Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Cyrus’


Daniel 9:1-12Ultimate Fulfillment

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Written on January 9 and posted today as a favorite . . .

Tilda Swinton as Gabriel in “Constantine”

What we see today is Daniel’s interaction with God’s messenger Gabriel who is mentioned here for the first time in scripture.  We know that scripture is not history – it is not an accurate telling of events in a sequential manner in order to set facts in place; rather, it is an inspired record of our interactions with God over thousands of years.  This is the gift of the Torah, prophets, and wisdom literature.  It is the gift of the accounts of Jesus, the Apostles and the Holy Spirit as a manifestation of God among us.

In today’s Noontime, footnotes tell us that the Darius the Mede whom we see in this prophecy is “unknown in profane history.  The Median kingdom had already been conquered by Cyrus the Persian, and it was Cyrus who captured Babylon.  Evidently the author of Daniel has deliberately adopted an apocalyptic view of history, derived from prophecy . . . according to which the Medes form the second of four world kingdoms preceding the messianic times . . . The character of Darius the Mede has probably been modeled on that of the Persian King Darius the Great (522-486 B.C.), the second successor of Cyrus”.   (Senior 1096)

Further commentary tells us that “the prophet Jeremiah (25,11; 29,10) prophesied a Babylonian captivity of seventy years, a round number signifying the complete passing away of the existing generation, Jeremiah’s prophesy was fulfilled in the capture of Babylon by Cyrus and the subsequent return of the Jews to Palestine.  However, the author of Daniel, living during the persecution of Antiochus, sees the conditions of the exile still existing; therefore in his mediation he extends Jeremiah’s number to seventy weeks of years (v 24), i.e., seven times seventy years, to characterize the Jewish victory over the Seleucids as the ultimate fulfillment of the prophecy”.  (Senior 1100-1101)

What we see today is not a story about people or places we know in history.  Nor is it a story about a particular time in our human record that has little to do with us in 2011.  What we have before us is the story of how we – like Daniel – might interact with God’s messenger and with God himself.  It is the story about the ultimate fulfillment of prophecy.  It is the story of how God visits us constantly, how God interacts with us, and how God always keeps his promises.

When we flag or lose faith, when we are exhausted from the effort of our journey, when we are at the point of feeling that our exile will never end, we might – like Daniel – turn to God, acknowledge our humanity, and enter into a dialog with the divine.  For it is through our trials, when we drop our defenses against God’s presence in our lives, that we are most intimate with God.  And it is through our anguish and suffering that we encounter our divinity within.  This is the ultimate fulfillment of God’s promises to us – to live freely and wholly in the Spirit.


A re-post from August 9, 2011.

Image from: http://www.nytimes.com/imagepages/2005/02/06/arts/06devr_CA0ready.html 

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.1096,1100-1101. Print.   

Read Full Post »


Isaiah 44: Chasing Ashes

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Cyrus the Great

Founder of the Persian Empire, Cyrus inherited a small kingdom and expanded it to include what we know today as Iran and much of Turkey.  He captured Babylon in 539 B.C.E. and although he did not worship the God of Israel, he proved to be “a beneficent king who allowed captive people to return to their homelands and restore their places of worship”.  (ARCHAEOLOGICAL STUDY BIBLE 669). We cannot know his motivation for allowing the Jewish people to return home after exile, but we do know that Cyrus II – the Anointed of the Lord who becomes the Liberator of Israel – believed in Marduk, the mythological god of Babylon.  As many have commented, we can never anticipate the wisdom or plans of God.  Hear then, whom I have chosen . . .

Many times I wonder how God has chosen the agents who do God’s work: stumble-bum leaders, hard-edged colleagues, the apparent liberal who leans toward conservatism, and the seemingly empty-headed support personnel who deliver wisdom during crisis.  I have learned to be on the lookout for God’s anointed even as I try to steer clear of false idols; and I wonder about my own fidelity to God and my success as his agent.  Hear then, whom I have chosen . . .

Isaiah warns us against replacing God with idols that bring us no help and cause us too much maintenance work.  Smiths and carpenters do not reflect, nor have the intelligence and sense to see that the bits of iron and wood they fashion into idols are no god at all . . . Half the wood was burned in the fire, and on its embers I baked bread and roasted meant which I ate. Shall I then make an idol of the rest, or worship a block of wood?  Like these smiths and carpenters, we daily set up little gods to worship when we worry about our next meal, the clothes we will wear to the gym or pool, the roof on the house or the brakes on the car that need repair, our position at work, the fussy chair of the civic committee on which we serve.  When we set aside our prayer time with God because we want to fret about these worries, we have surrendered to our little gods.  He is chasing ashes, a thing that cannot save itself when the flame consumes it . . .

