Back in March of last year, President Trump did something that many have promised on the campaign trail but ultimately never do. Can you remember what it was? He recognized Jerusalem as the capitol of Israel. In response to this bold and historic move, Prime Minister Netanyahu made an interesting statement comparing Trump to 2 other men from the past. He said, “I want to tell you that the Jewish people have a long memory, so we remember the proclamation of the great king, Cyrus the Great, the Persian king 2,500 years ago. He proclaimed that the Jewish exiles in Babylon could come back and rebuild our Temple in Jerusalem. We remember a hundred years ago, Lord Balfour, who issued the Balfour Proclamation that recognized the rights of the Jewish people in our ancestral homeland. We remember 70 years ago, President Harry S. Truman was the first leader to recognize the Jewish state. And we remember how a few weeks ago, President Donald J. Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Mr. President, this will be remembered by our people through the ages.”
One of the men that Netanyahu mentioned is in our reading for today. In Isaiah 45 we read of the Lord speaking to Cyrus, the same Cyrus that Netanyahu praised for allowing the Jewish exiles to come back to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple. Should Cyrus the Great be praised for this? Yes, certainly he should. However, as we read through this passage in Isaiah, we can’t help but see recognize all-powerful arm of the Lord at work. God says in verses 2-3, “I will go before thee, and make the crooked places straight: I will break in pieces the gates of brass, and cut in sunder the bars of iron: And I will give thee the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places, that thou mayest know that I, the Lord, which call thee by thy name, am the God of Israel.” He goes on to remind all of us in verse 5 that, “I am the Lord, and there is none else.”
Bible scholars for centuries have debated the “sovereignty of God” verses the “free will of man”, something that I am confident no one will fully understand this side of heaven. And while we sometimes read passages that emphasis man’s free will in certain matters, today’s reading in Isaiah reminds us very strongly of the powerful hand of God at work in this world today. He reminds us that He is God alone and has always used certain individuals for his purposes. Were/are these individuals mere puppets? No, I don’t believe so. However, as God reminds us in verse 9, “Shall the clay say to him that fashioneth it, What makest thou?” May we be pliable to the fashioning hand of God in our lives and recognize once again his rightful place as Sovereign Lord of our lives.