His Shepherd Cyrus
World history is boring!” Did you ever hear such a thing? I know I did. Why learn the names of people and places you never heard of? What difference does it make? In some cases, it makes a big difference. It can even change a life.
At first glance, Cyrus the Great, an ancient king of Persia, would seem to be a boring name from the past. But if you’ve been keeping up with events in Iran (Persia), you already know that this king, dead for 2,500 years, has been making news. Why? Because of his connection to the Jewish people and the promises of God.
One hundred fifty years before Cyrus was born, God delivered a prophecy through His servant Isaiah:
I am the Lᴏʀᴅ…who says of Cyrus, “He is My shepherd, and he shall perform all My pleasure, saying to Jerusalem, ‘You shall be built,’ and to the temple, ‘Your foundation shall be laid.’” Thus says the Lᴏʀᴅ to His anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have held—to subdue nations before him and loose the armor of kings, to open before him the double doors, so that the gates will not be shut (Isa. 44:24, 28—45:1).
Isaiah’s language is astounding. God specifically named Cyrus, calling him His shepherd and anointed, indicating He handpicked Cyrus to become a world ruler who would allow the Jewish people in captivity to return to their land and rebuild their holy city—Jerusalem—and their Temple.
God’s promise from the past became fact as world history unfolded. The prophet Ezra recorded Cyrus’s proclamation, made in 538 B.C.:
Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the Lᴏʀᴅ by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the Lᴏʀᴅ stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and also put it in writing, saying,“Thus says Cyrus king of Persia: All the kingdoms of the earth the Lᴏʀᴅ God of heaven has given me. And He has commanded me to build Him a house at Jerusalem which is in Judah. Who is among you of all His people? May his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem which is in Judah, and build the house of the Lᴏʀᴅ God of Israel (He is God), which is in Jerusalem” (Ezra 1:1–3).
Today Iran’s Muslim ayatollahs under Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are not happy with King Cyrus. In an attempt to expunge him from the annals of Persian history because of his association with the God of Israel and his decree authorizing the Jewish people to return to their land, they want to submerge his tomb via a dam now under construction. At the moment, the tomb remains largely intact in the archaeological ruin of Pasargad.
Their dislike of Cyrus, however, only confirms the truth of God’s Word and the steadfastness of His promises.
World history becomes exceedingly important, even life changing, when people realize that God is in control of it. If He so meticulously keeps His promises concerning a pagan ruler and His Chosen People, He will surely keep His promises to you and me.