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God’s Word for You

Isaiah 16:1-5

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Tuesday, January 15, 2008

In chapter 15, Isaiah described the destruction Moab was going to face from the Assyrians—destruction at least as bad, and perhaps worse, than what was sung about in Psalm 83. Now Isaiah lets us listen in like spiders under the table to the breathless plans of the fleeing leaders of Moab hiding in Sela, a fortress in the far south in Edom.

16 Send lambs as tribute
to the ruler of the land,
from Sela, across the desert,
to the mount of the Daughter of Zion.
2 Like fluttering birds
pushed from the nest,
so are the women of Moab
at the fords of the Arnon.

Moab had sent lambs and sheep as tribute to Israel in the time of king Jehoshaphat of Judah (2 Kings 3:4). The flapping robes of running women are compared to helpless fledglings falling from a nest. They are without hope—all people who reject God are without hope. That’s why we reach out with the gospel.

3 “Give us counsel,
render a decision.
Make your shadow like night—
at high noon.
Hide the fugitives,
do not betray the refugees.
4 Let the Moabite fugitives stay with you;
be their shelter from the destroyer.”

Now the Moabites, who have planned to send lambs as tribute (a bribe), ask Judah to shelter their people. In the desert, the most immediate danger in the daytime is always the sun. The Moabites compare their needs to the needs of anyone from the desert sun—they need the shade of Judah to cover them and give them relief. They are terrified of the destroyer. In Moses’ time, “the destroyer” was the angel who passed over houses covered with the blood of the lamb, but did not pass over any house without the protecting lamb’s blood (Exodus 12:23; Hebrews 11:28). When Jeremiah would again take up the oracle against Moab, he would prophesy that “the destroyer will come against every town” (Jeremiah 48:8), the same destroyer who was bringing God’s judgment down upon Judah (Jeremiah 6:26, 15:8).

But as far as we know, this envoy was never actually sent to Judah. Many years later, Moab tried again (Jeremiah 27:3). Here, Isaiah lets us know that the Moabites tried too late.

But Isaiah also lets us know what his answer would be:

The oppressor will come to an end,
and destruction will cease;
the aggressor will vanish from the land.
5 In love a throne will be established;
in faithfulness a man will sit on it—
one from the house of David—
one who in judging seeks justice
and speeds the cause of righteousness. (NIV)

The answer to Moab’s fair-weather friendship (actually foul-weather friendship) is the judgment of God himself: Moab’s oppression will end, but not through any political or military action. The Messiah will come. The sharp staccato lines of the Moabite speeches are suddenly halted as Isaiah’s flowing poetry begins to describes the throne established in love. It is as if a mob of running, yelling soldiers have suddenly stopped in their tracks because they have rushed into the middle of Jesus preaching the Sermon on the Mount.

All of our dangers, all of our concerns, all of our temptations vanish in Jesus. Like a dream, the troubles of our lives fade in the warmth and love of Jesus (Psalm 73:20, 23). The fog of uncertainty and doubt disappears in the crystal clarity of Christ (1 Timothy 6:17). In him, we have forgiveness. In him, we have the certainty of eternal life. In him, we have peace.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.