The Man Called 200 Years Before His Birth
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

Open your Bibles, please, to Isaiah, chapter 45, and follow along as we read from verse 1:

Isaiah 45

1Thus saith the LORD 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 before him the two leaved gates; and the gates shall not be shut;
2I will go before thee, and make the crooked places straight: I will break in pieces the gates of brass, and cut in sunder the bars of iron:
3And I will give thee the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places, that thou mayest know that I, the LORD, which call thee by thy name, am the God of Israel.
4For Jacob my servant's sake, and Israel mine elect, I have even called thee by thy name: I have surnamed thee, though thou hast not known me.
5I am the LORD, and there is none else, there is no God beside me: I girded thee, though thou hast not known me:
6That they may know from the rising of the sun, and from the west, that there is none beside me. I am the LORD, and there is none else.
7I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.
8Drop down, ye heavens, from above, and let the skies pour down righteousness: let the earth open, and let them bring forth salvation, and let righteousness spring up together; I the LORD have created it.
9Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker! Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth. Shall the clay say to him that fashioneth it, What makest thou? or thy work, He hath no hands?
10Woe unto him that saith unto his father, What begettest thou? or to the woman, What hast thou brought forth?
11Thus saith the LORD, the Holy One of Israel, and his Maker, Ask me of things to come concerning my sons, and concerning the work of my hands command ye me.
12I have made the earth, and created man upon it: I, even my hands, have stretched out the heavens, and all their host have I commanded.
13I have raised him up in righteousness, and I will direct all his ways: he shall build my city, and he shall let go my captives, not for price nor reward, saith the LORD of hosts.
14Thus saith the LORD, The labour of Egypt, and merchandise of Ethiopia and of the Sabeans, men of stature, shall come over unto thee, and they shall be thine: they shall come after thee; in chains they shall come over, and they shall fall down unto thee, they shall make supplication unto thee, saying, Surely God is in thee; and there is none else, there is no God.
15Verily thou art a God that hidest thyself, O God of Israel, the Saviour.
16They shall be ashamed, and also confounded, all of them: they shall go to confusion together that are makers of idols.
17But Israel shall be saved in the LORD with an everlasting salvation: ye shall not be ashamed nor confounded world without end.
18For thus saith the LORD that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited: I am the LORD; and there is none else.
19I have not spoken in secret, in a dark place of the earth: I said not unto the seed of Jacob, Seek ye me in vain: I the LORD speak righteousness, I declare things that are right.
20Assemble yourselves and come; draw near together, ye that are escaped of the nations: they have no knowledge that set up the wood of their graven image, and pray unto a god that cannot save.
21Tell ye, and bring them near; yea, let them take counsel together: who hath declared this from ancient time? who hath told it from that time? have not I the LORD? and there is no God else beside me; a just God and a Saviour; there is none beside me.
22Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else.
23I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, That unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear.
24Surely, shall one say, in the LORD have I righteousness and strength: even to him shall men come; and all that are incensed against him shall be ashamed.
25In the LORD shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory.

If I were to ask you what the one central thought in this chapter is, I wonder what you would say. I think it would depend upon your outlook or perhaps I should say your uplook. Robert Ingersoll, the great atheist, read this chapter in a public meeting one evening, and he said, “My, the God of the Bible boasts a lot, doesn't He?” God said, “I Am the LORD, and there is none else.” If you know the Lord and He is precious to your soul, you do not feel that He is a God that boasteth overmuch. You see from the experience of the Word of God that He, the mighty God, is your Savior, and you rejoice therein.

A Challenge to Idols

You will remember that we are in this section of the book of Isaiah in which God has a controversy with all the idols of the world. He tells us that they are not real. He tells us that they are no more than graven images of wood or stone, but He acts as though they are real. He challenges them to prove their existence, He challenges them to prove their reality, and He challenges them to a duel.

The duel He limits to one act. He said, “If you can do what I can do, then we will recognize you as real.” He addresses all the gods of wood and stone and He says, “This is what I want you to do. I want you to tell something that is going to happen before it happens, so that after it happens, everybody will know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you were able to foretell the future.”

Of course, if this were to be done, it must be done in such a way that the thing, when it occurred, could not be related to a matter of coincidence for many things which look like prophecy sometimes are mere matters of coincidence. God wanted His sovereignty protected so He said, “This thing must be something that cannot be attributed to human power.” He waited for them to do something, but they were not able to do it, so He said, “I'll do it. See if you can match this.” He said, “There is going to come a man upon the stage of the world who will take My people out of their captivity in Babylon and give them the money to go back to the land of Palestine and rebuild the city of Jerusalem and the temple as well.”

That would have been a tremendous prophecy if He had stopped right there, because when Isaiah wrote these words, the children of Israel were not even in Babylonian captivity. He said that they would be, but it had not yet come to pass. God goes one step further and looks upon them as in captivity. At the end of that captivity, He looks upon them as being delivered, not by a Babylonian emperor, but by another man who was to walk across the stage of the world. He sees this man not only delivering them, but actually giving them the money to rebuild the city and to rebuild the temple.

Prophecy Related to Cyrus

If you are familiar with history, you realize that this prophecy becomes even more astounding. It was a prophecy which was related to an event that was to occur 200 years after He gave the prophecy to Isaiah. Two hundred years before a thing happened, God said it was going to happen. More astounding, He didn't just say, “A man will walk across the stage of the world and accomplish this tremendous thing,” He was more specific and He said, “I will even name him. He name is Cyrus.”

Cyrus the Persian was born just as God said he would be, and he became a Persian emperor and delivered the children of Israel. If you are familiar with the history of Cyrus, you are impressed with the tremendous thing that God did in this respect. It would not be too unusual for the son of the king, born in a palace, reared in luxury, to eventually mount the throne of any empire; but this man Cyrus was born a peasant, cast on a trash-heap to die because he wasn't wanted. Folk took him in and reared him and called him Cyrus , which means “shepherd,” because that is what they were. This man became the emperor of the Medo-Persian empire.

Beloved, I cannot read this passage of Scripture without being amazed at the sovereignty of God. All of this is revealed in verse 1:

Isaiah 45

1Thus saith the LORD 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 before him the two leaved gates; and the gates shall not be shut;

Even here is a detailed prophecy, for if you are familiar with the history of Cyrus and his advance through this particular part of the world, you will recall that when he marched against cities, he didn't have to shoot an arrow. He didn't have to bend a bow. He didn't even have to set a battering ram. The kings of the cities were so frightened that they opened the gates and said, “Come on in.” That is what God means here when He says that He would loose the loins of kings to open before Cyrus the two leaved gates and there would not be any gates shut. Why was this? Look in verse 2:

Isaiah 45

2I will go before thee, and make the crooked places straight: I will break in pieces the gates of brass, and cut in sunder the bars of iron:
3And I will give thee the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places, that thou mayest know that I, the LORD, which call thee by thy name, am the God of Israel.

These verses are astounding because they are a direct reference to the capture of the city of Babylon. These verses should be interpreted in the light of chapter 44, verse 27, where God said that He is the one who would lead Cyrus and would say to the deep, “Be dry. I will dry up the rivers.” He said of Cyrus, “He is My shepherd and shall perform all My pleasure.” He said to Jerusalem, “Thou shalt be built, and the foundation of the temple shall be laid.”

Babylon In Captivity

I don't want to bore you with the details of history, but history does throw an amazing amount of light on this wonderful prophecy, as the Scripture throws heavenly light upon the secular page. Do you remember how the city of Babylon was taken? Belshazzar was in the palace that night, drinking it up. Daniel, chapter 5, tells you all about it. That was when the hand without a wrist wrote on the wall, “Thou art weighed in the balances and found wanting.” They were drinking it up, perfectly safe, they thought, because of the great wall around the city upon which six chariots could be driven abreast. It was a great wall that nobody had been able to break down. They were not afraid of this fellow Cyrus. Nobody else had been able to break the wall down, so why should he be able to do it?

The river Euphrates ran through the city of Babylon, and where the walls crossed the Euphrates, there were great iron gates that went down beneath the wall and touched the very bed of the river. Nobody could get in over the wall, and nobody could get in through the river. They thought that they were perfectly safe.

Cyrus had no weapon that could batter down the walls or break the gates in pieces, but he had an idea. I believe on the basis of what is written in the Word of God, God placed it in his mind. Those of you who know the historical story, know what he did. He dug a ditch, and he diverted the water of the Euphrates River around the wall of the city. When all of the water was out of its natural channel, he marched right up to those gates, and he broke in pieces the rods of iron and marched right into the city of Babylon and was in control of it three days before Belshazzar and his princes, who were drinking it up in the palace, even knew they were inside the city.

You see, when God begins to do something, He does it exactly right. The marvelous thing about it is that God gave the plan 200 years before the man who was going to carry it out was even born.

An Illustration of God's Sovereignty

When we read in verse 3 that God said, “I will give thee the treasures of darkness and the hidden riches of secret places,” He was talking about giving all of the treasure that was stored up in the vaults of the city of Babylon beneath the river. No one else had ever gotten that treasure, but he got it, because God gave it to him.

Beloved, let us recognize that God is sovereign, whether we like to think about it or not, or whether we have ever realized it before. God has the nations of the world in His hand, and He can do with them what He will. That is the reason that I believe our greatest protection is prayer. I am not suggesting that we be foolish. I am suggesting we take the attitude that Nehemiah took when he went back under the proclamation to build this wall. You will recall that there were many enemies who didn't want it built. What did Nehemiah do? He told the men who were building the wall of the city, “Keep a spear in one hand and get down on one knee and pray.” He said “Don't close your eyes or you might get rapped in the head.” Praying and protected, the wall of the city was built.

God's Revelation of Himself

This chapter says that God did it all for one special reason, and that is the thing that we mentioned in the early part of our discussion. It was that Cyrus, and then the world, might know that He is LORD God, and there is none else. He repeats that over and over again throughout the chapter, and as He does, He makes some very interesting statements that it would be wise for us to notice. Notice verse 7, where He says:

Isaiah 45

7I form the light, and create darkness…

Of course, this may need no explanation to most of us. We know what light is; we know what darkness is. God said, “I formed the light and I created the darkness.” I don't think there is any question about that, but I think it has a special significance here in the light of Persian history.

Those of you who are familiar with it will recall that the Persians were what we call dualists . They were not idolaters; they did not worship many gods of wood and stone, but they were dualists—they worshiped two gods: the god of darkness and the god of light. Their suggestion was that light represents something good and darkness represents evil. “There is a god that is interested in good, and there is somebody who is constantly thwarting the good purpose of this good god, so to be on the safe side, we will worship both the god of goodness and the god of evil or the god of light and the god of darkness.”

God wanted Cyrus to know that He was God, so He said, “Cyrus, I want to remind you that I created the light that you worship, and I created the darkness that you worship, for I form the light and I create darkness. There is no God beside Me. I am in full control.”

I asked you to look at verse 8 because there is a statement in it that proves to be a stumbling block to a number of people. It reads: “I make peace, and I create evil. I the LORD do all these things.” We have no problem with that first statement: “I make peace.” That pleases us. We want peace. Actually this word peace is a word that might be translated by the word “health” or by the word “prosperity”. God makes health and He makes prosperity. It is easy for us to understand that, but do you believe the last part of that statement? It says, “I God create evil.” That disturbs some of us. The God whom we love, the God whom we worship—we can understand why He would create peace; we can understand why He would bring health and prosperity, but does our God create evil?

Adversity Permitted By God

That is a bit difficult to understand, isn't it? It may be a bit easier to understand if you will look at that word evil and recognize that it does not refer to sin. It is a word from the Hebrew that speaks of adversity, of calamity and trouble.

It might even be clearer if you look at the two verbs in the two statements. One of them is “I make peace,” the other is, “I create evil.” The word make in the first statement is a word that describes God creating something out of nothing. There may be no reason for health; there may be no reason for peace; there may be no reason for blessing, but God creates it. Yes, He will upset the laws of nature if need be to bring health to an ailing person. He will change lives, personal and national, in order to bring peace, if that is His plan and purpose. He creates peace out of nothing, but if you will look at that word create , you will find it is another word entirely different from the word make , and it means “to make something out of something that is already existing”. As a matter of fact, it means “to simply permit certain things to come together to create a certain situation.”

When we read in this passage of Scripture that God creates evil, it is not suggesting that God creates sin. When we say that God creates evil, we are not suggesting that God delights in creating adversity, trouble, and problems. God doesn't like to do that, but sometimes God permits things that are already in existence to work themselves together, and adversity is the result. In a sense, we say that God made it, because God could have stopped it had He so desired. If God had stopped it, we would be blind to the fact that He is the LORD, and that He is in full charge of everything.

