Thus says the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus,
whom he has taken by his right hand
to subdue nations before him
and strip the loins of kings,
to force gateways before him
that their gates be closed no more:
‘It is for the sake of my servant Jacob,
of Israel my chosen one,
that I have called you by your name,
conferring a title though you do not know me.
I am the Lord, unrivalled;
there is no other God besides me.
Though you do not know me, I arm you
that men may know from the rising to the setting of the sun
that, apart from me, all is nothing.’
First reading for the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Isaiah gives Cyrus a good press! And it is a timely reminder how the Lord writes straight but often in lines that seem to us mighty angular and unpredictable… He is able to use Cyrus, conqueror of nations and seizer of empires, to further his intent for puny Israel, at this time almost smudged from the political map.
One wonders what comfort God’s restoration of the Chosen People that would be for the subdued nations, humiliated kings and pillaged cities.
God’s ways are not ours, and often enough we need to fall into awed silence before the revelation of God in human history. But it is sobering to reflect that so often in that history God’s ways are for us. And important for us to reflect on what do we do with the blessings that come our way, often won at such great cost.
Detail from stone panels of King Sennacherib (704-681 BC) at Nineveh (in modern northern Iraq) . British Museum, London. (c) 2017, Allen Morris.
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