Warriors and the Will of God

Posted under The Rectory Bulletin | Providence

Against a godless nation I send [Assyria], and against the people of my wrath I command him, to take spoil and seize plunder, and to tread them down like the mire of the streets. But he does not so intend, and his heart does not so think; but it is in his heart to destroy, and to cut off nations not a few … When the Lord has finished all his work on Mount Zion and on Jerusalem, he will punish the speech of the arrogant heart of the king of Assyria and the boastful look in his eyes. (Isaiah 10:6-7, 12)

That passage from Isaiah is notable most straightforward one, so perhaps we might pay it some attention for a short while. By this stage in the history of Israel, the kingdom has been split in two: ten tribes in the north; and two in the south. The northern kingdom soon descended into the worship of the gods of Canaan who had been worshipped in those lands in the past. It was not a happy story.

Throughout the Old Testament there is a strong relationship between the keeping of the Law given through Moses and the settlement of the Promised Land. Just before his death, Moses warned the people that if they turn to other gods, then they will lose the land. The only way to maintain life in the land is to obey the commandments of God, so Moses urges the people:

“Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the LORD your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.” (Deuteronomy 30:18)

But they didn’t, and so the land was to be taken from the northern ten tribes. How? By means of the marauding warriors of the Assyrian empire. The strategy of this superpower was to conquer a nation, and then resettle the population elsewhere in their empire. And that is what happened to the northern kingdom. The Assyrians did not think they were doing God’s will - “he does not so intend” - but that was in fact what was happening.

The Assyrians were the means being used, and they were acting according to their own desires: “it is in his heart to destroy, and to cut off nations”. This means that they bear the guilt of their actions, and so they will face punishment. Justice is done, both to the Assyrians and also to the northern tribes. Deep stuff, but as the old hymn has it: “God moves in a mysterious way His wonders to perform”.

What About Evil Deeds?

“this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.” (Acts 2:23) - Right at the end of Genesis Joseph is speaking with his brothers, those brothers who threw him into a pit and then sold him into slavery. The brothers were fearful that Joseph would take revenge, but he assured them: “as for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good” (Genesis 50:20). Never think God is absent in the face of evil. He is not.

God and Sin

Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death… Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. (James 1:13-17) - We do bear the consequences for our own actions, but God has also extended to us the offer of forgiveness. Rather than thinking we are good enough, better to see that Christ is entirely good and allow him to bear our sins for us. The cross is, after all, a sign of grace and mercy.

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