It was the worst thing that could happen to the nation of Judah. “The LORD will bring upon you and upon your people and upon your father’s house such days as have not come since the day that Ephraim departed from Judah – the king of Assyria!” (Isaiah 7:17, ESV)
I imagine the dread in Isaiah’s voice as he pronounced the words: “the king of Assyria!” The people shivered and their eyes grew large. There was nothing they could do to stop it (besides repent, perhaps, but that was out of the question for these folks).
God had decreed this would come to pass. The terrible king was but a small instrument in His hands: “In that day the LORD will shave with a razor that is hired beyond the river – the king of Assyria – the head and the hair of the feet, and it will sweep away the beard also.” (Isaiah 7:20, ESV)
And yet this king, carrying out the judgment that God had purposed, would himself be condemned: “Woe to Assyria, the rod of my anger; the staff in their hands is my fury! Against a godless nation I send him, 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.” (Isaiah 10:5-6, ESV, emphasis added).
Why would God pronounce woe on the king of Assyria if God was the One directing him?
Because “he [Assyria] 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.” (Isaiah 10:7, ESV)
It was not the king of Assyria’s intention to obey God. He carried out God’s will in spite of himself, and he went on to boast of his own great power (see Isaiah 10:8-19). Therefore, God destined him to utter destruction.
God will accomplish His purposes. There’s no question about that. The question is: will we go along willingly?
Esther was confronted with a similar situation. Her cousin Mordecai challenged her: “If you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish.” This was right before he delivered his famous line: “And who knows if you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14, ESV)
Esther’s response was to fast and pray. And then obey.
God is at work around you, too. Maybe He’s doing something in your job. Your marriage. Your parenting. Your church. Your community. Will you be a part of it, like Esther? Or will you be more like the king of Assyria – setting your heart against God’s purposes and watching Him carry them out anyway?
No doubt, Esther’s was the more difficult position. If you choose to obey, it won’t be comfortable. So respond like Esther: fast and pray.
And then obey.
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