Yahweh promises to do a new thing for Judah (Isaiah 42:9; 43:19; 48:6). He brings Israel from Babylon, and reorganizes the geopolitical landscape to make a new relation of Israel and the nations.
“Thus says the Lord to His anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have held— to subdue nations before him and loose the armor of kings, to open before him the double doors, so that the gates will not be shut. . . .’” (Isaiah 45:1-25).
NEW DAVID, NEW SOLOMON
Yahweh proves that he is Beginning and End by naming characters that don’t appear in history until much later (cf. 1 Kings 13; 2 Kings 22-23). Isaiah prophesies in the 690s B.C., and Cyrus wasn’t even born until about 600 B.C. Yahweh promises to bread down walls and gates before Cyrus (Isaiah 45:2), to give him plunder (45:3) and a title of honor (45:4), and to arouse him to send Israel home (45:13). Surprisingly, Yahweh piles up titles on Cyrus that are usually reserved for Davidic kings – “shepherd” (44:28) and “anointed” (45:1). Cyrus will be a new Solomon who rebuilds the temple (44:28). In the new order that Yahweh sets up, the Davidic task will not be carried out by a Davidic king, but by a Gentile, a Persian. Yahweh sets up a new world order in which Gentile kings will be patrons of Israel, an order that lasts until the coming of the Messiah (cf. Daniel 2). He can do this because He is the true God who forms light and darkness (45:5-7), because He is the One who stretches out heavens and names the hosts of stars (45:12).
The work of Cyrus will demonstrate Yahweh’s righteousness, which drops like rain from heaven (Isaiah 45:8). God’s righteousness or justice is not only evident in His punishment of the wicked but in His faithfulness to His promises and I His determination to bring His creation to its fulfillment. He speaks openly and “declares things that are upright” (45:19) and His righteous word goes out and accomplishes what He intends (45:23-24). The rain of righteousness produces the fruit of salvation because Yahweh Himself creates righteousness (45:8).
Human beings are clay pots, made from dust (cf. Genesis 2:7). Israel is the new Adamic people, fashioned by Yahweh. God’s people may not like the way He accomplishes His righteousness and salvation. They may object to Yahweh’s intention to give a Gentile king a Davidic standing. But the potter can make the clay as He wills, and the pot has no right to object (Isaiah 45:9; cf. Romans 9:20-21).
PLUNDERING THE NATIONS
Cyrus himself supports the temple by supplying building materials (cf. Ezra 1:1-11). In this, he is a sign of things to come. Not only Persia but all the nations will bow before Israel when Yahweh returns them to the land and rebuilds Jerusalem (Isaiah 45:14). Whoever continues to cling to idols will be humiliated (45:16-17). Yahweh draws the nations not only to bow to Israel but also to defend themselves and their idols in His court (45:20). He will be the victor because He proves Himself “a righteous God and a Savior’ in His dealings with Israel and all the nations (45:21-22). By raising up Cyrus as His anointed, Yahweh not only justifies Himself; He justifies and glorifies Israel (45:25).
posted by Peter J. Leithart on Monday, October 1, 2012 at 4:40 pm
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