Today: [Isaiah 15] The Burden of Moab. In this chapter we find Isaiah prophesying concerning the destruction of the nation of Moab. The Moabites were descended from Lot and therefore were connected by ancient family ties to the people of God. Isaiah sees military overthrow, famine and drought destroying their nation. Even though the Moabites suffer they do not turn from their false gods but are overcome in mourning and sorrow at their pagan altars. In the midst of this Isaiah does not rejoice to see them suffer. He demonstrates the heart of God that never chooses suffering as the first destiny even for those who reject Christ.
[Isa 15:1-9 KJV] 1 The burden of Moab. Because in the night Ar of Moab is laid waste, [and] brought to silence; because in the night Kir of Moab is laid waste, [and] brought to silence; 2 He is gone up to Bajith, and to Dibon, the high places, to weep: Moab shall howl over Nebo, and over Medeba: on all their heads [shall be] baldness, [and] every beard cut off. 3 In their streets they shall gird themselves with sackcloth: on the tops of their houses, and in their streets, every one shall howl, weeping abundantly. 4 And Heshbon shall cry, and Elealeh: their voice shall be heard [even] unto Jahaz: therefore the armed soldiers of Moab shall cry out; his life shall be grievous unto him. 5 My heart shall cry out for Moab; his fugitives [shall flee] unto Zoar, an heifer of three years old: for by the mounting up of Luhith with weeping shall they go it up; for in the way of Horonaim they shall raise up a cry of destruction. 6 For the waters of Nimrim shall be desolate: for the hay is withered away, the grass faileth, there is no green thing. 7 Therefore the abundance they have gotten, and that which they have laid up, shall they carry away to the brook of the willows. 8 For the cry is gone round about the borders of Moab; the howling thereof unto Eglaim, and the howling thereof unto Beerelim. 9 For the waters of Dimon shall be full of blood: for I will bring more upon Dimon, lions upon him that escapeth of Moab, and upon the remnant of the land.
In chapter 15 of Isaiah the prophet shifts his focus from Babylon to the nation of Moab. He declares that two of the principle cities of Moab, in fact the whole nation will be destroyed. The inhabitants of these various cities are depicted in mourning, not only the citizenry but the military and ruling class as well. We also see even Isaiah mourn for the awful destruction that the prophet foresees over this people. The reasons for the nation’s downfall will be famine, drought and military overthrow by a foreign power. Why is Isaiah’s attention upon the Moabites, and what is their connection to Israel? If you will remember they are descended from the children of Lot who were fathered by him of his union with his two daughters after the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Verse 1 mentions the Moabite city of Ar as being destroyed in night because the people of Moab were conceived by Lot’s daughters after making him drink wine and lay with them in the night unknowingly to produce the offsrpring from which the nation was born.
Verse 2 speaks of the people going up to Bajith and Dibon to mourn. These were places where pagan idols were set up and where Moabites were known to worship Chemosh – a deity that required child sacrifice in worship. In spite of the terrible cost of worshipping such an idol even when the people are destroyed they continue to worship in such a way. Often when calamity comes upon a city or a people we hope to see them repent or turn to the living God but in this case it is not true. The people of Moab are so steep in idol worship that even the total destruction of their cities and nation does not prompt them to turn to God. When we see such things happen around us we often may feel vulnerable ourselves. To this concern David speaks in the Psalms:
[Psa 91:7 KJV] 7 A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; [but] it shall not come nigh thee.
Our trust is in God. Even when difficulty comes our faith in is a different outcome that might befall those who do not put their trust in God. We always persevere even in difficulty to look at things from a kingdom perspective and know that in the end things will turn out to our benefit. Isaiah is mournful when he sees this destruction upon Moab because they are connected by ancient family ties to the people of Abraham and even centuries later and after many wars between Moab and Israel there is still concern to see them suffering so.
Verse 3 describes the Moabites as girding themselves in sackcloth. They were known as a people prideful in dress but now they will put on sackcloth to signify their mourning because of the destruction that shall come upon them. In other places such judgments are spoken of as coming from God Himself but this is not mentioned in this chapter. It is as though to say all of this could have been avoided had they chosen a different path for themselves. When people suffer and mourn it is common to ask the question “why God” or “how could God allow this to happen”? Not everything that comes across men’s paths by way of experience originates with God. There are times that life’s experiences fall out to us not because of any plan of God but according to our own choices and decisions as Micah 7:13 tells us:
[Mic 7:13 KJV] 13 Notwithstanding the land shall be desolate because of them that dwell therein, for the fruit of their doings.
The wearing of sackcloth is thought by some to be a practice originating with Semitic people. This is a coarse garment made in ancient times of goat’s hair and fastened with a rope around the hips. The purpose in wearing sackcloth is to publically show mourning and regret. The goat’s hair was usually black, and uncomfortable to wear showing that the person is denying themselves any comforts as they openly grieve or show regret for something that has occurred in their life. The Moabites are suffering and calling out to their false gods for comfort. In times when David suffered he gave us the example of calling upon God for mercy and help in our time of need:
[Psa 30:10-11 KJV] 10 Hear, O LORD, and have mercy upon me: LORD, be thou my helper. 11 Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing: thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness;
Verse 4 speaks of Heshbon and Eleah crying out and that their voice would be heard even unto Jahaz. Jahaz was a frontier on the borders of Moab and Heshbon and Eleah were other major cities of Moab. This is to show that the desolation of the nation of Moab would be complete and devastating in nature. Even the armed soldiers are crying out – who are trained to be strong in times of chaos and difficulty but are found in disarray and dismay, helpless themselves before what Isaiah sees is coming upon the nation. Not every problem men face can be prepared for. Sometimes we put our trust in strong leaders and great armies but ultimately our trust must be in God. During David’s reign he was often chastened for numbering the people or putting confidence in the things that other peoples put their trust in to make them great. In Psalm 20 we read:
[Psa 20:7 KJV] 7 Some [trust] in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the LORD our God.
Finally in verse 5 we see Isaiah himself crying out for Moab and the destruction he sees coming their way. Moab is an enemy of Israel and always has been but the prophet demonstrates the heart of God’s mercy even toward those that have plagued his own people. Sometimes preachers will speak of the judgments of God coming on a nation as though that was God’s original choice. Speaking through the prophet Ezekiel we see the Holy Spirit declares that God has no pleasure in the death or destruction that comes upon those who don’t follow Him:
[Eze 33:11 KJV] 11 Say unto them, [As] I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?
When we hear messages of the ultimate judgment of the wicked or of people making sinful choices and paying the penalty for it we should pause before giving applause or standing ovations. In Matt. 25:41 Jesus Himself tells us that hell was prepared not for man but for the devil and his angels. There was never in the mind of God a preordained thought that man would suffer or spend an eternity in hell. It is a sad consequence and hell exists as an outcome for those that reject God but the heart of God is that all should repent and come to the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.
When you see others suffer, even of their own doing purpose in your heart to respond as Isaiah does. He is delivering a dire message to the Moabites but he doesn’t take pleasure in it. He sees the enemies of God suffering horribly, but he isn’t jumping up and down with glee. When people in your life that are difficult and hurtful suffer be a friend to them and as much as possible lighten their load if no other way than in prayer for them. This is the heart of God that Isaiah demonstrates and that we can be encouraged to emulate when we see men and women around us go through hard times.
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