[Optional longer reading: Jer. 48:1–49:39]
Moab was a longstanding enemy of Israel. A review of Israel’s history reveals numerous conflicts with the Moabites who tried to subdue Israel or seduce them into worshiping false gods (see Numbers 21—25). In fact, Deuteronomy 23:3–6 forbade ten generations of Moabites from entering the sacred assembly.
This background helps us understand what lies behind God’s oracle against them. Their fate would be similar to that of Egypt: destruction, devastation, and shame. Yet the numerous citations of Moabite cities, along with their god Chemosh, suggest a total and complete destruction. Likewise the mention of salt (v. 9) symbolized their utter devastation.
Like the oracle against Egypt, today’s reading also underscores the reason for Moab’s downfall. In particular, Moab was a proud nation trusting in their “deeds and riches” (v. 7). Later in the oracle, Moab’s pride is referenced eight times in two verses (vv. 29–30). But pride was not the only problem. Moab was also rebuked for defying the Lord (vv. 26, 42), likely a reference to Moab’s conflict with Israel, and for her false worship of other gods (v. 35). God was concerned about idolatry for other nations, not just Judah.
Despite this scathing, harsh oracle against a deserving Moab, notice also the glimmers of concern God demonstrated over Moab. In the face of devastation, God wails, cries out, and weeps for them (vv. 31–32). God told them that “my heart laments for Moab like the music of a pipe” (v. 36). And then there is the final word of restoration: “Yet I will restore the fortunes of Moab in days to come” (v. 47). What a glimpse at the wonderfully tender heart of God!
Apply the Word
Do we share God’s heart for the restoration of all nations back to Him? Or do we only feel anger toward godless nations? Make a conscientious effort in your prayers this week to pray for nations that persecute Christians (like China, Sudan, and Saudi Arabia), that they too would be “saved and come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4).