45 “This is what the Lord says to his anointed,
to Cyrus, whose right hand I take hold of
to subdue nations before him
and to strip kings of their armor,
to open doors before him
so that gates will not be shut:
2 I will go before you
and will level the mountains;
I will break down gates of bronze
and cut through bars of iron.
3 I will give you hidden treasures,
riches stored in secret places,
so that you may know that I am the Lord,
the God of Israel, who summons you by name.
4 For the sake of Jacob my servant,
of Israel my chosen,
I summon you by name
and bestow on you a title of honor,
though you do not acknowledge me.
5 I am the Lord, and there is no other;
apart from me there is no God.
I will strengthen you,
though you have not acknowledged me,
6 so that from the rising of the sun
to the place of its setting
people may know there is none besides me.
I am the Lord, and there is no other.
7 I form the light and create darkness,
I bring prosperity and create disaster;
I, the Lord, do all these things.
Brothers and Sister in Christ …
How many of you have ever heard the phrase … “There are too many chiefs and not enough indians”? If you have, you already know what it means, but for those of you, probably the younger people in the room, let me briefly explain it. The chief is … the one who is in charge. The chief is the boss, the head honcho, the CEO of his company. The chief is the one who dictates orders to the indians, to those below him with the expectation that what he instructs will be done. But a common thing seen in general, especially in pre-marital counseling sessions that I have done is that no one likes to be told what to do. No one really likes to be the indian. Instead of being the low man on the totem pole or instead of even being the one who is part way up, everyone wants to be the CHIEF! Everyone wants to be the boss, the head honcho.
As much as everyone wants to be the chief, I’m sure you can see the problem with this. With too many chiefs and not enough indians, with too many bosses and not enough workers … nothing will ever get done, nothing will ever be accomplished. Meetings will last for hours because everyone will want it their way and no decisions will be made. Projects stall out without a consensus of the group. Battles for power among those who want to be chiefs get uglier and uglier. Eventually indians, eventually people are fighting against one another. Sounds a great deal like the political and cultural world of our country today. Everyone wants to be the chief and no one wants to be the indian. But the thing is, even though everyone may want to be a chief, even though everyone may want to be the leader and in charge … only a few are actually chosen.
And even though a few may be chosen … they are not always the best. This is true even with almost all of the leaders chosen throughout the Scriptures. For example … Moses. God chose Moses to be the leader who would lead the Israelites out of Egypt into the Promised Land. Moses though didn’t want to be a leader. He tried numerous times to tell God that He should be finding someone else. Moses said he stuttered, that he wasn’t a good public speaker … but God chose him anyway. Along the way, God would help Moses … that is until Moses took matters into his own hands. When Moses failed to trust God and did what he thought was best, Moses was told that even though he led the people out of Egypt and into the wilderness, he would not be the one who would lead them into the Promised Land.
King David is another example. David, the one who trusted in God to help him defeat the great giant Goliath with a simple smooth stone, also had an innocent man killed because David decided that this man’s wife was beautiful and got her pregnant. David’s son Solomon is considered one of the wisest kings to ever live … that is until he had 300 wives and 700 concubines or mistresses. These different women in his life led Solomon to follow their false gods and not the one true God.
The Israelite people were called to be leaders. They were to show the surrounding nations what it means to follow God through the living out of their daily lives. They were to show the surrounding nations the blessings which God provided them with and to help bring the unbelieving nations to believing and trusting in God above all other things. But even though they were chosen … they all decided to act like chiefs instead of indians. When things were going good for them, instead of allowing God to be the leader, they took it upon themselves to be the leader and in doing so … they followed false gods, they worshipped themselves, they mistreated the poor, the widowed and the orphaned. Instead of worshipping God and showing the unbelieving nations how to believe and trust in God above all things, they got drunk on the temple wine and abused the blessings which God gave them and showed them all the wrong things to do. Thus the reason why they were exiled out of their own land.
And this is where we find them in our Old Testament reading this morning. The Israelites of Isaiah 45 are living in the foreign city of Babylon. They are under Babylonian rule and told to worship the Babylonian gods.
But something odd if happening in our reading from Isaiah 45. God is not addressing the Israelites in how they should be living but instead God is addressing this strange fellow who was named to be the anointed the one, the next leader of the Israelites 150 years before our reading actually took place. Cyrus, the king of the Persians is bestowed by God a title of honor. The weird thing about this Cyrus guy is that he didn’t even believe in God. At least not the God who created the heavens and the earth because God even has to tell Cyrus who He is and that there is no other God besides him. Even though Cyrus doesn’t recognize God, God uses Cyrus to free the Israelite people from Babylonian captivity. He allows them to return home and rebuild the temple so they could worship God there again.
But here’s the thing … Cyrus was only a good leader to the Israelites because God chose him for the specific purpose of freeing the Israelites. Cyrus was just another piece of God’s long eternal plan. God chose Cyrus for a particular mission and walked along with him to complete that mission. Even though Cyrus thought of himself as being the chief and the king of the Persians, possibly even a god … he was really just another indian under the great and head chief of God.
And that is what you and I need to remember. No matter what our economic or social status, no matter how many degrees we have listed behind our names, no matter what our position within society is … we are all indians under the great high chief of God. God has chosen each of us for a specific task. God has given you and me our special vocations of husband or wife, dad or mom, pastor, janitor, accountant, teacher, farmer, brother or sister for a particular reason. And even though you and I may not know what that particular reason is … it is a piece which fits in perfectly with God’s eternal plan.
But when things in life are going well for us … it is very easy to be like the Israelites who Cyrus releases and think that I’m the chief, I’m the top dog. Things are going so well my way that I think I’m going to keep doing the things I want to do. When we do that, when we start thinking that I’m the top dog, we fall into the very same trap as Adam and Eve did in the garden back in the beginning of all creation. When we start to think that I’m on top and that I know best, we are trying to slide ourselves into the position of being God. And then some way, somehow, God in His infinite knowledge humbles us and makes us turn our eyes from looking inward, to looking outward and upward.
Outward and upward to the true leader. The true leader who never counted equality with God a thing to be grasped but humbled himself to be a servant. The true leader who was not recognized to be a leader but instead was looked down upon as an instigator and a pot-stirrer. Because of that, because of his threatening presence … the true leader was brutally beaten, maliciously mocked, and was lifted up and nailed upon a splintery cross. Jesus, the suffering servant of Isaiah 52 and 53 was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquity, the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed (Isaiah 53:5). Jesus, the very Son of God was chosen by God to be the unlikely leader who is leader of all. Through Christ alone, our sins of pride, our sins of thinking that we are the top dog, the chief of all that happens in my life is forgiven. Jesus puts you and me in our place reminding us that we are creatures of God and not God himself for there is no way we could earn our salvation, there is no way we could even begin to making ourselves right with God. Jesus does it all. The little baby boy of Mary and Joseph born in the shadows of great King Herod in Bethlehem, who comes from the back-water region of Galilee, who looks like every other person is the Savior of the world. He is the unlikely leader who is leader of all.
Cyrus was chosen for a specific role in freeing the Israelites from Babylonian captivity. You are chosen as a member of God’s family through the faith given to you for a specific role. Christ is chosen to be our leader, our leader by night as by day, our teacher in age as in youth, our savior in calm as in strife. Christ is our leader for there is nothing which he hasn’t experienced and there is no where he would be except with you. He is there walking with you along the great mountain top experiences and he is there walking with you through the valley of deep darkness. Jesus is the unlikely leader who is leader of all and it is he who shines brightly in the hearts of all believers, who shines brightly in your hearts. Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Jesus Christ, the true leader of all, now and forever. Amen.