We should bend our knee to the Almighty, yet often we judge God: we only want God’s intervention and control in situations which are not going our ways. In his wisdom, though, God selectively intervenes with both wrath and grace to steer us toward eternity…
5 “Woe to the Assyrian, the rod of my anger,
in whose hand is the club of my wrath!
6 I send him against a godless nation,
I dispatch him against a people who anger me,
to seize loot and snatch plunder,
and to trample them down like mud in the streets.
7 But this is not what he intends,
this is not what he has in mind;
his purpose is to destroy,
to put an end to many nations.
12 When the Lord has finished all his work against Mount Zion and Jerusalem, he will say, “I will punish the king of Assyria for the willful pride of his heart and the haughty look in his eyes. 13 For he says:
“‘By the strength of my hand I have done this,
and by my wisdom, because I have understanding.
I removed the boundaries of nations,
I plundered their treasures;
like a mighty one I subdued their kings.
15 Does the ax raise itself above the person who swings it,
or the saw boast against the one who uses it?
Isaiah 10:5-7, 12, 15
17 For Scripture says to Pharaoh: “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.
22 What if God, although choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction? 23 What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory…
Romans 9:17-18, 22-23
We see into the window of God’s power today: in his sovereign, almighty power, the Lord works in the lives of his children using whatever resources he pleases, including the pagan nations who do not acknowledge him. In doing so, God demonstrates, truly, that the earth is the Lord’s and everything in it (Psalm 24:1).
Recall that in the story of Ezra, we see God turn the heart of King Cyrus of Persia to issue a proclamation in accordance with God’s will. Recall that even though Pharaoh of Egypt had no interest in showing mercy to Moses and the people of Israel, God hardened Pharoah’s heart even further to accomplish his own will.
Sometimes we stumble on this teaching, and we wonder how God could turn around and punish Assyria or Pharaoh (which he did) for their actions. If God caused their actions, why would they be held accountable?
We see the answer in the story of the Assyrians in Isaiah 10. God dispatched Assyria (vs 6). There is no question about God’s role in sending them upon his own people. Yet, the Assyrians intended even worse purposes than God. God desired the discipline of his children through looting, plundering, and trampling (vs 6) – Assyria intended to destroy and put an end to many nations (vs 7).
Assyria’s own consequences from God relate to their willful pride and blatant sin (vs 12). The ax of Assyria was formed and ready for use, which is on the Assyrians themselves. God stepped in and became the holder of that ax, swinging it only as high and as hard as his divine will purposed.
Again, we may have human difficulty with both understanding and accepting God’s ways. We might ask, why didn’t God stop the Assyrians altogether and create peace in the middle east if he is so powerful? Notice, though, that we only want God’s intervention and control in situations which are not going our ways.
When it comes to areas in which we desire freedom, we cherish and expect the free will God grants in the design and function of our world.
We see that God has set this world in motion with complete free will for humanity, yet we also see that God occasionally intervenes toward his ultimate plan and purpose, which Romans 9 tells us is “to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory.”
God’s ultimate plan is redemption from the destination to which our free wills would take us. We are steering toward eternity.
God will continue to step in and out to preserve, always, a remnant of his people for that day; and we should bend our knee to the Almighty and powerful God who is both wrathful on those who reject him and merciful toward those who would accept him…