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God’s Word for You

Jeremiah 48:10-13

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Saturday, January 24, 2015

10 Cursed is the one who is negligent in doing the LORD’s work.
      Cursed is the one who keeps his sword from bloodshed.

This passage is spoken against the soldiers attacking Moab. They were doing the Lord’s work, since he had condemned the land, and the curse is for any of them who did not carry out their duty. “Negligent” (Hebrew remiyah) can mean deceit or treachery, but here it means to be lax or slack, or to do something halfheartedly. Whether the Lord’s servant is called to proclaim the law or the gospel, he needs to do it with all his heart, all his soul, all his mind and all his strength. And whatever we do, we do to the glory of God.

11 Moab has been at peace since his youth,
      undisturbed, like wine on its dregs,
      never poured from one vessel to another.
He has never gone into captivity,
  therefore he tastes the same as he always did,
  and his aroma is unchanged.
12 Therefore the days are coming, declares the LORD,
      when I will send to him those who pour,
      and they will pour him out.
They will drain his containers
  and smash his jars.

These verses recall the pottery passages from earlier in the book (chapters 18-19), but this time the jar is a container of wine. Moab is compared to wine that’s been undisturbed for its whole existence, like a bottle still in the cellar of the winery. Wine that is still on its dregs has never been decanted into bottles; it’s never been disturbed at all. The Lord is saying that Moab has never been disturbed. His unbelief has been unchanged since the very beginning, so God invites the attackers to bring their empty glasses. Drain Moab down to its dregs! He sends in “those who pour,” and the waiters and bartenders of Babylon brandishing their swords and spears will let the wine flow. Blood will spill like dumped out wine, and the containers of Moab will be drained. Then, just like the smashed jar of Judah (Jeremiah 19:11) Moab will be just as smashed and just as useless.

13 Moab will be ashamed of Chemosh,
      as the house of Israel was ashamed of Bethel, their confidence.

There is wordplay in this verse. Beth-Israel (house of Israel) and Bethel (house of God) are very similar terms. Also, Chemosh rhymes with bosh “ashamed.” Although rhyme is rare in Hebrew, some prophets like Isaiah explored this innovation in poetry, and it’s possible that Jeremiah may have dabbled in rhyme just a little bit.

This shame on Moab’s gods is related to the drained containers and smashed jars of verse 12. The blood of the Moabite people desecrated the altars and the land. God’s judgment fell on them for their idolatry, just as God’s judgment had fallen on the Israelites for their idolatry at Bethel.

Notice that the parallelism of verse 13 does not quite match. Moab will be ashamed of Chemosh their god because he is no god at all. But Israel will be ashamed only of Bethel, a place of idolatry, and not of God himself, because it is impossible for a believer to be ashamed of God. We honor him, glory in him, and give him praise and glory with everything we do.

The ancient historical and religious importance of Bethel did not stop God from judging people for what was in their hearts. An ancient or respected name is not important if faith disappears. That’s true of a place, of a race, or an institution. Christian denominations with ancient histories must take the warnings of Jesus seriously. Jesus said, “Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” (Matthew 7:22-23). When people despise God’s word, reject it, think they know better or even blaspheme against it, they can expect that the Holy Spirit will reject those who reject him. They can make a show of faith, but God looks at the heart.

Treasure the faith in your heart. Set your hope on the resurrection; put your faith in Jesus, and be comforted that he knows what’s in your heart. He sees your faith, he hearts your prayers, and he will offer his hand to welcome you home on the Last Day.

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.