These are some of the highlights from a sermon I preached at Mission Fellowship Church in Middletown, DE on June 20, 2009 entitled, God’s Surprising Strategies from Is 44:24-45:25.
Until now, the emphasis in Is. 40-66 has been on God’s power completely. The point has been to help Israel “see God”, the God whom Babylonian ideology has attempted to eliminate as a serious factor in the world.
Missing in this has been any discussion of human agency apart from a “victor from the east” and “one from the north”, a human agent summoned by God by not named. This changes with the end of Is. 44.
This section is important for another reason. It demonstrates the way in which biblical faith links the rule of God and human history. And it displays that truth that God works in mysterious ways.
God had ordered everything in life. He is now channeling all that creative power into the work of Cyrus. God works with a variety of people to carry out his will. In this case, it is Cyrus. Isaiah calls Cyrus “My Shepherd” and “God’s Anointed”. The Greek version of the Old Testament in Is. 45:1 calls Cyprus “Christos” or a “Christ”. It’s a messianic term. In addition, the Shepherd and anointed are titles of the royal line of David. Now, however, they are being transferred to a Gentile, Idolater King whom God has “called” to accomplish His task. What is the reality then? God uses whatever persons and methods He wants to, whether we like them or not. He uses them for a redemptive purpose, for accomplishing His redemptive will. In addition, even a Cyrus can foreshadow the true Messiah and Shepherd, Jesus Christ. If God is sovereign, all of history is his plan. All events have an ultimate cause, fit into an ultimate purpose, and find their significance in one final victory.
If God were a tribal deity, life would be much simpler. When the going got tough and you pray and things don’t get better, you would know that your local god is overwhelmed by a superior force. However, if God is really king of everything, the bigger questions get easier while the smaller questions get more complex and difficult. The smaller questions are questions like:
- Why do I have cancer?
- Will my bills get paid?
- Will I be able to retire?
- Will I ever find that special someone?
These are not smaller questions. They are weighty questions. Yet, they are smaller than:
- Does life have meaning?
- Is there any hope at all?
- Am I on my own in the universe?
The Gospel of Jesus leaves many of the smaller, urgent questions unanswered, but never fails to remind us of the greater redemptive purpose at hand: The re-creation of all creation and God’s love directed towards His people. Whatever God does, He is taking us deeper into His love and asks us to trust him enough not to take offense but follow Him.
Why? It’s all for a bigger purpose. In Is 45:1-7, Isaiah uses a participle of purpose (le-ma-yan) three times:
- That Cyprus may know that is it I, the Lord (vs 3)
- For the sake of my servant Israel
- So that people will know (vs 5)
It is first a reminder to Cyrus that he is being submissive to Yahweh. It is a reminder to Israel of God’s unfailing love. Finally, it’s a demonstration to all the world of the supreme power and love of God!
Isaiah reminds here that the very thing we perceive as problems, God perceives as his Glory. God owns the dark moments of life.
In our arrogance, however, we tend to reject how God wants to work. The Israelites certainly did. They could not fathom that God would use a pagan king to accomplish their release. They were insisting that God do things their way. In doing that, they were not letting God be God, they were trying to be God themselves. Yet, God will not do the things we expect. Surprise is often how God works.
- The incarnation was a shock
- The virgin birth was a scandal
- The cross was an embarrassment
God is too independent for faith in him to always be easy. However, whatever your struggle is, God wants you to know that “His plan is better than you think!”. Don’t doubt Him. Embrace the journey and embrace the work of God in your life. Let Him suprise you. His plan is better and more effective than anything we could concoct ourselves!
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