October 11 | Daily Devotion

Lectio Continua: a continuous reading of every verse

Lectio Semi-continua: shorter reading selections from the passages

Lectio Divina

“I will raise up Cyrus in my righteousness: I will make all his ways straight. He will rebuild my city and set my exiles free, but not for a price or reward, says the Lord Almighty.” ~Isaiah 45:13

OLD TESTAMENT

The nations Isaiah directs his preaching toward have vast wealth, beautiful architecture, places of great learning, stately temples for worship, impressive seats of government, powerful standing armies, etc. Don’t imagine a motley tribe of desert tent-dwellers. The brilliance, sophistication, and artistry of these nations is preserved through antiquities in places like the Chicago Field Museum, the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago (a wonderful hidden gem), and the British Museum. These were great civilizations, cultural powerhouses with their own art, entertainment, language, and so on.

Fast forward past Isaiah’s time and God has made good on His warnings to judge His people. One of these great civilizations, the Babylonian Empire (roughly modern-day Iraq), has extended their territory by conquering God’s people. The ruling class and the powerbrokers are carried off into exile to prohibit the people from forming a rebellion, while the agricultural laborers are left to work the land under an appointed governor. When an empire expanded, it did not want to destroy its new prize but rather to extend its reign of power and realize a profit from its new subjects (through taxation).

God uses Babylon to judge His people because they abandoned Him (see Isaiah 1). However, Babylon incurs God anger because of the harsh manner in which they treated His people in discipline. Enter Cyrus the Great and today’s reading. In order to judge Babylon, God raises up another kingdom even greater than it. The Persian Empire would stand as one of the greatest civilization of the ancient world. Its territory covered almost the entire Middle East (modern-day Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, and the Arabian Peninsula) as well as parts of Africa, including Egypt and Sudan.

The Persian expansion is all God’s doing. Under Cyrus, God begins rebuilding the land of His people (Is. 45:13). God calls Cyrus “my anointed” in Isaiah 45:1 not because he is a God-follower but because God chose him. He is raised to power in order to judge Babylon (chapter 47) and to restore God’s people (we’ve already witnessed the beginnings of that restoration in the book of Ezra).

There are two powerful and encouraging lessons in today’s reading. First, God is sovereign over all the nations, even the most powerful nations in the world (Is. 45:13). He isn’t exaggerating when He says, “I am the Lord” (Is. 45:18). World leaders may play their chess games, but God ultimately controls the outcome. He is even sovereign over evil nations and evil rulers, and He often uses them for His own good purpose. Second, God’s people are always right in the center of His plans. This is no more clearly demonstrated than in the very time of their exile and rebuilding. They are literally (geographically) right smack dab in the middle, but they are never lost in the shuffle! God is watching out for them and even moves people and nations about for their benefit. He raises up and strengthens a king, one who does not acknowledge His name, for the sake of His people.

God is always looking out for us. Always. Sometimes His blessings flow through the most unlikely of sources—a boss, a friend’s friend, a neighbor, a loan officer. A person may not know God at all and yet touch your life! God is watching out for you. Isn’t He amazing? There is no one like Him.

NEW TESTAMENT

It is clear that Christian freedom does not mean we are free to do whatever we want. Freedom never works that way. Now that we are free to enjoy God and all that He is, we must put off the things that will drag us into bondage: anger, sexual immorality, gossip, slander, and all the evil desires and deeds that, for all the pleasure they promise in the moment, make life miserable in the end.

Freedom is a life of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and self-control. Unfettered by bitterness, lies, and greed, we can love God and others above all else. Now that we are free, may God help us remain free.


Lectio Divina is written by F. Lionel Young III, who serves as the senior pastor of Calvary Church in Valparaiso, Indiana. He is the author of A New Kind of Missionary, a popular introduction to global Christianity.