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

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