I hope you enjoyed reading the past few blogs exploring the greater context of what we celebrate at Christmas. I certainly got a lot out of it myself. Today as I continued reading in Isaiah, I was reminded of just how awesome a God we serve. His Sovereignty is unquestionable. I think sometimes we get so caught up in the idea that He is our God, that we forget that He is the Only True God (John 17:3). That means that He reigns supremely over all of creation, because He IS God. Do you ever find yourself caught up in an us-versus-them mentality with respect to non-Christians? Or when defending your faith, do you ever catch yourself referring to their religion as “their gods”? While the concept is true for them in their unbelief, the ultimate Truth is that Our God, is their God, even when though they don’t know who He is. We serve an awesome, and truly Sovereign God.
Don’t just take my word for it, let’s look to the Word of God. Remember in our discussion of the Exile of Israel into Babylon? Isaiah prophesied of the end of the 2 kingdoms, of the scattering of Israel and the captivity of Judah. He prophesied of the hardship that would befall the remnant in Judah. In Chapter 9 we saw that he prophesied of the Birth of the Messiah. Do you remember what marked the end of the Exile in Babylon? Cyrus the king of Persia. He followed Zoroastrianism, and thus believed in many gods. We discussed the historical record of how in his belief of the great spectrum of gods, the God of Israel was one of the good Gods that needed to have His Temple restored. What I didn’t realize was that the Bible has a great deal to say about this king. God spoke again to the prophet Isaiah, a message to this king, in Chapter 45.
Isaiah 45 (NASB)
God Uses Cyrus
1 Thus says the Lord to Cyrus His anointed, Whom I have taken by the right hand, To subdue nations before him And to loose the loins of kings; To open doors before him so that gates will not be shut:
2 “I will go before you and make the rough places smooth; I will shatter the doors of bronze and cut through their iron bars.
3 “I will give you the treasures of darkness And hidden wealth of secret places, So that you may know that it is I, The Lord, the God of Israel, who calls you by your name.
4 “For the sake of Jacob My servant, And Israel My chosen one, I have also called you by your name; I have given you a title of honor Though you have not known Me.
5 “I am the Lord, and there is no other; Besides Me there is no God. I will gird you, though you have not known Me;
6 That men may know from the rising to the setting of the sun That there is no one besides Me. I am the Lord, and there is no other,
7 The One forming light and creating darkness, Causing well-being and creating calamity; I am the Lord who does all these.
8 “Drip down, O heavens, from above, And let the clouds pour down righteousness; Let the earth open up and salvation bear fruit, And righteousness spring up with it. I, the Lord, have created it.
9 “Woe to the one who quarrels with his Maker— An earthenware vessel among the vessels of earth! Will the clay say to the potter, ‘What are you doing?’ Or the thing you are making say, ‘He has no hands’?
10 “Woe to him who says to a father, ‘What are you begetting?’ Or to a woman, ‘To what are you giving birth?’”
11 Thus says the Lord, the Holy One of Israel, and his Maker:
“Ask Me about the things to come concerning My sons, And you shall commit to Me the work of My hands.
12 “It is I who made the earth, and created man upon it. I stretched out the heavens with My hands And I ordained all their host.
13 “I have aroused him in righteousness And I will make all his ways smooth; He will build My city and will let My exiles go free, Without any payment or reward,” says the Lord of hosts.
14 Thus says the Lord, “The products of Egypt and the merchandise of Cush And the Sabeans, men of stature, Will come over to you and will be yours; They will walk behind you, they will come over in chains And will bow down to you; They will make supplication to you: ‘Surely, God is with you, and there is none else, No other God.’”
15 Truly, You are a God who hides Himself, O God of Israel, Savior!
16 They will be put to shame and even humiliated, all of them; The manufacturers of idols will go away together in humiliation.
17 Israel has been saved by the Lord With an everlasting salvation; You will not be put to shame or humiliated to all eternity.
18 For thus says the Lord, who created the heavens (He is the God who formed the earth and made it, He established it and did not create it a waste place, but formed it to be inhabited),
“I am the Lord, and there is none else.
19 “I have not spoken in secret, in some dark land; I did not say to the offspring of Jacob,‘Seek Me in a waste place’; I, the Lord, speak righteousness, Declaring things that are upright.
20 “Gather yourselves and come; Draw near together, you fugitives of the nations; They have no knowledge, Who carry about their wooden idol And pray to a god who cannot save.
21 “Declare and set forth your case; Indeed, let them consult together. Who has announced this from of old? Who has long since declared it? Is it not I, the Lord? And there is no other God besides Me, A righteous God and a Savior; There is none except Me.
22 “Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth; For I am God, and there is no other.
23 “I have sworn by Myself, The word has gone forth from My mouth in righteousness And will not turn back, That to Me every knee will bow, every tongue will swear allegiance.
24 “They will say of Me, ‘Only in the Lord are righteousness and strength.’ Men will come to Him, And all who were angry at Him will be put to shame.
25 “In the Lord all the offspring of Israel Will be justified and will glory.”
Remember, God is speaking to (and of) a foreigner. And God has clearly stated that His Hand was upon Cyrus. We serve a truly awesome God… whose Sovereignty is absolute. Your belief in Him empowers you, not Him. Likewise, the unbelief in men hurts men, not God. We also have an often quoted verse in Romans:
6 For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. 11 And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.
Paul is not talking to Jews in this letter… he’s talking to Gentiles (Romans). This is extremely important because before Christ foreigners did not have access to God except through His Chosen people. Paul spends a great deal of time explaining throughout the Epistles just how awesome we have it as adopted sons and daughters of God. By the Blood of Jesus we have been made heirs and joint-heirs with Christ. Jesus did that, for us… all of us, even those of us who refuse to accept Him as Lord and Savior. There is only One God… and He Reigns Supreme over all of His creation.
So don’t lose sight of that wonderful truth. God is in control. He is sovereign over all things. That doesn’t mean we won’t struggle, or experience pain, or have our faith tested… it means that in all of it, God is in control. We modern-day Christians would do well to study the Old Testament and the History of the descendents of Abraham. Because, thanks to Jesus, their history is now our history. For some of you that fact is a great comfort, for others a bit of a warning… for most of us, it serves as both.
One of the men in our church recently asked me for some advice for some direction for growing in his walk. He is a new Christian, so my recommendation was to start reading Romans, with a pen and paper handy. Write down questions, concerns, and struggles with what he reads and be sure to share them with me as continues to read and absorb. I think we will be visiting Romans a great deal in the next month here at FS, and we will be looking at the roots laid in the Old Testament as well.