For the folks at Gesu Parish in Miami …
For the sake of Jacob, my servant, of Israel, my chosen one, I have called you by name, giving you a title, though you knew me not (Isa 45:4).
In its original setting, today’s first reading from the book of Isaiah must have been rather provocative. This prophetic oracle, probably written down during great Exile of Israel, addresses Cyrus, who was King of the Persians, Israel’s master and foreign occupier. This in itself is not surprising. The prophetic books are full of all sorts of oracles of doom against Israel’s enemies.
This, however, is not an oracle of doom.
On the contrary, here God calls Cyrus “his anointed” (the only non-Israelite to be called משיח in the OT). God identifies Cyrus as the one “whose right hand I grasp,” the one whom he has “called by name,” and the one to whom He has given military might. Most provocatively, of course, God claims to have raised up Israel’s foreign occupier “for the sake of Jacob, my servant, of Israel, my chosen one.” Cyrus, who to all appearances represents Israel’s oppressor, will turn out to be, by God’s design, their servant and instrument. This was the challenge to Israel’s faith.
For the prophecy called Israel to consider two truths about God’s providence that are never easy to believe: Read the rest of this entry »