God Uses Cyrus
Two hundred years before Cyrus is born Isaiah writes this prophecy. God calls by name the deliverer of His people from the coming captivity of Babylon. Cyrus was anointed by God to fulfill God’s work. Cyrus was a pagan king but God poured out His Spirit upon him to bless and deliver His people. “There is a precedent for the divine anointing of a non-Israelite king, though in one passage only (1Kings19:15-16). Although the living God normally employed Israelites for such purposes, he is sovereign and may use whom he will.” (Grogan) “These things Cyrus knew from reading the book of prophecy which Isaiah had left behind two hundred and ten years earlier.” (Josephus)
Like many of us today we can look back upon our life and see the hand of the Lord guiding and leading us through. Cyrus could look back upon his life and see how the Lord had guided him the entire time. Cyrus was able to subdue the nations before him and lose the armor of kings. His military career was very remarkable.
The Mede and Persian armies, which Cyrus ruled conquered the city of Babylon in a stunning raid in the book of Daniel chapter 5. “According to the ancient historian Herodotus, while King Belshazzar of Babylon held a reckless party, Cyrus conquered the city by diverting the flow of the Euphrates into a nearby swamp; thus lowering the level of the river so his troops could march through the water and under the river-gates. But they still would not have been able to enter, had not the bronze gates of the inner walls been left inexplicably unlocked. God opened the gates of the city of Babylon for Cyrus, and put it in writing 200 years before it happened!” “In October 539 BC, Cyrus advanced into lower Mesopotamia and, leaving Babylon till last, conquered and occupied the surrounding territory. Seeing which way the wind was blowing, Nabonidus of Babylon deserted his city, leaving it in the charge of his son Belshazzar . . . the taking of Babylon was as bloodless and effortless as Daniel 6 implies.” (Motyer)
During the night Cyrus conquered Babylon and took their treasures. Cyrus may not have known that the Lord had given him the city of Babylon, Cyrus may have thought himself to be brilliant. Often times when we receive the blessing and grace of God we never realize His hand in the conquest. “When Cyrus conquered Asia, he found thirty-four thousand pounds weight of gold, besides golden vessels and articles in gold.” (Pliny)
God gave this prophecy to Isaiah 200 hundred years so that Cyrus would know and glorify God. The Lord did this so that Cyrus would show kindness to His people and allow them to return to the Promised Land. (Ezra 1:2; 2 Chronicles 36:23)
Cyrus would have liked to think that God picked him because he was the most talented and strongest King available. But Cyrus was not the focus of God it was the condition and the cry of His people. God delivered them for their sake. “That all these victories were for the sake of little Israel is one of the ironies of God’s control of history.” (Grogan) “Cyrus is preferred in order that Israel might be released. Cyrus shall have a kingdom, but only in order that God’s people may have their liberty. The Lord raises up one, and He puts down another. Behind all the drama of human events today there is a God who is planning for His church – through affliction and persecution, chastening and tribulation – to be perfected and prepared to inherit the Kingdom of God.” (Redpath)
Cyrus did not know the God of Israel yet the Lord anointed him, He guided him, blessed him, and used him. How much more the Lord could do with one who had faith in Him. “The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the LORD; He turns it wherever He wishes.” (Proverbs 21:1)
Ezra tells of how Cyrus made a proclamation that the people of God could return to the Promised Land. By this Cyrus acknowledge to the whole world the greatness of the Lord God. “Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he sent a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and also put it in writing, saying: “Thus says Cyrus king of Persia, ‘The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and He has appointed me to build Him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. ‘Whoever there is among you of all His people, may his God be with him! Let him go up to Jerusalem which is in Judah and rebuild the house of the LORD, the God of Israel; He is the God who is in Jerusalem.” (Ezra 1:1-3)
As Isaiah knew Cyrus would know and he would declare to the whole world, as we should know today, that God is in control. Isaiah announces the captivity of God’s people 2oo hundred years prior so that the people could take comfort from his words. The people would not know that God is in control. The point that Isaiah is making is that there are not two Gods but one. This is contrary to what the Persians believed. “Cyrus was a Persian, and Persian had a dualistic concept of God and the world. Their good god they called Ahura-mazda and the evil god Angra-mainya. The former had created the light, the second the darkness.” (Bultema)
God has no equal and no opposite. Satan is not God’s opposite, he is a fallen angel. God did not create evil, evil is a twist of the original truth. God allows evil to exist to be used to accomplish His purposes. God’s purpose is to bring all things together in Jesus. (Ephesians 3:8-11; Ephesians 1:9-10) “Undoubtedly the Lord is no representative of evil as such, but He does make use of evil so that it may bring forth good.” (Calvin) It is easy to believe that God is in control when God does miraculous things but when the trials of life bear down upon us we need to believe even more that God is in control.
