Salvation in Isaiah 15
Moab was a country whose territory consisted of the eastern border of the Dead Sea. It covered an area known as the Plains of Moab – a plateau of land between the Dead Sea and the Arabian Desert, 35 miles long and 25 miles wide. Yet there were also some mountainous areas and deep gorges. In the flatter land there was rich and fertile land suitable for grazing cattle and sheep and for growing crops. Another nation called the Edomites lived to the south and the west of >Moab – and the Ammonites lived to their north. When Israel invaded Canaan the Moabites were displaced from the northern section of their lands by the tribe of Reuben. The area was known for centuries despite the occupation as the Land of Moab.
1. The History of Moab.
Further back in their history we have Biblical data of how the nation of Moab was born – and it is not really a pleasant story. Moab is the subject of our passage in Isaiah 15 tonight but for their history we have to turn to Genesis. The story begins in a cave in the mountains, but we need to go back further than that. Lot was a man who chose to live in Sodom. He was the wealthy nephew of the patriarch Abraham. Lot chose to stay in Sodom with his wife and 2 daughters despite Sodom being the wicked community whose name still is used to describe sexual degenerates. There came a day when through God’s messengers Lot was warned by the Lord God that the city was going to be destroyed. So Lot tried to convince the men to whom his daughters were engaged to runaway from the city with them. But they mocked him and refused to go. So Lot, his wife and daughters alone escaped the devastation which came to Sodom and 4 other cities in the fire and brimstone sent from the Lord.
Even so, Lot’s wife, defiant to the end, looked back as they were escaping and was transformed into a pillar of salt.
The angels told Lot to flee to the mountains but he was afraid to do this and prayed instead to go to a city called Zoar. In fact he argued with God claiming that Zoar was only a little city – God granted his request – but in the end Lot became very afraid and went to the mountains anyway, even though God had promised not to overthrow Zoar.
So in a cave in the mountains we find Lot and his two daughters. He was miserable. All his wealth had gone. But God had been gracious to him, saved his life and the life of his 2 daughters; but he was forgetful and weak. What kind of father had he been to these 2 daughters in Sodom? Why did he allow the family to stay in such a wicked city? What example had he been to them? The evidence is stacked against him – he had been a bad father exposing them to much immoral influences by failing to remove them to a safer place.
And now comes the saddest incident in his life.
Genesis 19 v 29 And it came to pass, when God destroyed the cities of the plain, that God remembered Abraham, and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow, when he overthrew the cities in the which Lot dwelt. 30 And Lot went up out of Zoar, and dwelt in the mountain, and his two daughters with him; for he feared to dwell in Zoar: and he dwelt in a cave, he and his two daughters. 31 And the firstborn said unto the younger, Our father is old, and there is not a man in the earth to come in unto us after the manner of all the earth: 32 Come, let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, that we may preserve seed of our father. 33 And they made their father drink wine that night: and the firstborn went in, and lay with her father; and he perceived not when she lay down, nor when she arose. 34 And it came to pass on the morrow, that the firstborn said unto the younger, Behold, I lay yesternight with my father: let us make him drink wine this night also; and go thou in, and lie with him, that we may preserve seed of our father. 35 And they made their father drink wine that night also: and the younger arose, and lay with him; and he perceived not when she lay down, nor when she arose. 36 Thus were both the daughters of Lot with child by their father. 37 And the firstborn bare a son, and called his name Moab: the same is the father of the Moabites unto this day. 38 And the younger, she also bare a son, and called his name Benammi: the same is the father of the children of Ammon unto this day.
One of the daughters bore Moab, a son of Lot by incest, was a descendant of the family of Terah, Abraham’s father. But Moab was not a child of promise like Isaac or Jacob. Yet he features in the scripture record, usually as a bitter enemy of Israel through his descendants the Moabites. This is a people that God, in pursuit of His plan to preserve Israel, had to destroy.
Let us notice what we know of the Moabites later in their history.
* In Numbers 21 we find how Balak the king of the Moabites, hired Balaam the mystic, to curse Israel on their way into the Promised Land. He was unable to do so – restrained by the Lord God.
* In Judges 3 we find the Moabites conducting raids into Canaan and destroying crops and stealing livestock – the then King of Moab, Eglon, was assassinated by Ehud the judge of Israel.
* King David conquered Moab (2 Samuel 8 v 2) and they remained subject to Israel until after King Solomon’s death.
* Both Jeremiah and Isaiah issued oracles and prophecies against Moab which are recorded in their prophecies, such as Chapter 15 that we have here tonight.
