Tuesday of Pentecost 21 – Isaiah 45:1-7

1 Thus says the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus,
    whose right hand I have grasped,
to subdue nations before him
    and to loose the belts of kings,
to open doors before him
    that gates may not be closed:
“I will go before you
    and level the exalted places,
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 the hoards in secret places,
that you may know that it is I, the Lord,
    the God of Israel, who calls you by your name.
For the sake of my servant Jacob,
    and Israel my chosen,
I call you by your name,
    I name you, though you do not know me.
I am the Lord, and there is no other,
    besides me there is no God;
    I equip you, though you do not know me,
that people may know, from the rising of the sun
    and from the west, that there is none besides me;
    I am the Lord, and there is no other.
I form light and create darkness,
    I make well-being and create calamity,
    I am the Lord, who does all these things.

George F. Kennan guided U. S. foreign policy in relation to the Soviet Union in the middle of the 20th century. In his retirement this famous intellectual and diplomat became an avid opponent of nuclear weapons. He truly thought they were evil and should all be abolished. Politically, Kennan was a passionate Democrat which led to a great irony. Retired from the State Department, he could finally express his political views and he was very clear on this: He had little respect for Ronald Reagan. But it was his enemy, Reagan, who did more to further Kennan’s goal of nuclear arms reduction, than any other president. At one point, in Reykjavik, Iceland, Reagan proposed to the Soviet premier, Gorbachev, that they just get rid of all the nuclear weapons.

Isaiah today has us look to Cyrus the Great, the first emperor of the Medo-Persian empire which replaced the Babylonian empire in latter part of the sixth century BC. Make no mistake about Cyrus. Cyrus was a wicked man who ruled brutally. But he was also a practical ruler. He saw political gain in making a gesture to the oppressed people of his day and reversed the Babylonian exile policy. This policy had forced people, including the Jewish people, to live far from their homelands. In effect, he ended the Babylonian Exile which so traumatized the people of Judah 70 years earlier.

Isaiah says that God used Cyrus to do this, and that God had caused Cyrus’ meteoric rise to power. God did so to bring His people home. I am no prophet and cannot discern what God is up in this time and place. But I can see that God uses sometimes strange means to accomplish His kingdom’s goals. I may not know exactly what He is up to right now, but I know Him and I trust the promise that He made through Paul – All things work for the good of those who love God (Rom. 8:28). I will trust Him and pray for those who rule over me. They too are instruments in God’s hands.

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