The 29th Sunday of the Year

Isaiah 45:1 & 4-6; 1 Thes 1:1-5; Mt 22:15-21 (Year A)

”Thus says the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus, whom he has taken by his right hand. It is for the sake of Israel, my chosen one, that I have called you by name.”

These words, spoken in praise of Cyrus, Israel’s deliverer from the Babylonian exile and their restoration to the holy city of Jerusalem, marked a crucial development in Israel’s understanding of her place among the nations.

At the risk of oversimplification, it might be said that, prior to the disastrous fall of Jerusalem, Israel had considered herself as the only recipient of God’s grace and favour. All other nations were dismissed as infidel. This had led to the dangerous presumption that God would always favour and protect his people, even in the face of their repeated infidelity.

The turmoil of the exile brought Israel to a new and broader understanding of God’s presence among the nations. God had indeed chosen Israel, but, in the words of Isaiah, she was to become a light to the nations. As God had chosen Israel, so he had chosen Cyrus, an outsider, to become the instrument of his saving purpose. Never again would the pride of any single nation be able to claim that they, and they alone, were God’s favoured people.

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