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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Today’s Scripture Reading | Isaiah 45:1–7

Thus says the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have grasped to subdue nations before him and strip kings of their robes, to open doors before him—and the gates shall not be closed: I will go before you and level the mountains, I will break in pieces the doors of bronze and cut through the bars of iron, I will give you the treasures of darkness and riches hidden in secret places, so that you may know that it is I, the Lord, the God of Israel, who call you by your name. For the sake of my servant Jacob, and Israel my chosen, I call you by your name, I surname you, though you do not know me.

I am the Lord, and there is no other; besides me there is no god. I arm you, though you do not know me, so that they may know, from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is no one besides me; I am the Lord, and there is no other. I form light and create darkness, I make weal and create woe; I the Lord do all these things. (NRSV)

This passage is called the Cyrus Oracle, unique in all the Old Testament. In form it is similar to other royal oracles of some ancient Near Eastern rulers. In content it proclaims that Yahweh, God of Israel, is anointing Cyrus, King of Persia, to accomplish the task of setting the people of Israel free from captivity. Cyrus will do this by conquering Babylonia and sending its prisoners back to their homeland. Verses 1-4 are addressed to Cyrus, but its message is intended for all of Israel. It begins, “Thus says the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have grasped.” Grasping a king’s right hand is part of the coronation ritual for a king. God’s anointed is the word for messiah.

The surprise here is that God calls a non-Israelite a messiah. The amazing thing is that God is working through an “outsider:” God says of Cyrus, “you do not know me.” (v. 5) God wants both Cyrus and the Israelites to know that it is the Lord, the God of Israel, who is using Cyrus as God’s instrument. As a result of God’s anointing, Cyrus will be able to subdue nations. Israel will understand that God is working on their behalf. The world will see that God alone is Lord and there is no other.

“God works in mysterious ways.” When in your life has God worked through another person or an event that at first seemed strange, even meaningless, but ended up being a redemptive part of your story? Desmond Tutu called God, "A God of Surprises." Reflect on how God has astonished you in bringing healing, reconciliation, awareness, love, kindness, or justice into your life.

Thank you, God, for working in our hearts and our world in ways we don’t expect. Amen.

Written by Victoria G. Curtiss, Associate Pastor for Mission

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