But what if I told you there were another messiah? Now, calm down, this is not my announcement of my own delusional projections of my own divinity to form a new personality cult.
What I’m saying is that the Bible tells the story of another messiah, one given that title by God through the prophet Isaiah. Cyrus II, also known as Cyrus the Great, ruled the Persian empire during the later portions of Israel’s exile from Jerusalem. Rather than micromanage from his throne room, his ruling style incorporated significant local autonomy under rulers, known as satraps, so long as those vassal states promised allegiance to the Persian Empire.
So, what does this have to do with a messiah?
In Isaiah 44-45, God refers to Cyrus as an anointed one, another translation for messiah, because of Cyrus’ allowance of Israelites to return to Jerusalem and to rebuild the temple and city. Of course, Cyrus was a messiah in a way that foreshadowed, that prefigured the fullness of Jesus as Messiah. Many are anointed, but only one is the Son of God, fully divine and yet fully human. Yet, in the initial prophecies of Israel’s messiah, God promised one who would return them to the land, restore the temple, and reestablish the holy city of Jerusalem. This is precisely the role that Cyrus played, and so, God calls him messiah.
Even more radical is that God is under no illusion that Cyrus does this as an act of faithfulness. Isaiah 45 says, “I call you by your name, I name you, though you do not know me… I equip you, though you do not know me, that people may know, from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is none besides me; I am the LORD, and there is no other.” Despite Cyrus’ penchant to worship many other gods, false deities and idols, the Lord still calls him messiah.
This is an incredible turn. Cyrus, the great conqueror and ruler of the largest empire known to that point, is named the messiah because his political policies aligned with the will of God. Because through Cyrus, God’s spirit was at work for the restoration of God’s people.
How often do we refuse to see God at work in someone or something because that person does not seem to know God? Yet, through scripture we see that God is at work even through those who appear outside of God’s favor, so much so that God might name them anointed, call them messiah, because they help to bring about God’s will on earth as it is in heaven.