The Moabites were a people who lived in what we now know as Jordan, mostly making their abode along the eastern shore of the Dead Sea. Their kingdom was often in conflict with Israel, and the God of Israel had a long-standing controversy with them. The prophets testify to this controversy.
Moab, as it is addressed in the prophets, presents the picture of a people poisoned by the spirit of pride, independence, and arrogance. This oracle from the prophet Jeremiah gives them an undesirable promise, that because of their pride and self-sufficiency, they will be captured and even their priests and princes, along with their god Chemosh, will go off into exile. This is to say that even their most ‘divine’ authorities and royal potentates would be of no aid to them in the day of the Lord’s judgment.
One of the characteristics that marks Moab is that as a people, she has been casual and laid back to the point of neglecting the truth of her condition, and the reality of God Himself. Listen to this description the Lord gives of Moab:
“Moab has been at ease since his youth; he has also been undisturbed, like wine on its dregs, and he has not been emptied from vessel to vessel, nor has he gone into exile. Therefore he retains his flavor, and his aroma has not changed.” (v. 11)
We may have commended Moab for its uniqueness and self-expression, for maintaining its distinctive cultural and religious qualities in the midst of changing times. But the Lord saw Moab as arrogant, non-pliable, and resistant toward Him. He saw them as vessels that had “not been emptied,” and though their “aroma has not changed,” the prophet indicates that the Lord is not pleased with the spiritual “smell” that Moab gives off. Hear the words of J.A. Thompson on this:
Moab is here compared with wine which has been allowed to settle down with its dregs and sediment to age and mature and improve its flavor. It had settled quietly on its lees and had never been disturbed by being poured from vessel to vessel. The picture is one of complacency. But this would soon change.
(J.A. Thompson, The Book of Jeremiah: NICOT; Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, MI: 1980, p. 705)
The Lord would not continue to endure the presence of Moab’s complacency, and the trust in her own achievements that she feverishly held onto would soon be toppled by the work of His hand.
“‘Therefore behold, the days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will send to him those who tip vessels, and they will tip him over, and they will empty his vessels and shatter his jars.'” (v. 12)
Can it be said that much of the Church is living on Moabite grounds? Trusting in our own achievements, proud and self-sufficient, vessels that have yet to be tipped over and emptied of the wine of this age?
What aroma are we releasing into the atmosphere? Forget the way you look in ministry or at some religious meeting. What about the aroma you release in your home… in the work place… in your neighborhood… at the grocery store, etc.? Are we filling the air with our religious opinions? Are we lacking a true expression of the love of God? Are we grumpy and crotchety when the sanctuary lights aren’t shining on us? Are we loose on sin, flatterers of men, or timid weaklings? Are we swept up by the same waves of entertainment, media, and fashion that move and jerk the undiscerning hearts of those who are walking in darkness?
How much of our upbringing and culture that is not of the flavor and aroma of God’s kingdom still lingers in our lives, and what excuses have we secretly made to permit that kind of a mixture? How often are we quenching the Spirit of God and going into modes of speech and conduct that are in keeping with attitudes which our culture may have always accepted and sanctioned, but that the Lord is not in harmony with?
“For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.” -2 Cor. 2.15
Are we functioning as vessels that have not been emptied, that are still filled with the wine of this age? Are we willing daily to be tipped over, emptied entirely, and filled with the Spirit of God Himself? I am convinced that the Church is in a mostly ‘Moabite’ condition, and before the final day comes when the rebellious ‘jars’ are tipped over and shattered, we need to tip over our vessels without reservation, that God may fill us with His own love and purity.
The Lord will only fill those vessels which have been tipped over willingly. The ones that remain upright, recalcitrant and resistant toward His heart and call, will in the last day be tipped against their wills, and shattered by His hand.
We need to be tipped and emptied of the wine of this age, that we may taste of the powers of the age to come. Having been filled with the Spirit of life, we will live and speak as vessels that have been fit to set forth the Son of God to Israel and the nations.
“Come out from it and be pure, you who carry the vessels of the Lord.” -Is. 52.11b