Salvation in Isaiah 16
Last Lord’s Day we thought about the destruction and distress of Moab, from Isaiah 15. Moab was a country whose territory consisted of the eastern border of the Dead Sea.
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.
In verse 5 the mood changes a little and we hear the lament from the Prophet himself – he is overwhelmed – and he almost howls –
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.
We saw how God’s own heart was also moved with the tragedy of idol worshipping Moab, and her destruction as predicted at the hands of the Assyrians.
But as we turn tonight to Chapter 16 we have to realise that between the chapters there is a gap of around 50 years. Incredibly early in his ministry Isaiah had as a prophet been given the revelation of Moab’s destruction.
If someone in our country spoke authoritatively about the things that would happen to our country in the year 2053 how would we respond? No doubt with a little cynicism for how can anyone with true knowledge predict anything accurately that far ahead.
But if somehow his words were recorded and remembered and then in 2050 things began to look as if what he had said may actually happen, then that would be a different matter. The nation’s leaders would get out their record books or video archives (who knows how data will be recorded in 2050!) and begin to take notice.
Isaiah Chapter 16 outlines from the lips of the much older Prophet the IMMINENCE of Moab’s demise – the details had been given 50 years ago – now – he says – it will come to pass in three years. The prophetic timescale was narrowed down to 36 months time – all that had been said, weeping and howling, distress etc will happen!
We have the advantage of historical hindsight – for it indeed happened as Isaiah had predicted. Assyria swamped Moab and other nations – it was terrible!
So from Chapter 16 let us notice
1. Moab’s desire directed to Jerusalem – Moab’s Hope v 1 – 5.
Verse 1. This is a message from the Moabite advisors to their rulers. It would appear that the storm clouds were gathering. Moab were having to accept that the ascendancy of Assyria was becoming a reality and that the Assyrian’s intentions were not good for the Moabites. What options did they have? Fight? Not a chance – they were hopelessly outnumbered. Seek an alliance with the Ammonites in the north or the Edomites in the south? Impossible – for both these countries were also under threat. But they knew that they were in desperate trouble! So the advisors said “You will need to pay for protection from the only people who can help us – The people of Judah with their King and capital at Jerusalem, called here Zion. So send the tribute, the lamb, to the ruler of the land, to their King. Actually it was not just one lamb but hundreds of thousands of lambs. This was protection payment money. Not only was this a deal to be struck with the King of Judah – but it was also a deal offered by Judah to people to come and shelter under the protection of Jehovah their God. It came with the protection package. So the advisors want the rulers to send the lambs via Sela (modern Petra) to Jerusalem. Sela was the capital of Edom, not Moab. But the tribute had to be sent southwards through Edom, skirting the southern coasts of the Dead Sea and then north through the hills of Judea to get to Jerusalem. They could not go north because the Assyrians already controlled the northern territories.
In their confusion the women flitted between the rocky places around the Arnon River in the north of the country not knowing what to do. Verse 2 indicates a sense of lack of direction and leadership. The verse reminds us of game birds being flushed out of their nests and hiding places when the hunters come.
Verse 3 is Isaiah’s advice to Moab as to how to present their plea for help from Judah to the King at Jerusalem. How plaintive are the Moabites words “tell us what to do! (give or take counsel.) ; please be fair to us in our need (execute justice); protect us as refugees and hide us (make thy shadow as the night); cover us please (hide the outcasts); don’t give us up to the enemy, the Assyrians (betray not him that wandereth.) So Moab’s envoys are to ask the King of Jerusalem for protection, even though the Moabites had ever been their sworn enemies! They were asking Judah to take quite a risk – no wonder Judah needed some persuading – the large tribute of sheep was the persuader!
Verse 4 is so up to date. Here we have asylum applications from Moab to Zion! Isaiah the prophet has advised these Moabites to plead with God’s people – what a turn around! Isaiah tells them that the God of Judah, Jehovah, would show them mercy if they went with the right attitude. In fact says Isaiah – it is your only hope of life! And he expands this in verse 5 – God has promised to judge in mercy all who will come repenting of their sins and humbling themselves.
And in mercy shall the throne be established: and he shall sit upon it in truth in the tabernacle of David, judging, and seeking judgment, and hasting righteousness.
So our first Gospel word comes here. Gentiles who had been Zion’s sworn and bitter enemies are invited by the Lord God to come and receive of the benefits of safety and salvation amongst God’s people. That is what was offered to Moab.
And this my friends is the terms of the Gospel today. Sinners who have made themselves enemies of God by wicked works; by rebellion against His laws; by self seeking and neglecting their souls with worship of false gods – the gods of materialism and self worship – are offered mercy and grace from the Lord God who knows how to show mercy and to receive sinners! Salvation is of the Lord and of Him alone. You won’t find any kind of salvation except through the sovereign Creator God who has sent His only begotten son for sinners. Judah’s God, the only wise God, rules all nations – including Moab, whether they accept it or not. The throne established in lovingkindness in this 5th verse is the throne of Jesus Christ the Messiah, who was a descendant of the great king David. If the Moabites heed the prophet’s advice then a remnant from Moab will escape and have an opportunity to share in the Messianic redemption to come under the terms God’s promises to King David.
Similarly, if sinners heed the advice of the Prophet Jesus Christ then a remnant from this world will have an opportunity to share in the Messianic redemption that has come through the life and death of the Lord Jesus Christ – great David’s greater son.
