeremiah prophesied of the judgment that would come upon them. Their beautiful vineyards would be destroyed, their orchards would not have fruit, and mourning would replace joy. The enemy would come like an eagle (verse 40) and no one would escape death or captivity.
Yet verse 47 holds out a little hope. God said He would one day “bring again the captivity of Moab in the latter days.”
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
III. The pronouncement of judgment against the nations
C. Against Moab (48:1-47)
1. The destruction of Moab (48:1-10)
2. The departure of Moab’s glory (48:11-25)
3. The description of Moab’s pride (48:26-35)
4. The dirge for Moab (48:36-38)
5. The devastation of Moab (48:39-46)
6. The restoration of Moab promised (48:47)
Where is your trust? God is fully reliable and will never fail His people.
1. Gloria Repp, Nothing Daunted: The Story of Isobel Kuhn, JournyForth, June 1995.