Settled on the Lees

Do you ever feel like your life has stagnated?  Does it seem like there is no movement, no stirring of your life, and everything is “same old, same old”?  It is very easy to come to that position largely because life is a series of repetitions for most people. I have often wondered at the moms who are in a continual state of cleaning, laundry, and cooking.  No sooner is one area of the house cleaned but that it is in need of cleaning again. Breakfast dishes are barely cleared and lunch is ready to be prepared. When I have, on that rare occasion, cleaned up the kitchen for Michal, I have been “put off” by someone coming in to get a drink or dirty a dish, just as I have put away the last one. The laundry basket is never really emptied, is it?

We’ll life is like that. Routine and repetition is the stuff of life for all of us.  But when it comes to our spiritual lives, routine and repetition, while absolutely necessary, can lead to stagnation. We can begin to simply go through the motions and through the “paces” of our spiritual lives and become rather “non-thinking” about it all. It is then that we are in danger of being “settled on the lees” (Jer. 48:10-11, KJV).

What many Bible believers do not realize is that the Prophets not only prophesied against the sin of Israel but they prophesied against the surrounding nations as well in the form of “oracles”.  Jeremiah 48 is in the middle of one such section in Jeremiah.  In chapter 48 the oracle is targeted at Moab.  You might remember Moab (along with Ammon) was one of the nations that came about through the incestuous act of of Lot’s daughters who got Lot drunk and devised to have babies through him because their husbands had been destroyed in the fiery judgment of Sodom. Well, Jer. 48:10-11 condemns the nation of Moab for being “settled on the lees”.

What are the “lees”?  They are, as the ESV translates, “the dregs”.  What then are “the dregs”?  The dregs are the sediments that filter down to the bottom of the wine vat (or skin) in wine making.  They are the solid particles, the waste material, that is left in the process of pressing the grapes which intermingles with the liquid.  Over time, they filter down to the bottom of the vat and if the wine is not poured off, the wine can become tainted or bitter as the wine “settles down upon the lees”.   There is a multifaceted indictment here against Moab:

  1. He had been at ease from his youth (v. 11a). Moab was a people that often were a thorn in Israel’s side. But what was characteristic of Moab is that they always kind of “went with the flow” of things. They were not a people consumed with being the dominant nation in the region.  They were more like a “go along to get along” kind of people.  If Israel was in power, they would serve Israel.  If the Assyrians were dominant, they were happy to serve the Assyrians.  They were not intent on being a great people.  They were more “live and let live” for the vast majority of their existence. While they were often enemies of Israel, they never really gained the ascendency over the nations of the region.  You know, spiritual stagnation and ruination of the “wine” comes as we are content to “take it easy”, “relax”, and resist exerting the energy needed to actually push forward in our spiritual lives.  We have a tendency to take the path of least resistance in our lives.  We often choose inaction in our spiritual lives rather than “striving” or “pressing forward” as Paul did.  “Take it easy” has become more our mantra and that leads to stagnation.
  2. He has not been “poured off” (v. 11b). In the process of wine making the sweet wine would be “poured off” the dregs into another container.  When the remaining “dregs” had settled in that container, they were “poured off” again.  This was a process of refining and purification.  When we “settle on the lees” we do not go through this refining process which makes us better “wine”.  Ease and stagnation is not the friend of a Christian’s spiritual life.  God uses a process, sometimes a painful process, to make us into the kind of wine that will be a blessing to man and God.
  3. He had never gone into “exile” (v. 11c). Moab, because it was a compliant people, had never been taken into exile. Because of this, they had never known real adversity as a people. Their existence had been kind of “untouched” in many ways.  But Jeremiah is saying that this will not be the case for long as Babylon is on the way.  Pity the Christian who has always been spared hardship, conflict, and attack.  These are things that God uses to strengthen us and sanctify us (Rom. 8:28).
  4. Thus, he did not change (v. 11d). Moab was none the poorer for his existence of ease. But he was none the richer or better either.  He just existed and went on with his “same old, same old” routine without ever being changed into something better, higher, or nobler as a people.

How have you changed in the past year or the past five years?  Have you changed?  If you have not is it because you are maintaining a spiritual life of “ease”?  Is it because you have settled down on the dregs of your life and have stagnated?  Is it because there is no challenge in your life; that you are living that “same old, same old” existence.  Perhaps you need to get out of your easy comfort zone and ask God to “stir you up”, and “pour you out” so that you might become that sweet wine that blesses all.  Here is a vote for real change because we “get off our lees” and ask God to refine us in ways that will produce the good wine God wants us to be.



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