Moab at Ease from his Youth and Settles on His Lees (Part 1)

Preached at Gower Street Chapel, London, on Lord s Day Morning, 21st July, 1867.

"Moab hath been at ease from his youth, and be hath settled on his lees, and hath not been emptied from vessel to vessel, neither hath he gone into captivity: therefore his taste remained in him, and his scent is not changed."  Jeremiah 48:11

We find in the Old Testament not Only what are usually called types, that is, representative things, but typical persons, that is, representative characters. Let me explain my meaning a little more clearly and distinctly. And first, what is the exact meaning of the word "type?" The word "type" signifies literally a blow, and thence the effect of a blow-a mark or impression made by it. Thus we find Thomas speaking after the resurrection, "Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails." The word "print" is, in the original, "type;" that is, the impression made by the nails driven into the hands of Christ upon the cross. If you were walking by the sea-side and pressed your foot down into the damp sand, the impression left by it would be a type or mark of your foot as well as of the force whereby you brought it down upon the sand. The Queen s head upon the coin of the realm is a type or representation of the head of the Queen, and is so as being the effect of a blow or other force impressed upon the die. Similarly the metal letters, used in printing, are called types, as being representations of certain forms derived from what is termed the matrix, that is, the mold or cavity in which the letter is formed, and which gives it its peculiar shape. You will excuse these simple explanations as they may serve to give you a clearer and fuller idea of what is meant by the word type when applied to spiritual things. A type then in this sense means a representation of an object, and as found in the Old Testament, a prophetic representation of a New Testament object, which is usually called the anti-type, because it corresponds to, and is the fulfillment of the original type. The Old Testament is full of these types or prophetic representations of New Testament objects. Thus the paschal lamb was a type of Christ as the Lamb of God. The Tabernacle set up in the wilderness was a type of the human nature of our Lord Jesus Christ, in which the fullness of the Godhead dwelt bodily. The brazen serpent was a type of Jesus bearing our sins on the cross. The scapegoat over which the sins of the people of Israel were confessed and laid was a type of Christ, as having our sins put upon his head and bearing them away to a land of forgetfullness. In fact, all the various rites and ceremonies of the Levitical law, together with the sacrifices which were offered up, were all types of the Lord Jesus Christ and of the blessings and benefits derived from his sufferings, bloodshedding and death.

But besides these typical representations of the Lord Jesus Christ in his various covenant characters and relationships, there were also typical persons,  as distinct from typical things, who represented him in a shadowy outline, and yet sufficiently plain and clear to draw forth the faith of the Old Testament believers upon the Son of God, who was to be manifested in due time. Thus Joseph was a typical person, and as such, typical of Christ; the chief difference between a typical thing or type, in the strict sense of the word, and a typical person being this, that the former is more marked, distinct, and clear than the latter. In a type every part, or well nigh every part, has its significance, as you would see by carefully reading and spiritually understanding the solemn transactions on the great day of atonement. But you could not say that every part of Joseph s or of David s life was typical and representative. It is quite sufficient that the main outlines should correspond with the anti-type, and not every particular. Thus that Joseph was sold by his brethren for the price of a servant, that though cruelly treated by them he still loved them, that he delivered them from famine, made himself known to them, bore with all their ingratitude, fed and nourished them-in these various points Joseph resembled and typified Jesus. But we cannot take every event of Joseph s life and say that it was a typical representation which found its fulfillment in the Lord Jesus. So with David, who was eminently a typical representative of the Lord Jesus. But who could take all the events of David s life and make out of them a typical representation of what Christ was in the flesh? In a similar way, and with similar limitations, Aaron was a type of Christ as the great High Priest, over the house of God. Moses, as the mediator of the law on Mount Sinai, was a type of Christ as the Mediator between God and man. Jonah was a type of Christ in being three days and three nights in the belly of the whale. But I need not take up time and attention with dwelling upon these typical personages as it is a point sufficiently clear.

