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God’s Word for You

Isaiah 16:6-14

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Wednesday, January 16, 2008

6 We have heard of Moab’s pride—
her overweening pride and conceit,
her pride and her insolence—
but her boasts are empty.
7 Therefore the Moabites wail,
they wail together for Moab.
Lament and grieve
for the men of Kir Hareseth.
8 The fields of Heshbon wither,
the vines of Sibmah also.
The rulers of the nations
have trampled down the choicest vines,
which once reached Jazer
and spread toward the desert.
Their shoots spread out
and went as far as the sea.

Not all the cities here are well known to us. Jazer was on the northern border of Moab, but we can’t say for certain that this is a “south to north” list. However, their order is reversed in the verses that follow. So as far as Isaiah’s list goes, we can at least say “bottom to top.” Moab, bottom to top and top to bottom again, is trampled and withered. Moab’s fields, vines, economy—and people—are destroyed.

9 So I weep, as Jazer weeps,
for the vines of Sibmah.
O Heshbon, O Elealeh,
I drench you with tears!
The shouts of joy over your ripened fruit
and over your harvests have been stilled.
10 Joy and gladness are taken away from the orchards;
no one sings or shouts in the vineyards;
no one treads out wine at the presses,
for I have put an end to the shouting.
11 My heart laments for Moab like a harp,
my inmost being for Kir Hareseth.
12 When Moab appears at her high place,
she only wears herself out;
when she goes to her shrine to pray,
it is to no avail.

What does Moab have left to cling to? Nothing. Money, land, cities, inventions, military power, technology, sea power, music, art, industry—it’s all gone. This nation is wrecked; utterly ruined. This matches what Job’s friend, Eliphaz, thought should be the fate of the wicked. Notice how close Eliphaz’ words come to the ruin Isaiah assigns to Moab:

”...he will inhabit ruined towns and houses where no one lives, houses crumbling to rubble. 29 He will no longer be rich and his wealth will not endure, nor will his possessions spread over the land. 30 He will not escape the darkness; a flame will wither his shoots, and the breath of God’s mouth will carry him away. 31 Let him not deceive himself by trusting what is worthless, for he will get nothing in return. 32 Before his time he will be paid in full, and his branches will not flourish. 33 He will be like a vine stripped of its unripe grapes, like an olive tree shedding its blossoms. 34 For the company of the godless will be barren, and fire will consume the tents of those who love bribes.” (Job 15:28-34)1

Moab is wrecked. That’s what the law of God must do to our defenses when we think we don’t need God; when we say, “Just a minute, God, I’ve got something better to do today.” The white light of God’s law burns away all our defenses. Our money, our pride, our resources, our comfort, our security—and our excuses—vanish like morning fog and sun dogs. But God’s love never vanishes (Psalm 77:8).

13 This is the word the LORD has already spoken concerning Moab. 14 But now the LORD says: “Within three years, as a servant bound by contract would count them, Moab’s splendor and all her many people will be despised, and her survivors will be very few and feeble.” (NIV)

To show that God is always true to his word, Isaiah leaves us with one last word about Moab, and he does it in prose, not poetry, so that we won’t wonder whether this means something other than exactly what it says. In three years (a hired hand is naturally a clock-watcher) Moab will be ruined utterly, with very few survivors.

Moab is under a death sentence. James uses this kind of language in the New Testament to remind us all that with whatever time we have in the world, we need to focus our whole being on the cross of Jesus, and live for our Savior:

Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” (James 4:14-15).

God’s will is that we come to faith in him, and that we put our whole trust in our Savior Jesus. If we try to trust anything else: our name, our heritage, our leader, our idealism, anything at all, we would be clinging to a worthless idol (Jonah 2:8). Instead, we rely on our God, because “Salvation comes from the Lord” (Jonah 2:9).

1 The speeches of Job’s three friends, Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar, remind me of the “rock, scissors, paper” game we used to play as kids. The things Eliphaz says try to crush Job with all the finesse of a blunt instrument—his words are like a rock. The things Bildad says pierce and hurt and are cutting, like a scissors. The things Zophar says just repeat other things he has heard, and they have all the crushing force of a spitwad. His arguments are nothing but paper.

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.