Tagged: Moab

Isaiah 25: He Will Destroy Death Forever

Isaiah 25: Listen to an audio file (4.26.09)

Download a worksheet on Isaiah 25 for further study

Prologue

Where we are:

Part 1: Judgment

Part 2: Historical Interlude

Part 3: Salvation

Chapters 1-35

Chapters 36-39

Chapters 40-66

When this takes place:

Isaiah 24-27 forms a single prophecy. While it’s difficult to pinpoint the time in which it is given, it seems best to place it a short time before the attack by Sennacherib, king of Assyria, on Jerusalem in 701 B.C.

Key verse:

Isa. 25:8 – He will destroy death forever. The Lord God will wipe away the tears from every face and remove His people’s disgrace from the whole earth, for the Lord has spoken.

Quick summary:

Speaking in the first person, Isaiah describes conditions when Messiah’s kingdom is established on earth. “This wonderful twenty-fifth chapter is a song, a song of three stanzas,” writes J. Vernon McGee. The first stanza (vv. 1-5) is praise to God for deliverance from all enemies. The second stanza (vv. 6-8) is praise for provision for present needs. And the third stanza (vv. 9-12) is praise in anticipation of future joys (Isaiah: Volume 1, pp. 175-178).

Take note:

New Testament writers Paul and John quote from this chapter as they anticipate the return of the Lord. Paul borrows from Isa. 25:8 when he writes about our future resurrection and glorification, “Death has been swallowed up in victory” (1 Cor. 15:54). And John, looking toward the day when believers will fellowship face-to-face with Christ, also quotes from verse 8: “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Rev. 21:4).

Deliverance from Enemies (Isa. 25:1-5)

While there could be some immediate or near-term fulfillment in this song of thanksgiving, it’s probably best to view Isaiah’s praise through the longer lens of the establishment of God’s kingdom on earth. At that time all the enemies of God and His people will be humbled and there will be a dramatic reversal of fortune for the remnant that has suffered poverty, captivity and persecution. Isaiah’s confessional song expresses a personal choice to identify with the name and deeds of God. Claiming “Lord, You are my God,” Isaiah states his commitment to a personal relationship with the Creator and Judge of all. In a melodic way, the prophet declares the wonderful truth that God is personal, knowable, just and faithful.

Isaiah provides at least three reasons God’s people are to be thankful:

  • God is faithful to His plan. “Although Judah was being attacked by Assyria, the people could rest assured that what God has said about the future will happen exactly as predicted. Believers today can have the same confidence. Nothing is outside the plan or power of God; no evil or circumstances will interfere with God’s accomplishment of his will for his people” (Gary V. Smith, The New American Commentary, Isaiah 1-39, p. 430).
  • God will defeat His enemies. The identification of “the city” in verse 2 has been interpreted in a variety of ways, from a Moabite city (see v. 10) to Babylon. But perhaps it’s best to view this term as symbolic rather than specific, assuring us that even the best-defended walled cities – the seats of power and influence – will fall beneath the mighty hand of God.
  • God is a refuge to the weak. Isaiah uses two analogies to illustrate this truth. First, the Lord will be like a shelter that protects people from the scorching sun and the driving rain. That is, He will make sure the oppressive forces of evil will not overtake them. Second, He will be like the shade of a cloud that subdues the heat. Although wicked and barbarous people will always oppose God and His people, the Lord will restrain their evil as a cloud gives relief from the heat of the sun.

If chapters 24-25 are spoken just before Sannacherib’s attack on Jerusalem, Isaiah’s song of thanksgiving is an inspiration to those about to face a withering siege on their capital city. “Although this prophecy did not promise them deliverance from Assyrian oppression or victory in their present battle, it reminded them that everything happens according to God’s plan, that their God can do miraculous wonders to save his people, that God is a refuge in times of trouble, and that ultimately God will win the victory over all ruthless peoples” (Smith, p. 431).