But I shall now draw your observation to another point - that in the Old Testament we find also what I may call representative characters. The typical persons of whom I have just spoken typified the Lord Jesus Christ in dim and shadowy outline, but those whom I call representative characters do not so much typify Christ as they represent the characters of men under various phases. Abraham, for instance, is the representative character of a believer; for those who are blest with faith are said to walk in the steps of faithful Abraham; and as being called "the father of all them that believe," whether Jew or Gentile Ro 4:11 he is made a pattern or representative of all who believe with that same faith which was bestowed upon him. Job is a representative character as eminent for patience, and therefore James says, "Ye have heard of the patience of Job." Similarly Elijah was a representative character of a man whose prayers reached the ears of God, and who, so to speak, shut and opened the windows of heaven at will. James therefore quotes him as an example how "the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man aveileth much." In the prophet Ezekiel God mentions the names of three men-Noah, Daniel, and Job, as eminent for righteousness; they may, therefore, be viewed as representative characters of righteous men.

But we have also in that wonderful book, the word of the living God, representative characters of things. Thus Ahithophel, a double faced hypocrite, who could go to the house of God in company with David, and then sell him into the hands of his worst foe, may be viewed as a representative of hypocrisy; Doeg as a representative of a man of blood who would shrink from no crime, and fall upon the priests of the Lord, when the servants of Saul would not put forth their hand against them. So Nabal is a representative of a drunken, covetous churl, whom wealth has hardened and drunkenness besotted till he is ripe for the sword of slaughter. Similarly Jonathan may be accepted as a representative of warm, affectionate, brotherly love; and his father Saul, as an awful instance of gifts without grace, and that a man may be an instrument in the hands of God to accomplish His purposes who lives and dies in his sins.

But to what do all these observations tend? To this point - to show that Moab also, the Moab of our text, was a representative character; and that as Abraham represented a believer, Job one eminent for patience, and Jeremiah a prophet who wept over the calamities of Israel; so Moab represents a character which is to be found in the church of God, and which will be my main object to unfold to your view, that, with God s blessing, you may gather up instruction, encouragement, or if need be, warning, reproof, and admonition from it.

If, then, we look carefully at our text, we shall see some very striking things said of Moab in it: "Moab hath been at ease from his youth, and he hath settled on his lees, and hath not been emptied from vessel to vessel, neither hath he gone into captivity: therefore his taste remained in him, and his scent is not changed."

With God s help and blessing, then, in attempting to unfold the meaning of this striking description, I shall

I.-First,  direct your attention to the general character of Moab.

II.-Secondly,  to the special features which are represented here as peculiar to him.

III.-Thirdly,  to the general effect and result of these features so strongly impressed upon him.

But in tracing out this description, I shall, as the Lord may enable, endeavour to compare with these features of Moab, corresponding or to speak more correctly, contrasting features in the Lord s family; and if I succeed in so doing, I shall not merely hold up to your view such a character as Moab is by way of warning, but take occasion from what is said of him to draw those peculiar features which distinguish the people of God, and which are all the more visible as standing in such striking contrast with this representative character.

I.-Our first point, then, is the general character of Moab.

i His birth and parentage may be viewed as having an important bearing upon his general character. Who and what was he by birth? He was the offspring of an incestuous connection between Lot and his eldest daughter. He had therefore some natural connection, so to speak, with a good man; and yet what a dreadful connection it was; and how the passionate desire for offspring in Eastern women must have overpowered every right feeling to have prompted these two daughters of Lot to resort to such a way of obtaining progeny. This is a point worth noting. Not that I mean to extenuate their crime, which makes one almost shudder to think of; but it was not the ebullition of animal passion, which was not likely to their own father, but a scheme that they might not die childless, and thus avoid that terrible reproach; for in that time and clime it was viewed as a mark of the curse of God. And how strong must this feeling have been, that they who had been preserved chaste in Sodom should have preferred incest to childlessness. But though it was a horrible connection, and Moab and Ammon sprang from it, yet God had such tender regard to both these people, as being in some way sprung from Lot, that he would not suffer the children of Israel to oppress or exterminate them, as they were commanded to do to the seven accursed nations of the land of Canaan.

