“Cyrus the Anointed”
Grace and peace to you my brothers and sisters in Christ, Amen.
Several weeks ago I went to a bible study located in Port Clinton. This group was reading the story of Joseph son of Jacob, found in Genesis. During this particular study, we were reading the part when the Pharaoh appointed Joseph as his right hand man. Joseph had just deciphered the Pharaoh’s dream, and the Pharaoh decided to believe Joseph. While we were conducting this class I realized something. This Pharaoh was not a God-fearing man, he was not a Hebrew, yet God blessed him. How you might say? Well first, God revealed to the Pharaoh through his dreams of the seven years of bountifulness and the seven years of famine. God revealed this to him, God blessed pharaoh with these dreams. But the next is even more stunning. Pharaoh, a man who knew not the God of Abraham, said this, “Can we find a man like this, in whom is the Spirit of God?” and to Joseph, “Since God has shown you all this, there is none so discerning and wise as you are” (Genesis 43:38-39). How could the Pharaoh say this if not through the blessing of God?
On this day, we celebrate All Saints Day. This day is to recognize primarily all the saints who came before us, but to also celebrate all the saints who are here and yet to come, for through Christ we are all in union with the saints, but who are the saints? Do we not believe that though we are all sinners, through Christ we are all saints? This is most certainly true, for as Christians we are all sinners and saints. A saint is not a saint because of what they do. A saint does what they do because they are first a saint, and we are all saints not because of our actions but because of the grace of God. Therefore, on this day we celebrate alongside all who have been sanctified through Christ. We celebrate because through Jesus, we are and will always be in union with each other. This does not mean merely with Christians, but with all who have been sanctified through Christ. For did not the dead rose from the grave after Jesus died? They did, for Scripture tells us that after Jesus died the saints in the grave rose from the dead (Matthew 27:52-53).
Those who came before Jesus and died never got the opportunity to know Christ, so how could they have been saints? It is because Christ died on the cross for all of humanity, not merely for those who came after Him. Thus those who died before Jesus, who accepted Jesus, are most definitely saints, for through Christ they are saints. I would imagine that one of those who rose from the dead was the pharaoh found in Genesis, the pharaoh who was truly blessed by God.
Another person who was truly blessed by God was Cyrus, King of the Persians, which is now Iran. After Israel and Judah was sacked for their wicked ways and placed under Babylonian captivity as slaves once again, but as slaves to the Babylonians instead of the Egyptians, eventually there came a king who, through the grace of God, decided to free the Hebrews. He not only freed them, but he also fully funded the rebuilding of their nation, Israel, which was orchestrated by the prophets Ezra and Nehemiah. Cyrus was no Jew, but God still accounted this gentile as one of his anointed. In our first reading of Isaiah, it reads, “Thus says the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus,” and again, “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.” Cyrus did not know of God, but God still used him as an instrument for the sake of His people. And He didn’t just used Cyrus, but He blessed Cyrus, He anointed Cyrus. If Cyrus was anointed, then how could he, a gentile, not also be accounted as one of the saints?
Just like the Cyrus, there are many people throughout the Bible who, though not knowing God, was blessed by Him or guided by Him for the sake of His people. And after Jesus rose from the grave do you think these blessings from God to those who have the ability to affect God’s people ended? Far from it! God continued to guide the nations and bless various leaders all for the sake of His people. One example that pops in my head is Constantine.
During the early 4th century, He was one of four emperors who ruled the Tetrarchy of Rome, for at that time Rome was separated into four separate regions. During his rule, the four emperors decided that there needed to be one sole ruler, thus a civil war broke out to determine who would be the true Emperor of Rome. Yet something curious happened. Before Constantine entered the war, he and the Bishop of Rome, Eusebius, whom he was friendly with, had a dream. A new symbol was to be created and painted on every single shield. This symbol is the Xi Rho (pronounced “kie-row”) symbol, which looks like the capital P with an x on the bottom half. This symbol represents the first two Greek letters of the word Christ (Xpistos). We still use this symbol today, but Constantine, a gentile, ordered this symbol be painted. And on the first battle, with Bishop Eusebius present, Eusebius had a vision. In the clouds above the Soldiers bearing this new symbol, he saw the Cross above the Sun bearing the inscription, translated as “In this sign thou shall conquer.”
Eventually Constantine won the Civil War with little casualties to his own under armed forces and through his reign established the Holy Roman Empire. Later on his death bed, with his friend Eusebius present, he confessed his faith and converted to Christianity.
God has truly blessed many leaders throughout history, and through the death of Jesus he has anointed and sanctified many whom He directed for the sake of His people. And even today we wish that God continues to guide the nations, blessing all the leaders on earth for the sake of His people. Here in America, we the church pray that God blesses our local leaders, our governors, our judges, our legislators, and most especially our President. We do this not because we agree with their political stance, lest we stop praying for political leaders because we disagree with them, but because we wish for God to guide them for our own sake.
We wish that God would bless our leaders the same way he blessed Constantine, the Pharaoh in Genesis, and Cyrus; directing them so that they may fulfill God’s intent. But what is God’s intent regarding government? Within the Church we believe there are three Holy Estates, the family, the Church, and Government. Focusing on the latter two, the Church’s main goal with regards to the Government is to make sure it is and remains to be Holy. This includes getting politically involved so that our faith would have a strong influence on Government. The Government’s main goal with regards to the Church is to protect the Church. The Government is not the Church, but, through the intent of God, it is commanded and blessed with the directive to protect first and foremost the Church. Thus we pray, that God guides our leaders with his Spirit so that they may lead with wisdom, justice, kindness, and with faith.
Thus, as Election Day comes, let’s make a promise. Regardless of who wins, after Jan 20th we will pray for our President. Not because we like him or agree with him, but because we desire God to guide him for the sake of the Church, to guide him like He guided Constantine, the first Christian Emperor of Rome, to guide him like He guided Pharaoh, who appointed Joseph as his right hand man, to guide him like He guided Cyrus the Anointed who freed the Hebrews from Babylonian captivity and helped rebuild Israel. We don’t have to agree on who we like as President, but let us agree on this as American Christians, our desire for God to bless our President, to bless America, and to bless the Church.
Let us pray,
Dear Heavenly Father, you are the source of all blessings and the one who sanctifies all. We ask that you continue to extend your blessing to all leaders on earth for the sake of the Church and her people, and to also give us the humility to not be blinded by our politics but to continue to pray for our leaders. In your most holy name we pray, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.