Biblical Interpretation from Someone with no Training in Biblical Interpretation
During the course of my life, a war has been constantly raging. It’s an ideological war. It’s a war that sometimes is relatively silent (though often is quite active). For about as long as I can remember, Islamic extremists have been fighting the west. Though, to be fair, “the west” has many faces. God wasn’t kidding when he spoke of Ishmael,
He will be a wild donkey of a man;
His hand will be against everyone
And everyone’s hand against him,
And he will live in hostility
Toward all his brothers (Genesis 16:12).
Christians fall into the list of people the extremists stand against, as does basically anyone not claiming Allah as their pride and joy (and even followers of Islam who don’t follow Allah hard enough). Again, I’m talking exclusively about extremists, not average (lovable) folk. As I was reading through Isaiah, though, the Holy Spirit taught me that no matter who may be opposed to the cross, we should never declare a religious (“Holy”) war on anyone, be it on the battlefield or in our hearts.
To be sure, enemies of Christ will be destroyed. Maybe it’ll come during the end of days when all are judged. You can check this out in Revelation 20:11-15,
Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
Or, perhaps their end will come sooner; like Moab of Isaiah’s time. Today we’ll focus on the fall of Moab. In Isaiah, the Lord predicts doom for Moab (as he does for basically every nation in Isaiah). We read,
An oracle concerning Moab;
Ar in Moab is ruined,
Destroyed in a night!
Kir in Moab is ruined,
Destroyed in a night!
Dibon goes up to its temple,
To its high places to weep;
Moab wails over Nebo and Medeba.
Every head is shaved
And every beard cut off.
In the streets they wear sackcloth;
On the roofs and in the public squares they all wail,
Prostrate with weeping (Isaiah 15:1-3).
Before we continue, perhaps we should establish who Moab actually was. As you can probably gather from the damnation of the previous verses, they were enemies of Israel. However, Moab was actually related to the Israelites; as they were the descendants of Lot (Abraham’s nephew). Scripture records, “So both of Lot’s daughters became pregnant by their father. The older daughter had a son, and she named him Moab; he is the father of the Moabites of today” (Genesis 19:36-37). However, when the Israelites were crossing the desert, the Moabites denied them passage through their land. This is recounted in Judges 11:17:
Then Israel sent messengers to the king of Edom, saying, “Give us permission to go through your country,” but the king of Edom would not listen. They sent also to the king of Moab, and he refused. So Israel stayed at Kadesh.
Rather than worshipping the One True God, the Moabites worshipped Chemosh, who does not get good write-ups out in the Bible: “On a hill east of Jerusalem, Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the detestable god of Moab, and for Molech the detestable god of the Ammonites” (1 Kings 11:7). And if that wasn’t enough strikes against them; Moab was an extremely prideful country as well. To this the Lord wrote,
We have heard of Moab’s pride-
Her overweening pride and conceit,
Her pride and her insolence-
But her boasts are empty.
Therefore the Moabites wail,
They wail together for Moab.
Lament and grieve
For the men of Kir Hareseth (Isaiah 16:6-7).
Because of their pride, idol worship, and poor relations with Israel God decreed destruction for Moab:
My heart cries out over Moab;
Her fugitives flee as far as Zoar,
As far as Eglath Shelishiyah.
They go up the way to Luhith,
Weeping as they go;
On the road to Horonaim
They lament their destruction (Isaiah 15:5)
The lesson one can take from the story of Moab is that all nations without God will be destroyed by the Lord.
Yay, right? No, actually. You see, some of Moab was decreed to survive…
So the wealth they have acquired and stored up
They carry away over the Ravine of the Poplars.
Their outcry echoes along the border of Moab;
Their wailing reaches as far as Eglaim,
Their lamentation as far as Beer Elim.
Dimon’s waters are full of blood,
But I will bring still more upon Dimon-
A lion upon the fugitives of Moab
And upon those who remain in the land (Isaiah 15:7-9).
…Only to be face more trouble ahead. Man, God really had it out for Moab. Again though, this is good, right? Yay? Actually, no. You see, God’s people were called to help the poor, hunted stragglers of Moab. Scripture reveals,
“Give us counsel,
Render a decision.
Make your shadow like night-
At high noon.
Hide the fugitives,
Do not betray the refugees.
Let the Moabite fugitives stay with you;
Be their shelter from the destroyer.”
The oppressor will come to an end,
And destruction will cease;
The aggressor will vanish from the land (Isaiah 16:3-4).
Even though Moab was an enemy of Israel, as well as an enemy of God; the Lord told his people to protect the Moabites. He even promised that Jesus would one day also rule over them:
In love a throne will be established;
In faithfulness a man will sit on it-
One from the house of David-
One who in judging seeks justice
And speeds the cause of righteousness (Isaiah 16:5).
What an amazing turn of events! Not only were the Israelites not to gloat over the destruction of their enemy, but they were told their enemy would one day be part of them.
There are people who hate the cross and hate the “west.” Their ideology is a strong enemy indeed. But the people are not. The Lord will overthrow their lands, be they extremists, atheists, or whatever – but those who follow Christ are called to care for them in their time of need. There are a lot of people among God’s enemies. We, as Christians, are called to love them all. We often quote the two greatest commandments; but do we always live them? As a reminder;
Jesus replied: “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:37-40).
The reason the Lord commands this of us is
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 6:12).
Those who rage against Christ may be an enemy of our Lord, but someday those same enemies may call Jesus their King. It could be, though, that in order to understand the grace and mercy Jesus Christ provides they need to see it in action from his children (us). Paul reminds all Christendom of our position before Jesus came into our lives,
At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone (Titus 3:3-8).
We were saved by grace, mercy, forgiveness, and kindness; as followers of Christ we are called to go and do likewise. Such is good for everyone.
Rock on God!