Day 211: Isaiah 45-47; The Rise of Cyrus and Fall of Babylon

Today’s reading covers the events that I mentioned a few days ago at the beginning of this section of Isaiah.  There is a great deal of political upheaval that is going to take place in the world as Babylon declines in power and falls to King Cyrus the Great of Persia.  Some of the time that has been overlooked here will be picked up in other prophets such as Daniel.  In the mean time, the writer of Isaiah now is speaking of the instrument the Lord will use to bring about the return of the exiles to Israel; the second exodus if you will.  Our whole passage of reading today covers these events in succession.

Whether or not the writer is writing these things while they happen or if he is prophesying, a great feat indeed seeing as he had the name right any everything, is besides the point really.  Prophecy of this sort is not necessarily about predicting the future.  In fact, prophecy in the Bible is really not about predicting the future day by day, event by event as much as it is speaking the Word of God to the people.  Many times this manifests itself as being something about the future but is often full of imagery and relatively strange metaphors that aren’t necessarily meant to be taken literally.  In fact, most of what we hear in Isaiah and the other prophets as well isn’t so much about laying out an event by event timeline as it is about crediting the Lord with what is to happen and calling the people to repentance.  The call of repentance is something that had been happening, especially in the first 39 chapters of Isaiah, laying out the future in rather broad brush strokes, showing how God is and will be at work is what is happening there and here as well.

The point that the writer is making here is the overall sovereignty of God.  The people of Israel are or will be caught up in this political revolution that is going on, a war between Persia and Babylon that will likely change everything.  God is telling the people that this is something that He is allowing to happen.  In fact, God is empowering Cyrus and the Persians to take over, using him as an instrument so that His people will be allowed to return to their homeland.

What I find interesting about this, is Cyrus’ role in the whole thing.  Scripture says time and again that Cyrus doesn’t acknowledge God at all, but God still uses him to do what he is meant to do.  Ultimately it is God at work using Cyrus, and it’ll be God that brings about Cyrus’ downfall as well.  But for now, despite Cyrus’ lack of acknowledgement, God is working His will.

This gets me thinking about some of the situations that we are encountering today.  I wonder if there are people in the world, in our nation, even in our communities that God is using to work His will in the world despite their lack of recognition.  Perhaps even in our government, with politicians and leaders, the Lord is working out His will somehow.  I don’t think that, given the situation, the people of Israel would have seen Cyrus’ invasion as the work of God without some direction from Isaiah or other prophets.  They were fortunate to have these prophets reminding them of the work that God was doing.  Are there things that are happening at the national, state, or local level that could be God at work?  I dare say there are… if we’re willing to look for them!