Series: Thru the Bible
Message: Cyrus the Great, Deliverer of Israel
Cyrus the Great, Deliverer of Israel
Last week God predicted the deliverance of Israel from their Babylonian captors 200 years before they are even captured by them. This week we will see God even naming the pagan king God will use to bring about that deliverance. It is significant that God actually gives his name 200 years before he was even born!
At first, one would think that Isaiah is prophesying of Messiah to come, and some elements do in fact have some spill over, but it becomes clear not too far into chapter 45 that this is a pagan king.
This pagan king is none other than King Cyrus the Great, leader of the Medo Persian Empire – also known as the Achaemenid Empire. He was the Empire’s founder in 550 BC and under his leadership (and God given favor) he established the worlds first superpower.
Regarding him Josephus tells us that Cyrus knew of this prophecy of Isaiah when he says, “These things Cyrus knew from reading the book of prophecy which Isaiah had left behind two hundred and ten years earlier.” (Josephus, Antiquities XI, 5 [i.2])
God’s blessing over Cyrus was not limited to delivering Israel from Babylon, but it WAS in order that the power he wielded might be known to all was from the God of Israel.
Xenophon, a Greek military leader, philosopher and historian born in Athens less than 100 years later tells of the scope of Cyrus’ conquering…
“Cyrus subdued, the Syrians, Assyrians, Arabians, Cappodcians, Phrygians, the Lydians, Carians, Phoenicians, Babylonians, the Bactrians, Indians, Cilicians, Sacians, Paphloagonians, Maryandines, and many other nations. He also had a dominion over the Asiatics, Greeks, Cyprians, Egyptians . . . He vanquished, saith Herodotus, whatever country soever he invaded.”
“(1) This is what the LORD says to his chosen one, to Cyrus, whose right hand I hold in order to subdue nations before him, and disarm kings, to open doors before him, so gates remain unclosed:
(2) “I will go before you and level mountains. Bronze doors I will shatter and iron bars I will hack through. (3) I will give you hidden treasures, riches stashed away in secret places, so you may recognize that I am the LORD, the One Who calls you by name, the God of Israel.
(4) For the sake of my servant Jacob, Israel, My chosen one, I call you by name and give you a title of respect, even though you do not submit to Me.
(5) I am the LORD, I have no peer, there is no God but Me. I arm you for battle, even though you do not recognize Me.
(6) I do this so people will recognize from east to west that there is no God but Me; I am the LORD, I have no peer.
(7) I am the One Who forms light and creates darkness; the One Who brings about peace and creates calamity. I am the LORD, Who accomplishes all these things.”
This verse has troubled many over the years and not without cause. I too once was bothered by its implications, but as we ought to expect there is more to it than a surface reading would reveal.
As far as God creating darkness – that is not a problem, for if it exists, it has a creator and the only Creator is God.
Darkness in scripture has MANY meanings. It of course means natural darkness as in the absence of light. It also can mean disorder, or even judgment. In this passage the context is and focus is the exploits of this king who would bring God’s judgment in the form of destruction and calamity to the nations who were to be conquered. THESE were God’s doing!
So it is consistent with the context to see darkness as representing judgment and light as representing deliverance.
The same is generally true in this context for peace and calamity – though some translations such as the KJV render the word calamity as evil – which has God as creating evil. Now this is a difficulty because I just said if something exists, God created it but things such as rebellion, sin & evil are exceptions. These are not entities unto themselves but distortions or twistings of things God DID create.
There is another verse in a few chapters which says something which on the surface is even more troubling. Isaiah 54:15-17 says,
“(15) If anyone dares to challenge you, it will not be My doing! Whoever tries to challenge you will be defeated.
(16) Look, I create the craftsman, who fans the coals into a fire and forges a weapon. I create the destroyer so he might devastate.
(17) No weapon forged to be used against you will succeed; you will refute everyone who tries to accuse you. This is what the LORD will do for his servants – I will vindicate them,” says the LORD.”
The idea seems to be this – God is talking about those who rise up against Israel both the blacksmith who forges weapons and the devastator (or warrior) who employs him are both designed and created by God. But the weaponsmith and the warrior who uses their God given skills to rise up against you were not being sent by God, and they need not fear them, for the One Who created them also is sovereign over them. Whatever they attempt to do against Israel will not prosper.
