My words will be italicized wherever they appear. Should the Bible be italicized near my words, I’ll do something to differentiate them.
Poignant Cries Reverberate Through Moab
1-4 A Message concerning Moab:
Village Ar of Moab is in ruins,
destroyed in a night raid.
Village Kir of Moab is in ruins,
destroyed in a night raid.
Village Dibon climbs to its chapel in the hills,
goes up to lament.
Moab weeps and wails
over Nebo and Medba.
Every head is shaved bald,
every beard shaved clean.
They pour into the streets wearing black,
go up on the roofs, take to the town square,
Everyone in tears,
everyone in grief.
Towns Heshbon and Elealeh cry long and loud.
The sound carries as far as Jahaz.
Moab sobs, shaking in grief.
The soul of Moab trembles.
5-9 Oh, how I grieve for Moab!
Refugees stream to Zoar
and then on to Eglath-shelishiyah.
Up the slopes of Luhith they weep;
on the road to Horonaim they cry their loss.
The springs of Nimrim are dried up—
grass brown, buds stunted, nothing grows.
They leave, carrying all their possessions
on their backs, everything they own,
Making their way as best they can
across Willow Creek to safety.
Poignant cries reverberate
all through Moab,
Gut-wrenching sobs as far as Eglaim,
heart-racking sobs all the way to Beer-elim.
The banks of the Dibon crest with blood,
but God has worse in store for Dibon:
A lion—a lion to finish off the fugitives,
to clean up whoever’s left in the land.
Now Isaiah might have talked about Moab before. But I clearly missed it or it wasn’t meant for me to notice it until just now. Crazy, crazy where Moab finds herself here. Previously, in Ruth, Moab was a place of refuge for Naomi, her husband, and sons as they fled a famine in Bethlehemjudah. One of Naomi’s sons married Ruth who left Moab with her and went back to Judah. Ruth ends up minding her business and working to support herself and Naomi. She catches the eye of a rich relative, or kinsman redeemer named Boaz and marries him.
Jesus is a descendant of Ruth and Boaz. This turbulent, chaotic place, is part of the history of our Savior. (As is Bethlehem of course as revealed in Matthew 1:2). Jesus comes to take the chaotic mess of our lives and make it beautiful. Weeeeell. Beautiful is kind of an interesting word choice since this life is not promised to be beautiful. But, as Rich Tolbert and Dante Bowe sing on Isn’t He Beautiful, Jesus is beautiful and the tests, trials, and tribulations assist us in becoming like him. So, it is beautiful!
A New Government in the David Tradition
1-4 “Dispatch a gift of lambs,” says Moab,
“to the leaders in Jerusalem—
Lambs from Sela sent across the desert
to buy the goodwill of Jerusalem.
The towns and people of Moab
are at a loss,
New-hatched birds knocked from the nest,
At the banks of the Arnon River,
unable to cross:
‘Tell us what to do,
help us out!
Give the refugees from Moab
sanctuary with you.
Be a safe place for those on the run
from the killing fields.’”
The people of Moab have become refugees just like Naomi and her family were. Also, people describe Jesus as a refugee due to the fact that he had to escape Bethlehem and flee to Egypt to avoid being killed (Matthew 2:13–23).
4-5 “When this is all over,” Judah answers,
“the tyrant toppled,
The killing at an end,
all signs of these cruelties long gone,
A new government of love will be established
in the venerable David tradition.
A Ruler you can depend upon
will head this government,
A Ruler passionate for justice,
a Ruler quick to set things right.”
Haaaay Jesus. Also. Go away with this…I’m not even going there. Jesus was passionate for justice. All I’ll say.
6-12 We’ve heard—everyone’s heard!—of Moab’s pride,
world-famous for pride—
Arrogant, self-important, insufferable,
full of hot air.
So now let Moab lament for a change,
with antiphonal mock-laments from the neighbors!
What a shame! How terrible!
No more fine fruitcakes and Kir-hareseth candies!
All those lush Heshbon fields dried up,
the rich Sibmah vineyards withered!
