“But I am very angry with the nations who are at ease; for while I was only a little angry, they furthered the disaster.”
To a Calvinist, Zechariah 1:15 is just a “Revealed Will, and that by a “Secret Will, God absolutely furthered what He says that the Babylonian's furthered. But why would Calvinists want to believe that God is lying?
The people heard through Habakkuk say that God was sending the Babylonians. (Habakkuk 1:5-6) This is also true of Jeremiah as well. So God is not denying sending the Babylonians, but God is denying the Babylonian’s excessive cruelty. So God is making a reassurance to the people, but if Calvinism is true, then the biggest scandal is not that God actually did decree every last bit of their cruelty, but that He’s lying about it. Sometimes the lie is worse than the crime. See Richard Nixon for example.
One member of The Society of Evangelical Arminians comments: “God punishes them for the way they carried out his will to punish Israel, that they did it with pride and cruelty.” (SEA)
In the book of Habakkuk, the prophet complains to God that injustice fills the land, but He sits idly by: “How long, O LORD, must I call for help? But you do not listen! ‘Violence!’ I cry, but you do not come to save. Must I forever see this sin and misery all around me? Wherever I look, I see destruction and violence. I am surrounded by people who love to argue and fight. The law has become paralyzed and useless, and there is no justice given in the courts. The wicked far outnumber the righteous, and justice is perverted with bribes and trickery.” (Habakkuk 1:2-4, TLB) But God was paying attention and nothing had escaped His notice. As a result, God decreed the punishment of Judah by turning them over to the Babylonians: “The LORD replied, ‘Look at the nations and be amazed! Watch and be astounded at what I will do! For I am doing something in your own day, something you wouldn’t believe even if someone told you about it. I am raising up the Babylonians to be a new power on the world scene. They are a cruel and violent nation who will march across the world and conquer it. They are notorious for their cruelty. They do as they like, and no one can stop them.” (Habakkuk 1:5-7, TLB)
Jerry Falwell comments: “Assyria and Babylon did not realize that they were raised up by God to be His instruments for punishing His people (cf. the message of Habakkuk) and that the greatness and benefits they enjoyed were not indications of His blessing upon them. They were not consciously serving God. They did what they did because of their own greed; hence, God will hold them accountable for their deeds and will judge them (cf. Isa 10; Hab 1:5-2:20).” (Liberty Bible Commentary, p.1799, emphasis mine)
Calvinism teaches that God doesn’t just permit sin, and the free exercise thereof, within specified boundaries, but actually unconditionally decrees sin, for those who are not yet born, and without any basis in real foreknowledge. (Acts 2:23) Moreover, decreeing it to be acted out by secondary causes, would not excuse the primary agent, no more than hiring a hit-man alleviates their employer from culpability. In fact, the employer of the crime is often the one who receives the greater sentence. Therefore, Calvinism’s blind decrees would in no way provide a defense for the “Author of Sin” charge.
Calvinist, Erwin Lutzer, writes: “The Bible nowhere attempts to defend God’s reputation as we are often inclined to do. When God wanted to punish Israel by using the armies of a wicked power, he did not evade responsibility by distinguishing between what he permits and what he ordains.” (The Doctrines That Divide, p.210, emphasis mine)
Calvinist, J. Vernon McGee, comments: “‘I was but a little displeased,’ that is, God’s chastisement was intended for a brief period, but the nations of the world wanted her annihilation.” (Thru the Bible: Zechariah, p.21, emphasis mine)
It’s more than just what Babylon “wanted,” but what actually happened. They “furthered the disaster,” which did occur, and which God did not decree.
John Calvin writes: “We also note that we should consider the creation of the world so that we may realize that everything is subject to God and ruled by his will and that when the world has done what it may, nothing happens other than what God decrees.” (Acts: Calvin, The Crossway Classic Commentaries, p.66, emphasis mine)
Consider King Zedekiah of Judah for a moment. He was the last king of Judah, and God had sent the prophet, Jeremiah, to warn him about the impending decree of the Babylonian invasion. But the king refused to listen to Jeremiah, as God foretold: “‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, “Behold, I am about to bring on this city and all its towns the entire calamity that I have declared against it, because they have stiffened their necks so as not to heed My words.”’” (Jeremiah 19:15) In Calvinistic thought, this really means that it was God who had stiffened their necks in order to arrive at the desired, predetermine outcome. However, God is not the monster that Calvinism makes Him out to be. This is because, in its finality, God still had compassion for the rebellious king, and gave Jeremiah this loving message of warning: “‘Thus says the LORD God of hosts, the God of Israel, “If you will indeed go out to the officers of the king of Babylon, then you will live, this city will not be burned with fire, and you and your household will survive. But if you will not go out to the officers of the king of Babylon, then this city will be given over to the hand of the Chaldeans; and they will burn it with fire, and you yourself will not escape from their hand.”’ Then King Zedekiah said to Jeremiah, ‘I dread the Jews who have gone over to the Chaldeans, for they may give me over into their hand and they will abuse me.’ But Jeremiah said, ‘They will not give you over. Please obey the LORD in what I am saying to you, that it may go well with you and you may live. ‘But if you keep refusing to go out, this is the word which the LORD has shown me: “Then behold, all of the women who have been left in the palace of the king of Judah are going to be brought out to the officers of the king of Babylon; and those women will say, ‘Your close friends Have misled and overpowered you; While your feet were sunk in the mire, They turned back.’ ‘They will also bring out all your wives and your sons to the Chaldeans, and you yourself will not escape from their hand, but will be seized by the hand of the king of Babylon, and this city will be burned with fire.’” (Jeremiah 38:17-23)
But the king did not obey the word of the Lord. Eventually, king Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon breached Jerusalem, and Zedekiah did not surrender, as Jeremiah begged, but fled and was captured: “They seized him and brought him up to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon at Riblah in the land of Hamath, and he passed sentence on him. Then the king of Babylon slew the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes at Riblah; the king of Babylon also slew all the nobles of Judah. He then blinded Zedekiah’s eyes and bound him in fetters of bronze to bring him to Babylon. The Chaldeans also burned with fire the king’s palace and the houses of the people, and they broke down the walls of Jerusalem.” (Jeremiah 39:5-8)
So did God ordain the murder of Zedekiah’s sons, or did God merely permit it, due to the rebelliousness of their father, king Zedekiah? God knew what would happen, and lovingly warned him through Jeremiah, who also had compassion for him, but God did not force Zedekiah to repent. God does not force anyone to repent. Jesus knocks. (Revelation 3:20) God lovingly warns us of the peril of hell that awaits the unrepentant. Indeed, God is not the monster that Calvinism makes Him out to be.