Isaiah 45:1-5 - Homilies By W. Clarkson
The unfelt hand on the human heart.
Of this passage the most striking and inviting words are those in the fourth and fifth verses: "I have surnamed thee, though thou hast not known me;" "I girded thee, though thou hast not known me." But while these sentences furnish the theme of consideration, the other part of the passage suggests three particular things in which the prophetic word was fulfilled.
1 . The opening of the gates of brass ( Isaiah 45:1 ), fulfilled during the capture of Babylon.
2 . The discovery of hidden treasure ( Isaiah 45:3 ), fulfilled in the taking and sacking of two of the wealthiest cities of antiquity, besides other great acquisitions.
3 . The strengthening of Cyrus for the sake of Israel ( Isaiah 45:1-4 ), fulfilled in the brilliant successes of the great Persian conqueror, followed by the liberation of the Jews from captivity. But the interesting fact is the presence and action of the Divine hand in the course of this heathen king. Little as Cyrus imagined it, he was under the guardianship and guidance of the Lord of hosts from his earliest childhood to his last successes. The power that snatched him from earliest peril, that made him the wise and capable administrator he became, that planted in him the spirit of humanity and equity, that saved him in a thousand dangers, and gave so triumphant an issue to his various enterprises,—this was none other than the power which is Divine. God was girding him, though he knew not the name and the works of Jehovah. On this unenlightened sovereign, from infancy to age, through all the events of a crowded life, a Divine hand was laid; its touch was all unfelt, its secrets undiscovered; but it was there—a gentle, constraining force, shaping his career, tracing the lines along which he moved, making him the power among the nations that he was in those ancient times. This known fact does two very useful things for us.
I. IT GIVES A PROFOUND INTEREST TO ALL HUMAN HISTORY . There is too much in the affairs of men to justify the sarcasm about the "battle of kites and crows;" there is something pitifully small in the contests which proceed in "high places" for honours, titles, and emoluments. In one view the struggles of men are small enough to excite our pity, if not our disregard. But introduce the element of the Divine! Then all is changed. And should we not introduce that element? If God's unfelt hand was on one heathen king, why not on another? why not on all the others? If, all unknown, he was upsetting and upraising kingdoms in one clime and age, why not in other climes and in other ages? In this view "profane" history becomes "sacred;" for in it we have a record of God's doings in the world. When we read the account of the overthrow of Assyria, of Persia, of Greece, of Rome, of Spain; when we read the careers of Alexander, of Caesar, of Charlemagne, of Napoleon, of Cromwell, of Washington,—in the light of the truth which lies in the text, human history is very much more than the story of a "battle between kites and crows;" it is more than the account of human passions in stern conflict, of human ambition working itself up and burning itself out. It is Divine procedure; it is God's outworking and overruling; it is the hand of God laid on the arm of man,—unfelt, unrecognized, but directing and controlling, working to wise and righteous issues. In the great events which are the landmarks of history, and in the careers of illustrious men, God is "within the shadow," girding men though they know him not—the mightiest factor by far in all worlds, and even in this , where he is so little known, so much forgotten.
II. IT LENDS GREAT IMPORTANCE TO EVERY HUMAN LIFE . Men may imagine that there is nothing sacred about their individual life; that they have very little to do with God and he with them; that God stands in no closer relation to them than that of the Author of the laws by which they are governed, and the ultimate source of the blessings which they receive. But they are wrong. God is much more to them than this. He is the Father of their spirits; he is 'the Saviour of their souls; he is seeking their welfare; is following them out, in his thought and affection, to the "far country" of sin; is inviting and promoting their return; is touching them in many ways and at many points, "girding them, though they know him not." The meaning of all sacred privilege and of all parental discipline is that God is laying his hand upon us, and is saying to us, "Return unto me;" "Come unto me."—C.
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