HEARTS RIPE FOR HARVEST: WITH CHRISTIANITY, PERSIANS RECLAIM THEIR PAST
Isaiah Prophesies Cyrus’s Arrival on the World Scene
One hundred and fifty years before Cyrus conquered Babylon, the Prophet Isaiah wrote these words, “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.” (Isaiah 45:1). About a hundred years later, Cyrus was born into the Achaemenid clan.
At that time, the high plateau east of the Zagros Mountains was populated by a variety of nomadic tribes who had begun to migrate there in the 16th Century BC. Over time, they banded together to form a federation of clans controlled by the Medes. Among the 10-15 clans that made up the region of Persia, was the Pasargadae. Their leader was always chosen from the Achaemenid clan and in 559 BC, Cyrus 11 was chosen as the leader of the Pasargadae.
Over the next seven years, Cyrus led the Persians to overthrow the Median rule, in spite of the fact his grandfather was their king. In doing so, he styled himself as the first Shah of Persia and he assumed the empire the Medes had built over centuries, even though some of the nations were not ready to peacefully submit.
One such dissenter was King Croesus of Sardis, but after an indecisive battle Croesus returned home to lick his wounds over the winter, assuming their conflict would be continued in the spring. Breaking with tradition, Cyrus pursued him and defeated in his primary city. Then, also breaking with tradition, Cyrus spared Croesus’ life and brought him into the administration of the country he once ruled.
Cyrus went on to conquer Babylon in 539 BC. However, he did it in his own non-traditional manner, winning the hearts of the nation against their current king with propaganda, before being welcomed into the city with palm fronds strewn along his path.
Cyrus Delivers the Jewish Nation
The Prophet Jeremiah warned the nation of Israel that God had run out of patience with them and would be sending “His servant Nebuchadnezzar” against them. (Jeremiah 25:9) They would be taken away into captivity, but he also promised the captivity would only last 70 years. (Jeremiah 25:11)
A teenager by the name of Daniel was among the Jews who made the 5-month journey, on foot, to Babylon. In his elder years, after faithfully serving the kings of Babylon for many decades, Daniel read the words of Jeremiah and began to pray for the promised Deliverer. The Lord sent Cyrus, the deliverer Isaiah had promised 150 years before.
After his triumphal entry into Babylon, Cyrus continued his habit of defying tradition and encouraged his subjects throughout his vast domain to worship their own gods and live according to their own customs. He even allowed the captive Jews to return to Jerusalem and rebuild their temple.
There are 240 references to Persia and Persians in the Old Testament, but you also find them in the book of Acts. Acts 2:9 lists the people groups present at the Day of Pentecost. This list begins with “Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia”, all people who came to Jerusalem from the Persian Empire.
These Parthians, Medes, Elamites and Mesopotamians went back to Persia with the Good News of Jesus Christ. Then they traveled the Silk Roads trading their spices for the silks of China and leaving behind their faith. In China, Christianity was first known as a Persian religion!
The kingdom of ancient Persia is now known as Iran. A list of Persia’s rulers, reaches from the Cyrus of the Bible to the last Shah, deposed in 1979. While the American media focuses on Iran’s nuclear capabilities and its ties to radical terror groups, Iran is also the home of the fastest growing evangelical church in the world. Iranians all over the country are rejecting the violent religion promoted by their radical leaders and embracing the Savior discovered by Parthians, Medes, and Elamites at the Miracle of Pentecost so many years ago. Global Heart Ministries is devoted to helping Iranians rediscover their lost heritage through love of Jesus Christ and the Bible.
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