Cyrus the Messiah?

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
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This is what the LORD says to Cyrus, his anointed one, whose right hand he will empower. Before him, mighty kings will be paralyzed with fear. Their fortress gates will be opened, never to shut again.

Isaiah 45:1

As we read along in Isaiah, the last verse of chapter 44 surprises us by mentioning Cyrus, the king of Persia. In 44:28, God refers to Cyrus as “my shepherd.” Then, in the next verse (45:1), Cyrus is referred to as the Lord’s “anointed one.” This phrase translates the Hebrew mashiach, from which we get the familiar term messiah. How could it be that Cyrus was God’s messiah? Isn’t Jesus alone the messiah?

The word mashiach meant, literally, “anointed one.” In Hebrew culture, a person was set apart and recognized as a leader by having oil poured on his head. Thus prophets, priests, and kings could be “anointed ones.” Isaiah 45:1 reveals that God had empowered Cyrus to do God’s own will, which included the overthrow of Babylon and the restoration of Jerusalem and its temple.

Of course, Cyrus was not the final “anointed one.” Jesus fulfilled that role, having been set apart and authorized to inaugurate the kingdom of God. Thus, when we refer to Jesus as the Messiah or the Christ (which is the word mashiach in an anglicized Greek form), we are acknowledging his role as God’s chosen one, God’s king. Like Cyrus, Jesus would do a work of restoration. But, unlike Cyrus, Jesus’ messianic effort would restore, not just Jerusalem, but the whole creation, including you and me.

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: Does it surprise you to hear Cyrus referred to as God’s messiah? What does it mean to you that Jesus is the Messiah (or the Christ)? How have you experienced his restoration in your life?

PRAYER: Sovereign Lord, indeed, you reign over heaven and earth. According to your wisdom, you raise up leaders to do your will, even leaders of foreign kingdoms, people like Cyrus.

Yet in him we see an image that will be fulfilled in Jesus, the final Messiah, the true Christ. Through Jesus, your kingdom was begun. Through him, we are invited into your kingdom as citizens, indeed, as royal children.

So, as we remember Cyrus the messiah today, we acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah. We invite him to rule over us, to use us in the extension of the kingdom. May Jesus be, not just the Messiah, but our Messiah . . . our Savior, our Lord, our King. Amen.