Thursday, March 24, 2011

Croesus and Cyrus

1 May the LORD answer you in the day of trouble; May the name of the God of Jacob defend you; 2 May He send you help from the sanctuary, And strengthen you out of Zion; 3 May He remember all your offerings, And accept your burnt sacrifice. Selah 4 May He grant you according to your heart’s desire, And fulfill all your purpose. 5 We will rejoice in your salvation, and in the name of our God we will set up our banners! May the LORD fulfill all your petitions. 6 Now I know that the LORD saves His anointed; He will answer him from His holy heaven with the saving strength of His right hand. 7 Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; but we will remember the name of the LORD our God.8 They have bowed down and fallen; but we have risen and stand upright. 9 Save, LORD! May the King answer us when we call. (Psalm 20)

One of my favorite stories from history is the account of how Cyrus the Great of Persia defeated Croesus, the King of Lydia. Some of you may have heard this story before, if so, bear with me. If you have not, I’ll fill you in.

Croesus was the King of Lydia for almost 50 years, from 597 BC until 547 BC. Lydia was in the western part of what is now Turkey. Croesus is known for being one of the wealthiest kings who ever lived. His name is remembered in the old expression that someone is as “rich as Croesus.”

Cyrus the Great was the founder of the Persian Empire. He was set on dominating the entire known world, and was successful in establishing the largest empire the world had ever seen at the time.

Cyrus the Great
We also know of Cyrus from the Bible. He is the king who defeated the Babylonians, and allowed the Jews to return to Israel after the exile. In fact, because of this, Cyrus comes out sounding pretty good in the book of Isaiah. “[God] says of Cyrus, ‘He is My shepherd, and he shall perform all My pleasure, Saying to Jerusalem, “You shall be built,” and to the temple, “Your foundation shall be laid.” (Isaiah 44:28)

Because of Croesus’ wealth, he had a great army. In fact, his cavalry troops were world renown. Cyrus had already met them in battle and was defeated. Cyrus, however, was a brilliant strategist, and was not going to give up on his quest for world domination.

Croesus prepared for another attack from Cyrus, by amassing an even larger army. He met the Persian army on the plain of Thymbra. Cyrus’ troops were organized in a large square. The square was outlined with chariots, cavalry, and his best infantry. He also added one new division; the camel corp.

While this may sound strange, Cyrus knew what he was doing. When the Lydian cavalry came swooping in to attack, their horse reared up, and became uncontrollable. The riders had to dismount and retreat. This caused the entire army to retire to the walls of the city, and Croesus was defeated in a matter of days.

What Cyrus knew would happen, that Croesus did not, was that the smell from the camels would disturb the horses. They were unfamiliar with camels and were frightened. Thus, the battle was won with very few casualties.

The Psalm above states in verse 7 “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; but we will remember the name of the LORD our God.” All of the things that we like to depend on in this world, will eventually fail us. Our health will wane and our material goods will break and rust. However, when we put our trust in the Lord, He will always be faithful. He knows much better than we, what is good for us, and how our battles can be won.

Just as Cyrus used a very unconventional method to defeat Croesus, the things God uses to aid us in our daily battles may seem odd to us. He may use tragic events, help from a stranger, or things we perceive to be inconveniences. Instead of questioning God, in these circumstances, thank God for His providence, and ask Him what you need to learn from them. Trust Him, and He will provide for you.

The foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. (1 Corinthians 1:25)

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