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God’s Word for You

Jeremiah 48:32-38

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Saturday, February 21, 2015

32 I will weep for you, vine of Sibmah,
      more than Jazer.
Your branches passed over the sea.
  They reached to the Sea of Jazer.
The destroyer has fallen on your summer fruit
  and on your grapes.

Sibmah was a region covered in vineyards. Jazer, originally a village of the Amorites, had been captured by Israel in the days of Moses from Og, King of Bashan (Numbers 21:32). Many translators dismiss the reference to the “Sea of Jazer,” and propose that “sea” should be dropped, but this isn’t necessary. Jazer was quite far from the Dead Sea, and further still from the Sea of Galilee. Neither of them can be meant. But we know very little about this city. Perhaps there was something there—a reservoir, or a pond, or some other manmade construction used for irrigation, or a large system of underground cisterns that might have been known as the Sea of Jazer. Whatever might be the case, Nebuchadnezzar had destroyed all of it, the “destroyer” sent by the Lord.

33 Gladness and joy have been taken from the fertile field
        and from the land of Moab.
I have stopped the flow of wine from the winepresses.
  No one will tread with shouts of joy.
  The shouting is not shouting for joy.
34 There is a cry from Heshbon to Elealeh.
      They raise their voices as far as Jahaz,
from Zoar to Horonaim and Eglath-shelishiyah,
  and even the waters of Nimrim have dried up.

Once again, the connection with available water supplies is emphasized. The waters of Nimrim was a place, probably an oasis, southeast of the Dead Sea. The many locations of Moab mentioned here depended on places like this because the Dead Sea itself is a lifeless, undrinkable water source. The shouts of joy—the joy of travelers arriving at a welcome oasis—are turned into shouts of despair and grief. The judgment of the Lord is severe and real. The pain of God’s judgment cannot be avoided or circumvented by mankind.

35 In Moab, I will stop—declares the LORD—the one who offers on the high places and burns incense to his gods.

In the Hebrew text, the phrase “declares the LORD” is interjected right where it is here in the translation. It is as if the Lord stops the sentence just as he promises to stop these pagan offerings.

36 Therefore, my heart wails like flutes for Moab,
      and for the men of Kir Hareseth by heart wails like flutes.
      Even the wealth they have acquired is gone.
37 Every head is shaved and every beard is clipped.
      Every hand is cut and there is sackcloth on the waist.
38 On all the rooftops of Moab
        and in its streets there is wailing,
        for I have broken Moab like an unwanted jar,”
            declares the LORD.

Flutes, so often a joyous in our culture, were often associated with grieving and funerals in Bible times, but not always. In the New Testament, flute players accompanied funeral processions (Matthew 9:23), but in Job, flutes are instruments both of grieving (Job 30:31) and of joy (Job 21:12). Here the flutes are mournful. Jeremiah returns to earlier prophecies by comparing Moab with broken, unwanted jar the same way he once described Judah (Jeremiah 19:1-11). Perhaps this prophecy came from the same time.

But was there any hope for Moab? Can anyone, once condemned and held up for scorn by God, still be turned back to faith and forgiveness? Peter wept bitterly when he was caught swearing he didn’t know Jesus while his Lord was being interrogated by Caiaphas, but Jesus called him back to repentance, forgiveness, and service in his kingdom. What about broken, unwanted Moab?

Far away in Babylon, the prophet Daniel was already exiled by the Babylonians. But Daniel saw far ahead into the future, to a time when the Lamb of God would come in the flesh and redeem mankind. He also saw beyond this to the very end of time, and the terrible days between those events, the days in which we now live. One thing Daniel saw concerned cursed, unwanted Moab. While describing the rise of the Antichrist, the great opponent to the Church in the last days, Daniel foresaw that some people would survive the Antichrist’s attacks with God’s help: “He will… invade the Beautiful land. Many countries will fall, but Edom, Moab and the leaders of Ammon will be delivered from his hand” (Daniel 11:41).

We do not know when our time of grace will end in death. But until then, God invites us again and again to repentance. Moab could repent. You can repent. God holds out his grace to all who repent.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.