God’s ways are higher than ours, Isaiah 55:8-9 tells us, and there is much we do not understand about them. But some scriptures “pull back the curtain” just a bit and give us some insight into how God works. Isaiah 10 is one of those passages. In it we find two important, and balancing, Biblical doctrines: the Sovereignty of God, and the Responsibility of Man.
Isaiah 10 describes how God is using the nation of Assyria to judge His people who have rebelled against Him. He calls the Assyrian army “the rod of My anger … I send it against a godless nation.” (:5-6) So God is using the Assyrians as part of His purpose, to judge Israel.
It is notable that the Assyrians do not intend to be used by God. The Lord makes this clear in :7, “Yet it does not so intend, nor does it plan so in its heart, but rather its purpose is to destroy …”. (:7) The Assyrians don’t realize that they are God’s instruments — most of them likely do not even know of Yahweh, the God of Israel — but they ARE His instruments nonetheless! God is sovereign over everything in the universe, and He uses even infidel nations in His purposes.
But balancing the sovereignty of God is the responsibility of man. If God is using the Assyrians as part of His plan, does this absolve them of guilt for their deeds? Not at all. They are choosing their own course of action, and they are accountable to God for it. The Lord makes this clear in verse 5: “WOE to Assyria, the rod of My anger …”. He goes on to say in :12 “I will punish the fruit of the arrogant heart of the King of Assyria …”. So although the Assyrians are being used by God, they are still accountable to Him for their own actions and choices.
The same thing is true for each of us. We are all part of a world which is moving forward according to the plan and purpose of God. He is sovereign over it all. Perhaps in our generation we will see His final purposes for the world unfold, culminating in the return of Christ. But of immediate concern to each of us should be our own personal responsibility before God. Although we are each part of God’s ultimate plan for the world as it moves forward, we need to realize that we are still personally accountable to Him for every choice we make, and everything we do.