So it is in this passage only in the reverse. God is the One Who is bringing about both the peace for Israel and the calamity of these pagan nations. He is the One Who is bringing deliverance (light) and judgment (darkness).
Though the word for calamity CAN in the right context be translated as evil, like the KJV translated it, such is not always its meaning. Even in Amos 6:3, the Day of the Lord’s judgment on the whole earth is called the “evil day”.
Are we to understand that any day of God is inherently evil? No, of course not!
Even the Great tribulation, with all of its terrors, calamities and destruction is actually a day of purity – for in it God is judging or separating evil from His world!
This same word takes on the aspect of something disagreeable, unwholesome, or harmful.
Used as a noun, the word indicates realities that are inherently evil, wicked, or bad, people of wickedness, as well as calamities, failures, and miseries. All of these are connotations of this word when it is used as a noun.
That in this place it is indicating calamity and deliverance becomes clear in the next verse…
“(8) O sky, rain down from above! Let the clouds send down showers of deliverance! Let the earth absorb it so salvation may grow, and deliverance may sprout up along with it.
I, the LORD, create it. (9) One who argues with his Creator is in grave danger, one who is like a mere shard among the other shards on the ground! The clay should not say to the potter, “What in the world are you doing? Your work lacks skill!”
(10) Danger awaits one who says to his father, “What in the world are you fathering?” and to his mother, “What in the world are you bringing forth?”
“(11) This is what the LORD says, the Holy One of Israel, the One Who formed him [Cyrus], concerning things to come: “How dare you question Me about My children! How dare you tell Me what to do with the work of My Own hands!
(12) I made the earth; I created the people who live on it. It was Me – My hands stretched out the sky. I give orders to all the heavenly lights. (13) It is Me – I stir him up and commission him; I will make all his ways level. He will rebuild My city; he will send My exiled people home, but not for a price or a bribe,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.
(14) This is what the LORD says: “The profit of Egypt and the revenue of Ethiopia, along with the Sabeans, those tall men, will be brought to you and become yours. They will walk behind you, coming along in chains. They will bow down to you and pray to you: ‘Truly God is with you; He has no peer; there is no other God!’”
Isaiah makes comment…
(15) Yes, you are a God Who keeps hidden, O God of Israel, deliverer! (16) They will all be ashamed and embarrassed; those who fashion idols will all be humiliated.
(17) Israel will be delivered once and for all by the LORD; you will never again be ashamed or humiliated.
(18) For this is what the LORD says, the One Who created the sky – He is the true God, the One Who formed the earth and made it; He established it, He did not create it without order, He formed it to be inhabited – “I am the LORD, I have no peer.”
Now immediately you may call to mind that Genesis 1:2 says the world was without form and void. That is the same word used here. This is not a contradiction. In Genesis 1 it clearly states the condition of the world when God called it out of nothing and began His creative work. Isaiah is here describing the intention and end result of that creative work which was order, with a view to making earth a place habitable by man and animal.
You may remember WAY BACK when we started our trek ‘Thru the Bible’ when we covered that most amazing of chapters, it used the words evening and morning to describe each single day. At the time I drew attention to the fact that God’s days always started in the evening and ended just at dusk the next day. Those words evening and morning have deep meaning which go way beyond the simple use we give them in our everyday life. They also mean chaos and order. It is as if God started each day creating all the things He needed to do His work and then assembled them in a meaningful order until sunrise began to reveal His intentions with what He had created. Two words are used over and over in Genesis 1 – create and made. One means to call into existence out of nothing and the other means to mold, fashion and shape what was created into something useful and meaningful.
I illustrated this by using a baker as an example. A cake chief will often gather around them all the things they need in order to make their cake, but as those ingredients are strewn across their prep station it doesn’t bear much resemblance to the end result. It is just a somewhat chaotic assemblage of ingredients which have to be worked with and fashioned into the final result. Though a crude example, it nonetheless is a decent representation of what God did from evening to morning in Genesis 1. So Isaiah here is referencing what God’s intentions and results were in creating – not the creating process in itself. God’s intent was to turn what was created into parts of a whole which would work together to make the earth habitable for mankind and beast.
“(19) I have not spoken in secret, in some hidden place. I did not tell Jacob’s descendants, ‘Seek Me in vain!’ I am the LORD, the One Who speaks honestly, Who makes reliable announcements.
(20) Gather together and come! Approach together, you refugees from the nations! Those who carry wooden idols know nothing, those who pray to a god that cannot deliver. (21) Tell me! Present the evidence! Let them consult with one another! Who predicted this in the past? Who announced it beforehand? Was it not I, the LORD? I have no peer, there is no God but Me, a God Who vindicates and delivers; there is none but Me.
(22) Turn to Me so you can be delivered, all you who live in the earth’s remote regions! For I am God, and I have no peer. (23) I solemnly make this oath – what I say is true and reliable:
‘Surely every knee will bow to Me, every tongue will solemnly affirm; (24) they will say about Me, “Yes, the LORD is a powerful deliverer.”’”
All who are angry at Him will cower before Him. (25) All the descendants of Israel will be vindicated by the LORD and will boast in Him.”
“(1) Bel kneels down, Nebo bends low. Their images weigh down animals and beasts. Your heavy images are burdensome to tired animals. (2) Together they bend low and kneel down; they are unable to rescue the images; they themselves head off into captivity.”
In Guzik’s commentary he points out how even in pagan cultures it was customary to incorporate a deities name into one’s own name.
He says, “The names of the pagan gods Bel and Nebo are familiar to us in the names Belshazzar and Nebuchadnezzar.”
Grogan says, “In chapter 45 Isaiah declared that every knee will bow to the Lord, and here he pictures the gods of the great Babylon stooping low in humiliation.”
(3) “Listen to me, O family of Jacob, all you who are left from the family of Israel, you who have been carried from birth, you who have been supported from the time you left the womb.
(4) Even when you are old, I will take care of you, even when you have gray hair, I will carry you. I made you and I will support you; I will carry you and rescue you.
(5) To whom can you compare and liken Me? Tell Me whom you think I resemble, so we can be compared!
(6) Those who empty out gold from a purse and weigh out silver on the scale hire a metalsmith, who makes it into a god. They then bow down and worship it.
(7) They put it on their shoulder and carry it; they put it in its place and it just stands there; it does not move from its place. Even when someone cries out to it, it does not reply; it does not deliver him from his distress.
(8) Remember this, so you can be brave! Think about it, you rebels! (9) Remember what I accomplished in antiquity! Truly I am God, I have no peer; I am God, and there is none like Me, (10) Who announces the end from the beginning and reveals beforehand what has not yet occurred, Who says,
‘My plan will be realized, I will accomplish what I desire,’
Here we see a confirmation of something I have been teaching you from the beginning of our trek ‘Thru the Bible’ and perhaps even further back than that. It is a solid truth which is 100% necessary to understand God and what He says and does.
There is a difference between what God simply desires and what He requires. What He wants and what He MUST accomplish.
Though I do not know that I can be dogmatic about this so please hear this with a grain of salt, but I think if it were completely studied out – those things which are within God’s PLANS and therefore WILL BE ACCOMPLISHED are things which are inexorably tied to His person, His character and the mutual honor and respect the Godhead has for each other. Whereas, God’s desires, though they come from His heart and are therefore part of Who He is, are not always fulfilled because they often brush up against man’s freewill.
Relationship with man is one of the things God deeply desires, and it is something He will not have to do without, for though by comparison they are few, the righteous do exist. However, God desires ALL MEN to come to Him. To embrace the truth and be enveloped in light and life, but these things require relationship and relationship requires free choice.
So my theory is that the purposes and plans of God will always be accomplished because they are tethered to His person, His honor, His character and therefore are unalterable. His desires on the other hand, will not always be realized.
In the verses above it uses both words, but it is clear in the development of the message that the desires He will see accomplished are those directly tied to His plans and purposes.
