“Thus says the LORD to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have grasped to subdue nations before him and strip kings of their robes, to open doors before him– and the gates shall not be closed: . . . “ (Isaiah 45:1)
Barnes says of this verse, and the concept of Cyrus being anointed, “It means here that God had solemnly set apart Cyrus to perform an important public service in his cause. It does not mean that Cyrus was a man of piety, or a worshipper of the true God, of which there is no certain evidence, but that his appointment as king was owing to the arrangement of God’s providence, and that he was to be employed in accomplishing his purposes. The title does not designate holiness of character, but appointment to an office.”
There are other histories, beloved reader, besides biblical Jewish history. Other nations than just the nation of Israel and Judah. As I am reading and re-reading what Barnes says, I am slowly becoming aware of several things. The bible is the history of the (ancient) called and chosen people, and its perspective is as such. But, in the history of civilization it is not a very balanced history. Issues and relationships swirled around the people of Israel and Judah. Sometimes they were swept in it and sometimes they were left alone. Over the past year or year & a half, I have been on a self-guided “journey” to understand how the Old Testament fits in (for lack of a better term) with the New Testament. This passage that speaks about Cyrus and his role in the history of the Jews is an important step in this journey – I think.
“I will go before you and level the mountains, I will break in pieces the doors of bronze and cut through the bars of iron, I will give you the treasures of darkness and riches hidden in secret places, so that you may know that it is I, the LORD, the God of Israel, who call you by your name. For the sake of my servant Jacob, and Israel my chosen, I call you by your name, I surname you, though you do not know me.” (Verses 2 – 4)
Cyrus does not know the Divine; or at least, the writer of the book of Isaiah has no knowledge or report that Cyrus confessed faith in Yahweh. I have to wonder how Cyrus would know that the Divine charted his success. Unless Cyrus read the book of Isaiah he would not know. But the readers of the book of Isaiah have been made very aware. I do not think their awareness is for Cyrus’ benefit, but for them to see . . . . well, many things. They are intertwined with the fates and circumstances of other nations. The Divine tends to more things than just Israel/Judah. The Lord has not forgotten them or put them in the past. Deliverance can come from all sorts of unusual and foreign places. Their Lord God is over all things, not just their comparatively small concerns. People and places outside of their relatively small circle of acquaintance matter. Thinking about it, these are things that all nations and people throughput all human history need to be aware of.
“I am the LORD, and there is no other; besides me there is no god. I arm you, though you do not know me, so that they may know, from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is no one besides me; I am the LORD, and there is no other. I form light and create darkness, I make weal and create woe; I the LORD do all these things.” (Verses 5 – 7)
It is hard to know, when you are in the moment, what is significant and needs to have attention paid. And what is of little or no consequence. However, to the Lord God nothing is inconsequential. It behooves us, I think, to pay attention to the big picture, the little picture, and everything in-between. May the Divine give you eyes to see, hears to hear, discernment to understand, and speech to speak to those around you. Shalom & Selah!