What if you were able to open a book that had been written and widely read in the year 1785 and you could read in its pages a prediction that there would be a US president named Reagan who would say “Tear down this wall,” and that, thus, the rule of communism in the Soviet Republic would be brought to an end? To say the least we would unearth all of the writings of such a prophet. We would examine them for other predictions that might yet affect us. We would posthumously celebrate the author’s life and work. We would, in short, be amazed.
That’s pretty much what happened in the forty-fourth and forty-fifth chapters of Isaiah. The name Cyrus was specified. The fact that he would topple mighty Babylon and other kingdoms was predicted. The method of attack was described and even the taking of the booty was mentioned. The fact that he would have the foundation of the temple of Jerusalem relaid is foretold. All of this is predicted with on-target accuracy about two hundred years prior to the birth of Cyrus!
Let’s look briefly at just a small part of this prophecy about Cyrus from Isaiah 44:27-45:1:
…that saith to the deep, Be dry, and I will dry up thy rivers;
That saith of Cyrus, He is my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure, even saying of Jerusalem, She shall be built; and of the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid. Thus saith Jehovah to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden, to subdue nations before him, and I will loose the loins of kings; to open the doors before him, and the gates shall not be shut:
In these few words, we see the conqueror, the founder of the Persian Empire, who would be born in two hundred years called by name–twice! We see that nations would be subdued before him. Do you know how many nations were conquered by Cyrus? Here’s a partial list:
both the Phrygians,
Babylonians ( from Xenophes, Cyrop., lib. i. p. 4, Edit.
(Hutchinson, Quarto, as given by Clarke’s commentary.)
God calls Cyrus, this Persian emperor, his shepherd. This is just very powerful and even emotional for me to think about. Jehovah God, who wants us to think of Him as our Shepherd, appoints this Persian King to be a shepherd for Him, to lead the lost sheep of Judah back to Zion–Jerusalem! If God can take a heathen conqueror and make Him a believer and use him as a tool to lead people back to Jerusalem, surely he can use me. Surely I can, by his might, lead people to the New Jerusalem, the eternal Zion. I love the concept that God, as a shepherd of His people used his own earthly shepherd to round up sheep!
Of course, the greatest conquest of Cyrus was mighty Babylon. It is of Babylon that God spoke most specifically through Isaiah. As Jehovah began to speak of Cyrus, He spoke of His ability to say to the deep, “‘Be dry’ and I will dry up thy rivers.” Do you know how Cyrus conquered mighty Babylon? He drained the Euphrates River and marched in on the dry river channel in the darkness of night for his massive attack on the city (Clarke). This was predicted with unerring accuracy by Jeremiah, as well:
A drought is upon her waters, and they shall be dried up; for it is a land of graven images, and they are mad over idols (Jeremiah 50:38).
Therefore thus saith Jehovah: Behold, I will plead thy cause, and take vengeance for thee; and I will dry up her sea, and make her fountain dry (Jeremiah 51:36).
Notice some of Isaiah’s other bull’s-eye-accurate prophecies about this conquest:
45:1 To open before him the two leaved gates, -This is really interesting. A feast was occurring in Babylon when Cyrus’ forces advanced in the dry riverbed and, in the tumult of the feast, the gates that connected the streets to the riverbed were left open, so the forces could enter and attack. Had they been closed, the Persians themselves would have been trapped in the riverbed. Also, according to history, the king of Babylon foolishly opened the palace gates to see what was causing all of the noise when the attack began. This occasioned the entrance of two parties which overtook the palace and killed the king of Babylon. (From Clarke’s quotation of Xenophes., Cyrop. vii.p.528)
45:2 the gates of brass–the wall of Babylon had brass gates according to Abynedus, Eusebius, and Herodotus. Herodotus says there were 100 gates in the wall and that all were brass. (Clarke)
45:3 I will give thee the treasures of darkness–Sardes and Babylon, when taken by Cyrus, were the two wealthiest cities in the world. There are actual listings from historians of the carts of plunder that were hauled off to be presented to Cyrus at the Babylon palace. Things like a huge vessel from which they filled their cups at drinking festivities and a tree formed of gold. The individual weights of the items were listed by Pliny and, when added together, the weight in silver and gold of the items listed amounted to 126,224,000 pounds (Clarke). 126 million pounds of silver and gold would go a long way toward national solvency, especially when combined with the taxation of all those conquered nations!
44:28 even saying to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be built; and to the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid.
Clarke points out the exactness, the precision of the prophecy in this passage. The writer did not say that the temple would be built. He said the foundation would be laid. That is exactly how much of the temple’s rebuilding occurred during the reign of Cyrus. It was much later, during the reign of Darius, that the actual structure was built.
Today, seers, palm-readers and prophets give us a general idea of some event or trend that may be headed our way. They say “Someone’s generosity is going to bless your life today.” Such non-specificity can always find within its generality some particles of truth.
…Or. today’s prophets give us predictions based on data that validates the prophecy. An example would be the one we heard several years ago: “The number of divorces in America this year will exceed the number of marriages.” That was based on data and proved to be true for that particular year.
…Or. a modern prophet today may be accurate about some detailed prophecies a certain percentage of the time.
But nobody prophesies names of men who will live two hundred years hence and details the big events that will occur in the lives of these men. Predictions of men are pretty good sometimes. But God can talk about the future, even the distant future, as if it has already happened. Maybe that’s because he inhabits eternity–all of it. Isaiah also told us about that:
For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones (Isaiah 57:15).
Imagine that. You and I can dwell with the one who inhabits eternity. The one who already knows the name of the very last President of the United States, whether he will be elected in this century or some distant one. I pray for personal contrition and humility, so I can live with Him and so that he will revive my oft-weary heart!