Provision for Present Needs (Isa. 25:6-8)

When Messiah reigns, there will be a joyous celebration of His rule by people from around the world. As other passages in Isaiah confirm, Jews and Gentiles from every tribe and nation will gather to enjoy the abundance of the King’s provision (cf. Isa. 2:2-3; 14:1-2; 19:18-25; 45:20-25; 49:22; 60:1-22; 66:18-21). This feast is similar to what David envisions when God finally rules the earth (Ps. 22:25-31). The image of prosperity and fruitfulness stand in stark contrast to earthly conditions in Isaiah 24.

Besides all this, verses 7-8 tell us God is going to do even more. He will destroy death, wipe away tears from every face, and remove His people’s disgrace:

  • The burial “shroud” could be understood in two ways: first, as the covering for a dead body; and second, as a shroud that mourners place over their heads (see 2 Sam. 15:30). In either case, Isaiah sees a day when death is destroyed and there is no longer any need to fear death or to mourn the loss of loved ones. More than 700 years later, the apostle Paul looks forward to the same thing: “The last enemy to be abolished is death” (1 Cor. 15:26). Once the enemies of God in heaven and on earth are judged, the Lord will purge His creation of sin and its effects (2 Peter 3:10-13).
  • In addition, God promises the complete removal of tears – not just tears of mourning, but of sadness, pain, loneliness, oppression, injustice and all other kinds of loss. Since God is the Provider and Comforter, everyone will be happy and safe.
  • Finally, the Lord will “remove His people’s disgrace from the whole earth.” This is more than a promise to Israel, for at this point in human history all people are God’s people. The reproach His followers have suffered for their faith will be taken away and their sacrifices for the sake of the kingdom well compensated. The enemies of God and His people have been brought to justice in God’s court, found guilty and punished (see Rev. 20:11-15).

Anticipation of Future Joys (Isa. 25:9-12)

On that day, when the believing remnant is delivered and Messiah rules as King over the entire earth, the saved ones will rejoice in the Lord and reaffirm their trust in Him. For those in Isaiah’s day, they would see the miraculous hand of God in delivering Jerusalem from the Assyrians as He strikes dead 185,000 enemy soldiers. If God can deliver a city from certain destruction, He can – and will – deliver His people all around the world from the rampant wickedness of the last days.

Isaiah refers to Moab as representative of those who oppose God and will be destroyed. Moab lies east of Israel across the Dead Sea and is a constant enemy of God’s people. “Israel and Judah had many altercations with Moab, that was known for her pride (v.11; cf. 16:6). She felt that the works of her hands and her cleverness would protect her, but it would not. Moab – and all God’s enemies – will be totally destroyed, trampled, and brought down … low (cf. 26:5) to the very dust. Only God’s people, in Israel and other nations, will enjoy God’s time of prosperity and blessing” (John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, S. 1:1074).

Warren Wiersbe adds: “The imagery here is quite graphic: The Moabites are compared to straw trampled so deeply into manure that the people have to swim through the manure to get out! While the Jews are enjoying a feast of good things, the Moabites are trying to escape from the excrement of the animals the Jews are devouring! Moab was always known for its pride (16:6ff); but God will bring them low along with all the other nations that exalt themselves, exploit others, and refuse to submit to the Lord” (Be Comforted, S. Is 25:1).

Closing Thought

Matthew Henry writes, “There is no fortress impregnable to Omnipotence, no fort so high but the arm of the Lord can overtop it and bring it down. This destruction of Moab is typical of Christ’s victory over death (spoken of v. 8), his spoiling principalities and powers in his cross (Col. 2:15), his pulling down Satan’s strong-holds by the preaching of his gospel (2 Co. 10:4), and his reigning till all his enemies be made his footstool, Ps. 110:1″ (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume, S. Is 25:9).

Isaiah 16: An Object of Contempt

Listen to an audio file (2.8.09)

Download a worksheet for further study

Prologue

Where we are:

Part 1: Judgment

Part 2: Historical Interlude

Part 3: Salvation

Chapters 1-35

Chapters 36-39

Chapters 40-66

When this takes place:

Chapter 16 is a continuation of the prophecy against Moab that begins in chapter 15. It likely takes place during the reign of Hezekiah when the Assyrians are trying to gain control of the countries around Judah; however, some scholars place this earlier, about three years prior to Assyria’s invasion in 732 B.C.

