Isaiah 15–17. International Relations. Pt.ii. Who Cares For Moab?
Key Note: Tears for Moab? God grieves. Openness of God? Stoical attitudes.
Moab was a small, prosperous agricultural state east of the Dead Sea, divided from its northern sister state, Ammon, by the Arnon River which drains into the Dead Sea. Moab's founder was the product of incest between drunken Lot and his daughter. Gen.19:36–37
•Israel was ordered to bypass Moab when entering the Promised Land (Deut.2:9), but Balak, king of Moab felt threatened by Israel. He hired Balaam to curse Israel, but only blessing came from Balaam's mouth. (Num.22–24). But then Balak seduced Israel to the worship of Baal and 24,000 Israelites died of the plague. (Num.25).
•In the time of the Judges, Eglon of Moab, oppressed Israel for‘ years. Judg.3:12-
•Ruth is an example of a Moabite who became a believer. Ruth 1:16–17
•David sent his parents to Moab for safety from Saul. ISam.22:3
•Later, David executed 2/3rds of the soldiers of Moab, for reasons not clear. IISam.8:2
•Moab revolted and was later defeated by Ahab and Jehoram. (IIK.1:1). It was also subdued by King Omri of Israel but broke free under King Mesha of Moab.
15:1–9 is a description of a war against Moab that devastated her overnight. Thirteen cities are mentioned. The invader is not named, but Assyria, not Israel, is suggested in a parallel passage. Jer.48:40.
16:1-A delegation ("lambs") was sent from Sela, an important city, by way of Edom, south of the Dead Sea to Jerusalem begging Judah for protection of refugees. Their women ("fluttering birds") were trying to cross the ford of the Arnon to safety. Judah was urged to protect and care for them.
16:4–5 Isaiah promised that one day after the tumult of war is over, the throne of David would be established in justice and righteousness.
16:6–11 However, Moab's pride and insolence continued.
16:12 Moab's prayers at the sanctuary (of Chemosh) would not be heard.
16:13–14 Moab as a nation had three years to live, but a weak remnant would survive.
17:1–3 Damascus (Syria) is the next focus of the Isaiah's attention. Her destruction will be like Israel's. In fact the two countries---Syria and Israel are mentioned in the same breath (17:3)---suggesting that their bond was more than political. Remember that Ahaz, king of Israel, copied the pagan altar of Damascus. IIK.16:10–18
17:4–6 The country will be cleared out like a harvested field or a beaten olive tree.
17:7 In That Day, people will look to their Maker, the Holy One of Israel. They will not bother with their self-made religion.
17:9–14 Israel had forgotten God, and even planted rapidly growing flowers as fertility symbols (17:10–11), so a day of grief and incurable pain was coming. But finally God would cause the collapse of the invaders. 17:14
It appeared that Moab wanted Judah's protection, but not her God.
We all want benefits without commitment (in male and female relationships, religion, government, etc.). Non-Christians admire our ethics, music, and literature, our stable families, church liturgy, holidays, and architecture. We make good government employees--clean records and good education. Everyone loves Christmas, so long as Jesus is not mentioned. Christians, too, are strong in their commitment to Christian entertainment, weaker in their devotion to God; 5000 attend a cantata, 15 come to a prayer meeting.
A remarkable feature of these prophecies is that the prophet--and God--weeps with the Moabites. "I weep with the weeping of Jazer...I drench you with my tears....(16:9,11). It is grief over people who have never been believers.
Other examples of grieving:
Samuel grieved for Saul. ISam.15:35
David grieved for Saul and Jonathon after their death. IISam.1:11
Micah (Mic.1:8) and Jeremiah (Jer.4:19) wept over Jerusalem.
Jesus was grieved with the hard hearts of His people. Mk.3:5
Jesus wept over Jerusalem. Lk.19:41
He wept with Mary and Martha at the death of Lazarus. Jn.11:3
Paul grieved over his lost people. Rom.9:2
But God also grieves.
He was grieved in His heart that He had made man. Gen.6:6
God was grieved with the generation that died in the wilderness. Heb.3:10
God was grieved over the misery of Israel before the monarchy was founded. Judg.10:165
He was grieved with the destruction of the northern kingdom (Ephraim). "My heart recoils within me. My compassion grows warm and tender." (Hos.11:8)
Greek philosophers (Aristotle) objected to the idea of a god who could suffer or be affected by anything that happened in the world. God can have human emotions? Process theology on the other hand, holds that God does not have a fixed nature. His nature is what He is doing and becoming. He does not know what will happen next but reacts to events as they happen. Evangelical theology is playing with the idea of the "openness" of God, bending toward heretical process theology. The "openness" thinkers see God as unchanging, yet reacting to His people in a changing world. To quote Pinnock:
"God cannot be perplexed yet suffers with His people."
"God's power is limitless but is deployed in ways that may appear weak."
"God is not subject to change or decay but can relate to temporal passage."
"God knows everything but is still learning what the world is becoming."
(Openness of God. C. Pinnock et al; IVP,’94, p.125).
The first three sentences may be correct. The last sentence is contradictory. "Openness theology " slides into "process" thinking. I don't think we should go there. Aristotle was incorrect to say that God has no feelings, and "process thinking" is equally wrong on the other end-- a god who is not sure of the future.
But we do know that God grieves over our sins and the miserable consequences we must endure. Our generation was taught not to cry. We must be brave but not stoic. The stiff upper lip is not Christian.
"...weep with those that weep." (Rom.12:15).
"Let my heart be broken by the things that break the heart of God."