by Rev Hilda Warwick
Here in chapter 16, we find a series of laments, expressions of grief and a petition for asylum. Moab is hoping to find protection in the anointed Davidic king’s shadow, not however guaranteed .The text looks beyond the present crisis and speaks of a time when love and faithfulness will prevail. Moab is sending a gift (v1 Send lambs) in an effort to secure help from Judah against the devastator. The term fluttering birds and scattered nestlings suggests a displaced, desperate people .This is followed by a petition for counsel, justice and protection, not a plea for military aid.
The structures of life in Moab have collapsed and they are now braced for destruction. The vision sees beyond the present crisis to a time when Moab is no more. Anticipated, is a throne established in steadfast love and faithfulness.
Love is the distinctive word, suggesting steadfast commitment that one person shows to another. Faithfulness, embraces human constancy, stability and sincerity, characteristics of God’s kingdom of righteousness and justice.
In verse 6, the reason for calamity is explained, the nation’s pride, in its greatness and achievements, have obscured the real majesty that belongs to God alone .Verse 6-13, warns Moab, there can be no cheap grace. They have to face the falsity of their pride, the reality of their suffering and the failure of their religion.
There is an invitation to share the nations grief in v16 “Therefore, let Moab wail, let everyone wail with Moab” On what grounds? The splendour and prosperity that Moab once knew is over. The harvest has failed and the ominous silence of failure, dismay and death remain. War will bring about such grief. Indeed loss is a familiar place for all of us and grief will seek ways to be expressed both individually and in community.
What follows is a theme of radical reversal, but not for Moab. Here the indictment is that it serves a god that cannot save. Israel however is not interested in attributing blame, but now shares the grief of a surrounding nation that has hit rock bottom. Moab will cease to become a formidable presence. This is the voice of Judah observing a neighbour relentless in their pain. It is a place of deep listening and compassion, in spite of the nation’s failures.
However we also notice that the reference to God in the text, makes the verdict solemn and beyond challenge. A reminder that we too serve a God of faithfulness, mercy yet also justice. An invitation to trust His goodness and faithfulness in desperate times
I wonder in what ways, we too can share the stories of grief in our world, as a people who offer hope in the midst of suffering?
Prayer – Heavenly Father, may you give us the grace to be listeners on a deeper level to the voices of grief, bringing compassion and hope.