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Does the ax raise itself above the person who swings it, or the saw boast against the one who uses it? As if a rod were to wield the person who lifts it up, or a club brandish the one who is not wood!
In the time of Isaiah, God used the king of Assyria to accomplish his purposes, executing divine judgment upon Israel. But the king didn’t recognize that he was being used by the Lord. Instead, he boasted of his power and accomplishments, as if he had done them himself: “By the strength of my hand I have done this, and by my wisdom because I have understanding” (10:13). Thus God judged the arrogance of the king of Assyria, asking if the ax, saw, rod, and club are greater than those who use them. The answers, of course, are “No. No. No. No.” The king of Assyria was not greater than the God of Israel. He was simply a tool in the Lord’s hands.
I’ll confess that sometimes I can be like the king of Assyria. I can let my pride in my accomplishments overwhelm my gratitude to God for working in me. I can think and act as if I am doing great things, rather than realizing that whatever I might accomplish is only by God’s grace and power. I need to remember, as Paul wrote to the Philippians, “I can do all this through him who gives me strength” (Phil 4:13).
Similarly, Ephesians 3:20 offers praise to God as the one “who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.” Thus, when we do good things, or even great things, we would do well to recognize that it is God at work through us. Thus we boast, not in ourselves, but in the Lord (see Jer 9:23-24). We give credit where credit is due . . . to God.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
Do you ever think about yourself as the king of Assyria thought about himself? When?
What helps you to remember God’s work in and through you?
What helps to keep you humble when you are successful?
Gracious God, no, the ax, saw, rod, and club are not greater than those who use them. Nor am I greater than you, the one who created me, saved me, gifted me, and continually empowers me for your work. Forgive me, dear Lord, for those times when I take undue pride in my accomplishments, neglecting to give you the credit and gratitude you deserve.
Help me, Lord, to live each day in consistent reliance upon you. May I be available to you at all times, so that you might use me for your purposes. And when this happens, may I give you the glory, delighting in the privilege and joy of being your tool. Amen.
Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online commentary: Understanding Life in Christ (Galatians 1:6–4:31)
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