Reading through the Bible together
From northwestern India in the East to the shores of the Aegean Sea in today’s Turkey was the vast empire of Cyrus the Great, the Persian general first prophesied by Isaiah in this chapter over 100 years before his birth (vv.2, 3, 25; 44:28-45:1). He would come from the east (v.2) as well as from the north (v.25), since that was the only route possible from an Israelite’s perspective, along the Fertile Crescent.
And Cyrus did come. He united the various Persian tribes into one nation. By 550 BC, he took over the Median Empire. Three years later, he defeated Croesus, the mighty king of Lydia (Asia Minor) who ruled from what was considered the impregnable capital of Sardis. In 539, he besieged and took over the city of Babylon. His title was “King of Persia, King of Anshan, King of Media, King of Babylon, King of Sumer and Akkad, King of the Four Corners of the World.” How do you like those titles!?
But God simply asks, Who has done this? “Who raised one up from the east?” “Who pursued” enemy kings? “Who has performed and done” this? (vv.2-4). The answer is: God Himself. He may have used Cyrus, a heathen king, but the Lord God’s purposes were behind it all along. Enemy kings “were afraid” of Cyrus’ relentless march of conquest, they made alliances with one another, saying “Be of good courage!” and then made idols of gold to protect themselves (vv.5-7), but it was all to no avail.
To His people in a time of uncertainty God articulated one of the greatest promises in all Scripture: “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand” (v.10). What marvelous assurance! Twice God calls Israel His slave (the original Hebrew means slave, not just servant) and once a worm (vv.8, 9, 14), highlighting His people’s loss of personal rights and their sinful nature. And still, the God of all the earth pledges Himself to save them by His powerful right arm. How great and good is our God!
But He goes further. He offers proof for His promise of help. He compares Himself with the gods of all these nations and challenges them: “Present your case….Show us what will happen….Show the things that are to come hereafter, that we may know that you are gods” (vv.21-23). Of course, that is the very thing God is doing to prove He alone is God: He is predicting what will happen. And history proved God to be exactly right. Cyrus freed Israel shortly after he took over Babylon.
Many years later, Jesus gave God’s reason for predicting prophecy: “I have told you before it comes, that when it does come to pass, you may believe” (John 14:29). If what God forecasts takes place exactly as He said, His promise of help and redemption will come to pass exactly as He promised.
Depend on Him today!
Ron E M Clouzet
NAD Evangelism Institute Director
Professor of Ministry and Theology
Andrews University Seminary