Wednesday 18 January 2012

Bible Book:

"He is my shepherd, and he shall carry out all my purpose" (v. 28)

Isaiah 44:24 – 45:7 Wednesday 18 January 2012


In today's passage, the prophecy reaches a pivotal andsurprising moment. The identity of the one whom God will use tointervene to free those in exile, restore the holy city ofJerusalem and rebuild the temple as the centre of worship anddevotion for Israel is revealed, and it's perhaps an unexpectedchoice. From general affirmations of what God is like, the prophecynow moves to a particular declaration of what God will do. TheEternal One forms and creates, stretches and spreads, frustratesand turns back (verses 24-25) and now Cyrus is named as the one whothe Lord will use to fulfil the divine purpose for Israel.

The prophet hinted at the coming of "one from the North" earlier on(Isaiah 41:25), but the choice of Cyrus was notnecessarily guaranteed to be received with unalloyed joy by Israel.The term "shepherd" denoted a king who cared for his subjectspersonally and would have had particular associations with thedignity of Saul (1 Samuel 9:16-17) and the divinely grantedstatus of David (1 Samuel 16:1-13). Now God appears to bedelegating the role of Israel's restoration to a foreigner sinceCyrus is destined to be King of Persia! Yet he is referred to asGod's anointed (verse 1) - a term later used to refer to the longexpected Messiah who would deliver Israel at the end-time (in Greek'the Christ'). It was also used to refer to the consecration ofIsrael's kings, priests and prophets, underlining the unlikelyspecial status this pagan has under God. The expected fulfilment ofGod's plan through a king in the line of David will actually happenthough a Gentile (non-Jew). In this task Cyrus will enjoy power andintimacy with God (verses 1-3) and although the method of itsachievement may be unexpected, the divine purpose of the EternalOne remains the calling and empowering of Israel (verses4-5).

To Ponder

"Christ is the end, for Christ was the beginning,Christ the beginning, for the end is Christ" (Hymns & Psalms236, verse 4). What helps you to hold on to the truth that God'sgood purposes in Christ are being carried out during times in yourlife when all the evidence seems to point to the contrary?

Today's passage is a reminder that God usesunexpected people to take us beyond our comfort zones in achievingthe divine purpose. At the beginning of the Octave of Prayerfor Christian Unity, how might you be more open to insightsfrom other, less comfortable Christian traditions than the one withwhich you are most familiar?

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