walk in the word
Thus says the LORD to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have grasped, to subdue nations before him and to loose the belts of kings, to open doors before him that gates may not be closed: “I will go before you and level the exalted places, I will break in pieces the doors of bronze and cut through the bars of iron, I will give you the treasures of darkness and the hoards in secret places, that you may know that it is I, the LORD, the God of Israel, who call you by your name” (Isaiah 45:1–3, ESV).
The word sovereign is common in religious circles. But what’s not as common are believers who are so convinced of God’s absolute sovereignty that their lives bear a marked difference. What does this difference look like? What does it mean to be gripped by God’s sovereignty?
Being independent and having ultimate power—being above all others—that’s sovereignty. And it’s how Scripture describes the God of the Bible. He is the completely independent, supreme Ruler of all. This God has the capacity and the control to accomplish His will in all things.
We see evidence of God’s sovereign will throughout human history. Scripture is filled with stories that demonstrate His hands-on involvement in the lives of people and in the rise and fall of governments and nations.
Consider this example from biblical history: “Thus says the LORD to his anointed, to Cyrus.” Cyrus was the third, world-class ruler under whom Daniel the prophet served. Until then, Daniel had witnessed continual oppression of the nation of Israel. But in 539 BC, Cyrus—a Persian—defeated the Babylonian Empire. When Cyrus began to rule, he announced, in effect, “Things are going to be different. I am going to be a gracious leader.” He presented himself as a savior and deliverer of the people.
Cyrus decided that all exiled peoples who had been displaced by the Babylonians could go back to their homelands. So fifty thousand Jews left the nation of Babylon and returned to Jerusalem. That is very significant because if that release had not happened, it’s doubtful whether there would have been a nation of Israel in Christ’s day or today. In many ways, the coming of the Messiah—and therefore God’s whole plan of salvation—hinged on the actions of this pagan king, Cyrus. That’s why in Isaiah 45:1, God called Cyrus His anointed, even though Cyrus didn’t know God or love Him in any way.
Think about that. One hundred fifty years before these events happened, God revealed them to Isaiah, who declared them as prophecy. He even gave the very name of the ruler that would rise up. When Cyrus showed up in Babylon, Daniel probably wanted to show him the scroll from Isaiah. Now, there is no indication that Cyrus ever came to any kind of a faith relationship with the one true God. But still God sovereignly used him. How much better for us who can also know and walk with our sovereign Lord!
Seeing God’s absolute power and control over every detail of Cyrus’s story reminds us that He is in control—not only of the course of history but also the paths of our own lives. God will use our lives for His purposes, whether we realize it and revel in this truth or are oblivious like Cyrus.
Which leads us to a choice: do we submit to God’s sovereignty and control, or do we resist?
God is able to do exactly as He pleases. Nothing takes Him by surprise or overwhelms Him. Nothing escapes His notice. We find incredible comfort in embracing God’s sovereignty no matter what He chooses to allow, even when—especially when—it’s most difficult. Whatever is happening in your life—no matter how difficult or unending it may seem—it is not out of control. The God who loves you is controlling it. He is on His throne where He always has been and always will be.
Submitting to God’s sovereignty develops unshakeable confidence. Fear leaves, and anxiety crumbles. Even when life is hard, you know God’s got it. And He has guaranteed He will work every detail for your good and His glory.
Father, You knew Cyrus’s name, and You knew mine long before either of us showed up on earth. Thank You for making Yourself known to me. Thank You that nothing escapes Your notice or rule. Thank you that nothing and no one can thwart Your plan. May my life today be filled with the stability, strength, joy, and worship that come from being gripped by the truth of Your sovereignty. Help me submit my heart to this truth as I learn to praise You through hard times and as You build my faith in Your absolute power. In Jesus’ name, amen.
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