My son, Joshua, is 6. He's in first grade and he LOVES learning. Most particularly, he LOVES learning about history. A portion of our daily school day this year is devoted to ancient history. Several months ago we studied Cyrus the Great, King of Persia. We learned the story of his childhood. How his grandfather, King Astyges dreamed that Cyrus would overthrow him and therefore ordered Harpagus, his chief advisor to have him killed. Harpagus didn't quite follow orders fully and passed Cyrus off to a shepherd ordering him to do his dirty work. The shepherd and his wife had no children of their own, so they took Cyrus in and raised him as their son. Cyrus grew to be a mighty man - tall and strong - and eventually took the kingdom away from his grandfather.
Providence directed the path of Cyrus the child. The baby sentenced to death was spared through amazing events. The poor shepherd's adopted son became the great ruler of all Media and Persia. Satan may wish to squelch and squash those whom God intends to use as instruments of redeeming mercy, but God's sovereign hand will always prevail.
So, here I am this morning in Isaiah 45 and Cyrus' name appears on the pages of God's Word. Interestingly, these words were most likely written around 683 B.C. Cyrus became king in 559 B.C. and Babylon fell to the Persians in 539 B.C. That means that this prophecy of Cyrus, the annointed who would free Israel from Babylonian captivity, is written 144 years before it occurred. God's Word can be trusted!
God did great things for Cyrus. Isaiah says that God took him "by the right hand to subdue nations before him, and to loose the loins of kings; to open doors before him so that gates will not be shut." God declares through the prophet's lips that He "will go before you and make the rough places smooth; I will shatter the doors of bronze, and cut through their iron bars." If you've ever read much ancient history, you know that this is so. Cyrus was a mighty warrior. He "subdued nations." He conquered Media and Asia Minor and ruled all of the land between Asia Minor and the Indus River. Great cities willingly surrendered themselves into his hand simply because of his reputation. Truly in his conquering they opened "doors before him so that gates will not be shut."
His was an enormous empire for his day. He ruled a great kingdom and yet, he wanted to add Babylon to his conquests. That's just what he did in 539 B.C. It is interesting that Isaiah writes "I will shatter the doors of bronze, and cut through their iron bars." I was just reading an account of Herodotus from a book in our local library and it reports that the city of Babylon had "100 gates all of bronze and posts and hooks made of the same metal."
Cyrus was powerful. Cyrus was rich. Cyrus was "the man"! Why? "In order that you may know that it is I, the LORD the God of Israel who calls you by your name. For the sake of Jacob My servant, and Israel My chosen one, I have called you by your name; I have given you a title of honor, though you have not known Me."
Israel was in Babylon by the disciplining decree of their God. Through this Babylonina captivity, He was reproving them for their sin and driving them to repentance. The rod and reproof had done their duty and now it was time for their bonds to be loosed. Cyrus was to be the looser!
Matthew Henry says: "Though Cyrus knew not God, God bespoke him for His shepherd. He called him by his name, Cyrus, and called him his anointed. And why did God do all this for Cyrus? Not for Cyrus's sake, whether he was a man of virtue or not is questioned. Xenophon, when he would describe the heroic virtues of an excellent prince, made use of Cyrus's name, but other historians represent him as haughty, cruel, and bloodthirsty. The reason why God preferred him was for Jacob's his servant's sake. Cyrus was to serve as a type of Christ, victorious over principalities and powers, entrusted with unsearchable riches, for the use of the benefit of God's servants."
This is just what Cyrus did. When Cyrus took over Babylon he also took over Canaan and as their king he sent Israel back to the promised land, helped them rebuild the temple, and allowed them to once again worship their God. Absolute Providence!
God is working in and through all the affairs of history - past, present, and future. Even the greatest figures in world history - like Cyrus the Great - are instruments in the hands of our Redeemer. What current events, that will soon be historical events, frighten me this day? The God who ruled and reigned over His people in 539 BC is the same God who rules and reigns over me in 2009 AD.
World history and my history are His story and as a King who loves His subjects He is working all things "for the sake of Jacob My servant, and Israel My chosen one."
A safe servant,