Sackcloth for Grieving

Isaiah 15: 3-4. “In their streets they shall gird themselves with sackcloth: on the tops of their houses, and in their streets, every one shall howl, weeping abundantly. And Heshbon shall cry, and Elealeh: their voice shall be heard even unto Jahaz: therefore the armed soldiers of Moab shall cry out; his life shall be grievous unto him.”

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Sackcloth would be called burlap today. It was used primarily for making bags for such things as harvested grain. Rough and uncomfortable, there was no beauty in it. It was the practice, for someone who was grieving, to wear sackcloth to show the depth of sorrow.

The Moabites, after their utter defeat, would literally be crying in the streets and the housetops.

The cities mentioned in verse four were all part of the destruction, which was complete. No corner escaped the armies of Assyria.  In fact, the armed Moabite soldiers that survived would find life not worth living.  The shame of their defeat, and the hopelessness of their future, made their lives grievous to them.


Isaiah 15:1. “The burden of Moab. Because in the night Ar of Moab is laid waste, and brought to silence; because in the night Kir of Moab is laid waste, and brought to silence; He is gone up to Bajith, and to Dibon, the high places, to weep: Moab shall howl over Nebo, and over Medeba: on all their heads shall be baldness, and every beard cut off.

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Moab was defeated by the Assyrians about the 4th year of Hezekiah’s reign, and the prophecies of 15:1-9 and 16:6-14 were then fulfilled.

Ar was the chief city of Moab. As you can see, it was situated near the Arnon River. Kir, another large city, lay about six miles south of Ar. Bajith and Debon were places of worship and sacrifice to the gods of the Moabites.

Those who will mourn the destruction of Moab are those who survived the devastation created by the Assyrians.  Shaving one’s head and beard were signs of deep mourning.

Moab does not exist today as a country; rather, it is part of what we know as Jordan. Genesis 19: 37-38  is the account of Moab and Ammon, sons of Lot,  conceived in incest by his elder and younger daughters after the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.

God has Founded Zion

Isaiah 14:31-32. “Howl, O gate: cry, O city: thou, whole Palestina, art dissolved: for there shall come from the north a smoke, and none shall be alone to is appointed times. What shall one then answer the messengers of the nation?  That the Lord hath founded Zion, and the poor of His people shall trust in it.”

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Palestina is applied to the whole land of Canaan. In the Old Testament we heard a lot about the Philistines;  Palestina and Philistia are one and the same. The city in this verse could be Ashdod, the largest city of the Philistines, but there is nothing definitive to tell us which city Isaiah is warning.  It could be all the cities of Palestine that would be under siege.

From the north is a reference to the armies of Assyria that would destroy everything in their path. The smoke could refer to the burning of the villages along the way; it could also be the signal fires or torches that carry messages to other branches of the invading armies.  None shall be alone would be better translated as there will be no stragglers  in the invading armies; every soldier would be  joined with every other soldier in the destruction.

In  verse 32, the messengers of the nation(s) are those who come seeking safety; possibly, Jews from other nations. They will be told that there will be complete peace and safety for them in Zion, which has been founded by God Himself.

Both of these verses point to the time of the end, when Jesus will be the only world ruler, and all nations will be at peace.

Wisdom from God

My mother would have been nearly 92 today. Her birthday was May 16.  She was 87 when she went to heaven.

The temptation to write another eulogy to her today is strong, but I’ve done that before, more than once, so I think I’ll go somewhere else today.

I’ve been thinking about the biblical Eve.  Wondering how she learned to be a mother; wondering if Adam  and Eve came packaged with the instinct to be parents.

I’ve wondered especially how she dealt with the guilt she must have felt after eating that forbidden fruit and being expelled from their earthly paradise; and again, what must have been in her heart and mind when her first son killed her second son in a fit of jealousy and rage.

Surely she grieved the death of Abel, as any mother would grieve, I can only imagine her broken-hearted sobbing as they buried Abel, and waited to see what God would do with Cain.

There were no self-help books back then to guide her step-by-step through her process. There wasn’t a Bible. There weren’t any counselors with detailed training on grief and loss.  She had Adam. Even better, she had God.


We know she went on to have many more children. Some researchers, using biblical genealogy lists, estimate that Adam could have fathered at least 50 children, possibly more.  We don’t know if all of them were also Eve’s children, but we can be fairly certain that she mothered several more after Abel died.

So how did she do that? How did she go on, probably for at least a couple more hundred years, and provide the nurturing required of her?  As time passed and her children had children of their own,  how did she know what it was to be a grandmother? A great-grandmother?  She had no pattern set by her own mother or grandmother. No example to follow.

We have to remember that Eve, before she sinned, was the perfect woman. Unmatched in intellect, wisdom,  and a personal knowledge of God.

