It had been a really bad few years for the Israelites. And in the midst of this intense suffering the Lord says to them through the prophet Isaiah:
“Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you, I give men in return for you, peoples in exchange for your life. Fear not, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east, and from the west I will gather you…”
The Lord promised to Israel that she was special to him. He was going to rescue her and bless her abundantly.
And then He starts holding the hand of Cyrus. “Thus says the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have grasped…” You don’t expect the name Cyrus in that sentence. You expect something like Hezekiah or Uzziah or some other Jewish sounding name. Not Cyrus.
And so the Lord holds the hand of Cyrus and causes him to make some serious bank. He blesses Cyrus in a way similar to what He said was going to happen for Israel. Certainly this would have caused great consternation for the faithful Israelites.
We have the advantage of history.
We can look back and read Isaiah as well as Ezra/Nehemiah and see how God used Cyrus to bless the Israelites. Cyrus was God’s instrument to fulfill His promises to the Israelites.
Yet I have to wonder what it looked like to the Israelites when they were actually living this. I know in my own life it seems as if the Lord is doing the exact opposite of the promises that He has made. It seems like rather than restoring us he is wrecking us. Sometimes the gospel of peace feels like everything but. From the outside it can look like the Lord is giving all of the fruit of His promise to those like Cyrus while His church is left to sift through ashes.
In my weaker moments I want to bicker and complain and try to tell the Lord that the way that He is shaping His church is totally backwards. “Why does He have to raise up a Cyrus? Why not a Hezekiah. Why can’t the sovereign and all-wise Lord of the universe fill His church with passionate and holy worshippers without all of these bumps along the way?” And to these bickering and foolish questions the Lord says:
Woe to him who strives with him who formed him, a pot among earthen pots! Does the clay say to him who forms it, ‘What are you making?’ or ‘Your work has no handles?’
There is beauty here that should calm my questioning heart. God can use even a Cyrus that doesn’t know Him to bless His church and fulfill His covenant promises. Everything in all of creation is at His disposal to actually accomplish the rich blessings that He has promised to us. This ought to cause great comfort. So when I see Him holding the hand of another, and I feel cast off to the side for a season, it is best for me to trust in His wisdom. And know that His holding the hand of another isn’t divorced from His earlier promise to do me much good.