Now does not Moab s very origin, birth, and parentage, connecting him with a good man, cast some light upon Moab as a representative character? I shall by and by show you that he represents a professor in the church of God destitute of divine grace. I do not mean to lay it down as an absolute rule, but as a matter of general observation it may be remarked that there is usually some connection between a graceless professor and a gracious father or a gracious mother, or some one from whom he has got his creed without getting grace with it. Moab had the blood of Lot running in his veins, but he had not the grace of Lot working in his heart. So many a professor of religion may have the blood of a godly parent in his body, but not the grace of a godly parent in his soul.

ii But now look at Moab s character in another light. He lived in a very fertile land. If you cast your eye upon a map of Palestine, you will see the river Jordan separating it into two parts. On the west side was the land of Canaan, where the children of Israel were located; on the east side the two tribes Reuben and Gad, and half Manasseh. But Moab you will find at the south-east of the Dead Sea, just below the portion of Reuben, and the Ammonites a little higher up. If you still continue to examine the map, you will see next the portion of the tribe of Reuben, then that of Gad a little further north in the fertile land of Gilead, and then a little higher up that of half Manasseh nestling in the large and wealthy territory of Bashan, so celebrated for its pastures, producing those "bulls of Bashan" of which the Psalmist speaks. Now there was this great difference between the country on the east of Jordan, which was not properly the land of Israel, and the country on the west side of Jordan, which was emphatically the land of Canaan or the promised land, that whereas Israel s portion was for the most part mountainous and sterile, Moab s portion, and in fact the whole of the east of Jordan, was eminently fertile, being well watered by rivers, and especially adapted to feed sheep and rear cattle. But what was the consequence of the difference of these two lands? Simply this. The children of Israel were poor, and the Moabites, Ammonites, and other occupants on the east of Jordan, wealthy and prosperous. You will perhaps recollect that it was David who first subdued them and made them pay tribute, as we read, "And he smote Moab, and measured them with a line, casting them down to the ground; even with two lines measured he to put to death: and with one full line to keep alive. And so the Moabites became David s servants: and brought gifts." 2Sa 8:2 Now this tribute was not only very heavy, but from its amount clearly shows the great wealth of that country; for we read that in the days of Ahab, at whose death the king of Moab shook off the yoke, that "Mesha, king of Moab, rendered unto the king of Israel a hundred thousand lambs and a hundred thousand rams with the wool." 2Ki 3:4 In reference to this tribute thus broken off, the prophet Isaiah sends a warning word to the people of Moab: "Send ye the lamb to the ruler of the land from Sela to the wilderness, unto the mount of the daughter of Zion." Isa 16:1.

But why do I mention this peculiar feature in the typical and representative Moab? Because it finds its counterpart in the character whom he represents. Moab of old was rich and prosperous. He had his portion in a fertile land, and was surrounded with flocks and herds. Similarly his typical descendant is for the most part prosperous in this world. He is not one of those of whom James speaks as poor in this world and rich in grace, but is thriving in business, successful in his schemes, and rarely encountering those reverses and disappointments which seem to be the appointed lot of the family of God. And indeed this is one of the reasons why he is so much at ease-a special feature in his character which I shall have presently occasion distinctly to trace.