Foolish Striving Against God

Have you ever noticed how many illustrations there are in the Word of God of the foolishness of men, as mere mortal man tries to pit himself against mighty God? Here is another illustration in verses 9-10. God's sovereignty doesn't set well with man. When hearts are rebellious, they don't want God to do what He wants to do; they want to do what they want to do. Sometimes they strive, and sometimes they struggle, and sometimes they question the wisdom of God. God said, in verse 9:

Isaiah 45

9Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker…

Are you striving with your Maker? Have you learned the lesson of submission? Have you learned what it means to say, “Lord, Thy will be done.”? If you haven't, you are striving with your Maker, and it is a very foolish thing to do. Notice the last part of verse 9:

Isaiah 45

9…Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth. Shall the clay say to him that fashioneth it, What makest thou? or thy work, He hath no hands?

Can you imagine a piece of pottery suddenly taking on life and saying to the potter, “Why did you make me this kind of vessel? I wanted to be something else.” That is foolish to think about, isn't it? God said that it is just as foolish for mere mortal men like us to say, “God, I don't like the place I'm in, and I don't like the situation in which You have put me. I want things to be different.” He said that it is just as foolish for a child to say to his father or to his mother, “What hast thou brought forth?”. Notice verse 10:

Isaiah 45

10Woe unto him that saith unto his father, What begettest thou? or to the woman, What hast thou brought forth?

This is not as good a translation as it might be. What it says is, “Why did you bring me forth?” It is just as foolish for a child to say to his father or to his mother, “Why did you bring me into the world?”, as for an individual to say to God, “Why did you make me thus?” The foolishness of men God contrasts with His willingness to be clay in our hands if we meet His conditions.

A Personal Illustration

I don't like to refer to my children from the pulpit, because I hardly think it is fair to them, but sometimes illustrations come to mind that I cannot pass up. When my children particularly please me, I have said often to my wife, “If they only knew it, this is the way to get everything I've got.” But when they displease me, and when I sense a note of rebellion, and when I find them bowing their neck and striving against some rule or regulation that I have set down—I say in fairness to them, I hardly every see it—I have a tendency to bow my neck and say, “Well, Bud, you may not know it, but you are not going to get anywhere that way.” And they don't. I'm not God; I am only a human being. I say this reverently. When we struggle and we strive against God, God bows His neck, and He says, “You will not get anything that way.” But, if we say, “God, I'm sorry. I'm not worth anything at all, but I do want to please You. I do want to do what You want me to do,” God becomes clay in our hands.” That is indicated by verse 11:

Isaiah 45

11Thus saith the LORD, the Holy One of Israel, and his Maker, Ask me of things to come concerning my sons, and concerning the work of my hands command ye me.

Those of you who have been related to me in any fashion for the last several years will remember that this was our year verse for 1960. When I asked the Lord to give me a verse for that year, this is the verse that He gave me. You will recall when I talked with you about it, I said that it frightened me. I wanted to steer away from it. I didn't want to have anything to do with it; I was afraid of it. I read the verse, and I trembled and said, “I am an ordinary mortal. ‘Command God'—that frightens me! I don't want to do it.” But, I could not get away from the verse, and it was as if God said to me, “Take this verse or you'll not have any.” And I said to God, “I am afraid to command You. That is a terrible thing for a mere mortal to do.”

Then God brought to my mind an incident of a father playing with his son. The father was down on his knees, the same height as the little boy, and the father was punching at the little boy. He was just playing with him, not going to hurt him, teaching him the manly art of self-defense, shall we say, and the little fellow was poking back. He wasn't quite getting the thing done. The Father said to the little boy, “Hit me. Hit me right here.” The little boy pulled back his hand, and he does a little thinking. “What's going to happen if I hit him there? What's going to happen if I really land one on him? I've really got to think about that. I'm not supposed to be hitting my daddy on the chin. What's going to happen if I really land one on him?” The Father senses the dilemma in which the little fellow is and he says, “Now son, it's all right. Daddy said you could. You hit Daddy just as hard as you want to.” The little boy thinks for a moment, smiles, then hauls off and hits him, and the daddy falls on his back.

God brought that incident to my mind, and He said to me in so many words, “It's all right to command Me if I tell you to. Now, if you command Me without My permission, you are insolent and disrespectful; but when I tell you that you may command Me, you may.” It took a lot of courage to use this verse, but I did, and out there on Buffalo Gap Road stands a house on a half acre of ground that is there because—I say this reverently—I commanded God.

Why should we command Him concerning the work of His hand? Verse 12:

Isaiah 45

12I have made the earth, and created man upon it: I, even my hands, have stretched out the heavens, and all their host have I commanded.

“Why, I have made everything. Why not tell Me what to do?” Oh Beloved, do you get it? It isn't so much that you are ordering God about as a mere errand boy. It is that you are in touch with Him. He loves you, and He wants to do marvelous, wonderful things for you, and you are content with so little when you can have so much.

How often have you gone without when there was no need to go without? How often have you put up with very little when God had much for you, and all He wanted you to do was to tell Him to do something, and He rejoiced in doing it?

God's Creation of Heaven and Earth

I would like to call to your attention another verse that to my mind is significant in the light of this entire discussion in which the God of the Bible states how much He thinks of Himself, as Ingersoll said. Verse 18:

Isaiah 45

18For thus saith the LORD that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it…

How did this earth get here? Did it just get here as a result of combustion as some people would have you think? Did it just get here because certain forms met together and the result was the earth? God said, “I formed the earth, and I made it.” Notice the last part of verse 18:

Isaiah 45

18…he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited: I am the LORD; and there is none else.

When you have time compare Genesis, chapter 1, verses 1-2, with this Scripture here. Genesis, chapter 1, verse 1, says:

Genesis 1

1In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
2And the earth was without form, and void…

A lot of folk go around saying that that is the way that God created the earth, and so they trace all history back to that beginning. They say that the earth is 6000 years old, and then somebody discovers the fossil of a mammal that various tests prove must be millions of years old, and they say, “Well, that's the Bible for you. It's full of mistakes, and we have found another one.”

Beloved, the earth that you see in Genesis, chapter 1, verse 2, wasn't the way that God created it. God created the earth and the heavens perfect, and He created it not in vain. He didn't create it in the chaotic condition it is found there. He created it to be inhabited, and this perfect earth became in the chaotic condition that you find it in Genesis, chapter 1, verse 2, because of sin. What you ordinarily think of as the creation of the world, is really the restoration of order, because God, who is God, never does anything foolish. The earth is evidence of that.

An Invitation to Assembly

I would like to suggest that you just look at the last paragraph which is an invitation to an assembly. Verse 20:

Isaiah 45

20Assemble yourselves and come; draw near together…

This invitation to assemble is not unusual. We have found it before here in the book of Isaiah, but usually it is an invitation to all the nations of the world to assemble and bring their gods of stone and their gods of wood and put them in action and see whether or not they can compete with the God of Israel. But as you glance down through the whole paragraph, you will see that this invitation is an invitation to all the nations of the world to assemble and look to the only One who can bring eternal salvation to them. Look at verse 22:

Isaiah 45

22Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else.

“Look unto Me, all the ends of the earth, and be ye saved. There is only one Savior”—not just a Savior for the nation of Israel, not just a Savior for America, but a Savior for the entire earth. Men are going to have to look to Him to be saved.

The Simplicity of the Gospel Message

I dare say that Isaiah had in his mind, as God prompted him to write this, this story recorded in the book of Numbers concerning the wilderness experience of the Israelites when they were bitten by fiery serpents and all of them were dying. God instructed Moses to make a serpent out of brass and put it on a pole. He was to hold it up where everybody could see. He assembled all the people in the camp, and he said, “Look. Look and live.”

It is just as simple as that. I don't know why we make salvation so involved. I don't know why we confuse the issue like we do, by putting five or six steps to it. It is just as simple as this. Look unto Me and be ye saved.” Nothing could be any simpler than that, could it?

God says, “Look voluntarily now, or bow involuntarily someday, for during this age of grace, I will tolerate rebellion, but there will come a day when I will have no more of it.” He said in verse 23:

Isaiah 45

23I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return [that is, I am not going to change My mind] , That unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear.

Of course, this reminds you of what Paul wrote in Philippians, chapter 2, when he said, “Every knee shall bow, and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God.”

Oh, I wish that unsaved people could realize that in this age of grace, God will welcome their voluntary adoration that will save them from sin, but if they will not voluntarily adore Him, there will come a day when they will have no opportunity to do other than to bow their knee and confess that He is Lord of Lords and King of Kings.

Conclusion

I wish we Christians could learn that. I wish we, who already call ourselves by the name of Christ and recognize God as our Father, would remember that He would love to have our yieldedness now. He would love for us to follow where He leads. Nothing brings any greater joy to His heart than that, but He wants us to remember that we will either do what He tells us to do willingly or we will do it because He makes us do it, and sometimes what it takes to make us do it is a sad, sad thing indeed.


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