God’s Supreme Power
God not only can cause the heavens to pour down the rains but also He can open the heavens to pour down righteousness. God can bring His blessings from every direction, it can come down from the sky and it can come up from the earth. Righteousness and salvation always spring forth together. When God brings a life righteousness He also brings salvation to that .life. Righteousness and salvation spring up together. God created the physical natural world and He created the spiritual world.
God is at the center of all things and we should be hesitant to oppose Him in any way. It would be as foolish as the clay questioning the one who forms it as to what they are making. If our Creator has made us, then He can break us. If God created us, then He knows what is best for us. It is foolish to oppose our Creator as we are obligated to Him for our existence. “The idea is quite commonly held that the Jews murmured about God’s decree that a heathen would deliver them and that these words are a rebuke.” (Bultema) It is even more foolish for the creature to question the Creators ability to create.
An unborn child has no say in the pro-creative activities of their father. Likewise, it is foolish for us to accuse and question God over how He created us. We all have our strengths and weaknesses, we have our triumphs and challenges. We need to accept what we are before God and look to His redeeming and transforming power to conform us to the image of His Son Jesus Christ. (Romans 8:29)
Throughout this section of Isaiah God emphasizes that He is the Creator and this is not an option for us, it is not a matter of description in some textbooks or left for human courts to decide. If man rejects God as his Creator then he has rejected the God of the Scriptures and serves a false god of his own making. The Lord God did create the heavens and the earth and that is the very matter of man’s existence. “In the Old Testament, the Creator is not only the One who began everything, but also the One who maintains everything in existence, controls, and guides everything.” (Motyer)
The God of creation, the God of all power uses His power on behalf of His people. And God now in this prophecy of Isaiah will direct His deliverer Cyrus and cause him to rebuild Jerusalem and free God’s people. Cyrus will do it not for his glory but out of his conviction from God that he must do it. (Ezra 1:1-3)
The nation of Israel will be led away in captivity but one day will be supreme among the other nations. Israel will lead the other nations as the Lord directs them to. The other nations submitting to Israel is not for their benefit but for the God of Israel. Isaiah now pours out a flood of praise exalting God declaring the confidence that he has in God.
God does not hide from the repenting sinner as Paul would later write. “Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Timothy 1:17) “When he sees how God for many centuries hides His face from Israel, he cries out these words, overcome by rapture and emotion. The LORD hides Himself from Israel during the times of the Gentiles (Isaiah 18:4; Isaiah 40:27; Isaiah 49:14; Hose 3:3-5) . . . So it is clear that we may not apply these words to a seeking sinner. From such God does not hide Himself. But when in the last days Israel will seek Him, she will find Him.” (Bultema)
Isaiah’s repetition pounds the truth into us that God is our Creator and all have obligation to Him as their Creator. God does not create in vain but creates that His creation might be inhabited. That God did not create in vain is the basis for a speculative doctrine called the “Gap Theory.” This theory is based on a comparison between Isaiah 45:18 and Genesis 1:2. “The earth was formless and void.” We read in verse 18 that God did not create in vain. The Hebrew word for void and vain holds the same meaning in both verses. The idea is that the earth was under satanic attack and suffered ages of desolation, which explains the fossil remains that predate the history in the Bible. According to the Gap Theory God re-created the earth which was made void by Satan.