Volcanic ash cloud

We might wonder as we reflect on today’s Noontime how it is that God has so much patience with us when we turn to the inanimate to fuss and cajole the objects in our surroundings into pleasing us.

We might wonder how it is that God has so much forgiveness with us each time we return to him that he continues to encourage us and grace us with his presence.

We might wonder how it is that God has so much imagination that God will use a believer in a pagan god as the anointed one to help the faithful return from an exile their own corruption gained for them.

We might wonder how it is that God has so much compassion for each of us that despite our times of coldness and our turnings away, God continues to heal, restore, redeem and save us.

We might wonder how it is that God loves us eternally and wishes to be with us forever . . . despite the countless times we leave God to chase after ashes.

Volcanic ash

We might wonder . . . and yet God is the one who pours out water on the thirsty ground, knits us his offspring in the womb, pours out his spirit on us, and lays blessings on our descendents. 

We might wonder, yet we need not . . . for God chases after us . . . even as we chase after the ashes of our own folly.


For more information on Cyrus II (Cyrus the Great) who appears at the end of Isaiah 44, go to this site and also follow the link to farsinet.   http://gracewalk.wordpress.com/2006/11/14/cyrus-the-great-isaiah-45/

ARCHAEOLOGICAL STUDY BIBLE (NIV). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2005. 669. Print.

Images from: https://gracewalk.wordpress.com/2006/11/14/cyrus-the-great-isaiah-45/  and http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Europe/2010/0419/Volcanic-ash-cloud-economics-Europe-s-winners-and-losers and http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Europe/2010/0419/Volcanic-ash-cloud-economics-Europe-s-winners-and-losers

We will be away from the Internet for several days. Please enjoy this reflection first posted on July 24, 2011.

Read Full Post »


Ancient Jerusalem

Isaiah 44: Remember This

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

We have spent nearly a month reflecting with Ezra and Nehemiah, discovering the blessings that can rise from disaster and loss, considering the benefit of rebuilding a relationship that appears forever gone. Today we examine how the action of one we believe to be our enemy can bring us opportunities for transformation and rebirth.

The prophet Isaiah brings us the familiar words of the Lord.

“Israel, remember this;
    remember that you are my servant.
I created you to be my servant,
    and I will never forget you.
I have swept your sins away like a cloud.
    Come back to me; I am the one who saves you.”

A people who suffers exile because they had turned away from God, hear that the Lord still longs for their return. And the people respond.

Shout for joy, you heavens!
    Shout, deep places of the earth!
Shout for joy, mountains, and every tree of the forest!
The Lord has shown his greatness
    by saving his people Israel.

The Lord then tells the people that their enemy Cyrus will be the instrument of their liberation.

I say to Cyrus, “You are the one who will rule for me;
    you will do what I want you to do:
    you will order that Jerusalem be rebuilt
    and that the foundations of the Temple be laid.”

When we remember the stories of old, do we also remember the ironies they hold? When we think about the stories of our future, do we open our hearts to the ironies that await us? When we reflect on the story we live in the present, do we remember that God is always with us, calling us home to rebuild what we believe is lost.

These verses are taken from The Good News Bible. When we explore multiple translations of these words, we find new ways to remember.

To learn more about the story of Ezra and Nehemiah, click on the image of Jerusalem above or visit: https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/ezra-nehemiah/ 

Read Full Post »


Revelation 3Superficiality, Fidelity, and Mediocrity   

Tuesday, May 30, 2017    

To the church in Sardis . . . I know your works, that you have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead . . .

sardis

A Greek temple in Sardis

To the church in Philadelphia . . . You have limited strength, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name . . .

To the church in Laodicea . . . I know that you are neither hot or cold . . .

Today we read the greetings to three of the seven churches addressed by John in the last book of the Bible.  The seven represent the universal church.  Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea have something special to tell us.

Notes will inform us that Sardis was once a capital city and was noted for its immense wealth at the time of Croesus in the 6th century before Christ.  It had a fortress with the fame of being impregnable, yet it was taken by surprise by both Cyrus and Antiochus.  This church gives the appearance of being unassailable . . . but is warned to be on its guard.  Be watchful and strengthen what is left, which is going to die, for I have not found your works complete . . .

We will also learn that Philadelphia was rebuilt by the Emperor Tiberius in C.E. 17 after a different quake.  It may be for this reason that there are references to its royal nature.  Because you have kept my message of endurance, I will keep you safe in the time of trial that is going to come . . .

Laodicea IMG_5913 - Copy

Ruins in Laodicea

Laodicea was a wealthy industrial and commercial center eighty miles east of Ephesus that exported beautiful woolen garments.  It had a famous medical school and was known for an eye salve that could be purchased there and the people had so much money that they were able to rebuild after a devastating earthquake about sixty years after Christ.  And they did this with no outside help.  They were able to stand in their own and were beholding to no one.   For you say, “I am rich and affluent and have no need of anything,” and yet you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.  I advise you to buy from me gold refined by fire so that you may be rich, and white garments to put on so that your shameful nakedness may not be exposed, and buy ointment to smear on your eyes so that you may see . . . (Senior 403-404)

ancient philadelphia

Ancient Philadelphia

Here we have the faithful church sandwiched between the complacent, self-satisfied, self-protecting churches.  As we contemplate this juxtaposition, we might ask ourselves where we stand today.  Are content with doing just enough?  Do we tend to appearance and neglect the inner self?  Are we bothered by poverty of all kinds, or do we brush it away where we cannot see it?  Do we even allow ourselves to see suffering in any way?  If we do, how do we react?  We can spend time in Revelation 2 and 3 and wonder how our preparations for a guest compare with how we prepare ourselves to receive Christ.  Now we focus on three churches that bring us a special window we might open into our own souls.  Are we superficial?  Are we content with mediocrity?  Do we follow Christ faithfully even though the journey of life has taken its toll?

Superficiality, Fidelity, or Mediocrity . . . how do we choose to live?  What is our guiding principal?  Whom do we follow?  Why and how do we do what we do?  The Book of Revelation announces what Christ expects.  Whoever has ears ought to hear what the spirit says to the churches. 

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.403-404. Print.  

For more images of a pilgrimage to the churches, click on the images of Sardis or Laodicea above, or visit: http://www.farnborough-kent-parish.org.uk/recent_turkey.html 

Adapted from a Favorite written on March 27, 2011.

Read Full Post »


Monday, December 9, 2013

Luke 2:1-3images[1]

Each to His Own Town

So all went to be enrolled, each to his own town.

A universal enrollment of those living in the Roman Empire is unknown outside the New Testament, and there are further difficulties in pegging the year of Christ’s birth to a specific year; yet this lack of tidy detail has not hampered the story of the Christ Child.  Scholars tell us that “It is not by chance that Luke relates the birth of Jesus to the time of Caesar Augustus: the real savior (11) and peace-bearer (14; see also 19, 38) is the child born in Bethlehem.  The great emperor is simply God’s agent (like the Persian king Cyrus in Is 44, 28-45, 1) who provides the occasion for God’s purpose to be accomplished”.  (Senior 101)  The story of this child born in obscure beginnings still reverberates throughout the world today.

God says: Why do you struggle to pin Jesus’ birth to a specific point in your calculation of time when he is eternal in my own time?  These are details you need not chase but I understand that there are those among you who crave the feeling of comfort this exactness brings to you.  Expand your horizon beyond your small place and strike out to enroll yourselves in your own town which is my own heart.  As you journey, remember that the greatest among you are the least, and the least among you are the greatest.  Has my own presence among you in the person of Jesus not told you so?  Has my own Spirit not abided with you to comfort you and to remind you of my constant presence in your lives?  Each of you is precious to me for each of you is my own sweet child.  Always remember . . .

I-give-you-my-heart-e1297118791257[1]The detail of life obscures and fogs our thinking.  The big picture draws us away from the many tiny indicators of God’s presence.  Somewhere between the large and small is where truth lies and the truth is this: Each of us is a child of God; each of us is precious to God; and each of us makes a pilgrimage to the place we hold as our own.  Let us pray that this place is God’s own heart.

To learn more about the difficulty in determining the exact year of Christ’s birth, go to: http://www.ncregister.com/blog/jimmy-akin/what-year-was-jesus-born-the-answer-may-surprise-you or http://www.nydailynews.com/news/world/jesus-birth-year-wrong-pope-article-1.1205825

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.101. Print.   

Read Full Post »


Saturday, October 27, 2012 – Daniel 9 – Gabriel and the Seventy Weeks

“I was still occupied with this prayer when Gabriel came to me in rapid flight”.

“A pressing theological question asserts itself.  Does the writer of Daniel think God’s purpose in bringing history to its end can be changed merely by uttering human prayers?” (Mays 631-632) Commentary will enlighten this passage for us further but if time is brief today we might reflect on this one question: How do we react when we discover that a period of trial will last longer than we had first believed?  How do we manage pain that endures not seventy years but seven times that number?  Do we reject God in anger or do we go to God in faith?  Do we sink into private despair or do we turn to God in universal hope?  Do we lash out against those who bring us truth or do we react in love . . . even toward our enemies?  What do we do when we find out that our seventy years of pain are seven times that number?   How do we endure?

Daniel provides us with a model, a plan, a pattern we can follow when we receive the news that life is a string of trials interspersed with little triumphs.  Chapter 9 lays out a simple map.

