The Old Testament Lesson for this Sunday is written in the book of the prophet Isaiah. The text is Isaiah 45:1-7 and contains a very unusual and even a potentially problematic declaration by the LORD God Himself. The LORD God calls “Cyrus” His anointed one. The referenced here is “Cyrus the Great,” the powerful and imposing leader of the Persian Empire, who will allow the Israelites to return from the Babylonian exile and even permit them to take the surviving furnishings from the Temple with them. This reference causes concern on two fronts. For those who struggle with the idea of prophecy and miracles in general, this declaration of the LORD through His prophet Isaiah provides a large problem: Cyrus has not yet been born, and in fact, is still several hundred years in the future! It is one thing to make a general prophecy that a nation/power from the East will one day bless and rescue God’s people, but it is quite another to give the precise name of this “one historical person” who is far in the future. For those of us who do not struggle with prophecy, miracles, etc. this is not overwhelming in the negative—it is impressive in the positive!
For those of us who do not struggle with prophecy, miracles, etc. this is not overwhelming in the negative—it is impressive in the positive!
However, there is another concern that many who believe in the miracles, signs and wonders of the Old Testament have. Cyrus is the leader of a foreign and pagan nation. Cyrus is not, and as far as we know, never becomes a believer in the One, true God. How can the LORD call him His anointed one? The language recorded in verse one most definitely places Cyrus in the role of a Messianic/Christological figure (see also 44:28). How can this be? Cyrus is an unbeliever, a pagan – anointed and used by God. This is offensive and confusing to many Christians. It is, however, not that unusual in both the Old and New Testament. God used Balaam to prophecy and bless Israel even though he was no friend of God. Even Caiaphas in the New Testament prophecies: “Surely it is expedient that one man die for the people.” Truly, God uses good and evil, believers and unbelievers, to accomplish His purposes—always has, still does, and even an
unbeliever can be a Christological figure. We do believe and confess that God is in control/charge of history and historical figures. As we can see in this text, God is capable of such a thing.
45:1 לִמְשִׁיחוֹ (lim-shi-Cho) from: מְשִׁיח (maw-shee-akh) “the anointed one; the anointed” “…to His anointed one…”
הֶחֱזַקְתִּי, (he-che-Zak-ti) root: חזק (khaw-zak) Hiphil: “to grasp; to grab hold of”
לְרַד. (le-rad) root: רדד (raw-dad) Qal: “to conquer; to drive back; to subdue”
וּמָתְנֵי (u-ma-te-Nei) from: מָתְנֵים (mo-then-yim) “hips; loins; hips and loins; armor”
דְּלָתַיִם> (de-la-Ta-yim) from: דלת, (deh-leth) “door”
יִסָּגֵרוּ (yis-sa-Ge-ru) root: סגר (saw-gar) Niphil: “to be shut; to be closed”
45:2 וַהֲדוּרִים: (va-ha-du-Rim) root: הדר (haw-dar) Qal, participle: “to swell; to honor” “the honored/exalted places”
אושר (אֲיַשֵּׁר (o-shir a-yash-Sher) There is some disagreement on this verse amongst the Masoretes. The root is agreed upon, but the form is not. Hiphil: “to level; to make even (causative sense)” Piel: “to smooth; to level; to make smooth” Together with הדר (haw-dar) I would translate: “I will cause the exalted places to be leveled” or “I will cause the mountains to be leveled” The causative sense is important because even with the great military leader, Cyrus the Great, God will be doing /causing the victory.
נְחוּשָׁה > (ne-chu-Shah) “copper; bronze”
בַרְזֶל; (var-Zel) “iron”
אֲגַדֵּעַ (a-gad-De-a) root: גדע (gaw-dah) Piel: “to cut off; to cut through; to cut in two”
45:3 אוֹצְרוֹת (otz-Rot) “treasure; supply”
חֹשֶׁךְ (Cho-shech) “darkness; secret place”
וּמַטְמֻנֵי (u-mat-mu-Nei) from: מטמוֹן (mat-mone) “treasure; hidden treasure”
מִסְתָּרִים (mis-ta-Rim) “secret place”
*This first section can be translated: “I will give to you treasures of darkness (hidden places) and hidden treasures of secret places.” The idea is that treasure is stored/hidden in dark places (vaults; cellars; etc.).
*Now we see Cyrus does not “know” this God who is giving him success. This theme is repeated three times. Then in verses 6-7 the LORD shows who He is and how He can do these mighty things… even through Cyrus, one who does not know Him.
45:4 בְּחִירִי. (be-chi-Ri) “chosen; elect”
אֲכַנְּךָ] (a-chan-ne-Cha) root: כנה (kaw-naw) Piel: “to give a name/title (usually a title of honor)” “I call you by your name, I give you a name (of honor) but you do not know me.” All this for the sake of the LORD’s chosen people.
45:5 אֲאַזֶּרְךָ] (a-az-zer-Cha) root: אזר (aw-zar) Piel: “to embrace; to hold close”
45:6 מִמִּזְרַח (mi-miz-rach) “position of rising; place of rising (as in the sun)”
וּמִמַּעֲרָבָה (u-mi-Ma-a-ra-Vah) from: מערב; (mah-ar-awb) “sunset; the west”
45:7 יוֹצֵר (yo-Tzer) root: יצר (yaw-tsar) Qal: “to fashion; to create; to form”
וּבוֹרֵא (u-vo-Re) root: ברא (baw-raw) Qal: “to create; to shape; to fashion”
* “I form light and create darkness, making peace and creating chaos”
Obviously, God is the One in control—over Cyrus the Great, over the fate of His chosen people, and over us!
Concordia Theology-Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in preaching Isaiah 25:6-9.
Text Week-Text Week-A treasury of resources from various traditions to help you preach Isaiah 45:1-17.
Lectionary Podcast-Prof. Walter A Maier III of Concordia Theological Seminary in Ft. Wayne, IN walks us through Isaiah 45:1-7.