And right there is the answer to all my questions.  God did not remove Himself from relationship with Adam and Eve after they sinned. He did set boundaries that hadn’t existed until after they sinned, and the fellowship they had with Him changed. There were no more walks with God in the Garden in the cool of the evening.

There was, however, prayer. Direct-to-God, no mediator needed, heartfelt, seeking, sometimes desperate prayer. I believe both Adam and Eve were perhaps the best pray-ers who ever lived. After all, they had known God personally. Their experience with Him was unique, their understanding of Him different from all those who came after them. I believe that He taught her what she needed to know,  and/or guided her through the hard places when she didn’t know what to do.

Wisdom, after all, comes from God.  Then, now, and always.

James 1:5.”If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.”


This and That

My son and I were watching a movie the other night.  The male lead had just lost his wife to cancer. He and his three pre-teen children were in the early stages of grieving, adjusting to life without Mom.  His in-laws had come to stay for a few days, and  they had all kinds of ideas for him and the children. Things came to a head after mom-in-law rearranged his kitchen to suit her own ideas, and then announced that she and dad-in-law would be more than happy to move in “temporarily”  so that he wouldn’t have to worry about the children or the house.

By this time, the male lead (call him Brad) had been flooded with other well-meaning friends and neighbors who had overwhelmed him with chicken casseroles and apple pie. He was in shock from his wife’s sudden death. He was tired of pretending to be okay with the interference of his (well-meaning but misguided) in-laws.  He snapped. Told them NO!  They were not moving in. This conversation is over.

In the next scene, in-laws are loading up their car, feeling quite aggrieved and misunderstood.  Brad is trying to make up for his outburst. And finally the mother-in-law makes one of my most-dreaded comments.  She says, “But we were just trying to help!  Just trying to do what’s best for you and the children!”

I’ve written about this topic here, so I won’t rehash the whole thing.  Just two points:  ASK before you jump in to “help,”  and then LISTEN and follow your adult child’s wishes.  Also, consider that maybe you DON’T know what’s best for your adult children, and your “help” comes off as interference and condescension.


And please, don’t go rearranging your adult child’s kitchen or any other part of his house. It’s not your job. Really.  It’s not.

A quick mention of another topic entirely:  I’m only two payments away from finishing up my student loan, incurred in 1998 when I started working on my master’s degree so I could do private practice counseling.  I can’t tell you how happy I am to be so close to making that final payment!  I’ve been working at this job for nearly 16 years;  I’ll be 70 in July. Making that final payment will give me the freedom to choose whether  to continue or to retire.

I’ll probably continue, at least for a while or as long as my health will allow.  I can sock that money away into our retirement fund, and that would be very good.

And that’s about it for this morning.


Ahaz and Hezekiah

Isaiah 14: 28-30. “In the year that king Ahaz died was this burden.  Rejoice not thou, whole Palestina, because the rod of him that smote thee is broken: for out of the serpent’s root shall come forth a cockatrice, and his fruit shall be a fiery flying serpent. And the firstborn of the poor shall feed, and the needy shall lie down in safety: and I will kill thy root with famine, and he shall slay thy remnant.”

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In verse 28, the death of Ahaz is to be taken with what follow, not with what has preceded. This burden, or oracle.refers to the doom of Philistia (Palestina).  Hezekiah became king after Ahaz, and he completely defeated the Philistines (2 Kings 18:8).

The rod in v. 29 is the sceptre of David that had been broken by all that had happened in and against Judah, and over which the Philistines gloated. The cockatrice (basilisk) is Hezekiah. In mythology, a basilisk is a deathly poisonous reptile from which all other serpents will flee. If you’re interested, you can read quite a bit about this creature and see some rather fanciful pictures.  The point here is that Hezekiah regained the strength of his country, and Israel’s enemies ran away from his power.

The next verse is descriptive of the Millenial Kingdom, in which the poor and the needy will be satisfied.

God’s Purpose and Promise

Isaiah 14: 24-27. “The Lord of hosts hath sworn, saying, Surely as I have thought, so shall it come to pass: and as I have purposed, so shall it stand. That I will break the Assyrian in My land, and upon My mountains tread him under foot: then shall his yoke depart from off them, and his burden depart from off their shoulders. This is the purpose that is purposed upon the whole earth: and this is the hand that is stretched out upon all the nations. For the Lord of hosts hath purposed, and who shall disannul it? and His hand is stretched out, and who shall turn it back?”

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For a time, it will seem as if Antichrist has won. The whole earth, and particularly Israel, will feel the weight of his evil intent. There will will suffering and sorrow.

But God.  These two word do not appear in this passage, but the promise of His plan certainly does.  There will seem to be a terrible future under Antichrist’s heavy yoke, but God has a plan; He will win, and Antichrist will be broken, defeated forever. And no one will be able to stop God’s plan.  Not all the forces of evil that Antichrist controls, nor any other power, will have any semblance of victory when God says, “Enough!”