Please click on the above link to hear the audio sermon:
We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him said … Amen!
“Thus says the LORD to his anointed Cyrus…” That’s rather odd, who is Cyrus?… Why is God telling Isaiah that Cyrus is His anointed? … Isn’t anointing reserved for those who are God’s? Cyrus is a pagan from Persia. Quoting from the Chronological Study Bible; “In 559 BC Cyrus the Great became the ruler and founder of [a dynasty] of Persia which expanded quickly in all directions to become a world empire. … Cyrus ultimately conquered the Neo-Babylonian Empire …”1 The writer goes on to point out that those in the ancient world would ask “What God has empowered this Persian king, Cyrus?” Well ancient people had it right in the sense that God does empower us. They had it wrong in the sense of trying to figure out “what ‘god’”. Why … Ya, there’s only one God. Cyrus would have worshiped Marduk, Bel and/or Nebo. Did any of them give Cyrus what it took to conquer most of the known world? No! Why? It says right here in our reading in Isaiah; “Thus says the LORD to His anointed, To Cyrus, whose right hand I have held – to subdue nations before him … For Jacob [when we see that, we know Yahweh is talking about … Israel] My servant’s sake, and Israel My elect, I have called you by your name; I have named you, though you have not known Me. I am the LORD, and there is no other; There is no God besides Me… I form the light and create darkness, I make peace and create calamity; I, the LORD, do all these things.” (Isaiah 45: 1, 4-5, 7 NKJV) So for all those in the world who like to say; “Well my ‘god’”. Well that’s all it is, their ‘god’. Even in writing that’s twenty-five centuries old, I don’t hear any mumbling here, do you? Yahweh is clearly saying … I am the LORD, and there is no other and in the Hebrew I am, there is are all forms of the name that God told Moses what His Name is, what Jesus told the Jews who questioned Him, God’s Name is the great I AM and there is no other.
Sure we can make it up, we can live a life that is deluded and full of lies. We can make these little idols in our lives and call them “god”, rely on them, but as Yahweh speaks to Cyrus, He is telling us; “I am the LORD, and there is no other”. Scripture is God’s word to us and when He tells us who He is and what He does, that’s the way it is and we need to get over anything else we think or do about Him.
There is a cylinder, which is the form of writing that the people in the Middle East used at the time, dated 538 BC that announces that Marduk chose Cyrus to conquer the world.2 Well … NO! Have you seen that cylinder? I haven’t. It is one archaeological artifact that’s certainly interesting, but what writing from that period has survived from then until now that the entire world knows? The Bible, Holy Scripture, which says very clearly, “I am the LORD, and there is no other.” We know that from 2500 years ago until now, I’m pretty sure that what Marduk “says” today, doesn’t matter to anyone.
The Babylonians had originally conquered Israel and Judah. They deported the best and the brightest of Israel to Babylon and they abused the Israelites and had shown them no mercy. Israel may have been conquered by Babylon as a judgment on the Jewish people, but contrary to the thinking of the time, that did not give Babylon the right to abuse God’s chosen people, they were still God’s elect. It’s like with my little brother, I can pick on him, but no one else better try to pick on him. In Isaiah 47 God makes it very clear to the Babylonians what happens when they picked on Yahweh’s people: “I was angry with my people [Yahweh says in chap 47] I have profaned my inheritance, And given them into your hand. You showed them no mercy: For you have trusted in your wickedness; You have said, ‘No one sees me’; Your wisdom and your knowledge have warped you; And you have said in your heart, I am, and there is no one else besides me.’ Therefore evil shall come upon you; You shall not know from where it arises. And trouble shall fall upon you; You will not be able to put it off. And desolation shall come upon you suddenly,”…(Isaiah 47: 6, 10-11 NKJV) God is now going to use Cyrus to bring judgment on the Babylonians who have abused His people. Remember when God says: “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” (Rom 12:19) He’s making it very clear to the Babylonians that is the case and His vengeance, through Cyrus on behalf of His people, Israel, will not be pretty.
God tells us He’s a jealous God, well this is partly what it means, He can take us out behind the woodshed and let us have what-for, but He’s not going to stand by while we are being abused by the world. We are His, and He expects us to trust in Him, to put our faith in Him, the faith that He give us. When we fail to do that, when we sin, when we make ourselves, our own idol, He is going to discipline us. That’s a good thing, do you really want God to just stand by and watch you sink into sin, to fall away from Him and be swallowed up by the world? Would a Holy, faithful, loving father do that? No! So He will resort to discipline to get our attention, to get our focus back on Him and away from a violent and cursed world. He may use people like Nebuchadnezzar and Cyrus to impose that discipline, does that mean He loves us less? No, it means He loves us enough to do what it takes to keep us in His will and not lost in the world’s.
God uses many trials and enemies to focus on Him. In the movie God’s Not Dead there is a twenty-something young lady who is right on the top of her game. She has built a big-media following, she is on the go, interviewing the movers and shakers of entertainment, her boyfriend is a wealthy and powerful financier, the sky’s the limit and then one day she goes in for a medical exam. “You have cancer, the doctor tells her and you may not live.” Her response: “I don’t have time for cancer.” I’m not going to tell you how that plays out, you have to come and see the movie, but she was her own idol, it was all about her and how she had created her own world. God forces His way into that world and tells her, that it’s all about Him, not about her. She may have done all these things in her life, but at some point there will be a day of reckoning and she will have to surrender to the fact that it is all about God. We will all have that time of reckoning. For her that time was when she was told she had cancer. You can be in denial of these things, you can run your own game. But in the end God makes it very clear to all of us, that we will have to turn to Him. We may still resist, but it will be a done deal and God will have His way, just as He did with a king, Cyrus, who did not know Him and a people, Israel, who rejected Him.
Rev Dr Dale Meyer in his “Meyer Minute” for October 17 talks about how God can use the result of our sin to bless and benefit many generations. We certainly watch with concern the events surrounding the Ebola virus. We forget that there have been many serious diseases that have spread through our country. Only about 60 years ago, polio spread through the United States. Dr Meyer writes about a cholera epidemic that swept through St Louis in 1849. “The epidemic was devastating to Johann Friedrich Buenger, an immigrant and Lutheran pastor.” His first wife died in the epidemic and their three sons had died in infancy before the epidemic. He remarried and had four daughters with his second wife, two who died in infancy. He was led by God to establish the Lutheran Hospital in 1853, from which the Lutheran Foundation of St Louis, Lutheran Senior Services and Lutheran Family and Children’s services now serve thousands.3
Ebola is not of God, war and abuse are not of God, cholera is not of God and a king in the Middle East 2,500 years ago may not know God. All the evil in the world is the result of man’s sin, yours, mine, the whole world’s. We certainly don’t like it, we are certainly going to have fear about it, but as those who are saved in Christ, we trust that our fear is rapidly turned into faith. Not because of what we do, but because through the sacrifice of Jesus, we are saved, we know how the story ends, for the world, and for us individually. Remember our reading from a few weeks ago: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Rom 8:28 ESV) God will unleash evil on those, like the Babylonians, who were evil, we who are saved in Jesus, who are made holy in His sacrifice, we will also deal with evil, but out of that God will use it according to His purpose. As Dr Meyer notes: “the love of Christ motivates God’s people to meet human need and God multiplies the blessings.” How is that agape love that we have from Jesus motivating you? You trust that God is just and will repay those, like the Babylonians, who abuse His people. Since we are freed from the hate and bitterness of the world, we go on to the things of God. He guides His Israel, us, back to our promised land and by doing so enables us to serve Him and all of His creation. How can you trust that God is protecting you? You don’t have to fuss about the evil that’s going on around you, and because you are free from that, what do you do in order to serve those in the world to the glory of our God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Shalom and Amin.