Key verse:

Isa. 16:14  And now the Lord says, “In three years, as a hired worker counts years, Moab’s splendor will become an object of contempt, in spite of a very large population. And those who are left will be few and weak.”

Quick summary:

Arriving in Edom, the Moabite refugees should turn to God through their neighbor Israel, but in pride they refuse to do so. As a result, the fruitfulness of their land will cease.

Take note:

Isaiah provides a three-year time frame for fulfillment of this prophecy. Whether this is Sennacherib’s invasion in 701 B.C. or an earlier invasion is not clear. However, Isaiah’s listeners throughout Judah and Moab are able to see the fulfillment of his prophecy and confirm that he is speaking the word of the Lord. If the short-term prophecies come to pass, Isaiah’s credibility is enhanced as he foretells Judah’s judgment, the virgin birth of the Messiah, and the Messiah’s reign on the throne of David.

The Plea of Moab (Isa. 16:1-5)

The one place the Assyrians cannot conquer is Jerusalem, although they have tried (see Isa. 36-37). But rather than flee to Mt. Zion, the Moabite refugees flee south to the fords of the Arnon River and the rock city of Sela (Petra) in Edom. From there, they send a request for asylum to the king of Judah, along with sheep as a form of tribute (see 2 Kings 3:4).

Isaiah is not impressed with their plea. He calls the Moabites extortionists, spoilers and oppressors, and says the nation is destined to be destroyed. Why so harsh? Because the Moabites want Judah’s protection but not Judah’s God. Verse 5 is messianic, pointing to the day when the Messiah will sit on the throne of David and reign in righteousness and mercy. 

The Pride of Moab (Isa. 16:6-14)

Warren Wiersbe’s comments on these verses are instructive:

We can understand the pride of a city like Babylon (14:12-14), but what did the tiny nation of Moab have to boast about? Their pride kept them from submitting to Judah, and this led to their defeat. Their boasting would turn into wailing and their songs into funeral dirges. Moab would become like a vineyard trampled down and a fruitful field left unharvested. Isaiah 16:9-11 describes the prophet’s grief-and the Lord’s grief-over the destruction of Moab. “I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked” (Ezek. 33:11). Isaiah could have rejoiced at the destruction of an old enemy, but instead, he wept (Prov. 24:17-18)” (Be Comforted, S. Is 15:1).

Moab’s pride (v. 6) is perhaps best understood in light of her idolatry (v. 12). Although on the run from the Assyrians and facing certain defeat, the Moabites reject Israel’s God and cling instead to the idol Chemosh on Mt. Nebo. There, Isaiah points out, the Moabites will become fatigued with burdensome and empty rituals, and their prayers will not prevail.

Chemosh is the national god of the Moabites, known as the destroyer, subduer, or fish-god. In Scripture, the Moabites are called the “people of Chemosh” (Num. 21:29; Jer. 48:7, 13, 46). Solomon, under the influence of his idolatrous wives, introduced the Israelites to the worship of Chemosh. He built a high place in the mount before Jerusalem (1 Kings 11:7), but Josiah abolished this idolatrous worship (2 Kings 23:13).

The Moabites have always had close ties with Israel (see Gen. 19:30-38; Ruth 4:10, 18-22) but oppose them spiritually and politically (see Num. 25; Judges 3:12-14; 1 Sam. 14:47; 2 Sam. 8:2, 11-12; 2 Kings 3). The Lord makes it clear that her day of reckoning will come within three years. Whether Assyria’s invasion in 732 B.C. or 701 B.C. is in view – it is difficult to set this chapter specifically in either time frame – most people who hear this prophecy live to see it fulfilled and learn that the God of Israel, unlike the idol Chemosh, is true and trustworthy.

Final Thought

The prophecy concerning Moab makes several key theological points, according to Gary V. Smith: “First, God controls what is happening to all the people on earth and he understands why they wail and suffer pain and ruin…. Second, God’s message and his relationship with people is one of identification with the pain of the sufferer (15:5; 16:9)…. Third, God warns people about the future and then confronts them with their errors (particularly pride) for two reasons: (a) so that they will have some comprehension of why they will suffer (16:6), and (b) so that they will have an opportunity to choose a different path” (New American Commentary: Isaiah 1-39, p. 338).

Copyright 2009 by Rob Phillips

Isaiah 15: The Waters are Full of Blood

Listen to an audio file (2.1.09)

Download a worksheet for further study

Prologue

Where we are:

Part 1: Judgment

Part 2: Historical Interlude

Part 3: Salvation

Chapters 1-35

Chapters 36-39

Chapters 40-66

When this takes place:

Chapter 15 likely takes place during the reign of Hezekiah when the Assyrians are trying to gain control of the countries around Judah.

Key verse:

Isa. 15:9:  The waters of Dibon are full of blood, but I will bring on Dibon  even more than this – a lion for those who escape from Moab, and for the survivors in the land.

Quick summary:

God raised up nations like Moab to be the instruments of His judgment against His people (see Isa. 5:26-30; 7:18-20). Now, in chapters 13-24 Isaiah identifies these nations and exposes their sin. They have gone beyond God’s boundaries in punishing Israel. Therefore, God will bring them down.

Take note:

Israel’s neighbor Moab will be invaded and her people will become refugees (Isa. 15:5-7). Because of the depths of their sin, God will bring additional suffering upon the refugees (Isa. 15:9). We will see in chapter 16 that Israel offers them asylum, but in their pride they refuse the offer and ultimately fall.

Judgment on Moab (Isa. 15:1-9)

The Moabites are the product of Lot’s incestuous union with his daughter (Gen. 19:30-38). Their pagan practices corrupted Israel and they became the sworn enemies of the Jews (see Num. 25; Deut. 23:3).

Several cities and towns are mentioned in the first four verses of this chapter. Ar and Kir, possibly located near the southern end of the Dead Sea, are destroyed before Isaiah records this oracle. Dibon is one of Moab’s key cities. The city of Nebo is located near a mountain close to the northern shore of the Dead Sea; it is here that the Moabites worship the god Chemosh. Heshbon and Elealeh are in northern Moab. Shaved heads and cut beards are signs of humiliation (see Job 1:20; Isa. 7:20; Jer. 47:5, 48:37; Ezek. 7:18; Amos 8:10; Micah 1:16). Wearing sackcloth pictures one’s dejected state of mourning. The Moabites are lamenting the fall of their cities. Even the soldiers are wailing because of their inability to protect their homeland.

The tenderness of Isaiah’s heart is exposed in verse 5 as he grieves over Moab’s plight (compare with Isa. 21:3-4). Fleeing the invading Assyrians, the Moabites move south to Zoar, the northernmost city of Edom. The waters of Nimrim (v. 6) probably refer to a wadi in southern Moab. Because it is dry, the refugees, clutching their personal belongings, press farther south, to the Wadi of the Willows (v. 7). Reaching Dibon, the Moabites find the water supply to be bloody, indicated a great deal of death and destruction. They find no rest here, however. Isaiah describes their plight like one being constantly stalked by a lion. 

Final Thought

It is difficult for some to believe the depths of sorrow Isaiah expresses over the destruction of Moab’s cities and the suffering of her people. In fact, some commentators conclude that Isaiah is actually mocking the Moabites. Yet it may be better to see Isaiah’s lament as a reflection of God’s genuine grief over human sin and suffering. As God expressed through the prophet Ezekiel, “As I live” – the declaration of the Lord God – “I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked person should turn from his way and live” (Ez. 33:11).

In the New Testament, Jesus weeps at the news of Lazarus’ death and is moved in His spirit by the tyranny of death as a consequence of sin (John 11:34-5). He also weeps over Jerusalem because of its pending judgment for rejecting Him as Messiah (Luke 19:41-4). It’s good to remind ourselves that while vengeance belongs to the Lord, He strongly prefers mankind’s repentance and restoration to divine judgment. The apostle Paul tells us it is the goodness of God, not His vengeance, which leads to repentance (Rom. 2:4).

Copyright 2009 by Rob Phillips