Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Comfort My People: The Prophecies Of Isaiah, Day 42

Comfort My People:
The Prophecies Of Isaiah
Day 42

This morning we begin Chapter 15 and it deals exclusively with a prophecy against Moab. We find the beginning of the Moabites in Genesis 19, when Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed and Lot and his two daughters were dwelling in a cave in the mountains. His two daughters, evidently believing the whole world was destroyed despite what the angels had told the family, decided to get him drunk two nights in a row so each of them could sleep with him and have a child, thus continuing the human race. "The older daughter had a son, and she named him Moab; he is the father of the Moabites today." (Genesis 19:36) The younger daughter also had a son, the father of the Ammonites. 

Unthinkable as the actions of Lot's daughters are to us, God is able to redeem anyone or anything, and we find a woman of Moab in the lineage of the Lord Jesus Christ. Ruth, a Moabitess, converted to the God of Israel and married a man of Judah by the name of Boaz, and together they became the great-grandparents of King David. The ancient sin of Lot's daughters did not prevent a godly woman from becoming one of only three women mentioned by name in the genealogy of our Lord. No matter your background, no matter what's in your past, Jesus Christ can make your future something new and wonderful.

At various times in Scripture we find the Moabites at odds with the people of God. Yet the Lord commanded the children of Israel not to destroy the Moabites when they entered the Promised Land because of the familial connection to Abraham, Lot being Abraham's nephew. So today when Isaiah pronounces a coming disaster upon Moab, we find him weeping. J. Alec Motyer, a scholar who has written a great deal on the book of Isaiah, believes the prophecy was fulfilled when Assyria, under its king Sargon II, conquered Israel's capitol of Samaria and also conquered several other territories in the region, including Moab. 

"A prophecy against Moab: Ar in Moab is ruined, destroyed in a night! Kir in Moab is ruined, destroyed in a night! Dibon goes up to its temple, to its high places to weep; Moab wails over Nebo and Medeba." (Isaiah 15:1-2a) The destruction is sudden and shocking, taking place over a very short period of time. The late J. Vernon McGee of the Thru The Bible Radio broadcast said of Moab's destruction, "Assyria destroyed this nation in a way that is unbelievable and almost unspeakable. They seemed to wipe Moab off the face of the earth." 

"Every head is shaved and every beard cut off. In the streets they wear sackcloth; on the roofs and in the public squares they all wail, prostrate with weeping. Heshbon and Elealah cry out, their voices are heard all the way to Jahaz. Therefore the armed men of Moab cry out, and their hearts are faint." (Isaiah 15:2b-4) The prophet Jeremiah pronounced this calamity against Moab in Jeremiah 48. He stated that their judgment would come because they trusted in their riches, because they were complacent and lazy like the dregs in a bottle of wine, that they were unmoved and unchanged since the nation was founded, that the people of Moab had defied the Lord, that they were arrogant and prideful. Jeremiah predicted a day would come when Moab would be as ashamed of her pagan god as Israel was ashamed of the golden calf at Bethel. The Moabite's chief god Chemosh would be no more help to them than the abominable golden calf would be to Israel. Both nations would be conquered by Assyria, with their people taken captive. Sargon II left behind a clay prism which describes a revolt against him by Moab, Philistia, Judah and Edom, which is probably when these nations decided to stop paying tribute to him, and it was likely around this time that he invaded Moab. 

The vision of the Moabite people wailing in the time of their grief brings Isaiah himself to tears. "My heart cries out over Moab." (Isaiah 15:5a) The prophet weeps when he foresees the terrible condition of the citizens of that nation. The Lord also weeps, "Therefore I wail over Moab, for all Moab I cry out, I moan for the people of Kir Hareseth." (Jeremiah 48:31) The Lord is holy and righteous, therefore He must judge sin. But His heart breaks as He does so. I believe He weeps bitterly over every soul that rejects His offer of mercy and forgiveness. I believe He grieves the loss of every being who spurns His love.

"Her fugitives flee as far as Zoar, as far as Eglath Shelishiyah. They go up the hill to Luhith, weeping as they go; on the road to Horonaim they lament their destruction. The waters of Nimrim are dried up and the grass is withered; the vegetation is gone and nothing green is left. So the wealth they have acquired and stored up they carry away over the Ravine of the Poplars. Their outcry echoes along the border of Moab; their wailing reaches as far as Eglaim, their lamentation as far as Beer Elim. The waters of Dimon are full of blood, but I will bring still more upon Dimon---a lion upon the fugitives of Moab and upon those who remain in the land." (Isaiah 15:5b-9) I don't know for certain who or what the lion is who will come upon those who remain in Moab but there are some indications that these Moabites were later taken captive by Babylon. After the Persians conquered Babylon, the Moabites seem to disappear from the historical record, so they may have assimilated into that culture. Both Babylon and Persia used a lion as their emblem, so the lion mentioned by Isaiah could represent either of these nations.

Today's entire chapter is one of woe but at the same time we see the broken heart of God, mourning the downfall of the people of Moab. This is His heart toward all who refuse to come to Him for help. He must judge sin because He is holy, but He weeps as He does it. He weeps like the father who wept for the prodigal son who wasted many years of his life in a foreign country. To the father's delight, his prodigal son repented and returned, but there are those who never do and God's heart breaks for them. 

This is what the Lord said to Judah through the prophet Jeremiah regarding His broken heart for the people, "Hear and pay attention, do not be arrogant, for the Lord has spoken. Give glory to the Lord your God before He brings the darkness, before your feet stumble on the darkening hills. You hope for light, but He will turn it to utter darkness and change it to deep gloom. If you do not listen, I will weep in secret because of your pride; My eyes will weep bitterly, overflowing with tears, because the Lord's flock will be taken captive." (Jeremiah 13:15-17) We cannot see the Lord's face or the tears flowing down it, but they are there. He is like a father who goes into his bedroom to weep over a prodigal child. His tears overflow and run down His holy face because of the pride with which men and women hurt themselves. It is not God's desire for anyone to perish and He has done all that is spiritually and humanly possible to prevent it, but there will be those for whom He will weep in secret because they scorn His love. He is stretching out a merciful hand to all; we only have to reach out and take it. 

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