Cyrus is perhaps the best example in Isaiah of how God uses secular man to accomplish His will. He is recognized in history as Cyrus the Great and is known as being the founder of the first Persian empire. He is also known for many other impressive military and political accomplishments of his time. Cyrus lived from 600-530 B.C. and his reign was from 549 B.C. until his death.
God allowed Babylon to rule Judah for 70 years according to Jeremiah 25:12. Then, in approximately 539 B.C., Cyrus defeated Babylon and decreed that the Jews could return to their homeland and commence rebuilding the temple with money from the treasury.
Although there is no definite record of Cyrus’s religion, ancient writings suggest that he likely worshipped idols. Despite this, Cyrus’s legacy is one of religious tolerance. He is known for allowing the people he conquered to keep their customs and religious practices. Also, it is worth noting that Cyrus is the only non-Jewish figure in the Bible to be given the title, “His anointed.” Being anointed by God suggests one that is shown favor, great blessings, and is set apart from others to do great things in service to God. Others in the Bible that are described as being anointed by God are: King Saul, King David and of course, Jesus Christ.
Not only did Isaiah prophesy about Cyrus, but Jeremiah did as well in Jeremiah 25:11-12 and 29:1-14. The book of Ezra also has detailed accounts of Cyrus’s contribution to the salvation of God’s people in chapters 1, 3, 4, 5 and 6. But there two verses in II Chronicles that summarize Cyrus’s contribution very well: “Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and also put it in writing, saying, Thus says Cyrus king of Persia: All the kingdoms of the earth the LORD God of heaven has given me. And He has commanded me to build Him a house at Jerusalem which is in Judah. Who is among you of all His people? May the LORD his God be with him, and let him go up!” Chronicles 36:22-23
We have read many references of other nations that God has used to either protect or punish Israel such as Sennacherib. Cyrus, however, is the king that God uses to bring the faithful remnant back to Jerusalem to build the temple. The Savior Christ will be born from this saved lineage. God is blessing Cyrus with the strength and resources to protect the Israelites as well as advance His plan to save all mankind through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. It is profoundly interesting to read about Cyrus and all his historically significant accomplishments and consider that they are all the result of God working in Cyrus’s life.
Verses 1-14 of Isaiah 45 are a description of how God will bless and make ways for Cyrus to defeat the nations that have abused Israel. God even specifically says in verse 4 that He will do all of these things for Cyrus, despite the fact that Cyrus does not know Him: “I am the LORD, and there is no other; There is no God besides Me. I will gird you, though you have not known Me.” Isaiah 45:5
God also goes on to proclaim the foolishness of those that strive with their Maker. Creations like pots do not challenge their creator to question whether or not their creators have hands. Also, children should not question their parents, asking what it is they have made. God says, “Woe to him who strives with his Maker!” He is calling out all the idolatry and hypocrisy of the ungodly and Israel (minus the remnant). Their behavior and depraved loyalties have brought on their punishment. And now, God is directing His anointed Cyrus (whom He raised in righteousness (verse 13)) to re-establish the Israelites.
Verses 14-25 comprise a different tone, but the main idea of the chapter established by the preceding verses remains intact. In these verses, God is speaking directly to Cyrus through Isaiah. Keep in mind that Cyrus still would not be born for more than another 100 years. Take a moment to zoom out on what is happening here: God is speaking through a man to a people about a king who will come generations in the future to save them.
God will show His total dominance of earthly powers through Cyrus. “Powerful” nations will give up their treasures, be bound in chains, bow down to Cyrus and follow him. These nations, confounded by their state, will be forced to say: “Truly You are God, who hide Yourself, O God of Israel, the Savior!” Isaiah 45:15. Another powerful contrast is made here in that the ungodly nations will be ashamed and disgraced while Israel “ … shall be saved by the LORD With an everlasting salvation; You shall not be ashamed or disgraced Forever and ever.” Isaiah 45:17
In the latter verses of this chapter we have an absolutely glorious and relentlessly strong proclamation from God. This is the voice of God that has tolerated unholiness and has chosen His vengeance. He declares Himself as Creator and as the One in control. He establishes His absolute control and His quality to speak righteousness. The foolishness of those that worship idols is mentioned, as is the fact that He is the only God. He is the only source of salvation, and He is the only One worth worshipping:
“Look to Me, and be saved, All you ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other. I have sworn by Myself; The word has gone out of My mouth in righteousness, And shall not return, That to Me every knee shall bow, Every tongue shall take an oath. He shall say, ‘Surely in the LORD I have righteousness and strength. To Him men shall come, And all shall be ashamed Who are incensed against Him. In the LORD all the descendants of Israel Shall be justified, and shall glory.’ ” Isaiah 45:22-25
We are the descendants of Israel through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Consider how He physically saved His people then through Cyrus and how He spiritually saves us now through Jesus Christ….What an awesome God we have!