If the Moabites accept – then safety. But if they reject it, then total and complete destruction will come upon them. Similarly for you my friend – seeking the Lord God and safety through His Son the crucified saviour is your only hope. You need to take the advice offered to you tonight –
Matthew 6 v 33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
Matthew 7 v 7 Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: John 3:36 He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.
God is ready to show mercy – as he was concerning these Moabites – but they had to come humbly – they had to come in repentance of their past hostility. So too must you – humbly repenting and turning from your sins – and applying to Zion, to Zion’s King the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation. Are you ready to do that yet?
This then was Moab’s Hope – to direct their desire to Jerusalem – mercy offered. Did Moab accept that advice from the Prophet?
2. Moab’s Discarding of this Hope. V 6 – 12.
Verse 6 gives the reasons for Moab’s rejection of God’s offer of mercy and grace.
>6 We have heard of the pride of Moab; he is very proud: even of his haughtiness, and his pride, and his wrath: but his lies shall not be so.
Pride! Arrogance! Anger towards Jehovah! Jeremiah confirms this in his prophecy –
Jeremiah 48 v 42 And Moab shall be destroyed from being a people, because he hath magnified himself against the LORD.
Today nations and individuals have the same attitude towards the Lord God. Pride in one’s own good works or natural abilities get in the way of yielding to God and receiving salvation from Him alone. Arrogance, the attitude of “I know better than God; God is old fashioned and His Bible a fairy story; and we scientifically oriented people have grown out of the notion of God – God is for women children and men who do not think.” What arrogance this is – Moabite arrogance! Self and human wisdom are the order of the day – “I did it my way. I can get to heaven on my terms – God is not going to tell me what to do!” These are all stumbling blocks that lead to self destruction. Is there anyone here tonight who thinks this way? Are you angry with God? And for that reason are you rejecting Him? Well, learn from what happened to Moab!
Verse 7 the consequences of rejecting God is more howling and weeping.
Rejecting God leads to unfruitfulness as verse 8 says.
And in verse 9 we find Isaiah the prophet weeping again. Why does he weep? At the pointlessness of Moab who refuses mercy from God. Instead of a joyous harvest all they get is Isaiah watering their devastated vineyards with his tears.
Verse 10 – no gladness, no joy, no singing or shouting – which were all features of the happy event of Middle Eastern harvest celebrations. A once joyous countryside is now silent. All because of pride, arrogance and rejection of God.
Proverbs 16 v 18 Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.
Verse 11 witnesses Isaiah’s emotional sadness once more affecting his inward organs. How graphic – does your abdomen ever sound like a harp? I have heard of a rumbling stomach – but a harp?
And what then do we read of rejecting Moab doing next in verse 10?
Moab goes to his idol shrines to pray – to his false gods to ask for help – but it will be to no avail. It was Moab who worshipped a hideous god called Chemosh. They sacrificed children and sometimes adults to him
Sinners convinced of their sins and the danger that they are in, still cling to the vain hope that there is something that they can do to get themselves out of their mess. Anything rather than trust in the Creator God! Anything rather than humble themselves to the only real and wise God. But sin when it has finished brings forth death! What a foolish nation – they had been offered a lifeline – but had discarded the only hope that they had.
How many unconverted people do the same? They hear the Gospel and the terms of redemption. They hear that God has provided a saviour who will redeem sinners from their sins. They hear that the work has all been done – it is finished. They hear how this salvation was purchased by the cruel death of the Son of God the Lord Jesus Christ. They hear how His precious blood can make the foulest clean.
But what do they do? No – I will not change. No – I will not apply for mercy. No – I will not repent of sins. No – I will not believe in the only one who can help me for all eternity! In this they discard the only hope that there is in the world – and they will spend eternity regretting their rejection of the Son of God. Are you in danger of doing this tonight my friend?
3. Moab’s Desolation v 13 – 14.
Verse 14 is a key verse about . Isaiah has to say that in three years Moab will be finished! To illustrate this period Isaiah inserts the phrase “as the years of an hireling.” Three years was the exact period of time that a servant was bound to a Master by a contract. This indicates an EXACT time. A servant doesn’t exceed his period of contracted labour – he works to the last day and no more. Similarly an employer will not allow him to leave a day earlier then his contract states.
It was a prophetic device to emphasise the accuracy of Isaiah’s prediction. From that day, when he uttered his prophetic words, within 3 years Moab will be devastated with only a tiny remnant left. Her glory would be gone. Her cities, her wealth, her vineyards, her fields, crops and livestock, all brought to shame and dishonour.
This indeed came to pass. After Judah was taken into captivity by the Chaldeans nothing is recorded again of the Moabites in either Biblical or secular records. Zephaniah the prophet said this and he was right –
Zephaniah 2 v 9 Therefore as I live, saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, Surely Moab shall be as Sodom,
Barren and uninhabited!
Such is the future for those who reject God’s offers of mercy and whose pride and arrogance keep them from Gospel blessings.
Right in the middle of this chapter was that precious verse about the King and his throne – so we leave the chapter with this thought.
The King who came in David’s line was one who came into Jerusalem riding on an ass in the company of men and women, boys and girls whom he loved. He had fed them, healed them, taught them and even raised some from the dead. My friend it was love that drove the King to leave His heavenly throne to be born a man. It was love that enabled Him to experience death – separation from His Father – so that we might not have to die eternally. Just as the gates of Jerusalem were open to the Moabites, if only they would come, today the gates of the heavenly Jerusalem are open to receive those who will come humbly to this King who rules in love.
The proud will meet the same fate as Moab.
May no one here be kept out of God’s heaven by that which kept out Moab!