The Gap Theory is a bit of a stretch as the use of to’hoo for vain and bo’hoo for formless and empty does not follow the correct Hebrew grammar. The more natural way to translate is “the earth was without form and void” instead of the earth became without form. The Gap Theory itself may be used as an explanation of the extinct fossils found in the fossil record. They came and went between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2. Also, the Scripture plainly teaches that death came by the sin of Adam. (Romans 5:12) Fossils come as a result of death and could not have come before Adam’s fall into temptation. “We wish only to state that this text alone is not sufficient proof for it. In any case, it is clear that the ultimate purpose of the earth is not to be void but to be inhabited by converted Israel and the converted nations.” (Bultema)
Always it is an error in thought to think that God would ever say that one who seeks Him seeks in vain. When a soul seeks the Lord with all their heart they will find Him. “You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13) The writer of Hebrews concurs with this passage. “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6) The Lord God declares His own greatness, His faithfulness, and His saving power, this is contrasted against he foolish idols of the nations. Their idols must be carried instead of being able to carry the ones who worship them.
God knows the end from the beginning. “Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things which have not been done, Saying, ‘My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure.” (Isaiah 46:10) Therefore when Isaiah speaks the prophecy of God it is already history to Him. This proves who God is, as the idols of the nation’s cannot speak of the events to come.
God is a just God and yet He also is our Savior. This alone shows us His amazing power, wisdom, and the love of God. It may seem impossible for a just God to also be a God that can save. Justice demands that sinners be punished for their sins against a just God. God fulfilled the demand of justice for all of mankind upon the cross so that He could also be our Savior. Paul makes this point in his letter to the Roman Church. “For the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” (Romans 3:26)
This verse in passage opens with the simple powerful plan of salvation from God. All one need do is look to the Lord to find salvation. There are many books on theology which attempt to show man the paths to take to reach God but the Holy Spirit only needs four letters to tell us what to do, “look.” It is a simple and basic thing for a man to do in all his life is to look to the Lord. “Trust in the LORD with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6) Yet it can be the most difficult thing to do in our daily lives here in this world.
The focus of our salvation is to look to God and never to ourselves. Neither can we find our salvation in anything else of man. “Look unto ME, is His Word, which means looking away from the church because that will save nobody; away from the preacher because he can disappoint and disillusion you; away from all outward form and ceremony. You must look off from all this to the throne and there, in your heart, see the risen, reigning Lord Jesus Christ.” (Redpath)
“Look to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth.” This shows God’s love for His salvation, “Look to Me.” We can see the assurance of His salvation, “and be saved.” And we see the extent of God’s saving love, “all you ends of the earth!”
In the book of Numbers chapter 21, we see the people stricken by deadly snake bites. Moses lifted up the image of a bronze serpent on a pole and the people who looked to it lived. The people were saved from the snake bites by doing nothing but looking to the bronze serpent. It may have seemed as a foolish thing to trust in but those who looked were saved and those who did not perished. All we need do is look to God to find our salvation.
Many believe they can earn their salvation, it is a matter of their own pride. But all God commands us to do is trust Him and look to Him to find our salvation. “Wherever I am, however far off, it just says ‘Look!’ It does not say I am to see; it only says ‘Look!’ If we look at a thing in the dark we cannot see it, but we have done what we were told. So if a sinner only looks to Jesus, he will save him; for Jesus in the dark is as good as Jesus in the light, and Jesus, when you cannot see him, is as good as Jesus when you can. It is only ‘look!’ ‘Ah!’ says one, ‘I have been trying to see Jesus this year, but I have not seen him.’ It does not say see him, but ‘look unto him!’“ (Spurgeon)
For there is but one God and there is no other. This is reason enough that it is to the Lord that we must look and to Him alone. Only the Lord Almighty is God. The religious institutions of the earth are not God. The Church of Jesus Christ is not God. The Pastor of the Church is not God. The brothers and sisters of the Church body are not God. We do not look to any of these, we look to God and God alone.
I hear so many swear by their mother’s grave, by their grandchildren, and by many other things of this world. When they swear they swear a pledge upon their lives to stand by what they are saying. When God swears an oath He swears upon Himself. He swears upon His Holy name and by His righteous character. There is no greater truth in all creation than the Creator. As we read in Hebrews. “For when God made the promise to Abraham, since He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself.” (Hebrews 6:13)
The day will come when every knee will bow and every tongue will confess God’s greatness and majesty. “So that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:10-11)
Isaiah closes this chapter with the declaration of every believer. Righteousness and strength are found in the Lord. Righteousness and strength are not found within ourselves or found anywhere else. Only in the Lord will all the descendants of Israel be justified and glorified