The Reading: Isaiah 44:24-45:2
“Thus says the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus,” (45:1) RSV
Cyrus is not a king of Israel, but the king of the Medes and Persians who conquered Babylon whilst the Jews were in exile there. Why speak of him? Because he is the only person in the Old Testament referred to as ‘Messiah’ – “Thus says the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus” (45:1). The word ‘anointed’ is ‘Messiah’ in Hebrew, and ‘Christ’ in Greek.
Cyrus was, like all the kings of the earth, under the sovereign control of Almighty God. Though he was in his own right a powerful and successful king, he was nevertheless at the disposal of the King of kings. God used Cyrus to capture Babylon from Belshazzar and the Babylonians, and to instigate a new policy for handling all the foreign nations that were held captive in that city and across the whole empire. The Israelites had been in exile for well nigh 70 years. God was now arranging for them to start returning to their own land, to Jerusalem, and to the rebuilding of their Temple.
Cyrus was to be God’s instrument of salvation. He used Cyrus to fulfil this purposes. That heathen king had no idea he was serving the God of Heaven. A possible modern day equivalent might be Mikhail Gorbachev. His policies of ‘perestroika’ and ‘glasnost’ brought about the liberation of many nationalities and races within the borders of the old USSR. They became free to return to their own countries.
God is not merely working through ‘Christians’ but has the world at his disposal. He will achieve his purposes whether people acknowledge him or not. God achieves so much through the people he has made, quite apart from the people he has saved. Let us give thanks that he has the whole world in his hands. Cyrus, strange as it might seems, is a type (example) of the Christ who was to come in the form of Jesus. He would set all people free in the deepest and most fulfilling ways.
Thank you Lord for your mighty power. You are indeed King of king and Lord of lords. Thank you that nothing is outside your control. You can handle all things; may I trust you. Amen.
1 What was happening the night before Cyrus conquered Babylon?
Daniel 5:1-6, 24-30
2 Consider ‘King of kings’ in the New Testament
1 Tim 6:15, Rev 17:14, 19:15-16