Thus says the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus,
whose right hand I have grasped,
to subdue nations before him
and to loose the belts of kings,
to open doors before him
that gates may not be closed:
“I will go before you
and level the exalted places,
I will break in pieces the doors of bronze
and cut through the bars of iron,
I will give you the treasures of darkness
and the hoards in secret places,
that you may know that it is I, the Lord,
the God of Israel, who call you by your name.
For the sake of my servant Jacob,
and Israel my chosen,
I call you by your name,
I name you, though you do not know me.
I am the Lord, and there is no other,
besides me there is no God;
I equip you, though you do not know me,
that people may know, from the rising of the sun
and from the west, that there is none besides me;
I am the Lord, and there is no other.
I form light and create darkness;
I make well-being and create calamity;
I am the Lord, who does all these things. Isaiah 45:1-7 ESV
The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord;
he turns it wherever he will. Proverbs 21:1 ESV
At the time when Jesus lived, and many years that followed, the Roman empire spread across a great part of the known world. It was a time called the “Pax Romana,” which means the Roman peace. There were no wars to make life difficult or dangerous, and the people could live in safety. There were good roads going back and forth all across the empire, so people could travel to many places safely and more easily than in other times in history. Even though the Roman emperors didn’t believe in the true God, the Lord worked through them. The good news about Jesus could spread very quickly over a large area because of the Roman peace.
The prophet Isaiah looked forward to a time before Jesus, earlier than the Pax Romana, a time when the Persians ruled the world. God’s people would be living far away from home, scattered throughout the empire, but God was going to work through a ruler named Cyrus. Cyrus didn’t know the true God, but the Lord gave him victory and power for a reason. He was going to work through Cyrus to bring his people home again. God would show his glory and power through the rule of Cyrus, the man he had chosen to rule the Persian empire.
God continues to work through history and through the governments of the world to accomplish his purposes. We can’t always see or understand what God is doing, and sometimes it’s hard to trust that God is in control when a ruler is wicked and does wrong things. But we can always be sure that God is at work, even in the most difficult times. He showed us this when he sent Jesus, our Savior. Jesus was an innocent man, but he was cruelly put to death on the cross under the Roman government, yet God worked through that death to bring us back to himself. Because of Jesus, we are God’s people, and he promises never to leave us and always to be working for good in our world.
Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for always working for good for your people, through good rulers and bad ones. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.