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Isaiah 45 describes how the Persian king, Cyrus, was used by God to deliver the Hebrews from exile in Babylon.
In recent years the picture of Cyrus has been applied to political figures in America with the belief that governmental leaders will restore American Christians to an advantageous place in culture.
The current term for this belief is “Christian nationalism.” Some very respected Christian leaders are proponents of this movement. With all due respect, I’d like to take exception to their view.
What is Christian Nationalism?
According to a “Christianity Today” Internet article, “Christian nationalism is the belief that the American nation is defined by Christianity, and that the government should take active steps to keep it that way.”
“Christian nationalists want to define America as a Christian nation and they want the government to promote a specific cultural template as the official culture of the country” (Christianity Today, February 2021).
What’s the Problem?
Someone may look at the above definition and say, “I don’t see a problem with that? What don’t you like about making America a Christian nation?”
My answer may seem like I am splitting hairs over minor matters, but I don’t think they are minor.
(1) First, America is not a replacement for Israel. Isaiah’s message about Cyrus was for Hebrew people, not for America.
Our nation is the largest Christian country in the world. Praise God! At the same time, we are the fourth largest non-Christian nation in the world.
To expect our national culture to become Christian through the efforts of a Cyrus-like leader can only be implied from Isaiah. To do that we have to assume that American and Hebrew people are the same. American is not a replacement for God’s covenant people.
What is clear is the command to take the good news of Jesus to everyone. Jesus said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Spirit,
“And teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28.19-20).
What if Christians throughout the world made it their mission to help people follow Jesus? What if we obeyed all of Jesus’ teachings (the Sermon on the Mount, for example) and helped others do the same?
Is that not the clear mandate of our Lord and Savior?
(2) The second danger is for Christian leaders to be co-opted into the schemes of politicians.
There were two types of prophets in the Old Testament. One was obligated to give the king the kind of message he wanted to hear. This kind of prophet had a privileged position and was paid for their services.
Prophets like Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Elijah spoke God’s word to the king, whether the king liked it or not. They were not paid and often were persecuted.
When the church joins forces with the political process, it is easy to be overwhelmed by political power and lose our prophetic voice. I believe that this takes place in both Democratic and Republican circles.
This is a very complicated issue because there are so many different opinions about God’s will for our nation.
One of the reasons why I have been studying the Book of Isaiah is to discover principles that God taught Isaiah. Then, I can pray about what I believe God is showing me.
If I’m wrong in the content of my prayers, the Holy Spirit can correct me. If I am right, I will join others in asking for God’s will to be done and for his kingdom to come.
What about Cyrus?
If my thoughts are correct and it is best to not equate Cyrus with a current political leader, is there something we can learn from this Persian king?
The central truth of God’s activity with Cyrus is what it revealed about God.
All of Cyrus’s abilities and accomplishments were gifts from God.
Thus says the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus,
whose right hand I have grasped
to subdue nations before him
and strip kings of their robes,
to open doors before him—
and the gates shall not be closed:
I will go before you
and level the mountains,
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 riches hidden in secret places,
so that you may know that it is I, the Lord,
the God of Israel, who call you by your name. (Isaiah 45.1-3)
There is no record that Cyrus became a follower of the Holy One of Israel. However, the way God worked with the king revealed that God alone is God.
I am the Lord, and there is no other;
besides me there is no god.
I arm you, though you do not know me,
So that they may know, from the rising of the sun
and from the west, that there is no one besides me;
I am the Lord, and there is no other. (Isaiah 45.5-6)
God’s activity with Hebrew people throughout the ages is his way of testifying to the fact that he alone is God. Only a true and living God could accomplish the following:
— The Exodus from generations of slavery in Egypt.
— The return from Babylonian captivity, made possible by God’s work through Cyrus.
— The cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
— The gift of the Holy Spirit.
Everyone who reads this article may not agree with my conclusions. However, we all can agree that there is One True God and that he alone is worthy to direct our lives.
As we follow God’s direction, let’s join Jesus in the redemptive mission that he gave us in Matthew 28.
About This Blog
Rudy Ross and I produce a daily video of these blog articles on the Bob Spradling YouTube channel. Rudy is Jewish, a Christian, and an excellent Bible student. The videos present insights from a dialogue with the two of us.
I am indebted to Dr. John Oswalt, who has written an excellent two-volume commentary on Isaiah for insights into the Book of Isaiah.
Please email your prayer requests to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or private message me on Facebook. The Maywood Baptist Church prayer team will pray for you.