Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Why I Took the Moabites Shelter

Therefore I weep with the weeping of Jazer for the vine of Sibmah;
I drench you with my tears, O Heshbon and Elealeh;
for over your summer fruit and your harvest the shout has ceased.
-Isaiah 16:9

I can’t wrap my mind around this passage. Or better yet my theology. The “I” in those sentences is the Lord. He is weeping over the destruction of these cities. That is what has me baffled at the complex emotions of the Lord.

Some would have no problem with this passage. “Of course God is weeping over these cities. He loves all people and when the devil destroys them, or the consequence of their sin catches up with them, the Lord cannot help but weep over them”. Isaiah 16:9 fits easily into this theology. One problem though…

Isaiah 16:10. “ have put an end to the shouting…”

The same “I” that is weeping is the same “I” that put an end to the shouting. Verse 10 does not cause me to scratch my head either. The sovereign Lord of the universe has every right to put an end to their shouting. They are prideful. He is--as verse 6 shows--insolent, arrogant, and engaging in idle boasting. I do not have a problem with the Lord judging Moab, and even doing so with at least some pleasure (like that of a mother watching the execution of the man that brutally raped and murdered her daughter).

What baffles me is the combination of these verses. It is even more prominent in the shift from verse 10 to verse 11. “I have put an end to the shouting. Therefore…” What would you expect here? The Lord has judged their pride and has put an end to their wrong-headed and ill-hearted mirth. I would expect something other than this: “Therefore my inner parts moan like a lyre for Moab…”

As I reflect on Isaiah 16 I find myself trying to unite these verses. I want to make sense of them and put them in a nice little box. It’s as if Isaiah 16 has given me a Scooby Doo mystery that inspires me to eat a massive sub sandwich and solve the riddle of the God who mourns over those He smites.

Then I realize that this is not a mystery to be unraveled. This is a God to be worshipped. He is just. He is loving. He is gracious. He provides shelter to those under His wrath (Isaiah 16:3-5), saying “come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest.” Yet, in their pride they never come. And He mourns as their shouts of joy cease because of His hand.

Not All There Is to Say

This would be my story if it were not for the “But God” in Ephesians 2. I responded and took the shelter that the prideful Moabites did not. Yet, I was just as prideful as they, if not more so! The only thing that drew me into the shelter house of grace was the Father’s election, which motivated the Spirit’s wooing, which drew me into the Son’s covering.

Isaiah 16 isn’t my story because sovereign grace is. I do not understand why the Lord does what He does. Nor do I pretend to even understand the complexities of a God that mourns the judgment that His hand doles out. But what I do know is that grace has captured me. And for that I am grateful.

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