Who is responsible for my pain?

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Isaiah 10: 12 When the Lord has finished all his work on Mount Zion and on Jerusalem, he will punish the arrogant boasting of the king of Assyria and his haughty pride. 13 For he says: “By the strength of my hand I have done it, and by my wisdom, for I have understanding; I have removed the boundaries of peoples, and have plundered their treasures; like a bull I have brought down those who sat on thrones.”

V.12 refers to God’s work in using the king of Assyria as an instrument to humble an unfaithful nation of Israel. Once that work is complete God then indicates he will humble the Assyrian king who believes he is winning these military battles as a result of his own brilliance rather than as an instrument of God.

The language of the text is future tense, meaning the events described have not yet happened. However, by the time Isaiah’s words were in circulation among the Jews the events had long passed. In essence, Isaiah is a means of understanding what happened to Israel long after its defeat at the hands of Assyria.

It’s human nature to want to understand the causes of our struggles. Who is responsible? Who is to blame? In this case the answer is clear. Israel suffered at the hands of God working through the armies of Assyria. The objective, of course, was not to wipe out Israel but to bring them to repentance and restored relationship with God.

In this theology, God is the one who brings both joy and pain among his people.

But there are other theological frames found in both the Old and New testaments. For instance Satan, the enemy of God, features prominently in the book of Genesis when tempting Adam and Eve to original sin. Or in the book of Job in which Satan brings calamity upon Job and his family, with God’s consent. In the New Testament gospel accounts Satan again shows up tempting Jesus, the new Adam, immediately after his baptism. Satan then works through Judas to betray Jesus. Later the apostle Paul describes encountering Satan working through people who oppose the gospel of Jesus.

But Satan is nowhere to be found in the writings of Isaiah, which I find interesting.

The truth is, it’s hard to know who is responsible for the struggles we experience in life. I suppose all three, God and Satan and ourselves, all play a role over a lifetime. And while I may not know for sure what or who is responsible for my pain at a given moment, I do know to whom I can turn. I turn to the Lord Jesus who promises to walk with me through my pain and see me to better days ahead. Lord, let it be so. Amen.

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