Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Comfort My People: The Prophecies Of Isaiah, Day 43

Comfort My People:
The Prophecies Of Isaiah
Day 43

Chapter 16 also deals with the prophecy against Moab and in today's study Isaiah looks ahead to a day when there will be no more trouble and a righteous King rules from David's throne.

This first verse appears to be advice given to the Moabites to secure the help of the people of God. "Send lambs as tribute to the people of the land, from Sela, across the desert, to the mount of Daughter Zion." (Isaiah 16:1) The mount of Daughter Zion would be Jerusalem, which in Isaiah's day belonged only to the southern kingdom. At one time, after the kingdom split. Moab was paying tribute to the king of the northern ten tribes of Israel. But when King Ahab of Israel died, King Mesha of Moab rebelled against his son and successor Joram. Joram then appealed to King Jehoshaphat of Judah to help him fight against Moab, which Jehoshaphat agreed to do. You will find the account of this successful military operation in 2 Kings 3, a military operation that was successful because of the intervention of the Lord, who through the prophet Elisha instructed the men of Israel and Judah to dig trenches in the dirt of the desert of Edom. Overnight every ditch became filled with water and it took on the color of blood, causing the Moabites to believe the kings and their men had some type of altercation in which they fought and killed each other. When the Moabites came down to the camp, they were attacked by the waiting troops. In his anger and grief, perhaps hoping to regain the favor of his pagan gods, the king of Moab sacrificed his own son on top of the wall of Edom. So we find here at least a couple of the reasons why God's hand was against the people of Moab. They had revolted against His people whom He required them to serve. And they followed abominable religious practices.

The women are fleeing Moab to escape the troops of the enemy. "Like fluttering birds pushed from the nest, so are the women of Moab at the fords of Arnon." (Isaiah 16:2) Arnon was the river that separated Israel from Moab and it ran along the southern boundary beyond the Jordan River. During the rainy season it was a swift river; its very name means something like "swift" or "rushing". But in the summer droughts it practically dried up. I don't know what time of year these women were standing at the water's edge. If the river was at flood stage we can understand their reluctance to cross over. If it was the dry season, their reluctance may indicate an unwillingness to appeal to the people of Jerusalem for help. It may symbolize their spiritual waywardness, their disinterest in serving the God of Israel.

Next we see the men of Moab asking the people of Jerusalem for asylum. "'Make up your mind,' Moab says. 'Render a decision. Make your shadow like night---at high noon. Hide the fugitives, do not betray the refugees. Let the Moabite fugitives stay with you; be their shelter from the destroyer.'" (Isaiah 16:3-4a) Some commentators believe Isaiah himself is counseling his own people with verses 3 and 4, that he is repeating to them the words of the Moabites, urging them to take in the refugees. 

Isaiah's compassionate advice is on firm Scriptural ground. After all, Jerusalem will someday become a refuge for all peoples, both Jews and Gentiles. The Messiah and King will be seated on the throne of David and in His kingdom there will be no war cry or battle trumpet. In His kingdom there will be no cries of distress in the streets. Although Isaiah lived about seven hundred years before the birth of Christ, he is in a sense saying to his people, "What would Jesus do?" He points out to them that a day will come when all the people of the earth will find their help at Jerusalem. "The oppressor will come to an end, the destruction will cease; the aggressor will vanish from the land. In love a throne will be established; in faithfulness a man will sit on it---one from the house of David---one who in judging seeks justice and speeds the cause of righteousness." (Isaiah 16:4b-5)

In submitting themselves to Judah's king and asking for asylum at Jerusalem, the Moabites will be expected to submit themselves to Judah's God and to His laws. It would appear from the section of Chapter 16 we will study tomorrow that the Moabites were unwilling to bow their knees to the Lord. Isaiah speaks of their pride and arrogance and he will weep over their stubbornness. The Lord will weep as they go back up on their high places to appeal to useless idols. The Lord's heart breaks as He witnesses the Moabites wearing themselves out in prayers and supplications to nonexistent gods when their help, their only help, was to be found in Him. Help was just one step away but they scorned God's outstretched hand.

Our only help today is in the Lord. Useless are the idols of this world. What good will money or power or status be when trouble comes or when we stand before a holy God? Help is just a step away! God's hand is stretched out to us, having provided the propitiation for our sins when His own Son hung on the cross in our place. He did all the work for us and all we have to do is humbly bow our knees to Him, recognizing our inability to save ourselves or make ourselves clean. We run to Him for refuge for He alone is our refuge and strength. With Him on our side, we can say with the psalmist, "God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging...The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress." (Psalm 146:1-3,7) 

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