With financial markets in turmoil and the world in the worst recession since 1929, it makes you wonder whether anyone is in charge. Politicians, try to give the air of being in charge, but it is apparent that they are powerless. Every headline brings a reaction, but they give me the impression of being like England batsmen facing the West Indies pace attack of a former generation. They may be fending off short pitched deliveries and protecting their faces, but they have no plan to build an innings. A few weeks ago Gordon Brown claimed to have saved the world. It's a pity the world did not notice.
The bankers are certainly not in charge. If they were clever they took the money and ran. And they intend to hang on to it. The industrialists are not in charge. Nobody wants to buy their goods and they are laying off workers at an alarming rate. The armed forces are not in charge. Battered and bruised by conflicts for which they have no heart, they just want to come home.
Way back in 539 BC in the land that is modern day Iraq, the rulers were feasting, drinking and revelling, when they were shocked by the sight of a disembodied hand writing on the wall, "You have been weighed in the balance and found wanting." You can read about it in Daniel Chapter 5. It must have been a frightening experience but Belshazzar would have felt safe within the impregnable city of Babylon. How was he to know that Cyrus the Persian possessed sufficient engineering skills to divert the River Euphrates so that he could enter the city along the dry river bed?
Belshazzar that he was in control of events but powerful though he was he was like putty in the hands of history.
Cyrus was a great Persian king (it seems like Iraq and Iran have always been enemies). If you go to the British Museum you can see the Cyrus Cylinder. It was discovered in 1879 by the Assyro-British archaeologist Hormuzd Rassam in the foundations of the Esagila, the main temple of Babylon, where it had been placed as a foundation deposit. The text of the cylinder denounces Nabonidus (father of Belshazzar) as impious and portrays the victorious Cyrus as pleasing to the chief Babylonian god Marduk. It goes on to describe how Cyrus had improved the lives of the citizens of Babylonia, repatriated displaced peoples and restored temples and cult sanctuaries.
Among those people returned to their own country were the Jews who had been taken into exile by Nebuchadnezzar 70 years previously. The liberation of the Jews had been predicted by the Prophet Isaiah in chapter 44 "who says of Cyrus, 'He is my shepherd and will accomplish all that I please; he will say of Jerusalem, "Let it be rebuilt," and of the temple, "Let its foundations be laid." and in 45:13 "I will raise up Cyrus [a] in my righteousness: I will make all his ways straight. He will rebuild my city and set my exiles free, but not for a price or reward, says the LORD Almighty.".
It seems astonishing that so far ahead of time Isaiah should name the liberator, but in Ezra chapter 1 the event is reported <
The Bible makes it clear that Cyrus was not working on his own. It reassures us that someone is in charge; someone who has control of the future. We used to sing a hymn:
God holds the key of all unknown,
And I am glad:
If other hands should hold the key,
Or if he truseted it to me,
I might be sad.
What if tomorrow's cares were here
Without its rest?
I'd rather he unlocked the day,
And, as the hours swing open, say,
"My will is best."
It seems to us that we face an uncertain future. Our savings are in jeopardy, our jobs are not safe, our pensions losing their value, our homes at risk. Many are worried about our health. Perhaps we face surgery or chemotherapy. WE may be frightened for our loved ones. Sometimes it seems that no sooner has one worry dissipated than another takes its place. Where can we turn for comfort?
Jesus said this, "Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble."
And St Paul wrote to the Christians in Rome who were suffering far more than we are, "We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose."