To the Glory of God

“I have heard the taunts of Moab
    and the revilings of the Ammonites,
how they have taunted my people
    and made boasts against their territory.
Therefore, as I live,” declares the Lord of hosts,
    the God of Israel,
“Moab shall become like Sodom,
    and the Ammonites like Gomorrah,
a land possessed by nettles and salt pits,
    and a waste forever.
The remnant of my people shall plunder them,
    and the survivors of my nation shall possess them.”
10 This shall be their lot in return for their pride,
    because they taunted and boasted
    against the people of the Lord of hosts.
11 The Lord will be awesome against them;
    for he will famish all the gods of the earth,
and to him shall bow down,
    each in its place,
    all the lands of the nations. Zephaniah 2:8-11 ESV

After having issued His warning of coming judgment upon the Philistines, God now addresses Judah’s neighbors to the east. Moab and Ammon lie on the opposite side of the Dead Sea in land that is often referred to as the Transjordan.

Hundreds of years earlier, when the people of Israel were making their way from Egypt to the land of Canaan, they had to pass through this region of the Transjordan. And when they arrived at the border of Moab, God commanded Moses to avoid any confrontation with the people who lived there.

“And we turned and went in the direction of the wilderness of Moab. And the Lord said to me, ‘Do not harass Moab or contend with them in battle, for I will not give you any of their land for a possession, because I have given Ar to the people of Lot for a possession.’” – Deuteronomy 2:8-9 ESV

God also commanded that the Israelites treat the people of Ammon in the same way and for a similar reason.

“And when you approach the territory of the people of Ammon, do not harass them or contend with them, for I will not give you any of the land of the people of Ammon as a possession, because I have given it to the sons of Lot for a possession.…” – Deuteronomy 2:19 ESV

To grasp what’s going on here, you have to understand why God had given “the sons of Lot” possession of these territories. Lot was the nephew of Abraham who, according to the book of Genesis, accompanied his uncle when he began his God-ordained relocation to Canaan.

And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son, and all their possessions that they had gathered, and the people that they had acquired in Haran, and they set out to go to the land of Canaan. – Genesis 12:12:5 ESV

Upon their arrival in the land of Canaan, Lot and Abram eventually parted ways.

And Lot lifted up his eyes and saw that the Jordan Valley was well watered everywhere like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt, in the direction of Zoar. (This was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.) So Lot chose for himself all the Jordan Valley, and Lot journeyed east. Thus they separated from each other. Abram settled in the land of Canaan, while Lot settled among the cities of the valley and moved his tent as far as Sodom. Now the men of Sodom were wicked, great sinners against the Lord. – Genesis 13:10-13 ESV

This little bit of historical context is going to be important as we move through God’s judgment upon Moab and Ammon. Lot ended up settling in the wicked city of Sodom, rather than taking up residence in the “well-watered” Jordan Valley. And sometime later, when God brought judgment upon the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, He would spare Lot and his family “because he was a righteous man who was sick of the shameful immorality of the wicked people around him” (2 Peter 4:7 NLT).

But during their escape from the city of Sodom, Lot’s wife would die for violating God’s command. He had commanded them, “Escape for your life. Do not look back or stop anywhere in the valley. Escape to the hills, lest you be swept away” (Genesis 19:17 ESV). 

But Lot’s wife, behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt” (Genesis 19:26 ESV). With the death of his wife, “Lot went up out of Zoar and lived in the hills with his two daughters” (Genesis 19:30 ESV). And it didn’t take long before the negative influence of having grown up in Sodom became apparent. Fearful that they would both become old maids, unmarried and childless, the two daughters of Lot conspired to get their father drunk and have sex with him. The result of their illicit and immoral decision would be the nations of Moab and Ammon.

Thus both the daughters of Lot became pregnant by their father. The firstborn bore a son and called his name Moab. He is the father of the Moabites to this day. The younger also bore a son and called his name Ben-ammi. He is the father of the Ammonites to this day. – Genesis 19:36-38 ESV

Now that we have the historical context, let’s got back to the prophecy of Zephaniah. God specifically calls out Moab and Ammon, the descendants of Lot and the close relatives of God’s chosen people. And He accuses them of having taunted and reviled the people of Judah. As far back as Israel’s exodus from Egypt, the Moabites had been guilty of trying to prevent the Israelites from settling in the land of Canaan. The sheer number of Israelites had frightened the people of Moab.

And Moab was in great dread of the people, because they were many. Moab was overcome with fear of the people of Israel. And Moab said to the elders of Midian, “This horde will now lick up all that is around us, as the ox licks up the grass of the field.” – Numbers 22:3-4 ESV

So, the king of Moab had hired a local diviner named Balaam, ordering him to pronounce a curse of the people of Israel.

Come now, curse this people for me, since they are too mighty for me. Perhaps I shall be able to defeat them and drive them from the land, for I know that he whom you bless is blessed, and he whom you curse is cursed.” – Numbers 22:6 ESV

But God prevented Balaam from cursing the people of Israel. In fact, he would actually end up pronouncing a God-ordained blessing upon the people of Israel. And that blessing would take the form of a prophetic message concerning the coming Messiah and the Savior of the world.

“I see him, but not now;
    I behold him, but not near:
a star shall come out of Jacob,
    and a scepter shall rise out of Israel;
it shall crush the forehead of Moab
    and break down all the sons of Sheth.
Edom shall be dispossessed;
    Seir also, his enemies, shall be dispossessed.
    Israel is doing valiantly.
And one from Jacob shall exercise dominion
    and destroy the survivors of cities!” – Numbers 24:17-19 ESV

The Ammonites would also prove to be a constant source of animosity for the people of Israel, waging war against them throughout the period of the judges and well into the reigns of Saul and David. The Ammonites and Moabites, while descendants of Lot, were a pagan people who worshiped false gods. And God commanded the Israelites not to intermarry with them because those relationships would lead the Israelites to turn their backs on Him. Yet, even King Solomon would choose to disobey God, marrying Naamah, who was an Ammonite (1 Kings 14:21). And Solomon would end up worshiping the gods of his many pagan wives and concubines, resulting in God dividing his kingdom in half, creating the northern nation of Israel and the southern nation of Judah.

But back to Moab and Ammon. God had plans for them. They were not going to enjoy their pagan ways forever. Their pride and arrogance and their hostility toward the people of Judah would be repaid.

“Moab shall become like Sodom,
    and the Ammonites like Gomorrah,
a land possessed by nettles and salt pits,
    and a waste forever.
The remnant of my people shall plunder them,
    and the survivors of my nation shall possess them.” – Zephaniah 2:9 ESV

God foreshadows the coming destruction of these two nations, comparing their fall to that of Sodom and Gomorrah. Isn’t it fascinating that God chooses to use these two wicked cities to describe the fall of Ammon and Moab? The common link is Lot, the progenitor of the Ammonites and Moabites. But the two cities and the two nations also share a track record of wickedness, pride, sin, immorality, and godlessness.

Ultimately, the sins of Moab and Ammon were against God. By rejecting Israel, they had rejected Him.

“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.

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.” – Jeremiah 48:26, 29-30 ESV

“I will make Rabbah a pasture for camels and Ammon a fold for flocks. Then you will know that I am the Lord. For thus says the Lord God: Because you have clapped your hands and stamped your feet and rejoiced with all the malice within your soul against the land of Israel…” – Ezekiel 25:5-6 ESV

The day is coming, the “great day of the Lord,” when He will bring His judgment against all the nations of the earth. And there will be a reason for God’s destruction of these pagan nations.

The Lord will terrify them
    as he destroys all the gods in the land.
Then nations around the world will worship the Lord,
    each in their own land. – Zephaniah 2:11 NLT

He will remove all vestiges of the false gods that have led the nations to live in open rebellion to Him. He will destroy them, making it perfectly clear that He is the one and only God. And the end result will be that the nations of the world will bow down in worship of Him and Him alone.

“‘As surely as I live,’ says the LORD, ‘every knee will bend to me, and every tongue will declare allegiance to God.’” – Romans 14:11 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.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

   

 

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The Worthiness of Worship

1 “No one whose testicles are crushed or whose male organ is cut off shall enter the assembly of the Lord.

“No one born of a forbidden union may enter the assembly of the Lord. Even to the tenth generation, none of his descendants may enter the assembly of the Lord.

“No Ammonite or Moabite may enter the assembly of the Lord. Even to the tenth generation, none of them may enter the assembly of the Lord forever, because they did not meet you with bread and with water on the way, when you came out of Egypt, and because they hired against you Balaam the son of Beor from Pethor of Mesopotamia, to curse you. But the Lord your God would not listen to Balaam; instead the Lord your God turned the curse into a blessing for you, because the Lord your God loved you. You shall not seek their peace or their prosperity all your days forever.

“You shall not abhor an Edomite, for he is your brother. You shall not abhor an Egyptian, because you were a sojourner in his land. Children born to them in the third generation may enter the assembly of the Lord. – Deuteronomy 23:1-8 ESV

Moses now shifts his focus from marriage to the wider corporate context of Israel. More specifically, he addresses the topic of worship or the corporate assembly of the covenant community. Six times in eight verses, he will discuss those who are forbidden to “enter into the assembly of the Lord.” This is a reference to the gathering of the people of Israel for all God-ordained feasts and festivals, or other prescribed occasions where the people were to gather for public worship.

Those times at which the corporate community gathered together before the Lord were to be seen as sacred. Those events were to be attended only by those who could be deemed legitimate members of the covenant community of Israel. God had made His covenant with Abraham and his descendants. They were considered by God to be holy because He had set them apart from all the other nations. So, there were restrictions concerning who could take part in these sacred assemblies.

First of all, Moses prohibits the inclusion of any males who suffered from any form of emasculation. This would include those suffering from any form of birth defect concerning the male genitals or those who had accidentally or deliberately been emasculated. This regulation, while seemingly unfair and exclusionary, had a purpose behind it. Any emasculated man would have been considered physically incomplete or lacking in wholeness. Wholeness and holiness were closely linked in the Hebrew way of thinking. And emasculation would have left the individual incapable of procreation because of their inability to produce the seed necessary for conception. These people were not to be treated as second-class citizens, but they were restricted from joining in the corporate worship of God. Again, this had to do with wholeness and holiness.

The second restriction has to do with anyone born of a “forbidden union” or illegitimate birth. This most likely included anyone whose parents were of mixed ethnic backgrounds, particularly referring to a Hebrew and a pagan. But it is thought to have included children born out of incest, rape, or some other unholy union between a man and a woman. Once again, it is not that these people were to be considered as non-members of the Jewish community, but that their participation in the corporate worship of the nation was restricted. The issue was that of holiness or wholeness.

Anyone of Moabite and Ammonite descent was also restricted from participation in the corporate worship of Israel. The mention of these two people groups indicated that Moabites and Ammonites could convert to Judaism, but they could not join in the national assemblies reserved for the worship of Yahweh. There are several factors behind this prohibition. The first is that these two people groups were the descendants of the two sons born to Lot as a result of his incestuous relationships with his own daughters (Genesis 19:30-38). But they were also guilty of having treated the Israelites harshly during their journey to the land of Canaan. The king of Moab had attempted to use a prophet to curse the people of Israel, but his efforts were derailed by God. This snub of God’s chosen people had long-term ramifications, restricting any Ammonites and Moabites who converted to Judaism from participating in corporate worship with the nation of Israel.

But any Edomites who had converted to Judaism were not to be restricted from the corporate assemblies of Israel. The Edomites were the descendants of Esau, the brother of Jacob. And the Israelites were commanded to treat them as brothers.

Finally, anyone of Egyptian descent who had become part of the Hebrew nation was also to be treated fairly and allowed to participate in the worship of Yahweh. This inclusion of the Egyptians seems odd when you consider that the people of Israel spent more than 400 years as their slaves. But the nation of Egypt had been used by God to foster the growth of the nation of Israel. When Jacob and his family had first arrived in Egypt, they number just over 70 people, but by the time they left four centuries later, they numbered in the millions. And it had been the people of Egypt who had blessed the Israelites by providing them with gifts and treasures when they departed.

The people of Israel had also done as Moses told them, for they had asked the Egyptians for silver and gold jewelry and for clothing. And the Lord had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they let them have what they asked. Thus they plundered the Egyptians. – Exodus 12:35-36 ESV

So, God commanded that the Israelites treat any Egyptians in their midst who worshiped Him to be treated as equals, allowing them to join in their corporate assemblies.

The coming together of the people of God for times of corporate worship was meant to reflect their status as His chosen people. We have seen how God commanded the purging of evil from their midst. This was particularly important when it came to times of worship. The presence of the wicked or evil would pollute their corporate holiness. God was to be treated with reverence, and as worthy of the greatest honor they could bring. These assemblies of the Lord were not to be taken lightly or flippantly. God was to be honored as holy and deserving of the greatest respect. So, these prohibitions have much more to say about the perfection of God than they do about the imperfections or unworthiness of the individuals mentioned. The worship of God was to be taken seriously, and by providing clear directions and restrictions regarding proper worship, Moses was reminding the people of Israel just how worthy of worship their God was.

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.

The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Begin to Take Possession

16 “So as soon as all the men of war had perished and were dead from among the people, 17 the Lord said to me, 18 ‘Today you are to cross the border of Moab at Ar. 19 And when you approach the territory of the people of Ammon, do not harass them or contend with them, for I will not give you any of the land of the people of Ammon as a possession, because I have given it to the sons of Lot for a possession.’ 20 (It is also counted as a land of Rephaim. Rephaim formerly lived there—but the Ammonites call them Zamzummim— 21 a people great and many, and tall as the Anakim; but the Lord destroyed them before the Ammonites, and they dispossessed them and settled in their place, 22 as he did for the people of Esau, who live in Seir, when he destroyed the Horites before them and they dispossessed them and settled in their place even to this day. 23 As for the Avvim, who lived in villages as far as Gaza, the Caphtorim, who came from Caphtor, destroyed them and settled in their place.) 24 ‘Rise up, set out on your journey and go over the Valley of the Arnon. Behold, I have given into your hand Sihon the Amorite, king of Heshbon, and his land. Begin to take possession, and contend with him in battle. 25 This day I will begin to put the dread and fear of you on the peoples who are under the whole heaven, who shall hear the report of you and shall tremble and be in anguish because of you.’” – Deuteronomy 2:16-25 ESV

As Moses brings his lecture on Israelite history to a close, his audience is going to find themselves faced with a decision. Like their predecessors, they will have to decide if they are going to obey the expressed will of God and enter the land He had promised to Abraham more than half a millennium earlier. While the names of the participants had changed, the situation remained the same. The land of Canaan was still occupied by hostile nations who were not going to welcome the Israelites with open arms. The potential for war remained. In fact, it was to be expected because, 40 years earlier, Moses had told the Israelites not to fear going to battle with the inhabitants of the land.

Do not be in dread or afraid of them. The Lord your God who goes before you will himself fight for you.” – Deuteronomy 1:29-30 ESV

Conflict was to be expected, but so was their victory. God was going to go before them and He would be fighting on behalf of them. But they were going to have to take that first step of faith.

The previous generation, those who had refused to enter the land of promise 40 years earlier, had died off. Now, God was graciously giving a new group of Israelites the opportunity to trust His word and experience all the blessings He had in store for them. The whole reason He had redeemed them from slavery in Egypt was so that they might possess the land He had promised to Abraham. God had made them His chosen possession and now He wanted to give them possession of their very own land. But their occupation of that land would have to start with their obedience to God’s command.

Rise up, set out on your journey and go over the Valley of the Arnon. Behold, I have given into your hand Sihon the Amorite, king of Heshbon, and his land. Begin to take possession, and contend with him in battle. – Deuteronomy 2:24 ESV

There is an important transition or watershed moment being chronicles in this passage. Something significant is about to take place. First, Moses records that “all the men of war had perished and were dead” (Deuteronomy 2:16 ESV). This designation of the previous generation as “men of war” is interesting, because they had refused to go to war. They had let their fear of defeat at the hands of “the giants in the land” to keep them from obeying God and going into battle. So, they had wandered around the wilderness for 40 long years. Now, these “men of war” were dead.

Secondly, God commanded the Israelites to “go over the Valley of the Arnon.” To do so, they would have to cross the Arnon River which ran through the valley and marked the border between the Moabites and the Ammonites. Just as the Israelites had crossed the Zered River between the land of the Emomites and Moabites, now they would need to cross over yet another boundary or barrier in their path in order to reach the land of promise. More than four decades earlier, on their way our of Egypt, they had come to the Red Sea, and God had miraculously divided the waters so they could pass over on dry ground. He had led them across the natural barrier of the wilderness. He had commanded them to cross the Zered River and now He was directing them to cross over the Arnon. With each step they took, they left the past behind and drew closer to the promise God had in store for them. But reaching their destination required that they walk in obedience to the will of God.

Once again, God informs Moses that the Israelites were not to attempt to capture or occupy the land east of the Jordan. That land was not part of God’s promised possession. The land of Edom had been given by God to the descendants of Esau, the brother of Jacob. And God had provided the land on either side of the Arnon River to the Moabites and Ammonites, the descendants of Lot, Abraham’s nephew. The book of Genesis records the sad story of Lot’s escape from Sodom, the death of his wife, and the subsequent outcome of his incestuous relationship with his two daughters.

…both the daughters of Lot became pregnant by their father. The firstborn bore a son and called his name Moab. He is the father of the Moabites to this day. The younger also bore a son and called his name Ben-ammi. He is the father of the Ammonites to this day. – Genesis 19:36-38 ESV

And yet, in spite of Lot’s obviously sinful actions, God would not allow the Israelites to displace his descendants from their land. He had something far better in store for His chosen people. So, He warned them:

“…when you approach the territory of the people of Ammon, do not harass them or contend with them, for I will not give you any of the land of the people of Ammon as a possession, because I have given it to the sons of Lot for a possession.” – Deuteronomy 2:19 ESV

But God had used these distant relatives of Abraham to prepare the way for the people of Israel. They had arrived in the land long ago, while the Israelites were still slaves in the land of Egypt. And they had been used by God to displace and dispossess other people groups who would have proven to be much more hostile and formidable foes to the Israelites. Look closely at the words of Moses in describing God’s sovereign use of the Edomites, Moabites, and Ammonites in preparing the way for the Israelites. He records that the land had been occupied by “a people great and many, and tall as the Anakim; but the Lord destroyed them before the Ammonites, and they dispossessed them and settled in their place, as he did for the people of Esau” (Deuteronomy 2:21-22 ESV).

Centuries before the Israelites ever reached the land of Canaan, God had been preparing for their arrival. And He had been using the descendants of Esau and Lot to do His will. Neither one of these men have stellar records. Esau, driven by impulse and his own physical hunger, had sold his birth right for a pot of stew. Lot had chosen to take up residence in the immoral city of Sodom. These men, representing three different nations which were not part of God’s chosen possession, had been used by God to accomplish His divine will. Their descendants had helped prepare the way for the arrival of Abraham’s seed.

But battle loomed on the horizon. Conflict was coming. The days of wandering were over and the time for war had come.

“Rise up, set out on your journey and go over the Valley of the Arnon. Behold, I have given into your hand Sihon the Amorite, king of Heshbon, and his land. Begin to take possession, and contend with him in battle.” – Deuteronomy 2:24 ESV

God had done all the preliminary work. Now, it was their time to fight. Yes, He would go before them and fight alongside them, but they were going to have to do their part. The process of possessing the land given by God would require effort by the people of God. The wilderness had been crossed and the rivers had been forded, now it was time to begin to take possession of the land.

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.

The Message (MSG) 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

A Good Warning About Bad Habits.

After this the king of the Ammonites died, and Hanun his son reigned in his place. And David said, “I will deal loyally with Hanun the son of Nahash, as his father dealt loyally with me.” So David sent by his servants to console him concerning his father. And David’s servants came into the land of the Ammonites. But the princes of the Ammonites said to Hanun their lord, “Do you think, because David has sent comforters to you, that he is honoring your father? Has not David sent his servants to you to search the city and to spy it out and to overthrow it?” So Hanun took David’s servants and shaved off half the beard of each and cut off their garments in the middle, at their hips, and sent them away. When it was told David, he sent to meet them, for the men were greatly ashamed. And the king said, “Remain at Jericho until your beards have grown and then return.”

When the Ammonites saw that they had become a stench to David, the Ammonites sent and hired the Syrians of Beth-rehob, and the Syrians of Zobah, 20,000 foot soldiers, and the king of Maacah with 1,000 men, and the men of Tob, 12,000 men. And when David heard of it, he sent Joab and all the host of the mighty men. And the Ammonites came out and drew up in battle array at the entrance of the gate, and the Syrians of Zobah and of Rehob and the men of Tob and Maacah were by themselves in the open country.

When Joab saw that the battle was set against him both in front and in the rear, he chose some of the best men of Israel and arrayed them against the Syrians. The rest of his men he put in the charge of Abishai his brother, and he arrayed them against the Ammonites. And he said, “If the Syrians are too strong for me, then you shall help me, but if the Ammonites are too strong for you, then I will come and help you. Be of good courage, and let us be courageous for our people, and for the cities of our God, and may the Lord do what seems good to him.” So Joab and the people who were with him drew near to battle against the Syrians, and they fled before him. And when the Ammonites saw that the Syrians fled, they likewise fled before Abishai and entered the city. Then Joab returned from fighting against the Ammonites and came to Jerusalem.

But when the Syrians saw that they had been defeated by Israel, they gathered themselves together. And Hadadezer sent and brought out the Syrians who were beyond the Euphrates. They came to Helam, with Shobach the commander of the army of Hadadezer at their head. And when it was told David, he gathered all Israel together and crossed the Jordan and came to Helam. The Syrians arrayed themselves against David and fought with him. And the Syrians fled before Israel, and David killed of the Syrians the men of 700 chariots, and 40,000 horsemen, and wounded Shobach the commander of their army, so that he died there. And when all the kings who were servants of Hadadezer saw that they had been defeated by Israel, they made peace with Israel and became subject to them. So the Syrians were afraid to save the Ammonites anymore. 2 Samuel 10 ESV

Chapter ten gives us a glimpse into that part of David’s role as king of Israel that required him to defend and protect his kingdom. One of David’s primary responsibilities as king was to finish what Joshua and the people of Israel had begun when they first entered the land of promise. Chapter eight chronicled David’s victories against the Philistines, Moabites, Amalekites, Edomites, Ammonites and Syrians. But in chapter ten we find him having to go to war yet again, because the newly crowned king of the Ammonites chose to reject David’s offer of peace. David had sent emissaries to Hanun, the new king of the Ammonites, offering his condolences over the death of Hanun’s father. But Hanun’s princes and advisors saw David’s overtures as a veiled attempt to spy out the city and report back to David concerning its defenses. So they took the men, shaved off half their beards and cut off the lower portions of their garments, leaving them exposed, and sent them on their way. This intentional slight left David with no alternative but to declare war on the Ammonites. And the Ammonites sought out the services of Syrian mercenaries to assist them in their coming battle with Israel.

