“I am the LORD, and there is no other, besides me there is no God; I equip you, though you do not know me.” – Isaiah 45:5
I have been a Vikings fan all my life. Cut me open and I bleed purple and gold. When I found out I was going to be the father of a boy my first dream was of him playing football professionally in a Vikings uniform.
As a Vikings fan, it goes without saying that I despise and hate (at least in a sporting sense) the Green Bay Packers. They are Slytherin to my Gryffindor, the Sith to my Jedi, the Joker to my Batman, the devil to my… well, you get the idea.
Now, for the majority of my life as a football fan the Packers have had one person in particular upon whom my wrath has settled. Brett Favre. For years, Brett Favre was the face of the Green Bay Packers. For years, the Green Bay quarterback, Brett Favre, represented everything I loathed about the Packers. Brett Favre. Seeing him trot onto the sacred field of play caused the bile in my liver to boil. Brett Favre. His very name was poison to my lips. Brett Favre.
So you can imagine my consternation when my beloved Vikings wrangled Brett Favre out of retirement and invited He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named to play quarterback in 2009. How could they do this to me? How could they bring in our mortal enemy to play the most important position on the team? Brett Favre, the very bane of my existence as a fan of the Minnesota Vikings, now became one of us. Disgrace upon disgrace.
The “you” that God is addressing in Isaiah 45:5 is Cyrus the Great, the pagan ruler of the Persian Empire who lived around 550 BC. In Isaiah 45, God anointed Cyrus to do a great work for God’s exiled people, Israel. Cyrus is Israel’s Brett Favre. He isn’t supposed to be the one upon through whom God’s deliverance would come. Yet, it happened. Through Cyrus, the people of God began to return to the Promised Land.
God’s people were in exile. They were beaten down and they longed for deliverance. So, God planned to do just that, but he planned to do so in the most unexpected and unlikely of ways. Cyrus. Why? “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 45:6-7).
God raised Cyrus in order to show his people who was really in control. Had one of their own risen to liberate them, would they have believed it was God’s doing? God raised him as a display of God’s sovereignty and God’ sovereignty served to show the power and expanse of God’s grace. And nowhere is God’s sovereign power and grace more evident for us than in the incarnation, the crucifixion, and the resurrection of Jesus Christ.