A Tale of Two Sanctuaries

Isaiah 15:1-16:14

Moabites, descended from Lot, Abraham’s nephew, in conflict with Jews off and on for generations. Moabite king, Balak, hired Balaam to curse Israelites; frequent border skirmishes during time of Judges; Ruth, King David’s great-grandmother from Moab. Moabites known as “people of Chemosh”, the national god of Moab who required human sacrifices in times of great distress. Moab had done much to provoke the Holy One of Israel. Had harassed his people, desecrated places of worship of Yahweh, had countless opportunities to see and hear about the goodness of Israel’s God, yet angrily rejected him.

God’s patience finally ended, drew line in sand, told Moabites through Isaiah in precisely three years only tiny Moabite remnant would be left. Moab given a warning of impending devastation, where would they go to find refuge? Given a choice, in which sanctuary would they trust?


A. Sanctuary visited15:1-9

judgment begun v.1

Isaiah announced time of trouble was coming: two major Moabite cities would be devastated and destroyed with little warning.

sanctuary visited, aid sought v.2-4

destruction caused great sorrow and mourning among Moabites; showed their grief by shaving heads, trimming off beards, wearing sackcloth. Obviously in great distress: on housetops, in streets, weeping and wailing and crying out in anguish. They went up to the high places to weep also, places established to worship Chemosh and offer sacrifice.

Some of what they believed was right – turning to God in hard times is a good thing – Americans did that in large numbers after 9-11. Important to seek help from God who can actually do someting – Moabites picked the wrong god and the wrong sanctuary. Just like during tsunami, wrong choice would be deadly.

judgment continues v.5-9

Obviously Moab made a wrong choice – devastation continued and got even worse. Conditions were harsh enough that refugees tried to leave the country. Not just invading army that causes casualties, starvation threatens as crops fail for lack of water.

B. Sanctuary offered16:1-5

here’s what to do, what to say

Situation seemed hopeless: total devastation, few survivors, nothing to eat, nowhere to go or hide. Yet God through Isaiah graciously provides step-by-step instructions to Moabite people:

sacrifice a lamb, not your son v.1

humbly submit to authority of king in Judah; in so doing, show willingness to follow God of that king. Indicate genuineness of commitment by sending a lamb that can be sacrificed.

go in this direction v.2-3

refugees are wandering aimlessly; it’s time to find a place of true refuge, a suitable sanctuary. Don’t stand there at the Arnon fords, cross over to where it will be safe.

find shelter in true sanctuary v.4

destruction will eventually come to an end; meanwhile, God directs his people the Jews to provide shelter for Moabite refugees who will listen to him – “Let my refugees stay with you; be a refuge for Moab from the aggressor.”HCSB

find mercy from the real Lamb, my son v.5

the one from David’s family who rules in righteousness and truth on an eternal throne will grant mercy to those who seek him. He can only be found in the sanctuary God establishes and no other.

C. Sanctuary rejected16:6-8

Talk about a winning proposition! Where to go, what to do, what to say, what to expect from a gracious God – how can you beat that? Why would you not act on it? BTW, God’s offer of refuge in the Lord Jesus still available.

boasting in the wrong god v.6

Because unregenerate man with his sin-addled mind is convinced he knows more than God, knows what he needs and where to find it. Moabites continued to boast in Chemosh, oblivious that their idol, false god, could accomplish nothing.

complete devastation results v.7-8

since Moabites proudly rejected God’s offer of sanctuary, nothing would stop God’s plan for complete devastation. God would bring about justice, real consequences for rejecting not only God’s offer of grace but rejecting God himself.

D. Savior sorrowing16:9-11

sincere weeping v.9

Boy, God is mean and nasty to treat foolish people that way!? Really? SeeEze. 33:11Say to them, As I live, declares the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?”

sympathy with the sorrowing v.10-11

see alsoIsa. 15:5– “My heart cries out because of Moab’s plight”NET

Isaiah speaking as God’s mouth says his heart cries out (15:5), he weeps (16:9) and laments with his inmost being (16:11). Just as harp vibrates sympathetically with sound from another instrument, so God’s heart would vibrate in sympathy with Moab’s distress, His heart cries out for the fugitives fleeing His judgment.

E. Sanctuary failed16:12-14

final resort to false god v.12

One more time – Moabites wear themselves out pleading and praying to Chemosh, make the enemy stop, make him go away, but God says “it will do him no good”.

ends in total failure v.13-14

all that will remain of Moab is an insignificant remnant; in spite of their boastful claims, only shameful disgrace. With no excuse for not following the true God, all Moab trusted in for security will be destroyed.

Two questions before us today – Where will you seek sanctuary? Where will you direct others seeking sanctuary?

Everyone must at some point answer – To whom will you trust the rest of your life and future of your soul? Will you, like Moab, attend the church of your own choice and worship the god of your own choosing, and ultimately be destroyed by the tidal wave of God’s justice? Or will you, like the insignificant Moabite remnant, bring your sacrifice of praise to the true God and throw yourself on his mercy?

When you see friend, neighbor, loved one trusting in wrong sanctuary, will you take this position:

I have a reputation worldwide of being tolerant of all people and their views,” Robert Schuller told the Orange County Register. “I’m too well-educated to criticize a certain religion or group of people for what they believe in. It’s called freedom.” (http://www.firstthings.com/blogs/firstthoughts/2011/03/17/neuhaus-law-and-the-crystal-cathedral/)

Or will you on basis of God’s word and with weeping heart gently try to help them understand that trusting in anything or anyone other than Lord Jesus leads to certain death. Gracious promise spoken by Lord Jesus, still open today:

John 6:35-37And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.But I said to you that you have seen Me and yet do not believe.All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.”




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