But one more thing about the Moabites – they have the distinction and honour of having someone who came from their number as an ancestor of the Lord Jesus Christ. Ruth was a Moabitess, who embraced the faith of Jehovah and followed her mother-in-law Naomi back to Israel as a widow. As you may know she married a wealthy Israeli farmer called Boaz and her name figures in the Lord’s ancestry.
Matthew 1 v 5 And Salmon begat Booz of Rachab; and Booz begat Obed of Ruth; and Obed begat Jesse; 6 And Jesse begat David the king; and David the king begat Solomon of her that had been the wife of Urias;
So much for the History of Moab!
Back now to Isaiah 15 and we see next
2. The Howling of Moab
The prophet Isaiah sees the Assyrians overpowering Moab and he describes it. He records weeping, wailing, and howling amongst the people of Moab because of the destruction inflicted upon them. Notice some of the key themes –
V1 – laid waste and silenced – the certainty of destruction.
V2 – weeping, howling, baldness (heads shaved – a shameful thing) men’s beards cut off – an equally shameful thing. But such shaving in the east also denotes intense grief. And the weeping is not just the grief of injury and bloodshed – this weeping is the people crying to their false gods in their pagan temples – notice they weep in their high places – the shrines.
V3 – Now they wear sackcloth and there is more weeping and howling – what a noise it must have been. It shows a complete collapse of their nation.
V4 – the acute terror of all is shown in this verse – armed soldiers cry out in alarm – why did they not use their weapons to fight? Why did they not make a last stand? What is this crying out in terror? Such was the intensity of the Assyrian invasion that their hearts failed them and they groaned and cried in anguish. Perhaps we saw a little of that in Afghanistan and Iraq when the militias fled without a shot being fired in some places as they feared the overwhelming odds of the invading armies and well equipped troops.
In verse 5 the mood changes a little and we hear the lament from the prophet himself as he contemplates what he sees. We do not get the impression that Isaiah particularly enjoys announcing this set of prophetic statements that the Lord God has given him by prophetic sight. Faithfully he has spent these 4 verses in painting the picture of what would happen.
But now Isaiah is overwhelmed himself – and he almost howls – verse 5
My heart cries out for Moab!
An Israelite, feeling sorry for Moab the bitter enemy? Yes he is moved and deeply touched by the severity of this prophecy that he is required to bring.
He sees her noble men fleeing to Zoar. They are the equivalent to our refugees – long lines of them filing down the road out of the country. Leaving everything that is familiar to them behind! What is the meaning of the heifer of three years old? It appears that an animal so young is not yet used to the yoke and chafes used to drive them in front of the plough or the cart. The picture is one of a people unsuited and not used to coping with the status of human beings under oppression. Moabites were prosperous and had been at ease for most of their days as a nation. Jeremiah describes them like this –
Jeremiah 48 v 11 Moab hath been at ease from his youth, and he hath settled on his lees, and hath not been emptied from vessel to vessel, neither hath he gone into captivity: therefore his taste remained in him, and his scent is not changed.
V6 – not only did the invaders of Assyria plunder and pillage and kill and drive out, they also seem to have diverted the water supply to their land about 8 miles north of the entrance of the Jordan river into the Dead Sea – so that the water course dried up and the crops withered and the grass failed – in fact nothing green could grow.
V7 – more about plundering and looting – and the people attempting to take as much as they can of their possessions with them as they fled.
V8 – the refugees go to try to enter Edom in the south, Ammon in the north. But all the time the howling and the wailing are heard around the borders of the country – so complete is the devastation.
V9 – a grim picture of a blood bath – lions will chase those who escape – the remnant. It is no wonder that here was howling and wailing.
And Isaiah’s heart is affected.
3. God’s Heart of Sorrow for Moab.
We go back to verse 5 – Isaiah is communicating God’s sorrow as He is moved.
We can be reminded of Ezekiel’s words
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?
The Lord God is not unmoved or untouched by the fate of Moab. His heart cries out over Moab – and His heart cries out over the lost around us. He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked.
What are the wicked to do?
Who are the wicked? Sinners…
The wicked are to turn form their ways and live!
The wicked should repent. The wicked should turn form sin and trust the only one who can deal with sin, the Lord Jesus Christ .
Turn – turn says the prophet.
And my friend you too need to turn if you are still a sinner.
While we were yet sinners –
Call upon the Lord while you can.
Look to the Lord Jesus Christ and see in Him the salvation that you need.