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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. 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; for he says: “Are not my commanders all kings? Is not Calno like Carchemish? Is not Hamath like Arpad? Is not Samaria like Damascus? As my hand has reached to the kingdoms of the idols, whose carved images were greater than those of Jerusalem and Samaria, shall I not do to Jerusalem and her idols as I have done to Samaria and her images?” 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 10:5–12
This subject – predestination – has troubled human beings from the beginning. On the one hand, there appears to be an inevitableness about our lives and about what we come to believe. On the other hand, each individual does truly make many decisions between two or more courses of action in seemingly unrestrained, autonomous ways. 

Take a look at the extract in bold above from the national archives of Israel – of the Jews – preserved over the centuries before Jesus came and now incorporated into the Old Testament section of Christian Bibles. The extract describes a precise time immediately before 701BC when Jerusalem, the capital city of a tiny nation was besieged by Sennacherib, the leader of the mighty and ferocious Neo-Assyrian Empire. 

What is most interesting is that these words are the words of the LORD God told to and recorded by his prophet Isaiah who lived in Jerusalem at the time. The LORD God is forecasting “woe” – sorrow – to Assyria although Assyria is doing what the LORD God wants it to do, which is to show his anger towards “his people”. The LORD God states that his “fury” is the “staff” (the rod, as it were) in the hands of Assyria. He has sent Assyria against a “godless nation”. He has commanded Assyria to “take spoil and seize plunder”. 

That’s predestination. The LORD God has ordained it. But why, in that case, does the LORD God forecast “woe” to Assyria?
‘Stumbling blocks are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come.’ (Jesus Christ, c.AD 29)
The Lord God states his reasons. Sorrow is Assyria’s destiny because Assyria does not “intend” to do what the LORD God wants. In fact, it is “in the heart” of Assyria “to destroy and to cut off” “many nations”. Assyria is violently attempting to obtain and retain hegemony over the then known world. Assyria is exercising its free will for its own self-seeking purposes.

The LORD God “will punish the speech of the arrogant heart of Assyria”. But is that punishment correct when Assyria is actually doing what it was predestined to do? Well, yes, because Assyria’s deeds, when fulfilling the will of the LORD God are deeds motivated by all kinds of violent evil intent. 

Of course, Assyria was an Empire. What about an individual? During Easter time we’ve heard about Judas, the Jerusalem authorities and Pilate. All of them played their part in achieving what their hearts wanted – the elimination of Jesus. They were morally responsible. But they did what the LORD God had predestined.

Jesus’ death turned out to be the most wonderful thing that ever blessed this world. He became the atoning sacrifice for the sin and harmful intent and conduct of all who have or will put their trust in him. 

‘The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is given away.’ (Jesus Christ AD 30)
Fifty days after the resurrection, in AD 30 at Pentecost, Peter explained to the huge crowd in Jerusalem, “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth ….. — this one, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.” Yes, they deserved punishment. But…

When they asked, “What shall we do?” the reply was, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” 

Yes, predestination by the LORD God does take place. And, yes, all human beings are still responsible – now most of all if they exclude Jesus from themselves. They then exclude themselves from Jesus.

Sinner Syvret

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