Foreign thugs have crushed and torn out
the famous grapevines
That once reached all the way to Jazer,
right to the edge of the desert,
Ripped out the crops in every direction
as far as the eye can see.
I’ll join the weeping. I’ll weep right along with Jazer,
weep for the Sibmah vineyards.
And yes, Heshbon and Elealeh,
I’ll mingle my tears with your tears!
The joyful shouting at harvest is gone.
Instead of song and celebration, dead silence.
No more boisterous laughter in the orchards,
no more hearty work songs in the vineyards.
Instead of the bustle and sound of good work in the fields,
silence—deathly and deadening silence.
My heartstrings throb like harp strings for Moab,
my soul in sympathy for sad Kir-heres.
When Moab trudges to the shrine to pray,
he wastes both time and energy.
Going to the sanctuary and praying for relief
is useless. Nothing ever happens.
This kinda makes me sad.
13-14 This is God’s earlier Message on Moab. God’s updated Message is, “In three years, no longer than the term of an enlisted soldier, Moab’s impressive presence will be gone, that splendid hot-air balloon will be punctured, and instead of a vigorous population, just a few shuffling bums panhandling handouts.”
Damascus: A Pile of Dust and Rubble
1-3 A Message concerning Damascus:
“Watch this: Damascus undone as a city,
a pile of dust and rubble!
Her towns emptied of people.
The sheep and goats will move in
And take over the towns
as if they owned them—which they will!
Not a sign of a fort is left in Ephraim,
not a trace of government left in Damascus.
What’s left of Aram?
The same as what’s left of Israel—not much.”
Decree of God-of-the-Angel-Armies.
On the road to Damascus Saul had an encounter with God that changed his name to Paul and gave us the most prolific writer of the New Testament, the single most impactful human where Christianity is concerned aside from Christ himself. Interesting that here, in the Old Testament, Damascus is undone and desolate and it is on this road that Saul, the biggest persecutor of the early Christians as a government worker, is undone in his theology and beliefs.
The Day Is Coming
4-6 “The Day is coming when Jacob’s robust splendor goes pale
and his well-fed body turns skinny.
The country will be left empty, picked clean
as a field harvested by field hands.
She’ll be like a few stalks of barley left standing
in the lush Valley of Rephaim after harvest,
Or like the couple of ripe olives overlooked
in the top of the olive tree,
Or the four or five apples
that the pickers couldn’t reach in the orchard.”
Decree of the God of Israel.
7-8 Yes, the Day is coming when people will notice The One Who Made Them, take a long hard look at The Holy of Israel. They’ll lose interest in all the stuff they’ve made—altars and monuments and rituals, their homemade, handmade religion—however impressive it is.
I feel like history has repeated itself like it does and that day is here for so many Christians.
9 And yes, the Day is coming when their fortress cities will be abandoned—the very same cities that the Hivites and Amorites abandoned when Israel invaded! And the country will be empty, desolate.
You Have Forgotten God
10-11 And why? Because you have forgotten God-Your-Salvation,
not remembered your Rock-of-Refuge.
And so, even though you are very religious,
planting all sorts of bushes and herbs and trees
to honor and influence your fertility gods,
And even though you make them grow so well,
bursting with buds and sprouts and blossoms,
Nothing will come of them. Instead of a harvest
you’ll get nothing but grief and pain, pain, pain.
Maybe not fertility gods. But we have made idols out of other things. The physical building. The order of service. The leaders. And those are just some of the things in the church. That doesn’t include money, stuff, significant others, children, and so many other things.
12-13 Oh my! Thunder! A thundering herd of people!
Thunder like the crashing of ocean waves!
Nations roaring, roaring,
like the roar of a massive waterfall,
Roaring like a deafening Niagara!
But God will silence them with a word,
And then he’ll blow them away like dead leaves off a tree,
like down from a thistle.
14 At bedtime, terror fills the air.
By morning it’s gone—not a sign of it anywhere!
This is what happens to those who would ruin us,
this is the fate of those out to get us.
Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaas! We aren’t there yet. But still. Isaiah 54:17. NO weapon formed will prosper.