This passage is very… interesting.
At first glance, when read outside of the context it was written in, the passage seems like a normal text that we should find in the Old Testament… God is raising up a king, once again, to lift the people of Israel up out of their exile and bring them into His blessings. (See my sermon from a few weeks ago “Embracing Exile” based on this book by Scott Daniels if you are a little lost to the Biblical theme of exile.) But when you read the chapters leading up to this one you realize something that makes this passage unique – This man, Cyrus, who God is anointing and empowering, is not an Israelite. Cyrus is a pagan. He doesn’t look like an Israelite, he doesn’t talk like an Israelite, he certainly doesn’t act like an Israelite, and at the time he is anointed as their leader by God, he really doesn’t even serve the same God that they do. He is an outsider.
But yet… God chose Cyrus to lead His people into His blessings.
Man, do you know how mad that must have made the Israelites? Do you know how mad that would make me? I mean I’ll just be honest with you, sometimes I like to think that I’m a pretty big deal. And if I was in their shoes, I can only imagine the things I would be saying!
“You mean to tell me that out of all these Israelites (myself included), God went outside the ranks and picked a PAGAN to be our leader? Are you kidding me?! God, I am right here, ready and willing, and tbh I would be the best leader there ever was… And you picked a PAGAN???”
That’s exactly what God did, and I’m sure that most (if not all) of the Israelites were mumbling some variation of the previous paragraph. I’m sure that they were all in a tizzy… There was a leader that wasn’t one of them.
But read the passage! God didn’t care. He was going to use this man, who many probably considered an enemy of Israel, to lead His people into victory.
And God did it. Through this leader named Cyrus, God delivered the exiles and allowed them to return and rebuild the temple of the Lord.
Let me ask you something. Is God raising up a leader right now for His people that we would never expect? Rolland Tedder in his post on this passage for “A Plain Account” asks: “So perhaps, in a world of division, our role is to take this passage and consider who of our enemies God is raising up to be a shepherd? Who of our enemies is God utilizing to bring about God’s purposes?”
This is a version of the same question that Pastor Steve gave us this past Sunday: “If God used another church in Greenbrier to bring His blessings and presence, would we be okay with it?”
I want you to be honest with yourself. What would happen if God was raising up someone who you don’t like to lead his people out of exile? Would you be angry? Or would you be thankful that God was bringing His blessings regardless of who He used?
Are you happy just as long as God is using someone? Or are you only happy if God is using you?
Hunter, Creative Arts Pastor