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Biblical Illustrator Isa 45

Biblical Illustrator Isa 45

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BIBLICAL ILLUSTRATOR ISA 45CHAPTER XLV.Vbb3. 1-6. ThuB saith tlie Lord to His anointed. — Cyrus : — The name of Cyrus is written Kuras in Babylonian cuneiform, Kurush in Old Persian. Ctesiaastated on the authority of Parysatis, the wife of the Persian king Ochus, that heryounger son was named Cyrus from the sun, as the Persians called the sun KOpos{E'pit. Phot. 80; Pint. Artax. 1). In Zend, however, the sun is hware, which couldnot take the form KOpos in Old Persian, though in modern Persian it is khur, khir,and kher. . . . The classical writers have given extraordinary accounts of hisbirth and rise to power. . . . All these versions have been shown to be unhistoricalby contemporaneous cuneiform inscriptions. The most important of these are^(1) a cylinder inscription of abonidus, the last king of the Babylonian Empire,from Abu Habba (Sippara); (2) an annalistic tablet written shortly after the con-quest of Babylonia by Cyrus; (3) a proclamation of Cyrus of the same date. . . .The proclamation of Cyrus shows that he was not a Zoroastrian like Darius andXerxes, but that as he claimed to be the successor of the Babylonian kings, so alsohe acknowledged the supremacy of Bel-Merodach the supreme Babylonian god.Hence the restoration of the Jewish exiles was not due to any sympathy withmonotheism, but was part of a general policy. Experience had taught him thedanger of allowing a disaffected population to exist in a country which might beinvaded by an enemy; his own conquest of Babylonia had been assisted by therevolt of a part of its population ; and he therefore reversed the policy of deporta-tion and denationahsation which had been attempted by the Assyrian and Baby-Ionian kings. The exiles and the images of their gods were sent back to their oldhomes; oiily in the case of the Jews, who had no images, it was the sacred vesselsof the temple which were restored. {Prof. A. H. Sayce, LL.D.) Cyrus : hischaracter : — To Greek literature Cyrus was the prince pre-eminent, — set forthasthe model for education in childhood, self-restraint in youth, just and powerfulgovernment in manhood. Most of what we read of him in Xenophon's Cyro-pcedia is, of course, romance; but the very fact that, like our own king Arthur,Cyrus was used as a mirror to flash great ideals down the ages, proves that therewas with him native brilliance and width of siurface as well as fortunate eminenceof position. He owed much to the virtue of his race. {Prof. 0. A. Smith, D.D.)Cyrus, God's tool : — Cyrus is neither chosen for his character, nor said [in theIsaiah passages] to be endowed with one. But that he is there, and that he doesBO much, is due simply to this, that God had chosen him. What he is endowedwith is force, push, swiftness, irresistibleness. He is, in short, not a character,but a tool; and God makes no apology for using him but this, that he has the
 
qualities of a tool. ow, we cannot help being struck with the contrast of allthis, the Hebrew view of Cyrus, with the well-known Greek view of him. Tothe Greeks he is first and foremost a character. {Ibid. ) The victories of Cyrus : — We have vividly described to us the victories of Cyrus; in his whirlwind career,subduing the nations before him, loosing the loins of kings (that whole troop of vassal empires enumerated by Xenophon), and opening before him the hundredbrazen gates of Babylon (also minutely described by Herodotus, as guarding alikethe approaches to the river and the temple of Belus), and cutting in sunder thebars of iron. The spoil amassed on that occasion was probably unexampled inthe annals of war; for besides the enormous wealth of palatial Babylon itself,it included the fabulous riches of Croesus, king of Lydia, who brought waggon-load after waggon-load to lay at the feet of the conqueror. The aggiegate wascomputed to be equivalent to upwards of a hundred and twenty-six millions of our money. Well, therefore, might the prophet here chronicle, among the pre-destined exploits of this mighty prince (ver. 3), " the treasures of darkness, andhidden riches of secret places." (J. R. Macduff, D.D.) Loosing the loins of kings : — The monarchs of eastern nations were accustomed to wear girdles abouttheir loins, which were considered as giving strength and firmness to their bodies;and, being richly decorated, served as badges of royal dignity. When, therefore,God declares that He would deprive them of their girdles and loose their loins, theexpression imports that He would divest them of their power and majesty, andreduce them to a mean and contemptible condition. {R. Macculloch.) SpecialDivine instrumentalities in the world s renovation : — 1. For the enlargement of HisChurch, God often selects special instruments. In setting into motion a wholeBystem of agencies this is almost uniformly the case. We recognise the fact all alongCHAP. XLV.] ISAIAH. 429the history of the Church. We see men raised up with peculiar gifts and clothedwithpeculiar powers to effect certain great works. The text gives us a remarkable illus-tration of this method of Divine procedure. In the bosom of the Church itself thereare two still more remarkable examples of this law; the two men who bore thelargest part in the inauguration and establishment of the chief dispensations. Mosesand Paul were not indifferent characters; nor were their training and positionlike that of the multitude. They stand out boldly in history as men of peculiarnatural gifts and attainments. Their early discipline exalted their intrinsicpower; while their relation to the people among whom their work was to beperformed, and to the science of the age in which they lived, imparted special
 
qualifications for their great mission. It is not that the human is thus exaltedabove the Divine, but simply that the Divine uses that kind and measure of humanitywhich are best fitted to accomplish its purposes. 2. It is just as certain that thegreat Sovereign chooses particular nations to effect certain parts of His work inthe final triumph of the Gospel, as that He chooses certain individuals for somespecial operation. " This people have I formed for myself; they shall show forthMy praise." His sovereignty reaches back of the immediate work. It choosesaccording to the character of the nation; it reaches to the antecedent trainingand the natural characteristics which combine to prepare the nation most fullyfor the work; nay, this sovereignty in its far-reachang wisdom has been busy allalong the history of the people in so ordering the moulding influences under whichcharacters and position are attained, that when the time comes for them to enterinto His special work, they will be found aU ripe for His purpose. This nation,to whom the passage before us refers, is a marked illustration of this thought.The Jew was designed to be the conservator of the Word of God. He was chosenfor this purpose. The object was not propagation, but conservation. The raceby nature and education had just those qualities which fitted it for this work.Its wonderful tenacity of impression, its power to hold what once had fairly beenforced into it by Divine energy, like the rock hardened around the crystal, belongsto its nature, reveals itself after Providence had shattered the nation, in thatgranite character which, under the fire of eighteen centuries, remains unchanged.At every step of the progress of Christianity since, illustrations multiply of thetruth that God forms nations to His work, and chooses them because of theirfitness to accomplish certain parts of that work. The Greek with his high mentalculture and his glorious language — fit instrument through which the Divine Wordbreathed His life-giving truth; the Roman sceptred in power over the whole realmof civilisation, and undesignedly constructing the great highway for the Churchof Jesus; the German, with his innate freedom of spirit, nourishing the thoughtfulsouls whose lofty utterances awoke, whose wondrous power disentl^alled a sleepingand captive Church. (5. W. Fisher, D.D.)Vers. 2, 3. I will go before thee. — Ood going before : — Man must go. Eachman is accomplishing a journey, going through a process. The only question is.How? Man may go, either with God or without Him. Whether we go withGod or without Him, we shall find crooked places. I. We should regard the textas A WAKiG. There are crooked places. II. The text is also a peomisb. " Iwill go before thee." God does not say where He will straighten our path; Hedoes not say how; the great thing for us to believe is that there is a special promisefor us, and to wait in devout hope for its fulfilment. He who waits for God is notmisspending his time. Such waiting is true living — such tarrying is the truestspeed, ni. The text is also a plan. It is in the word " before " that I find the

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