iii Another general feature in the character of Moab is that he was a very great snare to the children of Israel. Balaam could not bring the wrath of God down upon the children of Israel by curses and imprecations, but was even compelled to bless when he would fain have cursed them. But with all the subtle malice of a baffled and disappointed limb of Satan, he devised an effectual way of moving against them the anger of God. And this was by entangling them with Moabitish women. We have an account in Nu 25 of the sin of the children of Israel in this matter, and of the anger of the Lord in consequence, so that twenty-four thousand died of the plague, besides the heads of the people, who, as they were first in rank, appear to be first in sin, and therefore, as a special mark of God s fierce anger, were taken and hanged up before the Lord against the sun. And have not Moabitish women been in all ages snares to the Israel of God? For these women appear to have inherited the charms of the daughter of Lot from whom they sprang, and, as dwelling in so rich a land, being well fed and housed, were singularly attractive to the men of Israel, who had before their eyes only the tanned, sunburnt, and dried up women who had come with them out of Egypt, and who were probably as black as the tents of Kedar. But what provoked the Lord even more than their guilty connection with these fascinating daughters of Moab was that they made them partakers of their filthy idolatries for we read that "they called the people unto the sacrifices of their gods: and the people did eat and bowed down to their gods, and Israel joined himself unto Baal-peor." Now this Baal-peor was worshipped in such a way as cannot be named with any due regard to modesty. The prophet Hosea therefore says, "They went to Baal-peor, and separated themselves unto that shame;" or, as it means, shameful idol; "and their abominations were according as they loved." Ho 9:10 How strong is the language of the prophet. First they fell in love with the women, then they separated themselves from the worship of God to bow down before the shameful idol, Baal-peor; and thus the filth of their abominations was in proportion to the measure and fury of their abandoned love. How carefully need we watch the first movement of our heart from God when such and similar temptations are cast in our path. Well has Solomon said, "Let not thine heart decline to her ways; go not astray in her paths. For she hath cast down many wounded: yea, many strong men have been slain by her." Pr 7:25,26 Who so strong as Samson? Who so wise as Solomon? But Moabitish women overthrew the strongest and the wisest, for the strength of sin is stronger than the strongest, and the subtlety of sin is subtler than the wisest.

In, then, these three points of view, Moab is a general representative of a professor in the visible church, without the grace of God in his heart. He has an indirect connection with the family of God; he is for the most part well to do in the world; and he or his daughters are ever spreading snares and temptations in the path of the just, and what is worse, too often succeed in entangling their feet so as to bring down upon them the just displeasure of God.

II.-But the Holy Ghost is not content with merely setting before us Moab as a representative character generally in what I may call a broad outline such as I have sketched, and which perhaps might demand some study and thought, and examination of the word of God rightly to apprehend. He has also stamped upon him for our instruction certain very peculiar marked features of simpler and easier observations, which I shall now endeavour to bring before you.

Of these peculiar features as distinct from the broad general outline, two are positive,  and two are negative. The two positive features are, (i) that "he had been at ease from his youth;" (ii)  that "he hath settled on his lees." The two negative features are, (i) that "he hath not been emptied from vessel to vessel;" and (ii) "neither hath he gone into captivity."

We will, with God s help and blessing, examine these features in the order that I have named, and contrast them as we go on with the dealings of God in the souls of his people, that we may see more distinctly from them what a man is in a profession without the grace of God, and what a man is in a profession with the grace of God.

i "Moab hath been at ease from his youth."

We gather from these words that Moab was now no longer young. The character then whom he typically represents is not one only just in a profession of religion, but who for many years has lived in it. And it would appear from the text that his profession, such as it was, began very early in life. Now I am not against what I may call a youthful religion, for I said very lately, if you remember it, that I believed for the most part God began the work of grace upon the souls of his people when they were young. But without limiting the grace of God or denying that there are such beginnings, I confess myself very jealous of that profession which begins in the Sunday school; and more than jealous if its beginning be such as is here ascribed to Moab as being "at ease from his youth;" in other words, that he began with ease, has gone on with ease, and is now established in ease. His religion came to him from the first very easily. It did not begin with any degree of soul trouble. There were no arrows of the Almighty in his conscience, no wrath of God found or felt in his soul, or fear of hell living or moving in his heart. He took his religion from his father as he would his father s business, and got his father s creed without getting his father s godliness, for many of these professors, at least in our chapels and amongst our people, are sons and daughters of gracious parents who were not at ease from their youth, but who had to get their religion in the fire. But their children took an easier path. Thus, Moab s religion came to him very easily: it sat on him like an old glove in which he could put his hand even from the first without any difficulty and without any stretching of the fingers.

