A Firm Reliance

Let’s be honest—sometimes we don’t pay much attention to the words of the judgment oracles in the prophets. For example, we might stick with Jeremiah for a while, drawn in by the narrative portions included with the prophecies. But when we get to the last few chapters and the prophecies “concerning the nations,” we tend to zone out (Jeremiah 46:1).

However, this is unfortunate, for even these texts have something to teach us (2 timothy 3:16, 17). Jeremiah 48 and 49, for example, have a very unique principle that runs throughout the entire Bible. Let’s take a look.

Chapter 48 is two prophecies “concerning Moab”(48:1). While the next chapter contains oracles against five groups, the first section is against “the sons of Ammon” (49:1). Now there are numerous similarities between these chapters as a whole, including structure, phrasing, thematic elements, etc. Yet there is a judgement against these two nations that contains the exact same words, at least in English it does.

 Here is what the judgement is for Moab:

“For because of your trust in your own achievements and treasures, even you yourself will be captured; and Chemosh will go off into exile together with his priests and his princes.”

Jeremiah 48:7

Now check this out in the Ammon oracle:

“For Malcam will go into exile together with his priests and his princes. How boastful you are about the valleys! Your valley is flowing away, O backsliding daughter who trusts in her treasures.”

Jeremiah 49:3b, 4a

Pretty incredible. Now Chemosh was the idol of Moab, and “Malcam” is an alternative spelling for Milcom the detestible idol of the Ammonites” (49:1 footnote; 1 Kings 11:5). And although some of the wording about the arrogance of each nation is different, the issue of trusting in “treasures” is the same (Jeremiah 48:7; 49:4).

But what does this mean? There is great significance in this. In this section of the book (chapters 46-51), these are the only two verses that contain this formula of an idol being exiled. There are, certainly, verses where God judges “idols” (cf. 46:25; 51:44, 47).  So what is so significant about this?

Well, I see this as coupled with the arrogance also denounced in these oracles, the “trust in…treasures” (48:7; 49:4). Together, these represent an arrogant self-reliance, a boasting in what the nation did by themselves. They rejected the Lord and relied upon themselves and their idols.

 What I find fascinating is that these two nations are the only ones here that have this exact same pronouncement. And you know what else? These are two nations that are descended from Lot (Genesis 19:37, 38). So in other words, Moab and Ben-Ammi were second cousins with Jacob. Crazy.

But what is even crazier, and I think is the real issue, is that it is extremely likely that Moab and Ben-Ammi knew of Yahweh. Lot is called “righteous Lot” by Peter (2 Peter 2:7). Again, crazy. However, if Lot was a “righteous man” who was distressed because of sin around him, I believe he would have told his children about the one true God (2 Peter 2:8). His sons would have known about Yahweh. Besides that, the Moabites and ammonites often had interactions with Israel once the Hebrews left Egypt.

So here’s the deal—the Moabites and the Ammonites knew the truth, and they rejected God and relied upon themselves. This dual issue of idol-worship and arrogant self-reliance are the reasons why God brought the punishment upon these nations. They refused to humble themselves and greedily sought more and more (just read the chapters from Jeremiah). They trusted in things other than the Lord.

And ironically, this is an issue throughout history. When the Israelites were about to enter Canaan, God warned them to be very careful. He said, “Watch yourself, that you do not forget the Lord who brought you from the land of Egypt” (Deuteronomy 6:12). Why would they do that? Well, God was about to give them “great and splendid cities,” “houses,” “good things,” and “vineyards and olive trees which [they] did not plant” (vv. 10, 11). The temptation would be to kick back and become arrogant. The temptation would be to think they achieved all this greatness, when in reality, it was the Lord who blessed them with it.

This problem was not limited to the Old Testament either. Paul asks the Corinthians, “What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?” (1 Corinthians 4:7). Pride was the common denominator for all the issues in Corinth, and Paul meats it head-on.  He rhetorically asks in another letter, “Where then is boasting? It is excluded” because we have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus alone (Romans 3:27). 

Instead of boasting, we ought to be giving thanks to God. Colossians is full of admonitions for us to be “giving thanks,” (Colossians  1:12; 2:7; 3:15, 16, 17; 4:2). The writer of Hebrews exhorts us, saying, “Through Him [Jesus] then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name” (Hebrews 13:15). Paul also said, “In everything give thanks” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). There’s no wiggle room left.

The reason for this is that “every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow” (James 1:17). All the gifts we have—including a house, car, job—they are provided by Him. We didn’t earn them. We worked, sure—but He gave us strength and the ability to do it. Consequently, He alone must get the praise and the glory.

So I want to encourage us, even in these uncertain times, to remember to give thanks to God. We cannot rely upon ourselves or any modern-day god we try to make. We may seem to succeed for a time, but we will not get away with it. We must cling to Jesus, realize that even when we feel comfortable with where we are at, we still need Him. We may feel we’re prepared for whatever’s fixing to happen, but if our trust is not in the Lord Jesus, it will all mean nothing. We must rely upon Jesus and Jesus alone.

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