The Word Made Fresh
1This is what the LORD says to Cyrus, the one anointed,
whose right hand I have taken
in order to subdue the nations around him
and strip the other kings of their finery,
to open doors for him,
and the gates shall not be shut:
2“I will go ahead of you and level the mountains.
I will break the bronze doors apart
and sever the iron bars.
3I will give you the dark treasures and riches hidden in secret
so that you may know that I, the LORD, the God of Israel,
calls you by your name.
4I call my servant Jacob and Israel my chosen one by name,
and though you don’t know me I have given you a surname.
5For I am the LORD. There is no other,
and besides me there is no god.
And though you don’t know me, I protect you.
6And you will know from the sun’s rising in the east
and from the west, that there is none besides me;
I am the LORD and there is no other.
7I send light and create darkness.
I make prosperity and create disaster –
I, the LORD, do all these things.
8Send your showers from above, you heavens,
and let the skies rain down righteousness.
Let the earth open and bring salvation,
and let righteousness spring up as well.
I, the LORD, have created it.
9Woe to you who struggle with your Maker,
you who are but earthen vessels and pots.
Does the clay ask the one who fashions it,
“What are you shaping?”
Or “Does what you are making have no handles?”
10Woe to anyone who says to a father, “What are you begetting?”
Or to a mother, “What are you bringing forth?”
11This is what the LORD, the Holy One who made Israel, says:
Will you ask me about my children,
or give me orders about the work of my hands?
12I made the earth and created people to dwell upon it.
My hands spread out the heavens,
and I was over everything in them.
13I have now summoned Cyrus in righteousness.
I will make all his ways straight.
And he shall build my city
and set the exiles free, but not to profit from them,
says the LORD Almighty.
14This is what the LORD says:
The wealth of Egypt and Cush,
and the tall Sabeans shall come over to you and belong to you.
They shall follow you. They shall come in chains
and bow down to you.
They shall plead with you and say,
“God alone is with you, and no others.
There is no other god.”
15Surely you are the God who is hidden.
You are the God of Israel, and their Savior.
16They are all ashamed and confounded.
The idol makers are confused,
17but the LORD saves Israel forever.
You shall not be ashamed or confounded to all eternity.
18This is what the LORD, the creator of the heavens,
the One who formed the earth
and established it, has promised.
It was not created in chaos, but formed to be inhabited
I am the LORD. There is no other.
19I did not speak secretly in a dark land;
I did not tell the children of Jacob to seek me in darkness.
But I, the LORD speak the truth and declare what is right.
20Gather together and come near, you who are the survivors.
You who carry around your wooden idols know nothing.
You keep praying to gods who can do nothing.
21Declare your case and present it to me.
Consult among yourselves; who told about this long ago?
Was it not I, the Lord? There is no other god.
I am both righteous God and savior. There is none besides me.
22Turn to me, then, and be saved, all of you to the ends of the earth!
For I am God. There is no other.
23I alone have promised in righteousness
this word that shall not be disputed:
“To me every knee shall bow
and every tongue shall confess.”
24It shall be said of me, “Righteousness and power
are only in the LORD. And all who were against the LORD
shall come to the LORD and be ashamed.
25All the children of Israel shall celebrate and be triumphant.”
1-7: Cyrus is the LORD’s anointed. This is an extraordinary thing, for a prophet of Israel to call a foreign king God’s anointed one. God claims Cyrus as his instrument by which Israel will be restored, even though Cyrus “does not know me.”
8: God summons the skies to rain down righteousness, a character trait sadly missing in Israel to this point.
9-17: The metaphor of the clay rebelling against the potter has been used before (see 29:16). The point is that God is in charge and God will decide what will happen and what won’t happen. God will summon Cyrus to be the catalyst for the rebuilding of Jerusalem. The day will come when Egyptians and Ethiopians and Sabeans will recognize Israel’s God and realize the error of idol worship. The Sabean kingdom was at the extreme southern end of the Arabian Peninsula; on the southern border of what is today Saudi Arabia. They are only mentioned a few times in the Bible (Job 1:15, Joel 3:8), and did not seem to have very much direct contact with Israel. Their mention here is a bit puzzling.
18-19: The prophet continues to underscore God’s sovereignty and might.
20-21: Once again the idols are challenged to present their case. They did not foretell any of the things that have happened, but God did.
22-25: The day will come when all peoples acknowledge Israel’s God as the LORD. Compare vs. 23b (“To me every knee shall bow…”) with Romans 14:11; St. Paul was obviously familiar with the passages we are reading!
Everything that has happened in the past has led us to this moment. No matter what you may be dealing with today, or suffering from, or celebrating, God is in the details and is slowly but powerfully moving the world where God wants it to go.