Wednesday, August 16, 2023

2023.08.16 Hopewell @Home ▫ Isaiah 15–16

Read Isaiah 15–16

Questions from the Scripture text: Against whom is this burden (Isaiah 15:1a)? When does what happen (verse 1b–e)? In what other places (Isaiah 15:2)? Causing what responses (Isaiah 15:2-4)? And in what other places (Isaiah 15:4)? What is the Lord’s response (Isaiah 15:5a)? What seven reasons for this are explained by the word “for” (Isaiah 15:5-9)? But Who is the One bringing this judgment over which He weeps, and how much will there be (Isaiah 15:9b)? To whom is Moab told to send a lamb as tribute (Isaiah 16:1)? What are the Moabites like at this point (Isaiah 16:2)? What will they ask Judah to do (Isaiah 16:3)? How would the Lord respond to such a plea for help (Isaiah 16:4-5)? What abrupt explanation is given for Moab’s unwillingness to make this plea (Isaiah 16:6)? What will the result be (Isaiah 16:7)? How will this wailing come about (Isaiah 16:8)? Who else will grieve over this judgment (Isaiah 16:9)? How intensely (verses 9a, 9b, 9c)? And how deeply (Isaiah 16:11)? But what will Moab keep trying (Isaiah 16:12) in response to what (Isaiah 16:10)? How do we know that this is not a new offer to Moab (Isaiah 16:13)? When will this occur (Isaiah 16:14)?

What do we learn from the Lord who judges, even as He weeps? Isaiah 15–16 looks forward to the first serial reading in morning public worship on the coming Lord’s Day. In these twenty-three verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that pride is a soul-destroyer, because it hinders us from accepting the Lord’s gracious invitation to be saved by Him. 

The invasion. The burden against Moab begins with a nighttime attack on a border town (Ar, Isaiah 15:1b) that is either repeated the next night or so swiftly successful that the central city of Kir is destroyed in the same night (verse 1d). Even as the destruction continues, and the nation begins to grieve, there is a hint at why in Isaiah 15:2a–b: Moab’s houses and high places of idolatry.

The sympathy. The passage takes a marvelous turn in Isaiah 15:5. The intense mourning of Isaiah 15:3-4 is joined by YHWH Himself: “My heart will cry out for Moab” (Isaiah 15:5a). Seven times, some aspect of the destruction is introduced by the word “for” in Isaiah 15:5-9. The number is intentional, and the picture is of the Lord seeing all that comes upon His creatures, even by their own sin and folly, and weeping everywhere He looks. It is difficult for us to comprehend the greatness of God’s mercy and the greatness of His justice, but in Him there is no tension or difficulty. The same God Who will surely and rightly destroy us apart from repentance and faith still pleads with us not to die, because He takes no pleasure in it (Ezekiel 18:23, Ezekiel 18:32, Ezekiel 33:11; Hosea 11:8).  The justice of the Lord must be satisfied, and so if there is not repentance, the weeping God “will bring more” (Isaiah 15:9b).

The offer of saving mercy. With Isaiah 16:1, the scene changes, and the Lord is giving advice, as if in the council room of the Moabite nobility. Tellingly, they are gathered at Sela, far in the south, as the invasion traced throughout chapter 15 is almost complete. He is telling them to send a lamb as tribute to Jerusalem. The daughters of Moab, who are risking to cross the Arnon (Isaiah 16:2c) to escape the horrors of the invasion may yet have, with the daughter of Zion, the safety that comes from the Lord’s holy hill (Isaiah 16:1c). And what a safety it is! They would be as safe in daytime as if covered by darkness (Isaiah 16:13). Moab is invited into full union, where Moab cares for Judah, and Judah cares for Moab (Isaiah 16:4a–b), but especially where the Lord cares for them all (Isaiah 16:4-5)! The invasion will be defeated (Isaiah 16:4c–e), and a Son of David will rule over them all in righteousness (Isaiah 16:5).

The greater invasion: pride. The prophetic poem doesn’t even relate the rejection of the offer. It goes straight for the reason: “the pride of Moab” (Isaiah 16:6a), “very proud” (verse 6b), “haughtiness and pride and wrath” (verse 6c), but verse 6d reminds us that whatever one may tell himself in rejecting God’s offers for mercy in Christ is just “empty bragging” (more literal than “lies,” verse 6d). So, there is a second round of weeping and wailing, as the destruction is completed (Isaiah 16:7-8), this time self-inflicted by not just their idolatry to worship other gods but their pride to refuse salvation from the one true God.

The continued sympathy. There is something marvelous about Isaiah 16:9-11. After Moab rejects His salvation, the weeping of the Lord is even deeper. “Bewailing” (Isaiah 16:9a). “Drench you with My tears” (verse 9c). Inner parts resounding for Moab like a harp (Isaiah 16:11a). Inner being for Kir Heres (Kir Hareseth, one of their great cities, verse 11b).

The warning to all of us. At this point, Isaiah 16:12-14 tie the episode with Moab into the movement of the whole of Isaiah. Babylon’s, Assyria’s, and Philistia’s imminent destructions were warnings that sin will bring destruction, and there will be a great day coming of which these other day’s of the Lord tell us. Pride, in particular, has featured in each of them. Now, the Lord sets a date upon Moab’s destruction. Within three years, it will come. And they will be another example of how urgent it is that we would humble ourselves and receive the offered salvation of a sympathetic Savior. That we would find refuge under the King, the Son of David.

In what ways do you tend to trust in your own efforts for safety, instead of in God’s provision in Christ? How does God’s response to Moab’s danger move you to faith? How does God’s response to Moab’s pride warn you against self-righteousness? How do you know that you will be safe in the Great Day?

Sample prayer:  Lord, we thank You for Your great sympathy to Moab and to us all. Your grief over us moves us. But we confess that we are hard-hearted, often unwilling to be delivered if it must come with being ruled. Forgive us, for the sake of Christ, and grant us humility by Your Spirit, that we might delight to be under You through Christ, in Whose Name we ask it, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP32AB “What Blessedness” or TPH505 “My Sins, My Sins, My Savior!” 

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