CLICK HERE to read Isaiah 45.
This chapter continues with the mind-blowing prophecy the Lord revealed as a cliffhanger at the end of the last chapter: the righteous remnant will be restored to their land through a leader named Cyrus. It’s actually an amazing story! Cyrus was the son of two royal countries (Medes, ruled by Astyages, and Persia, ruled by Cambyses) married to seal an alliance between them. Cyrus grew up and inherited Persia, and governed so well that the Medes took Astyages prisoner and made Cyrus king of that land, too. This is how Medes and Persia became one country, led by Cyrus, who was a good – but pagan – king of that land. He began to expand his kingdom, taking some of Asia Minor, and many of the Greek colonies.
In 539 BC, Cyrus decided to conquer Babylon, something previously thought impossible by most everyone who knew about Babylon. Even archeologists today describe the city as an “unimaginable fortress”, with walls 336 feet high and 13 miles long and 136 feet wide. The people inside the city kept enough food provisions for years, and had their own river that ran under the city. They thought they were safe, and no one surrounding the land thought anything different.
But we know that back in Isaiah 21, the Lord promised Babylon would be conquered literally overnight. How is it possible?!
This comes true in 605 B.C., about a hundred years after Isaiah lived, but how did Cyrus do it?
The people of Babylon laughed from atop the wall, watching Cyrus and his army dig a trench from the city’s giant walls. They thought Cyrus was going to lay siege to the city, and laughed at him because they knew they had provisions for years. In fact, Belshazzar threw a big party for Babylon that night, not even worried about Cyrus. But the Lord interrupted the party with a handwritten message on the wall ((see Daniel 5), which Daniel (as in the Lion’s Den) interpreted for them as meaning Babylon was about to be conquered. Chaos erupted, and by dawn Belshazzar had been murdered by his own people, and Cyrus had drained the city’s river – and then his army simply marched into the city by way of the riverbed, just like that.
It is interesting to note that Cyrus was not a Jew, yet the Lord still favored his benevolent rule, and so rewarded him accordingly (verse 1). He even calls him “anointed”, or set apart for this specific task. Because Cyrus serves well and is a good king, the Lord blesses his efforts by “adding upon” his kingdom.
The Lord even tells Cyrus that He himself will go before Cyrus, announcing his arrival to Babylon, which the Lord did by the handwriting on the wall incident and the king being dead before Cyrus even arrived (verse 2). The Lord reminds Cyrus that it is He who has provided all this for Cyrus, and that he must remember this during his conquests (verse 3). The Lord tells Cyrus that the purpose for this is to liberate the Jews, so that the Lord can keep His promises, and that all this will be made known even though Cyrus will not grow up as a Jew knowing the Lord (verse 4). Yet still, the Lord promises that Cyrus will be raised to show compassion on all instead of reveling in bloodshed and cruelty (verse 13).
The Lord delivers this message specifically to Cyrus so that he can learn who is the true god and what is true worship (verse 5). Everything, the Lord says, is under His rule, and no one else reigns the day as He does (verse 6). The Lord says that not only does he control the Light, both literally and figuratively (as knowledge), but also He establishes times of peace or times of war (to deliver justice for those who reject mercy) (verse 7). In the same way, the Lord promises to inspire Cyrus to do good to all the nations he conquers, and to prompt Cyrus to urge the Jews to return to their own land (verse 14).
All truth will be given, the Lord says, by revelation (“drop down, ye heavens, from above, and let the skies pour down righteousness”) and by scriptures delivered to the people such as was the Book of Mormon (literally brought forth from the Earth) (verse 8). Because He created us (verse 12) and delivers what we need, we ought not try to work against His plan, like pottery complaining to the potter (verse 9) or like a rebellious child mocking the children (including himself) of his parents (verse 10) – it is foolish! Yet it is good and wise, and we are given specific permission, to ask questions for legitimate learning and exploring who He is, what He has created, and who we are in relation to all of it (verse 11).
Isaiah then adds his own testimony, declaring that this God who will bless the efforts of Cyrus (and prepare him for his reign) is the same God as the God of the Jews, the Savior of the world (verse 15). Just as Cyrus will be blessed for being benevolent and compassionate, so will hateful and cruel nations be punished (verse 16). The people must return to the Lord, Isaiah says, because the Lord promises to deliver the people through these things (verse 17). This is the purpose of creation, the Lord says, that He might also create redemption (verse 18).
The Lord has taught all of this to the people, He says, and none of it is secret (verse 19). He urges the people to literally gather, that the prophets might teach them, that they may learn and be redeemed (verse 20). He pleads with the people to accept His counsel, from His prophets and from the scriptures and from direct revelation, rather than relying on idols and false gods that cannot help them (verse 21). He says (verse 22):
Look unto me,
and be ye saved,
all the ends of the earth:
for I am God,
and there is none else.
Every person will one day acknowledge the Savior as King, even if not all choose to repent and rely on Him spiritually. Even those who do not want to follow Him will still admit that He is Jesus the Christ. All will know it and acknowledge it and say His name (verse 23). When they finally understand this, they will be ashamed for not having listened to prophets and messengers earlier, and will be softened to finally do so (verse 24). Understanding these things, people and political governments and cultures will also finally understand the true story of the Israelites, and this restoration will bring glory to them and to God (verse 25). Those who repent can become children of the covenant, the People of Holiness, and this is His “work and glory”.