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How do you respond to Isaiah 44:28–45:1?

This passage is one of the most persuasive evidences of divine foreknowledge in the Bible. The verse proclaims the Lord as the one “who says to Cyrus, ‘He is my shepherd, and he shall carry out all my purpose’; and who says of Jerusalem, ‘It shall be rebuilt,’ and of the temple, ‘Your foundation shall be laid.’ Thus says the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have grasped to subdue the nations before him…”

According to the traditional view of the book of Isaiah, Isaiah recorded this prophecy about Cyrus over a hundred years before Cyrus was born. The passage is clear evidence that the Lord foreknew that a king named Cyrus would arise and would be instrumental in rebuilding Jerusalem.

At this time in world history, it fits the Lord’s overall providential plan to return the Israelites to their land. He thus takes unilateral control over a small portion of the immediate future and determines that it shall come about in a certain way. He even predetermines what the name of the king who shall release them shall be, undoubtedly as a sign to the Israelites that he—not the idols they were inclined to chase after—was responsible for setting them free (see 46:9–11; 48:3–5).

This passage is not a “crystal ball” sort of prediction. It is rather a declaration of what the Lord himself is going to accomplish. He is going to “grasp the hand” of Cyrus and direct him. This doesn’t imply that everything about Cyrus was directed by God or that Cyrus was not a free moral agent outside of God’s declared intentions. And it certainly doesn’t imply that everything about the future is foreknown by God. It only implies that whatever God has already decided he’s going to do in the future is known by him before he does it. He foreknows it by knowing his own intentions in the present.

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