The noteworthy thing about this entire scenario is that it reveals how David handled these continuing military excursions. This event was most likely early on in David’s reign. He spent the formative portions of his rule dealing with the enemies that surrounded Israel and was constantly having to go to battle with one nation or another. David was the warrior-king. It was his job. And he did it well. But even in this case, we see David, as king, setting a dangerous precedence, by sending Joab, his military commander, to do battle with the Ammonites, while David remained behind. It is also notable that David does not seem to seek the counsel of God before going into battle. It appears that he took the debasing treatment of his men by the Ammonites as a personal slap in the face and was determined to do something about it. So he sent his troops, under the leadership of Joab, to deal with it. And Joab would find himself out-manned. It would only be through his skillful leadership that the enemy was defeated. But even Joab recognized that any hopes of victory were up to God. Just prior to the battle, he told his men:

“Be of good courage, and let us be courageous for our people, and for the cities of our God, and may the Lord do what seems good to him.” – 2 Samuel 10:12 ESV

Joab was doing his job, but he was also relying of God. But David remained back in Jerusalem. He would not enter the fight until after the Ammonites and Syrians were routed by Israel. When he received word that the Syrians had mustered their own army against Israel, he personally lead his troops into battle, ultimately defeating the Syrians.

So why is all of this so important? It sets up chapter 11, where we will find David, the warrior-king, once again facing battle, but choosing to stay behind in Jerusalem. David had established a very unwise habit. Chapter 11 will open with the seemingly innocuous words, “In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel. And they ravaged the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem” (2 Samuel 11:1 ESV). We will see yet again, David sending Joab and his troops into battle while he remained safe behind. At at time when most kings would do battle, David would stay behind. He would delegate his duties to Joab.

But David’s primary responsibility as king of Israel was to secure the land and to remove the pagan nations from among them. He was charged by God with the duty to carry out His command, given to Moses and then passed on to Joshua.

“…but you shall devote them to complete destruction, the Hittites and the Amorites, the Canaanites and the Perizzites, the Hivites and the Jebusites, as the Lord your God has commanded, that they may not teach you to do according to all their abominable practices that they have done for their gods, and so you sin against the Lord your God.” – Deuteronomy 20:17-18 ESV

As long as there were nations threatening the physical and spiritual well-being of Israel, David had one job to do: Fight. He wasn’t to delegate that responsibility to another. But David appears to have had a problem with shirking responsibility. You can see it in his role as a father. Time and time again, David failed to lead his growing family well. His obsession with women led to him having many children, but it is one thing to bring children into the world and another thing to father and lead them once they are here. David appears to have left much of the training of his children up to his many wives. And, as we shall see, this abdication of his God-given responsibility would come back to haunt him.

David enjoyed victories over the Ammonites and the Syrians, in large part due to the leadership and faith of Joab. But David’s decision to remain at home while his armies went into battle was going to prove to be a bad habit that produced even worse results. When we fail to do what God has called us to do, because we are distracted by the cares of this world, we may experience success in life, but the time will come when our victories turn into defeats. Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians, reminded them that their salvation had been for a purpose, not because they were good people who deserved to be saved, but because God had something for them to do.

God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. – Ephesians 2:8-10 NLT

Like David, we are here for a reason. We have a God-given job to do. We cannot afford to shirk our responsibility or decide to delegate our job to someone else. When we fail to do what God has called us to do, we risk His discipline. He won’t fall out of love with us, but He will allow us to experience the painful lessons that come with disobedience.

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.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson