Sermon: Proper 24A (OT)
Theme: Unlikely Instruments
Summary: Not only did God foretell the coming of a foreign, idol-worshiping ruler who would do His will, He also named Cyrus in advance. Before the judgment of the Babylonian Captivity fell upon His people, He was preparing the one who would return the Lord’s chosen people to their homeland. Yet it’s unlikely that Cyrus ever acknowledged Israel’s God as his own, although he certainly knew of Him through captive Judah.
Unbelieving foreign rulers are only type of unlikely instruments that God raises up to accomplish His purposes. He uses friendly governments, private citizens, and saints and sinners of all sorts as He works to accomplish salvation for mankind. The very lawbreakers — or lawmakers — about whom we might complain could very well be working directly to accomplish God’s plans, even if neither they nor we realize it.
In the case of Israel, God judged the Northern Kingdom with the Assyrians. He condemned Judah by Babylon. Yet He also brought His people home in order to reestablish them that the promised Messiah would be born as He intended.
When the Savior was born, lowly Judaean shepherds and brilliant foreign scholars both found ways to honor Him. God anointed His Son by the hand of John the Baptist, allowed Jewish leaders to arrest Him, and led the Romans to put Him to death.
The Lord employed each of these unlikely instruments in order to accomplish salvation through the unlikely Instrument of an obscure rabbi from Galilee. No one expected such a thing: As Nathaniel so succinctly asked at the outset of Jesus’ ministry, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth? (John 1:46)”
Of course, we say, “Yes!” The unlikely instruments of Jesus Christ and His cross secured our forgiveness. The unlikely instruments of water, of bread and wine, and of His called servants deliver this salvation to us. And we are now His unlikely instruments, bringing His light, His forgiveness, and His peace into a fallen, sin-stricken world.
Unlikely? Only to those who know not the wonderful ways in which God works.
Text: 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.
“For the sake of my servant Jacob, and Israel my chosen, I call you by your name, I name you, though you do not know me. I am the Lord, and there is no other, besides me there is no God; I equip you, though you do not know me, that people may know, from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is none besides me; I am the Lord, and there is no other.
“I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the Lord, who does all these things.” Isaiah 45:1-7
Scripture quoted from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Audio: Click to hear the MP3 of Unlikely Instruments .
Other Readings: Psalm 96:1-9 (10-13); 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10; Matthew 22:15-22
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