By Rev. Hilda Warwick
Welcome, to our thought for the week as we journey through Isaiah 15.
Here we are exploring a journey of grief, a genuine lament, a place of deep sorrow. Israel’s prophet weeps over the suffering of Moab. In their hour of need there is hope for justice and protection, but it also marks the end of their proud independence, as the community as it was is dismantled.
This is a thoughtful commentary on other parts of God’s world, beyond Israel.
The language and the imagery is a powerful reminder of the intensity of grief felt and expressed in a community that is suffering. Grief needs expression and it will find a way to be heard, and here is no different.
The terms weep, wail and cry, all speak of a place of deep sorrow. Scenes of grief are everywhere, in the streets, on the housetops, in the square. The grass is withered, the new growth fails. And notice this is a very public expression of grief in community. There are times when a community will and must grieve together .All signs of Moab’s defeat. However the people of Israel are called to show mercy and steadfast love, predicting an end to the oppression and the establishment of steadfast love, faithfulness, justice and righteousness. Here the reference to steadfast love, mutual trust, mercy and love are associated with faithfulness, loyalty and devotion, the cement that holds families, other relationships and the community together.
Here is a picture of a community giving full expression to its grief. However we notice something else. War produces refugees. Here there is a picture of fugitives, fleeing in fear of their lives. The poet already knows long before us that war works havoc on the environment. So that war refugees are left utterly without resources. This is a major, irreversible, displacement of people who have no destination. The grief and horror of flight are intensified in a vivid betrayal. But this is not the end and the text makes it clear that there is worse to come. The invitation in this passage is to grieve over the suffering of Moab. Indeed it reflects, the common response of compassion towards the world that is suffering, a response that cuts through national and ethnic boundaries. It’s a natural human, response to the devastation of war. Here is described people’s reaction to such an event, shock, grief and distress. Yet far from offering light at the end of this passage there is the solemn reality that there is still more suffering to come and the writer tells us that God is the initiator, but we are not told why. We must not try and give quick answers to things in our lives and the lives of others that we do not fully understand. Let us receive an invitation to listen more deeply, to God, others and ourselves.
How do we respond to those in our world, who are truly without hope? How do we come with the grace, mercy and forgiveness of God, the hope of salvation and the Truth of redemption? We must first acknowledge that all is not as it should be. The world is suffering and our first response might be just to listen, to wait and to walk alongside. Compassion is a word that speaks not just of empathy, deep listening, but action.
Prayer – Heavenly Father, move us with Your compassion. Help us to listen deeply to the stories of grief in our world and in some small way to be instruments of compassion and hope.