Isaiah 45:11-13 and How God Cannot Be Limited

Cyrus of Persia

Cyrus of Persia

I know several Christians who are adamant that God can only work one way. Sure, they understand that God cannot be limited on an intellectual level, but they are quick to point out that there are only certain ways God has chosen to act (usually matching up with how they have experienced God in their own lives) and in their understanding that is the only way God can act. Anything else, for them, is just an intellectual exercise because although God can do anything, he will not do anything beyond what he has already proven he will do.

Whenever I think of these brothers and sisters, I immediately think of this passage in Isaiah as well:

The Lord, the holy one of Israel and its maker, says:
Are you questioning me about my own children?
    Are you telling me what to do with the work of my hands?
12 I myself made the earth,
    and created humans upon it.
    My own hands stretched out the heavens.
    I commanded all their forces.
13 I have a right to awaken Cyrus;
    I will smooth all his paths.
He will build my city
    and set my exiles free,
    not for a price and not for a bribe,
    says the Lord of heavenly forces.

This is the answer God gives to the objections from Jewish people in exile over his choice of Cyrus as the anointed one who will deliver them back to the Promised Land. That was not how God was supposed to work. The emperor of the Persian Empire was not supposed to be given the same title as a descendant of David–anointed one–and the deliverer was supposed to be Jewish. God could choose a pagan to act as judgment against Israel and Judah as he did in using Assyria to conquer Israel and Babylon to conquer Judah, but he could not choose a pagan nation and a pagan king to redeem them from captivity and deliver them home.

Yet that is exactly what God did, and this is his explanation of his right to do so. He created all human beings, so they are all his. He is at work all over the world, and thus he can use whomever he chooses to accomplish his purposes, even for the covenant people of God! God is not limited at all. We do not have the authority or the right to chastise or reprimand God for his choices and his actions. And we certainly do not know enough to say, “God cannot work in that way.”

I find passages like this comforting. It reminds me that although I can learn quite a bit in life and I can experience a lot, God is still larger and wiser than me. It is also humbling to remember that God will not always fit into the categories I have established for him, but will always be bigger and limitless in how he will work for the redemption of humanity.

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