1 Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying,
2 Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia, The LORD God of heaven hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth; and he hath charged me to build him an house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah.
Ezra 1:1-3; 2 Chronicles 36:22-23.
- WHO WAS CYRUS?
Cyrus, that is one name commonly conjured by apologists as a metaphor for the sanctified outsider that should rule over the skeptical remnants in the land. Who was Cyrus? You probably were better taught at Sunday school than some of us, so have never been shaken by such good names often shopped to cloth stark villains. Follow me.
- ALLIANCE WITH JERUSALEM
Cyrus was not a Jew. He was a Gentile. He was, however, not a God-hating Gentile; neither was he anti-Jew. His kingdom initiated commendable alliance with the desolated land of Jerusalem and with its scattered people. Cyrus was not a subtle schemer against the Jews while he gave a clever public impression of being on their side. He did much to promote the welfare of the Jews. He came from a line of thrones that had wasted Israel – from the Assyrians to the Babylonians to the Medes and the Persians, but he became a restorer of what his ancestors had wasted.
- CYRUS THE BUILDER
Cyrus did much to help the cause of God. He was a builder of the house of God, not one who closed or burnt down sanctuaries, or threatened to do so, or had a capacity to do worse. Some kings build nothing, yet they would cruelly pull down what others had built. And some still call them Cyrus.
Cyrus was a restorer of inherited desolations, not one who added his own desolations to those perpetrated before him. He was for development, not destruction. He was much unlike politicians today that endlessly find a reason to blame the past for their own woeful present failures.
Cyrus was a giver, not a taker from his people under every local and ‘international’ guise. He led by example, supporting the Building Project himself with resources, much unlike those that some would give his name, who would make a million promises but fulfil none; who are never an example of the creeds they would force upon others; who grow fat by milking their people dry.
Cyrus was not only a builder of beautiful physical structures but also of commendable healthy relationships, across racial lines and geographical distances. Cyrus was a Gentile, yet he was instituting restorations in the faraway land of the Jews; very unlike those who would exploit racial, national or ethnic differences to their wicked political advantage; fake Cyruses who would situate every next pleasant project in their homesteads rather than let anything go to a more deserving people in ‘that’ faraway part of the kingdom. And some would still call them by his lovely name?
- CYRUS’S BOLD ID CARD
Cyrus was boldly identified with God. Which God, you might ask? Cyrus himself gives the answer, and his answer is not shrouded in the incoherence of ‘political correctness.’ He says it straight: it is “The LORD God of heaven.” Cyrus was thus precise about the God to whom he was devoted, the God to whom his spiritual frequencies stayed open, and by whom his spirit got “stirred” and “charged”: “The LORD God of heaven.” Should that be too complex to understand, should there be a debate over which ‘God’ in the ‘sky’ is meant, he states that it is the “LORD God” who has “an house in Jerusalem.” Again, should there be other Jerusalems, he makes the following additional clarification: it is that “Jerusalem, which is in Judah.” There is no mistaking which God is meant, much unlike the others to whom some would give his goodly name, who are in the church on a convenient Sunday, at the village shrine or the clairvoyant’s in a desperate night, and on a hajj to Mecca at proper times to give to their ‘Caesar’ ‘what is Caesar’s.’
How many of those that the Church clothes with that reverend name would be so bold about ties with the Lord God who has a house in Jerusalem? How many rather have sold themselves to the god with a black-stone grave-house in the land of the rising sun? Cyrus was connected in “spirit” to “The LORD God of heaven,” not, like his counterfeits, to the Queen of Heaven.
Not everyone that goes by the name of Christ is Christ; not everyone we clothe with the name of Cyrus is a Cyrus. Sometimes tricky wolves get clothed in the garments of simple sheep, and they get preyed upon that will not discern.
- THE SPIRITUALITY OF CYRUS
Cyrus was a Gentile, but a Gentile with an ear that could hear God, and a heart that willingly obeyed, in a culture where kings usually had their ears tuned to other gods. How many rulers still hear God, and would obey when they have heard, unmindful of ‘breaching’ ungodly palace ‘protocols’? How many can say, like Cyrus, “The LORD God of heaven… hath charged me to build…”? How many have a ‘charge’ from God rather than from Hell? How many know what their divine ‘charge’ is, and are committed in words and actions and resources to executing that ‘charge’ from on high?
In Cyrus’s days, and by his status, it was popular to consult with astrologers and sorcerers and Chaldeans and magicians and soothsayers if a ruler felt threatened or would unravel some mystery (Daniel 2:2; 4:7; 5:7; Exodus 7:11). In such a culture, one new king could boldly publicly announce the ties of his soul to the ‘alien’ God of an enslaved race: “The LORD God of heaven” – who has “an house at Jerusalem”!
Considering these, does he truly deserve the name, whom some would call a “Cyrus”? Or do they so insist because they would partake (or are partakers) of the polluting meat and wine of that king of Babylon’s lavish table (Daniel 1:8)?
- CYRUS ACKNOWLEDGED THE HELP OF GOD
Cyrus admitted publicly to his entire kingdom, “The LORD God of heaven hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth.” In other words, he acknowledged God as the Source of his success, as the Power behind his throne, as the Giver of all that he had. He attributed to God what many in his position often attribute to their hard work and to other abilities, if not to altars of dubious reputation. He seemed to have lived by this hallowed creed: “In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths” (Proverbs 3:6).
- A GOOD STARTER
According to the Bible, prophecy began to be activated in the life of Cyrus from “the first year” of his reign (Ezra 1:1). Cyrus did not hide his godly identity until his last tenure or his last days in office. He ‘hit the ground running’ for his God from his first days in office. In other words, his beginnings saw the good purposes of God upon the land. His new throne did not greet the people with sufferings and a promise for worse days than his predecessor, in the manner of the thankless and tactless Rehoboam (1 Kings 12:13-16).
- IN SPITE OF THE OPPOSITION
Cyrus was not a king who feared to declare his religious persuasions. He did not disguise his views in rhetorical and diplomatic ambiguities that gave no clue to where he stood. For example, he made a public proclamation in line with his private encounters with God. A proclamation is not a secret prayer; it is an open statement. Was that a ‘Christian’ society? No. Was everyone going to support his views? No, but that didn’t seem to matter to the true Cyrus.
There were avowed “adversaries” in the system, like those of whom Ezra subsequently reported, who would do everything in their power to frustrate the Temple Project; adversaries who “weakened the hands of the people of Judah, and troubled them in building”; adversaries that “hired counsellors against them, to frustrate their purpose” (Ezra 4:4-5). In spite of such vocal and determined enemies as represented by Sanballat and Tobiah of the future time, Cyrus was one king who stood firm for what he believed. If that be the ruler that the apologists would clothe with the name of Cyrus, may he rule a thousand tenures, though he be a Gentile.