“(11) Who summons an eagle from the east, from a distant land, one who carries out My plan. Yes, I have decreed, yes, I will bring it to pass; I have formulated a plan, yes, I will carry it out. (12) Listen to Me, you stubborn people, you who distance yourself from doing what is right.
(13) I am bringing My deliverance near, it is not far away; I am bringing My salvation near, it does not wait. I will save Zion; I will adorn Israel with My splendor.”
“(1) Fall down! Sit in the dirt, O virgin daughter Babylon! Sit on the ground, not on a throne, O daughter of the Babylonians!
Indeed, you will no longer be called delicate and pampered. (2) Pick up millstones and grind flour! Remove your veil, strip off your skirt, expose your legs, cross the streams!
(3) Let your naked body be exposed! Your shame will be on display!”
Just because it is mentioned here I will draw attention to the connection scripture makes between nakedness and shame. It is not that nakedness itself is wrong or something which should evoke embarrassment if in the presence of our mate for whom our nakedness was created. However, to expose those parts of ourselves which were intended for intimacy to strangers is a shame. You will find that God connects shame with the Glory of His presence lifting off of a person or people.
Thank God that all who come to Him in faith and obedience will never again be ashamed, for the Lord Himself covers them!
“I will get revenge; I will not have pity on anyone,” (4) says our Protector – the LORD of Heaven’s Armies is His name, the Holy One of Israel.
(5) “Sit silently! Go to a hiding place, O daughter of the Babylonians! Indeed, you will no longer be called ‘Queen of kingdoms.’”
Here we see what I have described and pointed out to you several times in scripture. God judges His people and hands them over to their enemies. He gives their enemies power and jurisdiction over them. However, when these same people misuse and abuse their authority – mistreating His people, God uses this and incorporates it into their punishment, but He also takes notes and will replay the pagan nation for their cruelty when He delivers His people from their hand.
“(6) I was angry at My people; I defiled My special possession and handed them over to you. You showed them no mercy; you even placed a very heavy burden on old people.
(7) You said, ‘I will rule forever as permanent queen!’ You did not think about these things; you did not consider how it would turn out.
(8) So now, listen to this, O one who lives so lavishly, who lives securely, who says to herself, ‘I am unique! No one can compare to me! I will never have to live as a widow; I will never lose my children.’ (9) Both of these will come upon you suddenly, in one day! You will lose your children and be widowed. You will be overwhelmed by these tragedies, despite your many incantations and your numerous amulets.
(10) You were complacent in your evil deeds; you thought,
‘No one sees me.’
Your self-professed wisdom and knowledge lead you astray, when you say, ‘I am unique! No one can compare to me!’
(11) Disaster will overtake you; you will not know how to charm it away. Destruction will fall on you; you will not be able to appease it. Calamity will strike you suddenly, before you recognize it.
(12) Persist in trusting your amulets and your many incantations, which you have faithfully recited since your youth! Maybe you will be successful – maybe you will scare away disaster.
(13) You are tired out from listening to so much advice. Let them take their stand – the ones who see omens in the sky, who gaze at the stars, who make monthly predictions – let them rescue you from the disaster that is about to overtake you!
(14) Look, they are like straw, which the fire burns up; they cannot rescue themselves from the heat of the flames. There are no coals to warm them, no firelight to enjoy. (15) They will disappoint you, those you have so faithfully dealt with since your youth. Each strays off in his own direction, leaving no one to rescue you.”
“(1) Listen to this, O family of Jacob, you who are called by the name ‘Israel,’ and are descended from Judah, who take oaths in the name of the LORD, and invoke the God of Israel – but not in an honest and just manner.
(2) Indeed, they live in the holy city; they trust in the God of Israel, Whose name is the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.
(3) “I announced events beforehand, I issued the decrees and made the predictions; suddenly I acted and they came to pass.
(4) I did this because I know how stubborn you are. Your neck muscles are like iron and your forehead like bronze.
(5) I announced them to you beforehand; before they happened, I predicted them for you, so you could never say, ‘My image did these things, my idol, my cast image, decreed them.’
(6) You have heard; now look at all the evidence! Will you not admit that what I say is true?
From this point on I am announcing to you new events that are previously unrevealed and you do not know about. (7) Now they come into being, not in the past; before today you did not hear about them, so you could not say, ‘Yes, I know about them.’ (8) You did not hear, you do not know, you were not told beforehand.
For I know that you are very deceitful; you were labeled a rebel from birth. (9) For the sake of My reputation I hold back My anger; for the sake of My prestige I restrain Myself from destroying you.
(10) Look, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have purified you in the furnace of misery. (11) For My sake alone I will act, for how can I allow My name to be defiled?
I will not share My glory with anyone else!”
These are SUCH key verses. They illustrate for us what I mentioned just earlier. God carries out His plans and purposes which are directly attached to His character, honor and name.
He does this NOT because He is conceited or arrogant or self-willed. He does this because it is RIGHT, it is Just! It is WRONG for the creature to exalt itself against its Creator.
For God to do nothing would be to agree with their sin and in that way, participate in it with them. Also, the Godhead does this as well to honor each other. The Father will only allow mankind to defame the Son so long. His mercy does not require full retribution immediately, but gives room for repentance so that He can be kind and restore. However, this will NOT last forever and THAT is appropriate!
“(12) Listen to me, O Jacob, Israel, whom I summoned! I am the One; I am present at the very beginning and at the very end.
(13) Yes, My hand founded the earth; My right hand spread out the sky. I summon them; they stand together.
(14) All of you, gather together and listen!
Who among them announced these things?
The LORD’s ally will carry out His desire against Babylon; he will exert his power against the Babylonians. (15) I, I have spoken – yes, I have summoned him; I lead him and he will succeed.
(16) Approach Me! Listen to this!
From the very first I have not spoken in secret; when it happens, I am there.”
So now, the Sovereign LORD has sent me, accompanied by His Spirit. (17) This is what the LORD, your protector, says, the Holy One of Israel:
“I am the LORD your God, Who teaches you how to succeed, Who leads you in the way you should go.
(18) If only you had obeyed My commandments, prosperity would have flowed to you like a river, deliverance would have come to you like the waves of the sea.
(19) Your descendants would have been as numerous as sand, and your children like its granules. Their name would not have been cut off and eliminated from My presence.
(20) Leave Babylon! Flee from the Babylonians! Announce it with a shout of joy! Make this known! Proclaim it throughout the earth! Say,
‘The LORD protects his servant Jacob.
(21) They do not thirst as He leads them through dry regions; He makes water flow out of a rock for them; He splits open a rock and water flows out.’ (22) There will be no prosperity for the wicked,” says the LORD.”
This next chapter is a clear reference to Messiah Jesus, but also likely has some application to Isaiah as God’s mouthpiece as well.
“(1) Listen to Me, you coastlands! Pay attention, you people who live far away!
The LORD summoned me from birth;He commissioned me when my mother brought me into the world.
(2) He made my mouth like a sharp sword, He hid me in the hollow of His hand; He made me like a sharpened arrow, He hid me in His quiver.
(3) He said to me, “You are my servant, Israel, through whom I will reveal My splendor.”
(4) But I thought, “I have worked in vain; I have expended my energy for absolutely nothing.” But the LORD will vindicate Me; My God will reward me.
(5) So now the LORD says, the One Who formed me from birth to be His servant – He did this to restore Jacob to Himself, so that Israel might be gathered to Him; and I will be honored in the LORD’s sight, for my God is my source of strength – (6) He says,
“Is it too insignificant a task for you to be My servant, to reestablish the tribes of Jacob, and restore the remnant of Israel?
I will make you a light to the nations, so you can bring My deliverance to the remote regions of the earth.”
(7) This is what the LORD, the protector of Israel, their Holy One, says to the one who is despised and rejected by nations, a servant of rulers:
“Kings will see and rise in respect, princes will bow down, because of the faithful LORD, the Holy One of Israel Who has chosen you.”
(8) This is what the LORD says: “At the time I decide to show My favor, I will respond to you; in the day of deliverance I will help you; I will protect you and make you a covenant mediator for people, to rebuild the land and to reassign the desolate property.
(9) You will say to the prisoners, ‘Come out,’ and to those who are in dark dungeons, ‘Emerge.’ They will graze beside the roads; on all the slopes they will find pasture. (10) They will not be hungry or thirsty; the sun’s oppressive heat will not beat down on them, for One Who has compassion on them will guide them; He will lead them to springs of water.
(11) I will make all My mountains into a road; I will construct My roadways.”
(12) Look, they come from far away! Look, some come from the north and west, and others from the land of Sinim! (13) Shout for joy, O sky! Rejoice, O earth! Let the mountains give a joyful shout! For the LORD consoles His people and shows compassion to the oppressed.
(14) “Zion said, ‘The LORD has abandoned me, the Lord has forgotten me.’
(15) Can a woman forget her baby who nurses at her breast? Can she withhold compassion from the child she has borne? Even if mothers were to forget, I could never forget you!
(16) Look, I have inscribed your name on My palms; your walls are constantly before Me.
(17) Your children hurry back, while those who destroyed and devastated you depart. (18) Look all around you! All of them gather to you. As surely as I live,” says the LORD, “you will certainly wear all of them like jewelry; you will put them on as if you were a bride. (19) Yes, your land lies in ruins; it is desolate and devastated. But now you will be too small to hold your residents, and those who devoured you will be far away. (20) Yet the children born during your time of bereavement will say within your hearing, ‘This place is too cramped for us, make room for us so we can live here.’ (21) Then you will think to yourself, ‘Who bore these children for me? I was bereaved and barren, dismissed and divorced. Who raised these children? Look, I was left all alone; where did these children come from?’”
(22) This is what the Sovereign LORD says: “Look I will raise My hand to the nations; I will raise My signal flag to the peoples. They will bring your sons in their arms and carry your daughters on their shoulders. (23) Kings will be your children’s guardians; their princesses will nurse your children. With their faces to the ground they will bow down to you and they will lick the dirt on your feet.
Then you will recognize that I am the LORD; those who wait patiently for Me are not put to shame.
(24) Can spoils be taken from a warrior, or captives be rescued from a conqueror?
(25) Indeed,” says the LORD, “captives will be taken from a warrior; spoils will be rescued from a conqueror. I will oppose your adversary and I will rescue your children. (26) I will make your oppressors eat their own flesh; they will get drunk on their own blood, as if it were wine.
Then all humankind will recognize that I am the LORD, your Deliverer, your Protector, the Powerful One of Jacob.”
In this last chapter we are covering, it is sometimes hard to determine who is speaking. If the ‘He” and “Me” is directly referring to God, prophetically of Jesus when He comes or of Isaiah.
“(1) This is what the LORD says: “Where is your mother’s divorce certificate by which I divorced her? Or to which of My creditors did I sell you?
Look, you were sold because of your sins; because of your rebellious acts I divorced your mother.
(2) Why does no one challenge Me when I come? Why does no one respond when I call?
Is My hand too weak to deliver you? Do I lack the power to rescue you?
Look, with a mere shout I can dry up the sea; I can turn streams into a desert, so the fish rot away and die from lack of water. (3) I can clothe the sky in darkness; I can cover it with sackcloth.”
(4) The Sovereign LORD has given me the capacity to be His spokesman, so that I know how to help the weary. He wakes me up every morning; He makes me alert so I can listen attentively as disciples do.
(5) The Sovereign LORD has spoken to me clearly; I have not rebelled, I have not turned back. (6) I offered my back to those who attacked, my jaws to those who tore out my beard; I did not hide my face from insults and spitting. (7) But the Sovereign LORD helps me, so I am not humiliated.
For that reason I am steadfastly resolved; I know I will not be put to shame. (8) The One Who vindicates me is close by.
Who dares to argue with Me? Let us confront each other! Who is My accuser? Let him challenge Me!
(9) Look, the Sovereign LORD helps me. Who dares to condemn me? Look, all of them will wear out like clothes; a moth will eat away at them.
(10) Who among you fears the LORD? Who obeys His servant? Whoever walks in deep darkness, without light, should trust in the name of the LORD and rely on his God.
(11) Look, all of you who start a fire and who equip yourselves with flaming arrows, walk in the light of the fire you started and among the flaming arrows you ignited! This is what you will receive from Me: you will lie down in a place of pain.”