76 Sermons On The Old Testament Given By Jesus
Sermon 61 - The Second Isaiah, the voice of liberation.
July 15th, 1963
Received by Dr Samuels
I am here, Jesus.
The voice of liberation, or redemption by the Lord, comes to the exiles of Babylonia with the rise of Cyrus, the Persian, prince of Anshan, who made himself ruler in his own country and began sub-dividing his neighbors, winning a great victory from Croesus of Lydia, in 546 B. C., and eventually making himself master of Babylonia from 542 to 539 B. C. This Cyrus, whose name meant Sun, or King, has since been deeply respected, and mentioned with something approaching awe by Jews everywhere, for he issued a proclamation permitting the exiled Hebrews to return to their own land in 537 B. C. To the pious Jew, this sudden stroke of history in their favor seemed nothing less than the decision by the Lord to redeem His people from their exile. But to those who were now acclimated to economic conditions in Babylonia, whose ruler Nebuchadnezzar proved to be moderate in his dealings with the exiles, and whose son, Merodach, released from prison Jehoialim the captive king of Judah (561 B.C.), the proclamation by the new ruler Cyrus was greeted with concern and perplexity. It meant upheaval, a difficult journey, and the barest of prospects to people who, as a vast majority, knew only Babylonia as their home. Almost 50 years had passed since the day of the great disaster, remembered only by the most ancient, and simply a tradition, if a most sorrowful one, among the others. Hebrews could serve Jehovah in their adopted country, for Jews now believed that God was everywhere, and if His Temple, or His Home, was in Jerusalem, He was accessible to them in their prayers to Him in the synagogues, which had sprung up in the new land to perpetuate the love and worship of their God.
For the Jew of the exile had not renounced his devotion to Jehovah. If Israel had bowed before the pagans, it was not due to the weakness of their God, but because God had delivered into the hands of their enemies the people who had broken the covenant of moral and ethical living, which bound them to Him, substituting for His Laws iniquity in their conduct in human affairs and rejection of His worship in their practice of pagan cults.
In the foreign land, the Jews had sought to hold on to what was their religious and cultural heritage by teaching the young and carrying out the precepts given to them by Moses. Israel, in its time of trouble and affliction, had turned once more to God. If no man could claim Paradise while on earth, yet its spiritual insight and understanding had been sharpened and clarified. A keen observer could note the higher plane on which Israel lived normally, and a sudden event, as seen in a few years of war and conquest among the great nations of the time, could indeed, with justification, be interpreted as a sign that the Lord God of Israel had willed that the period of retribution for Israel had been fulfilled and that the time of redemption was at hand.
Just as in previous times the voice of Israel’s prophets could be heard when great events were in the making, and they were voices usually of warning and admonition, so now the victorious campaigns of Cyrus, the Persian, against the Medes and Lydia, convinced one of Israel’s great writers that the end was approaching for the Babylonian exile of the Jews. This new prophet, called the Second Isaiah, because his name was Isaiah, was born about the time of Ezekiel’s death, and made his home in Babylon. His people, who were small traders in the Hebrew community of the capital, were devout Jews, and they provided Isaiah with all the necessary schooling in the Mosaic Law and the prophets. For the youth quickly showed his interest, his enthusiasm, his love for the religion of his forebears, and early voiced his determination to become a leader in teaching his people the beauties of his heritage. For Isaiah was alert, responsive, deeply emotional and spiritual in nature and he reacted in terms of feeling, movement and poetry. His imagination was fired by Cyrus’ spectacular victories and, alive as he was to the signs of Babylonian weaknesses, especially in the high places, he felt that this new sun in the political firmament foreshadowed a new day in the fortunes of the Jewish exiles.
The Persian triumph was consummated when Cyrus’ General Gobryas defeated Belshazzar, the son of the reigning Babylonian Nabuna’id at the time (555-538 B.C.), in the battle of Opis (539 B.C.) and entered the capital city, whose stronghold fell the following spring. Isaiah was present at this event, and saw the entourage of Cyrus himself parading through Procession Street, along which the religious festivals usually made their way. Isaiah was highly impressed with Cyrus, and in his subsequent writings referred to the Persian leader as a Messiah, appointed by God to liberate the exiles.
As a matter of fact, Cyrus was glad to have a friendly people, indebted to him for his generous treatment of them, and who would build up Jerusalem as a strong outpost for his far-flung empire. But Isaiah felt that, regardless of Cyrus’ motives, the time for Israel’s redemption had come. He was not the recipient of any vision, as in the case of Ezekiel, but, having studied this prophet’s writings, was sure that the Temple was going to be rebuilt, and that Cyrus’ presence in Babylonia was the proof.
Jesus of the Bible
Master of the Celestial Heavens