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Proof Perfect of Romans 8:28 (God Works ALL Things Together for Good)

November 3, 2011

I don’t usually type up what I write about in my (Bible) journal, but this was far too interesting to keep to myself. I’ll introduce THREE main bits of information, then show how they are related.

#1: God’s Repeated Affirmation and Assurance of His Own Character

Today, I read Isaiah 43-45 (usually about 3 chapters per day).
In this short bit of Isaiah, God says of himself, “I alone am God” (or some variation) a total of 18 times.
He also says, “There is none besides me” (or some variation) a total of 13 times.

#2: Cyrus is God’s Shepherd and Anointed One?

Who is Cyrus? He is mentioned in the end of chapter 44, and the beginning of chapter 45:

44:24 “I am the Lord…
44:28 who says of Cyrus, ‘He is my shepherd,
and he shall fulfill all my purpose’;
saying of Jerusalem, ‘She shall be built,’
and of the temple, ‘Your foundation shall be laid.'”
45:1 Thus says the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus…

Usually, when we think of God’s Shepherd and Anointed One, we think of Jesus. Is this some vague and unusual reference to Jesus?

#3: A Very Interesting History Lesson

Cyrus turns out to be Cyrus II, or Cyrus “the Great,” a Persian king who conquered Babylon in 539 B.C.

The prophet Isaiah began prophesying during the reign of king Uzziah around 739 B.C. (Isaiah 1:1). That’s a full 200 years before Cyrus would play any significant role in Israel’s history!

Babylon is where Jews were progressively exiled. The first seige of Jerusalem by Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzer began in 598 B.C. and ended with some Jews being deported to Babylon in 597 B.C. The second deportation of Jews happened in 588 B.C. after the second seige of Jerusalem. And the third deportation of Jews happened in 583 B.C. This exile happens over 50 years before king Cyrus would conquer it! Yet, the deeds of Cyrus are still clearly articulated in Isaiah’s prophesy 200 years earlier!

Through Isaiah, God says of Cyrus, “He is my shepherd, and he shall fulfill all my purpose’; saying of Jerusalem, ‘She shall be built,’ and of the temple, ‘Your foundation shall be laid.'” And sure enough, as prophesied in Isaiah, and as documented in Ezra and Nehemiah, Cyrus wrote an Edict of Restoration to return Jews to their homeland and rebuild their temple (Ezra 1:1-4, 6:3-5). Because of this act, he became known as “the Lord’s Messiah” among the Jews. Messiah means “anointed one” – just as prophesied in Isaiah.

The Verses that Stuck Out Most to Me

Isaiah 43:1b-3a
43:1b “Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
43:2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
43:3a For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.

How It All Fits Together

In the above passage, God tells his people to “Fear not” for He has already saved them. The Babylonian Exile has not yet happened – it is still 150 years in the future – but it sounds like God is already preparing them for it with these words.

He says:
▪ “Pass through waters” – perhaps these are common daily struggles – and God is “with you.”
▪ “Through rivers” – perhaps this refers to the destruction of Jerusalem during the seiges – and “they shall not overwhelm (or destroy) you.”
▪ “Walk through fire” – perhaps this refers to the Exile itself – and “you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.”

Surely, God is already preparing them for what is to come in the near future.

Surely, God’s repeated affirmation and assurance of His own character through these 3 chapters (“I alone am God” 18 times, “There is none besides me” 13 times) is to give his people some great reassurance of His sovereignty over all the matters of men (including something as terrible as the Exile), and His divine providence – even through difficult times.

God’s Divine Providence

In God’s divine providence, I listened to a short clip from Pastor Mark Driscoll about that very subject earlier today.

The hard part with providence is, we only see it in the rear-view mirror. We don’t see it in the windshield. We live by faith. Meaning we venture forward just trusting God’s gonna be there, He’s gonna figure it out. And even if it doesn’t come together, He still loves me, and my righteousness is in Christ, and they can’t take my greatest treasure, even if they take [everything else].

As you look back in your life, you will see evidences of the providence of God. “Oh, THAT’S what He was doing; THAT’S where He was leading me; Oh, THAT was the plan; that’s how THIS led to THAT”… And looking back, [you realize that] God is sovereign AND good.

This passage in Isaiah provides solid proof of God’s divine providence and plan. A full 200 years before these events transpired, He had already planned – and made known – His purposes. But, as Pastor Mark said, we can only see God’s providence in retrospect. So while it is easy to see His purposes with Cyrus and the Jewish Exile now, during that time, the Jews likely could not clearly see God’s hand in their suffering.

Likewise, during our own suffering, we may not clearly see how God’s hand is in it, but we should trust that His hand IS in it. And one day, looking back, we will surely see how His hand WAS in it. This must be why God’s first words in Isaiah 43 are “Fear not!” He has already saved us, and He already has a plan for us – and though we may not see it at the time, we can be confident of it.

For we know that while God does not DO evil, He does USE evil for his purposes. And that there (along with today’s story) is proof perfect that Romans 8:28 is true: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.”

So, how should we respond? “Fear not!”

(If you want to hear more of Mark Driscoll’s discussion about the divine providence of God, sign up for Leadership Coaching here: http://theresurgence.com/2011/11/01/the-providence-of-god-in-the-life-of-a-leader)

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