Central Idea: God often works in the world unbeknownst to the powers that be, unbeknownst to us.
“Thus says the LORD to his anointed, Cyrus, whose right hand I grasp,”
The Word of God is sneaky. Very, very sneaky.
Oftentimes God’s Word roars and screeches and bellows its meaning. There is little subtlety. You don’t have to be a Scripture scholar nor a theologian to guess where God is coming from, what God wants you to do. “TURN AWAY FROM SIN!!!”
But there are other times, like this weekend, when you are barely in your seats and the Scriptures slips something by you. Like a teenager mumbling something under their breath, the Word of God slides a comment under the radar. And you can be sure that when that happens it is something that is revolutionary, something earth shattering, something even radical. We go along like nothing has ever happened, totally oblivious to the wild and unpredictable nature of a Godhead which simply refuses to play by our rules.
Did you catch it? Listen again.
Thus says the LORD to his anointed, Cyrus, whose right hand I grasp,
Ok, Rev. Kev, what’s the big deal? Even when you slowed it down, I missed it. Simply put:
What does it mean to shake hands with Cyrus?
First, it is important to know who the heck Cyrus was. Cyrus is no other than, Cyrus the Great, of the Persian Empire. (580-529 BCE) Cyrus was the first Achaemenian Emperor of Persia, who issued a decree on his aims and policies, later hailed as his charter of the rights of nations. Inscribed on a clay cylinder, this is known to be the first declaration of Human Rights, and is now kept at the British Museum. It is safe to say that good old Cyrus didn’t know the God of the Israelites.
But the God of the Israelites knew Cyrus.
And used him.
The people of God were enslaved in Babylon. They suffered under cruel exile. Then along came Cyrus: Cyrus who defeated the Babylonians (Iran beats Iraq!), Cyrus who frees the people and allows them to go back to their homeland, Cyrus the enlightened ruler who will even allow them to rebuild and rededicate their temple.
How did Cyrus accomplish so much? Well according to the book of the prophet Isaiah, it was God who helped Cyrus, it was God who defeated the Babylonians, it was God who was “subduing nations before him, and making kings run in his service, opening doors before him and leaving the gates unbarred.”
So let’s review. God took a totally pagan ruler, someone who had no idea whatsoever about The Lord, the God of Israel and used him to bring his people back home. Cyrus had no idea. Babylon had no idea. To be honest the people of Israel, at first, had no idea. They were all oblivious to powerful working of God in all of these events.
Amazing! Astonishing! Revolutionary!
How do you interpret the events of your life? Is life just a series of impossibly random events and occurrences? Are you like Cyrus the Great and the Babylonians oblivious and unaware of how the Lord works in your life? And most telling, are you afraid to even ponder the possibility that God can use, even the most unlikely of sources to bring about his Kingdom in your lives?
God shakes hands with Cyrus all the time in my life. God will use the most unlikely, the most improbable, even the most ridiculous individuals to teach me and guide me and point the way in my life to the Kingdom in my midst. Think of the most grating, annoying person you know – there’s Cyrus! Think of the person who seems least likely to an instrument of God – there’s Cyrus! Imagine people you barely know and possibly don’t really want to know – there’s Cyrus! Just when you think that there is no hope, there is no way God can do anything with this circumstance, this situation and BAM – a door opens and there is God shaking hands with Cyrus, freeing you from exile.
And to think, he almost slipped that one past you…