Tuesday, May 20, 2014

God of the foreigners

Isaiah 45:1 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: 2  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, 3  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. 4  For the sake of my servant Jacob, and Israel my chosen, I call you by your name, I surname you, though you do not know me. 5  I am the LORD, and there is no other; besides me there is no god. I arm you, though you do not know me, 6  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. 7  I form light and create darkness, I make weal and create woe; I the LORD do all these things. 8  Shower, O heavens, from above, and let the skies rain down righteousness; let the earth open, that salvation may spring up, and let it cause righteousness to sprout up also; I the LORD have created it.

The Persian King Cyrus the Great ended the exile of the Jews and helped them rebuild their temple. Isaiah marvels at how, although Cyrus did not worship God in the Jewish way, this foreign ruler was known to God: “I call you by your name, I surname you, though you do not know me...I arm you, though you do not know me”.

God is not bound by our religious boundaries. Although we might want to designate some as “friends with God” and others as “strangers to God”, God’s sovereignty is such that God can choose to know anyone. Just as God knew the Persian King Cyrus, so God can choose to know the Muslim, or the Hindu, or the person of no recognisable faith at all. Let us who follow Jesus get beyond our need to place labels on people, and offer the same loving acceptance to everyone – irrespective of their culture, religion, sexual orientation or nationality.

Sixth  Sunday of Easter
Chosen by God
The Scripture passage for the day is drawn from Rueben Job and Norman Shawchuck, A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and other Servants, (Nashville, The Upper Room 1983), 173.
This reflection is from my own devotional exercises for the day.

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