I turned to the Lord, pleading an earnest prayer . . . We turn to God and pour our fears into God’s ear.  We tell him our worries with honesty.  We do not hide any of the details for God already knows them.

With fasting, sackcloth, and ashes . . . We make an outward sign to our inward selves that we have given over all control to God.  We put aside all pride.  We place ourselves fully into God’s hands for God already holds us firmly.  

I prayed to the Lord my God, and confessed . . . We enter into an open and straightforward dialog with God.  We say all that is on our minds, all that weighs down our hearts.  We admit that we have erred and have sometimes adored false idols. 

And we can turn to God because God is good.  We can be truthful with God because God is forgiving.  We can put away our fears, our defenses and our weapons because God is love. 

Know and understand this . . . Jerusalem was to be rebuilt . . .

When we discover that our suffering will not be ending when we first believed it would . . . we can follow Daniel’s model and remember that God always loves, God is always present, God always forgives and welcomes his tired ones home.  God does, indeed, respond to human prayer . . . and he sends his messenger to bring us the news that God is with us.

More notes on Daniel 9: “The prophet Jeremiah (25,11; 29,10) prophesied a Babylonian captivity of seventy years, a round number signifying the complete passing away of the existing generation.  Jeremiah’s prophecy was fulfilled in the capture of Babylon by Cyrus and the subsequent return of the Jews to Palestine.  However, the author of Daniel, living during the persecution of Antiochus, sees the conditions of the exile still existing; therefore in his mediation, he extends Jeremiah’s number to seventy weeks of years (v 24); i.e., seven times seventy years, to characterize the Jewish victory over the Seleucids as the ultimate fulfillment of the prophecy”. (Senior cf. 2, 1100-1101)

To re-visit our reflections on other portions of Daniel 9: We begin with Daniel seeking Ultimate Fulfillment in God; Daniel intones a Prayer in the Desert; then suddenly Gabriel Comes to Daniel in rapid flight.  A vision ensues through which Daniel understands that an end will come to the anguish he and his exiled nation suffer . . . but this end is further off than anticipated. 

To read more about this prophecy, go to the Daniel – God Calls the Faithful and Faithless page on this blog. 

Mays, James L., ed.  HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE COMMENTARY. New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1988. 631-632. Print.

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.1100-1101. Print.   

Read Full Post »


Monday, January 2, 2012 – Isaiah 45 – Reminders

The wise men approach from the East, bearing gifts that will sanctify, purify and sustain.  They are yet another sign of God’s promise to us that he loves, guards and guides us.  We will want to be watching for the many reminders God gives to us as marking posts along the way of our journey. 

This reflection was written on January 3, 2010 and it is posted today as a Favorite . . .

I have not spoken from hiding nor from some dark place on the earth . . . I, the Lord, promise justice, I foretell what is right.

The prophet Isaiah brings us a message today that we already know; yet we can use a frequent reminder. He announces the coming of hope, the arrival of the long-awaited one who frees us from defeat, the advent of one who helps each of us to cross our daily hurdles. 

It was I who stirred up one for the triumph of justice; all his ways I make level.

If we wish to walk in the level path, we have only to follow God’s anointed one.  In today’s reading it is Cyrus, the Persian king who rises up against Babylon and releases the captive nations.  As the New Testament story tells us, God also sends a true Messiah who releases us from our bondage of sorrow and chaos.  He sends the Christ.

Let justice descend, O heavens, like dew from above, like gentle rain let the skies drop it down.  Let the earth open and salvation bud forth; let justice also spring up!

Today we celebrate the idea that although political kings did not recognize the power of Christ, three wise magi from the East bring frankincense, gold and myrrh to the most unlikely of all kings, the child of Light, the child of Justice.  Isaiah reminds us that this child brings something to us which we all seek . . . true peace, eternal serenity . . . if only we might walk with him a little way, pray with him a little while. 

Come and assemble, gather together, you fugitives . . .

Rather than stand alone on the rampart, Isaiah reminds us that we must gather into phalanxes with all of the faithful, that we must put aside our squabbles so that we might rise at the sound of the Shepherd’s voice to form solidarity as we witness.

Turn to me and be safe, all you ends of the earth, for I am God; there is no other!

There is no dark corner that the eye of the Lord does not see.  There is no sequestered portion of creation from which the ear of God cannot hear the plea of the weary.  There is no god who can outlast our God, none who can withstand our God, not one who will win any battle against this God. 

The prophet Isaiah brings us a message today that we already know . . . yet we can use a frequent reminder.

Turn to me and be safe, all you ends of the earth, for I am God; there is no other!

For an interesting new twist to the Magi story, click the image above or go to http://abcnews.go.com/Travel/wise-men-ancient-text-differs-bible-tale-magi/story?id=12460820

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: