Cyrus the Anointed One

Image by Sumanley xulx from Pixabay

 

Isaiah 45:1-7
Psalm 96:1-13
1 Thessalonians 1:1-10
Matthew 22:15-22

Thus said the Lord to Cyrus, His anointed one

Whose right hand He has grasped,

Treading down nations before him,

Ungirding the loins of kings,

Opening doors before him

And letting no gate stay shut:

I will march before you and level the hills that loom up. JSB

Jumping in, as we do, to this passage, it is easy to believe Isaiah is speaking of Israel. We must note the underlined portion. King Cyrus of Persia is the anointed one [literally Messiah] in this case.

Why?

If these were not the words of God, we might think someone was playing fast and lose with the Bible. We all know there is one Messiah.

Not so. Reading the Hebrew Scriptures, we often see the word mashiyach used of people God has anointed for a special purpose. They are all pointing to the ultimate Messiah, the Son of God.

I will shatter doors of bronze

And cut down iron bars.

I will give you treasures concealed in the dark

And secret hoards

So that you may know that it is I the Lord,

The God of Israel, who call you by name. JSB

The kings you will conquer have hidden their wealth where you will never find it, but I will tell you where it is. You are to kick in the doors and plunder to your heart’s content.

Isaiah had the misfortune to do his prophecy during the time of the fall of the Kingdom of Israel. He had to tell the Judean kings that they would be destroyed. But God also gave Isaiah a special message to deliver to Cyrus, in person—’you can continue to conquer other kings.’

But we need to back up to the last three verses of chapter 44.

But confirm the word of My servant

And fulfill the prediction of My messengers.

It is I who say of Jerusalem, “It shall be inhabited,”

And of the towns of Judah, “They shall be rebuilt;

And I will restore their ruined places.”

I, who said to the deep, “Be dry;

I will dry up your floods,”

Am the same who says of Cyrus, “He is My shepherd;”

He shall fulfill all My purposes!

He shall say to Jerusalem, ‘She shall be rebuilt,’

And to the Temple: ‘You shall be founded again.’” JSB

Now we understand God’s plan and purpose. Israel and Judah turned away from God and they had to be punished, so God allowed them to be carried away—Israel to Assyria and Judah to Babylon. Cyrus entered the picture when he conquered Babylon and others in the region. He came to be the instrument of hope for Judah. Through Isaiah, God told Cyrus that he would soon let God’s people return to their homes. In exchange for that kindness, Cyrus could conquer others.

We see this kind of event throughout the OT and it is natural to ask, ‘Why would God turn against his Chosen People?” When we look closely, we see that it was the Chosen who turned away from God. They were given warnings of what would happen if they did so, but the warnings were ignored. The same message is found in the NT.

No where in the Scriptures are we guaranteed immunity from life’s ups and downs. Even when we are faithful to God, cancer strikes. We live in a world of sin and sin affects every human, regardless of who does the sinning.

SARS CoV 2 has impacted the whole world. It seems likely that the US will experience a quarter of a million deaths before vaccines help protect the rest of us. Unlike many diseases, people who survive a Covid attack only have immunity for a very few months. Already, several people have been infected a second time. Good people have died.

God did not send this disease. But God works for His good in the midst of the disease. Sin, human sin, caused Covid, but good can come out of it if we stay focused on God.

The election is around the corner. As Christians, we believe it is important to discern who God would like to win, and vote for that person. We like to think that God has anointed one or the other candidate. But having read today’s Scripture, we now have to believe that He may anoint the worst candidate to do his will.

Does God anoint candidates for every office in every country in every election? I doubt it. I think God works within what ever happens. We have free choice. That is how we ended up living in sin. God works to help us see how we can live for Him no matter who is elected.

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

The Man Not Dressed for the Wedding

Photo by Andreas Rønningen on Unsplash 

Isaiah 25:1-9
Psalm 23
Philippians 4:1-9
Matthew 22:1-14

Then Jesus began to talk to them again in parablesPhillips Most commentaries believe that Matthew was writing his Gospel for a Jewish audience, but this comment might suggest that he expected many non-Jews to be reading as well. Remember that Jewish rabbis often used parables in their teaching, so Jews would have recognized it right away. The words, is like, tells us it is either a simile or a parable.

“The kingdom of Heaven,” he said, “is like a king who arranged a wedding for his sonPhillips Jesus wants to make sure we understand this is not just any wedding. But I believe that he also wants us to think of this as his own wedding in Heaven as described by John years later. When God the Father has a feast for His Son, we had best be ready, especially since some of us will be the bride.

He sent his servants to summon those who had been invited to the festivities, but they refused to come. Then he tried again; he sent some more servants, saying to them, ‘Tell those who have been invited, “Here is my wedding-breakfast all ready, my bullocks and fat cattle have been slaughtered and everything is prepared. Come along to the festivities.”’ But they took no notice of this and went off, one to his farm, and another to his business. Phillips This is a description of the reception by most of the Jews. Jesus came to the Chosen People first as had hundreds of prophets to give them God’s Words, but they squandered the precious invitation.

As for the rest, they got hold of the servants, treated them disgracefully, and finally killed them. At this the king was very angry and sent his troops and killed those murderers and burned down their city. How many times did the Chosen Ones suffer because of their lack of faith?

I believe that the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 AD was necessary for both the Jews and for the followers of Jesus who needed to complete the break with the Jewish walk. There is nothing wrong with being Jewish. Many thousands have kept the faith with Yahweh through the centuries. But the church was becoming more gentile and Temple worship was likely to have caused serious corruption within the members.

Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is quite ready, but those who were invited were not good enough for it. So go off now to all the street corners and invite everyone you find there to the feast.’ So the servants went out on to the streets and collected together all those whom they found, bad and good alike. And the hall became filled with guests. Phillips Remember this is a parable. God is not accepting bad people in their badness. His servants tell people they are invited and it is up to the people to decide to accept or reject the invitation.

In the context of the Heavenly Wedding party, all those bad people will have their sins removed. You won’t have to stand next to an axe murderer; that murder will be erased and you will see him in his Godliness.

But when the king came in to inspect the guests, he noticed among them a man not dressed for a weddingPhillips In those days the wedding guests dressed in white robes. It was an insult to wear any other color. John describes the white robed wedding guests at the Heavenly Wedding.

‘How did you come in here, my friend,’ he said to him, ‘without being properly dressed for the wedding?’ And the man had nothing to say. Then the king said to the ushers, ‘Tie him up and throw him into the darkness outside. There he can weep and regret his folly!’ Phillips We don’t need to think about the man getting past the kings guards; this is a parable after all. The point is that he was not fit for the wedding. In Christian terms, his sins had not been washed away.

The darkness has a double meaning. Weddings then were begun at night. The groom and his men (best men) wound their way through the village streets singing and announcing that the groom was on his way to find his bride. Of course, he knew where she was; it was just to let everyone know that the fun would begin soon. At the bride’s house, the groom would ask the father at the door if his daughter still wanted to be his bride. At this late time she could still say ‘no.’ If she agreed, the men would go one way and the bride would go with her bridesmaids.

But I think Jesus was thinking more of Hell when he spoke of the darkness outside. The Scriptures seem to make it clear that Heaven and Hell are separated by a barrier. But it also seems that the people who end up in the darkness outside can see the brightly lit Wedding Feast.

For many are invited but few are chosen. This enigmatic statement has little to do with an earthly wedding but a great deal to do with being chosen to attend the Heavenly Wedding. John may have described two main groups of people in his Revelation; one group will be the Bride and the other, larger group, will be the witnesses. However it turns out, we all have to get past the royal guards and the sharp eye of the Father of the Groom. What we do here on earth determines if we are chosen. And no, I’m not talking about good works.

Love God, love every person you meet.

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence