Cyrus, King of Persia: the Lord’s Anointed

The tomb of Cyrus the Great, King of Persia

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… For Jacob my servant’s sake, and Israel mine elect, I have even called thee by thy name: I have surnamed thee, though thou has not known me…  Isaiah 45:1,4

God spoke of Cyrus through the prophet Isaiah, a hundred years or so before Cyrus was born. He was born a subject of the empire of the Medes. There was no Persian Empire, yet. It remained for Cyrus to found it–with God’s help.

It was Cyrus who released the Jews from captivity in Babylon, and ordered God’s Temple in Jerusalem to be rebuilt (2 Chronicles 36:22-23). His successors, kings of Persia, saw to it that the project was completed, as we know from Nehemiah.

Cyrus was not a Jew, not a believer, and yet God chose him as his servant. The Persian Empire that he founded was one of the great achievements of the human race, although it was finally destroyed by Alexander the Great. And Cyrus himself, after fulfilling the mission assigned to him by God, fell victim to a lust for power and glory, and met his death far from home, trying to conquer the nomads of the steppes. Like so many great men, he eventually brought about his own fall. Put not your trust in princes.

His career reminds us that God is able and willing to use anyone, even non-Jews, or non-Christians, to carry out His purposes in history. We note that of all the foreign potentates who ruled over the Jews, it was only the Persians–not the Romans, not the Greeks–who treated them justly and were rewarded by their loyalty.

God intervenes in history. It belongs to Him.

I pray He will intervene in our country’s history, to bring us back to our senses and to save us.

And we may be surprised by whom He chooses to do it.

A Sobering Lesson from History

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Medallion of Emperor Heraclius and his son

In 610 A.D. a man named Heraclius become Emperor of Rome (they were still calling it the Roman Empire, but we remember it as the Byzantine Empire). He inherited an empire in crisis: barbarians pouring in from the north and west, and an aggressive Persian Empire gobbling up Roman territory in the south. The empire’s finances were in disorder, the army was demoralized, and religious controversies brewed chaos on the home front.

By strenuous military and domestic efforts, Heraclius restored stability. In 624 he finally forced the Persians to sue for peace, regained all the lost territories, and a war that had gone on for some 400 years ended in a total Roman victory.

Finally it was time to rest. The treasury was replenished, all the empire’s enemies had been thoroughly defeated, and it seemed as if a new day had dawned. History, for all practical purposes, was over. There was no one left to fight. The people celebrated, and Heraclius struck commemorative gold coins and medallions to seal his victories.

But he lived to see the Arabs come roaring up from the south under their new banner of Islam, seizing Egypt, Syria, the Holy Land, and sweeping through Asia Minor to mount a siege of Constantinople itself. Heraclius watched from the walls as the Arabs, who had no proper siege equipment, shattered their armies against the city’s defenses. But the lost provinces were lost forever, and from then on the empire would be fighting for its very life against Islam, with the city finally falling to the Turks in 1453.

Does any of this sound familiar?

The point is that history wasn’t over: that with all the old enemies quelled, and no expectation of further trouble, a new and more powerful enemy arose–and history rolled on and on.

When the Soviet Union fell, Western leaders and alleged thinkers proclaimed that now history was really over, the great enemy was no more, and we could all just go back to making money and screwing around with our culture.

Like the Byzantines, our leaders were wrong.

I don’t think they have quite come to terms with that–do you?