This is the fourth installment on Isaiah 9 from our friend Rod MacArthur. Be sure to read the previous articles, beginning here.
In this installment, Rod shares from Isaiah how God utilized the Assyrians to accomplish His divine purpose to judge the ten northern tribes for their apostasy. The significance of this is great for understanding God’s providence and history.
Assyria” as Yahweh’s agent
Isa. 105–6 shows Yahweh about to “spank” His people using Assyria.
Woe to Assyria, the rod of My anger
And the staff in whose hands is My indignation,
I send it against a godless nation
And commission it against the people of My fury
To capture booty and to seize plunder,
And to trample them down like mud in the streets.
It is as though Yahweh said: “I’m still angry with you; My hand is still stretched out against you, and in My hand is the nation of Assyria.” As we saw, Yahweh’s anger hadn’t been turned away since Israel hadn’t repented. So, Yahweh used Assyria as a rod in His hand to execute His indignation. Whatever Assyria was about to do to them; that was God’s indignation being poured out. God said, “I am the one sending him; he will do my will.”
Isa. 107 Assyria had different intentions.
Yet it does not so intend,
Nor does it plan so in its heart,
But rather it is its purpose to destroy
And to cut off many nations.
Assyria didn’t look to Yahweh for directions. The king didn’t volunteer to do Yahweh’s will. His thoughts upon arriving at Jerusalem were, “Who is Yahweh?” To him Yahweh was no better than any of the gods he had already vanquished. His was not going to be an obedient yielding to Yahweh’s commission. He would do it because it was his intent. He wanted to destroy and to cut off many nations and he wanted to reap the plunder of that destroying. Conflicting interests clash here—the interests of God on the one hand, and the interests of the Assyrian king on the other. In God’s case, it was His anger in punishing His nation; in Assyria’s case, it was his greed: land acquisition and material goods, to conquer and to plunder. Notice how Yahweh used the avarice of the king to accomplish His own intentions. He didn’t force him; but simply repurposed the king’s intent. In our next installment, we will examine God’s promises concerning “Zion.” This is exciting material!