Now the child of God does not get his religion in this way. He is not at ease at any time of his life, still less in his youth. He does not take his profession up because his father was a good man before him, nor does he pick it up at a Sunday school, nor is he persuaded into it by teachers and tutors. I do not say a word against a Sunday school, for I am much in favour of it; but I am very much against making it a nursery for hypocrites, and blazing forth the pious death of Sunday scholars as if they were almost necessary fruits of a Sunday school, and the almost certain result of a religious education. At any rate it is not God s usual way. Where there is a real work of grace upon the heart, God begins with man, not man with God. The very first movements of the work of God upon the soul are sovereign. Yes, it is the sole and sovereign work of God upon his heart, the sole and sovereign power of God put forth upon his soul, springing out of the alone good will and pleasure of the Lord God Almighty, and not granted on account of anything that we have done or can do to obtain his favour. And God will teach us to know this deeply and effectually, and sometimes by terrible things in righteousness. We may lay it down then for the most part as a certain truth that a religion which saves the soul, a religion of which God is the Author, is for the most part, as regards us, though on God s part freely given, yet got at with great difficulty; and is usually attended with many forebodings, many fears, many convictions, much anxiety, and often great and painful distress of mind as to the result. Now, if your religion began in any easy, smooth, quiet, lukewarm way, so that you can scarcely tell when or how it commenced, and have had no sharp exercises since or at any period of your religious career, you have very good reason to doubt whether you have got hold of that religion which will save your soul. It is a mark against you if you took up religion of yourself, and embarked upon a profession without any conviction, distress, anxiety, supplication, fears, or forebodings. I do not wish to set up any standard, or lay down a hard and fast line, as if I would prescribe to the Lord Almighty himself the exact course he must take. This indeed would be to dictate to Him, and, as Elihu speaks, to "enjoin him his way; for touching the Almighty we cannot find him out; he is excellent in power and in judgment." But taking the Scripture as our guide, and the, experience of the saints in harmony with the Scripture, we may form some sound judgment of God s usual dealings with the children of men, and the effect of his teachings in the heart. But Moab s case is not to be found thus sanctioned by Scripture or experience. It cannot be laid down in harmony for instance with the Psalms, in which we have so much description of soul exercise and trouble; and the general testimony is against those "who are not in trouble as other men, nor plagued like other men, whose eyes stand out with fatness and they have more than heart could wish." Nay, David complains bitterly that "his soul was exceedingly filled with the scorning of those that are at ease and with the contempt of the proud." But Moab was always at ease, and that from his very youth. Nothing troubled him. Easy circumstances, good health, plenty of friends, and abundant prosperity made him as happy as the day was long. Sin never troubled him, the world never opposed or persecuted him, and Satan never thrust sore at him; he had, therefore everything to make him easy. He had no fears of God; no dread of hell, no trembling apprehensions of the wrath to come; no sense of the Majesty of the Almighty, against whom and before whom he had sinned, and no tormenting, chilling conviction, or even anxious thought, but that it was as well with him in grace as it was in providence, and would be so to the end. In a wicked book, for I must call it so, written to show young men how to make the best of both worlds, these Moabites are the very characters represented as proper and usual members of churches. I do not doubt that they are the usual members of the great body of general dissenters, but whether they are proper members of a true gospel church is another matter. At any rate they suit the general ministers of the day, and the general ministers well suit them. Those, whether ministers or members, who resemble Moab, and have bought their religion cheap, do not like those who have bought it dear; who have been pierced with powerful convictions, and brought into gospel liberty as it were over the very belly of hell. They think this may be the case now and then where a man has been a desperate, out of the way sinner, but is not the general type of Christians; that the general type of Christians consists of those who have got their religion they can scarcely tell how, scarcely tell when, scarcely tell where, and scarcely tell why; who have been drawn on by one thing after another till they find themselves in possession of a full blown religion, as a man in business gradually enlarges his connection by carrying it on successfully, and then retires as a prosperous man to enjoy, for the rest of his life, the fruits of his industry and skill.