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The harden of Moab
The Moabite stone
From the inscription of Mesha (c. 900 B.C.), found at Dibon in 1869, and commonly known as the “Moabite stone,” we learn that the Moabites spoke a language differing only dialectically from Hebrew; and it is probable also that, in matters of material prosperity and civilisation, Moab stood hardly upon an inferior level to Israel itself. (Prof. S. R. Driver, D. D.)
The prophet’s pity for Moab
There is no prophecy in the Book of Isaiah in which the heart of the prophet is so painfully moved by what his spirit beholds and his mouth must prophesy. All that he prophesies is felt as deeply by him as if he belonged to the poor people whose messenger of misfortune he is compelled to be. (F. Delitzsch.)
In the night
Ar and Kir of Moab
The seizing of them laid the whole country open, and made all the wealth of it an easy prey to the victorious army.
1. Great changes, and very dismal ones, may be made in a very little time. Here are two cities lost in a night, though that is the time of quietness. Let us, therefore, lie down as those who know not what a night may bring forth.
2. As the country feeds the cities, so the cities protect the country, and neither can say to the other, “I have no need of thee.” (M. Henry.)
God works in the night time
1. Man has but a little day to work in, but God’s working hours never cease; man becomes weary with his day’s work, and lies down to rest, and whilst he is in slumber destruction swiftly overtakes him, so that the morning looks upon a branch cut off, a city laid to waste and brought to silence.
2. Men should diligently consider this in musing upon the judgments of providence. They cannot always be awake; they cannot always be upon the walls defending the fortress; they must retire for a time to renew their strength, and whilst they are resting the enemy acquires additional power, and comes down upon their boasted masonry, and hurls it to the dust.
3. Only the Christian man has confidence in the night time. He says, He that keepeth me will not slumber nor sleep.
4. God is against evil-workers, and it delights Him to trouble them by nightly visits, so that in the morning they cannot recall their own plans and purposes, or give an account of that which has happened whilst their eyes have been closed in sleep.
5. Have we any safety in the darkness? Have we made no provision for the night time? If not, then woe will fall upon us, and when the morning comes it will rise upon a scene of desolation. Remember what God said to the fool in the parable who was counting his riches, and forecasting the happy years which his soul was to enjoy--“Thou fool! this night thy soul shall be required of thee.”
6. Ponder deeply upon the moral of night; the darkness should instruct us, remind us of our exhaustion, helplessness, and dependence upon others for security and rest, and should, above all things, lead us to put our confidence in Him to whom the darkness and the light are both alike. (J. Parker, D. D.)
He is gone up to Bajith, and to Dibon, the high places, to weep
The helplessness of heathen gods
We have a picture of men going to old altars, and finding there nothing but silence.
Bajith may be regarded as the temple of the Moabite god.
1. So they were reduced to a state of helplessness; their very gods had forsaken them, and had thus revealed their own character as deities. It is under such circumstances--namely, of desertion and sorrow--that men find out what their religion is really worth. The Lord taunts all the heathen nations because their gods forsook them in the hour of calamity. One prophet exclaims, “Thy calf hath cast thee off, O Samaria.” The Lord Himself is represented as going up and down throughout the temples of heathenism, mocking and taunting the gods with which they were filled, because they were merely ornamental or decorative gods, and were utterly without power to assuage the sorrow of the human heart.
2. Whilst, however, all this is true of heathenism, there is a sense in which even Christian men may go back to old altars and find them forsaken. The Lord, the living One, the Father of the universe, is not pledged to abide at the altar forever to await the return of the prodigal. In the very first book of the Bible we read, “My Spirit shall not always strive with man.” There is a day of grace, so measurement can be determined with sufficient nearness to excite alarm, lest its golden hours should be lost. When the door is once shut it will not be opened again. Men may so live that when they go to the sanctuary itself, where the sweetest Gospel is preached in all its purity and nobleness, they find no comfort in the place that is devoted to consolation. The fault is to be found in themselves; they have sinned away their opportunities, they have enclosed themselves within walls of adamant, they have betaken themselves to the worship of their own vanity and the pursuit of their own selfish purposes, so that when they return to the house of God they find that the Lord has abandoned His temple. “They shall call upon Me, and I will not answer.” This is more than silence; it is silence aggravated, silence intensified, silence increased into burdensomeness. (J. Parlour, D. D.)
Signs of mourning
The sorrow of those who mourn is represented by a very, graphic figure:--“On all their heads shall be baldness, and every beard cut off.” The primary reference is probably to some sacrificial ceremony. At a very early period baldness was regarded as a symbol of intensest sorrow amongst Eastern nations. Baldness was forbidden to Israel, for the probable reason that it was identified with the sacrificial worship of heathen deities. The picture of lamentation is continued in the third verse. In Eastern countries, when men were afflicted with great sorrow, they betook themselves to the fiat roofs of their houses, and there publicly and loudly wailed on account of their agony. (J. Parlour, D. D.)
My heart shall cry out for Moab
The burden of souls
Too often have God’s servants spoken with dry eyes and hard voices of the doom of the ungodly; and have only made them more obdurate and determined.
We never need so much brokenness of spirit as when we utter God’s judgments against sin. In his autobiography, Finney says, “Here I must introduce the name of a man whom I shall have occasion to mention frequently, Mr. Abel Clary, He was the son of a very excellent man, and an elder of the Church where I was converted. He had been licensed to preach; but his spirit of prayer was such, he was so burdened with the souls of men, that he was not able to preach much, his whole time and strength being given to prayer. The burden of his soul would frequently be so great that he was unable to stand, and he would writhe and groan in agony. I was well acquainted with him, and knew something of the wonderful spirit of prayer that was upon him The pastor told me afterwards that he found that in the six weeks I was in that church five hundred souls had been converted.” (F. B. Meyer, B. A.)
The prophet’s distress concerning Moab
(see also Isaiah 16:9):--These are the men who prevail with men. In the early part of the sixteenth century there was a great religious awakening in Ulster, which began under a minister named Glendinning. He was of very meagre natural gifts, but would spend many days and nights alone with God, and seems to have been greatly burdened with the souls of men and their state before God. It is not to be wondered at, therefore, that, under his pleading, multitudes of hearers were brought into great anxiety and terror of conscience. They looked on themselves as altogether lost. They were stricken into a swoon by the vower of God’s Word. A dozen in one day were carried out of doors as dead. These were not women, but some of the boldest spirits of the neighbourhood “some who had formerly not feared with their swords to put the whole market town into a fray.” This revival changed the whole character of northern Ireland. Would that God might lay on our hearts a similar burden for our Churches and our land! (F. B. Meyer, B. A.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Isaiah 15". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany