Summary: God Made You What You Are 1) That you may acknowledge him 2) That you may serve him Sermon preached for a service of thanksgiving for first responders.
So why did you become a first responder? Did someone in your family serve and you wanted to be just like them? Did you join because you figured you would have new challenges every day keeping your work interesting and engaging? Or did you join because you wanted to make a difference in a way that you can’t with many other professions? I am interested to find out why you became a first responder and I hope I get the chance to ask over lunch today. But allow me first tell you something about your career choice that you may not know. God made you what you are. Yes, God made you what you are so that you may acknowledge him, and so that you may serve him.
How do I know that God made you what you are? Because that’s what he tells us. Listen again to the first few verses of our sermon text. “This is what the LORD says to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I take hold of to subdue nations before him and to strip kings of their armor, to open doors before him so that gates will not be shut: 2 I will go before you and will level the mountains; I will break down gates of bronze and cut through bars of iron. 3 I will give you the treasures of darkness, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the LORD, the God of Israel, who summons you by name” (Isaiah 45:1-3).
The man who wrote these words was a prophet by the name of Isaiah. A prophet is a spokesman for God, like an ambassador. Isaiah lived about 2700 years ago in Jerusalem, Israel and announced that a king named Cyrus would be God’s tool. But Cyrus wasn’t even born yet when this announcement was made. In fact he wouldn’t come to power for another 140 years. What’s more, his country, Persia (present-day Iran), wasn’t even a superpower when Isaiah wrote these words. And yet Isaiah foretold that Cyrus and the Persians would defeat the Babylonians. Isaiah’s words were as astounding as if I were to predict that in 150 years’ time, a ruler from Thailand would invade and conqueror China.
But Isaiah didn’t just say that “some” ruler from Persia would conqueror. He named that ruler: Cyrus. And Isaiah would be right. In 559 BC Cyrus defeated King Belshazzar of Babylon even though the odds were stacked against him. Belshazzar was holed up in the fortress city of Babylon, which is about 100 km south-west of present-day Bagdad, Iraq. Babylon was renowned for its beauty and strength. The walls of this city were reportedly as tall as a 30-story building. And they were so wide that you could have built a seven-lane road on top of the walls. It was no wonder that Belshazzar thought nothing of partying it up even while the enemy Cyrus was camped right outside his gates. But fall Babylon did, just as God said it would.
God foretold all this because when it happened, he wanted Cyrus to know that he hadn’t accomplished this victory by his own smarts or strength. It was God who had made it happen, because he would, as Isaiah put it, “take Cyrus by the right hand” (Isaiah 45:1). It’s almost a cute picture isn’t it – God holding the mighty Cyrus’s hand. It’s what a father does when his toddler wants to climb over playground equipment. He will take the child by her hand, helping the toddler balance and overcome the obstacles. And what is often the reaction of the child when the mission has been accomplished? She’ll say, “Did you just see what I did, Daddy?” But the truth is without Dad’s help and hand, the toddler would not have been able to navigate the playground equipment.
You may not be able to feel God’s hand, but he is holding you. It is God who made you what you are. It is he who has placed you in your position of authority. A writer in the New Testament put it like this: “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God” (Romans 13:1).
Oh I don’t doubt that you worked hard to get where you are at. But you would not have been successful without God. None of us would be successful at what we do if God was not with us. And why does God take us by our hands and lead us through life in this way? God answers that question when he said to Cyrus: “I will give you the treasures of darkness, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the LORD, the God of Israel, who summons you by name” (Isaiah 45:3). God made you what you are so that you will acknowledge him – not just acknowledge that there is a god or some nameless divine force at work in this universe, but acknowledge that there is only one true God. This God went as far as to say to Cyrus, “I am the LORD, and there is no other; apart from me there is no God. I will strengthen you, though you have not acknowledged me, 6 so that from the rising of the sun to the place of its setting men may know there is none besides me. I am the LORD, and there is no other” (Isaiah 45:5, 6).