As we go through the Book of the Prophet Isaiah at Mass this week, we read of Israel’s painful purifications as well as the subsequent punishment of the surrounding nations.
God permitted the nations to persecute Israelin order that she be purified, but the iniquity and sin of the nations and of this world cannot go on forever; wickedness must be ended. The Lord did not just purify Israel, He will also judge the nations.
In a complex passage, God says (through Isaiah) that although He had used Assyria as a tool to purify Israel, Assyria would not escape punishment for her iniquity. Here is an excerpt:
Woe to Assyria! My rod in anger, my staff in wrath. Against an impious nation [Israel] I send him, and against a people under my wrath I order him to seize plunder, carry off loot …. But this is not what he intends, nor does he have this in mind; Rather, it is in his heart to destroy …. [And] he says: “By my own power I have done it, and by my wisdom, for I am shrewd. I have moved the boundaries of peoples ….” Will the axe boast against him who hews with it? Will the saw exalt itself above him who wields it? As if a rod could sway him who lifts it …. Therefore, the Lord, the LORD of hosts, will send among his fat ones leanness, and instead of his glory there will be kindling like the kindling of fire (Isaiah 10:5-16).
Although God wielded Assyria like an axe to prune Israel, that did not make the axe good. The axe must be refined as in fire.
What do stories like these have to say to us today? Quite a bit, especially if we interpret Israel as an image for the Church and the nations around us today as akin to Assyria and Babylon.
Read more at Archdiocese of Washington.