Wednesday, October 14, 2020

October 14, 2020 – Wednesday prior to Proper 24

Isaiah 45:1-7 -In our Old Testament lesson a pagan ruler, Cyrus, is chosen by God as His instrument. The Lord uses a nation to fulfill His purposes in this world. In God’s hands lies the destiny of nations. The Old Testament reading and the New Testament reading for this coming week are closely connected. From His cross, as the Lord’s anointed, Jesus reigns as the true Caesar over all nations “from the rising of the sun and from the west” (Isaiah 45:6). The Lord once called and anointed Cyrus “to subdue nations before him and to loose the belts of kings” (Isaiah 45:1). Now by the preaching of the Gospel, “in power and in the Holy Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 1:5), foreigners from all over the world are “turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God.” (1 Thessalonians 1:9–10)

Isaiah's good news might be paraphrased thus: "Whom would you rather have in charge of even the dark realities of the real world: gods created by human hands and human culture (including those we create today), or the God who loves you and who will give himself to you and for you in whatever way it takes to set you free?" Isaiah (and the Old Testament world) will not resort to atheism to explain the hard realities ("Stuff Happens!"), but neither will he yield to a simplistic formula of "If it happened, God did it."

There is only one God, but that God works through the forces of creation and through the agency of human beings (like Cyrus). Because they are real, both God's natural world and God's human world might revert to the chaos God seeks to overcome though God's continual work of liberation, but liberation and redemption remain always God's "purpose." Sometimes getting to God's goal will entail "woe" and "darkness" (not least, the woe and darkness of Good Friday) but "weal" and "light" remain the goal (not least, the light of Easter's dawn).

This coming Sunday when the Gospel reading includes the "render unto Caesar" line (Matthew 22:21), our text reminds us that God has worked and will work through "Caesar" (or Cyrus). Whether or however we talk about God's "two kingdoms," that can never mean there is one "kingdom" where God rules (church) and one that God leaves to Caesar (politics).

Cyrus is a remarkably active divine agent in our text. He is called to be the means of God's deliverance. But Isaiah  refuses to allow him to be merely a pawn. Cyrus, too--though he did not know God (45:4)--was meant to come to know that he was called by God (45:3).[1]

Luther’s Seal copyright © Ed Riojas, Higher Things

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