God’s Authority Over the Nations
Have you ever relaxed with a few friends or family trying to predict the future? Let us imagine you have just finished listening to the news and you predict—based upon what you have been hearing or reading—what is going to happen in the next year to the economy, or maybe the political scene.
And we know there are economists and social engineers who act as political advisors to national leaders, predicting the future and giving advice for how to guide current policy in light of what is going to come. That is what many in the scientific community have been trying to do, for instance, guide policy in light of predictions based on climate change.
Being able to know the future is supposed to make us wise about how we live today.
But does it?
In these next eleven chapters, 15-23, Isaiah predicted with uncanny accuracy, down to details of even individual leaders, what was going to happen.
These oracles were to act as warnings, as they came with an invitation to seek both refuge and rescue from the Lord God. But hearing Isaiah’s prophecy, even though he had the ear of kings and diplomatic envoys, seemed to make no difference in both foreign and domestic policy.
What stood in the way?
Throughout these next few weeks, we are going to get the map out of the Isaiah’s world, and talk about what he saw.
An Oracle for Moab
Isaiah’s first oracle concerned Moab. Moab was a neighboring country to Judah, having been founded by Lot’s son Moab. Lot had been Abraham’s nephew. When the area where Abraham and Lot had pitched their tents grew too small for their herds, Abraham had allowed Lot to choose wherever he wanted to settle. Lot selfishly chose the lush plains of Sodom and Gomorrah. When God destroyed those cities in the plains, because of how corrupted they were, Lot and his two daughters barely escaped with their lives.
In the ensuing seduction story, keep in mind that though Lot had been plied with wine, he was still cogent enough to perform. If there is blame to lay, at least a good portion rests upon Lot.
Now Lot went up out of Zoar and settled in the hills with his two daughters, for he was afraid to stay in Zoar, so he lived in a cave with his two daughters.
And the firstborn said to the younger, “Our father is old, and there is not a man on earth to come in to us after the manner of all the world. Come, let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, so that we may preserve offspring through our father.”
So they made their father drink wine that night, and the firstborn went in and lay with her father; he did not know when she lay down or when she rose.
On the next day, the firstborn said to the younger, “Look, I lay last night with my father; let us make him drink wine tonight also; then you go in and lie with him, so that we may preserve offspring through our father.” So they made their father drink wine that night also, and the younger rose and lay with him, and he did not know when she lay down or when she rose.
Thus both the daughters of Lot became pregnant by their father.
The firstborn bore a son and named him Moab; he is the ancestor of the Moabites to this day.
The younger also bore a son and named him Ben-ammi; he is the ancestor of the Ammonites to this day.Genesis 19:30-38 (NRSV)
The countries that grew out of those two sons were genetic relatives of the descendants of the Israelite tribes, but their relationship was troubled. God had forbidden the tribes from warring with Moab when they crossed into the Promised Land, but Moab still feared the seemingly unstoppable Hebrew armies. After a failed attempt to have Israel cursed, the Moabite king sent women into the Israelite camp to seduce them into idolatry, hoping it would weaken them.
Forever after, Moab and Israel were foes, though Moab was also the birthplace of King David’s grandmother, Ruth. Like I say, it was complicated.
In these verses Isaiah prophesied Moab’s suffering in an event that would take place overnight.
Daughter Dibon has gone upIsaiah 15:2 (NRSV)
to the high places to weep;
over Nebo and over Medeba
Every head is shaved;
every beard is shorn;
Isaiah predicted that as the time grew closer, they would shave their heads and beards, wear sackcloth and wail to their gods and idols in their high places. But even a day of national pleading with their idols would not stop Assyria from invading Moab.
the waters of NimrimIsaiah 15:6-7 (NRSV)
are a desolation;
the grass is withered; the new growth fails;
vegetation is no more.
Therefore the abundance they have gained
and what they have laid up
they carry away
over the Wadi of the Willows.
Advancing armies would stop up the springs and watercourses, leaving the land desolate.
For the waters of Dibon are full of blood,Isaiah 15:9 (NRSV)
yet I will bring upon Dibon even more—
a lion for those of Moab who escape,
for the remnant of the land.
Whatever water that was left, would be stained with blood from the massacre.
Yet, after Moab’s ruin, the Assyrians would not be able to conquer Jerusalem—as Isaiah had explained back in chapter 10. The Assyrian army would enter Judah, but would be cut down by Almighty God at the foot of Mount Zion.
Moab’s Hope Ignored
Therefore, Isaiah urged the Moabites, look to Mount Zion for hope, send your sacrifices to God.
Send lambsIsaiah 16:1 (NRSV)
to the ruler of the land,
from Sela, by way of the desert,
to the mount of daughter Zion.
Moab would ignore Isaiah’s oracle until it was too late. Moabite fugitives would flee south to the Arnon River, and to the city of Sela, carved into the red rock mountain of Edom.
Like fluttering birds,Isaiah 16:3 (NRSV)
like scattered nestlings,
so are the daughters of Moab
at the fords of the Arnon.
From there they would send an appeal to the king of Judah for help them.
“Give counsel;Isaiah 16:3-4 (NRSV)
make your shade like night
at the height of noon;
hide the outcasts;
do not betray the fugitive;
let the outcasts of Moab
settle among you;
be a refuge to them
from the destroyer.”
Whether Judah welcomed these war refugees or not, Isaiah prophesied that the nation of Moab would nonetheless be destroyed.
When the oppressor is no more,Isaiah 16:4-5 (NRSV)
and destruction has ceased,
and marauders have vanished from the land,
then a throne shall be established in steadfast love
in the tent of David,
and on it shall sit in faithfulness
a ruler who seeks justice
and is swift to do what is right.
To find the rescue available to them, they would have to come to Jerusalem and acknowledge both God and God’s Messiah.
Would they humble themselves to abandon their own gods, and their own plan?
They did not want to have anything to do with that. Their pride stood in the way, even when everything was falling apart.
We have heard of the pride of MoabIsaiah 16:6-7 (NRSV)
—how proud he is!—
of his arrogance, his pride, and his insolence;
his boasts are false.
Therefore let Moab wail;
let everyone wail for Moab.
Mourn, utterly stricken,
for the raisin cakes of Kir-hareseth.
Kir-hareseth, their capital city, would also be destroyed.
Therefore I weep as Jazer weepsIsaiah 16:9-11 (NRSV)
for the vines of Sibmah;
I drench you with my tears,
O Heshbon and Elealeh,
for the shout over your fruit harvest
and your grain harvest has ceased.
Joy and gladness are taken away
from the fruitful field,
and in the vineyards no exultation is heard;
no shouts are raised;
no treader treads out wine in the presses;
the vintage shout is hushed.
Therefore my heart moans like a harp for Moab
and my very soul for Kir-heres.
Moab had resolutely rejected God’s offer of rescue. The die was cast by their own hand.
When would this all happen?
How much time did the have?
Now the Lord says, “In three years, like the years of a hired worker, the glory of Moab will be brought into contempt, in spite of all its great multitude, and those who survive will be very few and feeble.”Isaiah 16:14 (NRSV)
And just as predicted, Sargon overtook Moab in 715 BCE.