Trinity Fifteenth Sunday Morning Prayer (12 September 2021) Isaiah 44:24-45:8
We know that king David wanted to build a temple for the LORD God. But God chose Solomon to build the temple. Solomon built the temple according to God’s will and God made a covenant with Solomon. As days went, Solomon concentrated in pleasing his wives and not God. United Israel was split into two after King Solomon’s reign. Solomon’s servant ruled over ten tribes that formed the Northern kingdom. Solomon’s son ruled two tribes Judah and Benjamin that formed the Southern kingdom. The kings who succeeded them led people away from God. God allowed Babylonians to rule the Southern Kingdom. He allowed Assyrians to rule the Northern Kingdom. Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, captured Jerusalem and took the best from Jerusalem to his country. He took the vessels from the temple of God. When the Israelites did not please God, He allowed Israelites to be taken captives. When the Israelites repented and turned back to God, He delivered them from their bondage. This was a regular cycle. God did not permanently allow His children to suffer under captivity. Through the years, God spoke through His prophets. They warned the people and called them to turn back to the LORD God.
In the Bible, we read about a few people whose names are mentioned in the Bible even before they were born. When Hagar was running away, God met her in the wilderness and named her child as Ishmael. The angel of the LORD met Zacharias and told him to name his child as John. The angel of the LORD visited Mary and told her son’s name will be Jesus. The LORD God mentioned Cyrus’s name nearly 100 years before he was born. Prophet Isaiah lived during 760–700 BC. He prophesised during the reign of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah. He prophesised about Cyrus and what he would do nearly 100 years before he was born.
Today’s meditation is based on two verses from his prophecies. Isaiah Chapter 44:28 says “That saith of Cyrus, He is my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure: even saying to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be built; and to the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid.” We read in Isaiah 45:1, “Thus saith the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden, to subdue nations before him; and I will loose the loins of kings, to open before him the two leaved gates; and the gates shall not be shut.” The verses in today’s reading are often given as promises or prophecies. God gave these promises to Cyrus. If we too want to inherit these blessings, it is important to know who Cyrus was, what he did and the reason for God the Father choosing Cyrus.
Who was Cyrus?
The name Cyrus was derived from the word Kuros which means ‘like the sun’. Cyrus founded the Persian Dynasty. He ruled from the Aegean Sea eastward to the Indus River which is India. King Darius mentioned in the book Daniel is the son-in-law of Cyrus the Great. Queen Esther married king Xerxes I, who was the son of Darius the Great and the grandson of Cyrus the great. Even though Babylonians and Persians ruled Judah, they had a high regard for the Jews and treated them well. Daniel and his friends were in authoritative positions in Babylonian and Persian kingdoms.
What did Cyrus do?
God had already planned to redeem Israel even before they were given to Babylonian captivity. Jeremiah prophesised in chapter 29:10 “That after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place”. This prophecy came true when in the first year Cyrus, the Lord stirred up his spirit. Cyrus “made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying; Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia, The Lord God of heaven hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth; and he hath charged me to build him an house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah”.
Why did God the Father choose Cyrus?
Cyrus acknowledged that the Lord God of heaven gave him all the kingdoms of the earth. He accepted the responsibility that was given to him to build the temple at Jerusalem. He confessed that the God of Israel was the true God. He knew he was not worthy, but the LORD of Israel made him worthy and gave his kingdom to him. He humbled himself before God. Cyrus encouraged or pushed the Israelites to compete the task that was given to him. Ezra 1:6 says, “all they that were about them strengthened their hands with vessels of silver, with gold, with goods, and with beasts, and with precious things, beside all that was willingly offered”. Cyrus did not stop with just his words. Instead, he “brought forth the vessels of the house of the Lord, which Nebuchadnezzar had brought forth out of Jerusalem, and had put them in the house of his gods”. Cyrus numbered and gave them unto Sheshbazzar, the prince of Judah.
We can see four important qualities in king Cyrus, from which we can learn:
1. Cyrus fulfilled his call: Persian kingdom is today’s Iran. The people in Persia did not know about the Lord God. When God’s appointed time came, He stirred Cyrus’s spirit. Although Cyrus was from different a faith, he listened and obeyed to the Holy Spirit’s voice. He understood his call and fulfilled God’s will in his life. 2 Timothy 1:9 says God did not call us according to our works but according to his own purpose and grace.
2. Cyrus humbled himself before God: Cyrus was one of the most powerful kings who ruled many parts of the earth. But he humbled himself before the LORD God who created the heaven and earth. We have many references in the Bible about people who humbled themselves before God. 1 Peter 5:5 says “God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.” Cyrus was humble before God and God gave Cyrus the honour and responsibility to rebuild His temple.
3. Cyrus returned the vessels: When God stirred Cyrus’s heart to build the temple of God, he returned everything that was taken from the temple of God. The vessels were taken by a previous Babylonian king. But when Cyrus passed the decree to rebuild the temple, he returned the vessels in his possession. 2 Corinthians 9:7 says, “Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver”. Nobody forced Cyrus to return the vessels. He happily did it of his own accord.
4. Cyrus was the reason for others strengthening their hands: When Lordstirred up Cyrus’s spirit, he proclaimed his order and put it in writing. He said “Who is there among you of all his people? his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and build the house of the Lord God of Israel”. He also asked those who remained to help with silver, gold, goods, and beasts, beside the freewill offering for the house of God. On hearing this, the priests and Levites rose up. They strengthened their hands to build. Proverb 3:27 says, “Withhold not good from them to whom it is due, when it is in the power of thine hand to do it”. Cyrus did not withhold any good that was in his power to build the temple of God. He was a positive influence on the Jews who strengthened their hands to build the temple.
Cyrus did not know about the Lord Jehovah. But he opened his heart to listen to the Holy Spirit’s voice. He took his responsibility seriously. He did all that he had to do and even more to fulfil God’s plan. Cyrus was a great king, but he humbled himself before the Lord God. He confessed that the Lord God had given him all the kingdoms of the earth. He gave back the vessels that belonged to the temple of God. He was true in his calling. He strengthened the people to fulfil God’s plan. God bore witness about Cyrus saying Cyrus “shall perform all my pleasure”. When Cyrus fulfilled God’s will in his life, God held Cyrus’s right hand to subdue nations before him. God Himself would loose the loins of kings and open before Cyrus the two leaved gates. Also God promised the gates shall not be shut.
Let us examine ourselves. All of us are God’s chosen people. God has a unique call and responsibility for each and every one of us to build His kingdom. We all have unique roles. God has called us all by His grace and purpose. We may have responsibilities like Cyrus, the priests, the Levites, the treasurer, the prince, the people who carried the vessels back to Jerusalem or the people who rose up to build the temple. Let us ask ourselves if we can hear the Holy Spirit stirring our hearts. Do we know what God’s call is in our lives to build His kingdom? Whatever the role He has chosen for us, are we true and doing our best? Are we humble before the Almighty Lord? Are we doing all that we can? Are we strengthening others to build? Can God say that we will do all of His pleasure? If our answer is ‘yes’ to these questions, we can also inherit the promises that He gave Cyrus in Isaiah 45: “I will go before thee, and make the crooked places straight: I will break in pieces the gates of brass, and cut in sunder the bars of iron: And I will give thee the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places, that thou mayest know that I, the Lord, which call thee by thy name, am the God of Israel.”
I pray we listen to the Holy Spirit’s voice speaking to our hearts and fulfil God’s plan in our lives. Like God bore witness to Cyrus, I pray He bears witness about our lives when we stand before Him. Amen.