August 27, 2017
One issues that we are confronted with in Isaiah is that of God’s divine sovereignty in human affairs and our response to Him. Do you think it’s good news that God is sovereign over all human affairs? Why? Why not?
Let’s see how this plays out with God’s relationship to Assyria.
Read Isaiah 7:18-20 and Isaiah 10:5-19. Who brings the nation of Assyria against God’s people? What is God’s attitude towards Assyria once they have destroyed Israel?
God is using the Assyrians (as well as Babylon and Persia) to discipline His people. Remember that these nations were powerful and strong and liked to show off their strength. Read Isaiah 10:15 again. What does that tell you about the power behind the superpowers?
Assyria is like a club in God’s hands, but, it behaves as if it was self-swinging axe, evening thinking that it can control the hand, rather than the other way around. God is moving the nations for His purposes, even if they are not aware, but, they are still responsible for how they act. Assyria’s motivation isn’t to glorify God, but in increasing their power and they will be held accountable for all the pain and suffering they produce along the way.
Jump forward and read Ephesians 1:11. What does this tell us about God’s will?
All things are under God’s care and He influences all things for His purposes (Acts 17:28). Later, Assyria is mentioned again in Ezra 6:22. Have a read of that passage. How does God influence the King of Assyria this time?
Just because God is over all things does not mean that our decisions are any less real or significant. Our choices matter very much! And our choices bring about real result. God has made us in a wonderful way that we can will and choose. But, we will be held accountable for our decision before God, and God is aware and involved in all our decision making –just as Assyria found out in Isaiah.
Let’s briefly consider this in relation to Israel.
Read Isaiah 1:15-20 and Isaiah 4:4. Who is responsible for washing away the filth and sin of Israel?
In Isaiah 40, God comforts and restores Israel back to Himself. It’s not conditional on their turning back to God, but God does require a response from them. The following verses are spoken to God’s people after they have returned from exile for their unfaithfulness.
Read Isaiah 58:6-14. What are God’s people doing? What does God actually require of them? What will the result be?
Read Isaiah 59:1-2. What has separated them from God?
God has done all the work in bringing them back to Himself, but the people still haven’t got their act together. How they respond to God’s kindness, patience and mercy will have a bearing on how God responds to them. Because of God’s sovereignty, He acts according to His nature and will use even evil, sinful people to accomplish his purpose (Isaiah 45:7).
Read Romans 3:23. Who has sinned?
Because we all fall into the sinful basket, God will do whatever He wills to uphold His glory and bring about repentance, discipline His children or condemn sinners.
Let’s jump to Jonah to help understand this as we finish.
Read Jonah 1:15. Who threw Jonah into the sea?
Read Jonah 2:3. Who does Jonah say threw him into the sea?
At the same time, scripture declare that the men and God threw Jonah into the sea. God’s providence directed the sailors to do this, not against their will. But, God was bringing about His plans through the willing choices of real humans.
Read Acts 4:27-28. In this passage, the believers are praying to God. Who is responsible for the most horrific event in history – the crucifixion of Jesus?
Read Ephesians 1:4-7. What stands out to you in this passage?
It is though Jesus that God adopts us, with the full knowledge of who will be saved. How is it comforting to know that God works all things according to His will in Christ and how will this be a comfort to you in the coming week?