The Bad, The Good, The Wonderful

Isaiah 22:1-25

About a month ago school department in Auburn announced latest endeavor to bring technology to classroom: tablet computers for every kindergarten student! Children who need to be reminded: watch where you’re going; wash your hands when you’re done; don’t forget your lunch. Or asked: where’s your other sock; how can you lose something that big; you did what with your hat. And some school administrators expect them to be responsible with $500 touch-screen computers. Kids who like to poke and throw and twist and lose and forget. What were they thinking?

Times when people do things that just don’t seem to make sense. Watching Funniest Videos: whatever possessed him to try that. Driving in heavy traffic: what is he thinking. An unfinished project that turns into an eyesore, shop procedures that cause frustration and no production, list is endless of things that cause head-scratching. These situations also make us wonder: are they really that clueless or just in denial? Why do things like this happen?

Two kingdoms present in our world, each claiming territory as their own, claims disputed by the other. One competing for loyalty by turning up the volume. The other steadfastly pursuing truth and righteousness. Shebna – poster child for hedonism, the peoples’ choice. Eliakim – righteous and just administrator, God’s man for the times. Time and cause for genuine rejoicing: the one with the key of David wins; kingdom of light prevails, kingdom of darkness is destroyed. (Matt. 9:15)

A. Jerusalem v.1-14

Isaiah, this time from outside Jerusalem, looks at city and sees it as being in a valley. From vantage point could see what people in city were doing. Causes him to ask familiar question: what ails you? what are you thinking? It’s party time! Singing, dancing, partying on the house tops. Isaiah looks vainly to find cause for such outright celebration but sees none.

Instead it is as if city-wide festival stands against backdrop of approaching doom: leaders have run away from home, become prisoners of war. Captured by lead soldiers of army surrounding Jerusalem. Isaiah tells those nearby to leave him alone, don’t try to comfort him; there’s real cause for sorrow. Army will continue its advance, city will be devastated; by the time the party-goers realize the danger it will be too late.

How could Jerusalem get to this point? Weren’t they God’s chosen people? That was the problem: God was dealing with them but they weren’t responding properly. Because of their sinfulness, God had “called for weeping and mourning, for shaved heads and sackcloth.” When God first spoke calamity could have been averted, discipline could have been avoided had the people repented of their sin. Instead, they did just the opposite: outright celebration – eat, drink & be merry for tomorrow we die.

Jerusalem was acting in a way typical of the world – recklessly, rebelliously doing opposite of what God expects. Riding with a fellow one time, heard a funny sound, asked what it was. Response: don’t know, usually just turn up the radio so I can’t hear it. That way I don’t have to fix it. Turn up the volume, add more to the to-do list, do whatever it takes so you don’t have to listen to God. Liking the benefits God provides but despising any kind of submissive relationship with him. That’s the world, that was Jerusalem, turning their back on God and pursuing their own desires.

B. Shebna v.15-19

There was one in Isaiah’s view who personified Jerusalem and her disregard for God: Shebna. God intended to use Shebna as example of how he would deal with his people, the Jews. Equivalent of prime minister, one more involved in day-to-day operations than even the king and with nearly as much power. Occupied a position of great responsibility, and in theocracy, great obligation to manage civil affairs according to God’s principles.

At time when Jerusalem could have profited (maybe) from good leadership, Shebna focused on his own future instead of people’s future. Concerns were for self instead of others, misusing resources entrusted to him for his own ends rather than good of the kingdom. When Isaiah confronted Shebna, busily involved making himself an elaborate burial place, working to make an enduring monument to his own memory.

Would have been appropriate for Isaiah to ask Shebna: what ails you, what are you thinking. Obvious from his actions he as well as rank and file in the same boat. Thinking only about this life and not the next; satisfying desires, not concerned with principles. No room for God on their radar screen, not even pointed in his direction; if he showed up they’d look the other way or ask him to leave.

Little did Shebna know: God’s purpose – to make him a good example of a bad example. God would remove him from his office without ceremony, send him to exile where he would die shamed and forgotten. All his plans and effort would profit him nothing; they were contrary to God’s purpose and God has his limits. Power, position, possessions are of no avail when God makes his move, a lesson Shebna learned the hard way. So, too, would his fellow Jews who persisted in rebellion against God.

C. Eliakim v.20-25

All is not gloom and doom. True, God had called for time of sorrow and mourning; but another day would come when rejoicing would be in order. Shebna’s office would not remain unoccupied; God would install his man in that political office. One of God’s choosing would have much different character from prideful Shebna, would treat responsibilities of office much differently.

God even identified Shebna’s replacement: Eliakim, son of Hilkiah, but more importantly, God’s servant. Eliakim would be great asset to King Hezekiah, carrying out duties faithfully and in way pleasing to God. He would not need to grasp for power and authority, it would be granted him by God: “I will place the key to the house of David on his shoulder”; “I will fasten him like a peg into a solid place”. Unlike Shebna who tried to make himself prominent, God would bless Eliakim and his family, bringing honor to his father’s house.

Contrast between these prime ministers summed up in one sentence: “He shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the house of Judah.” (Isa. 22:21) Eliakim would protect his people, would guide them and counsel them in the ways of righteousness. He would work to lead people back to God instead of away from their Maker as Shebna had done.

Even for all his goodness and godliness, despite fact that God had fastened his peg in a secure place, Eliakim’s time in office would eventually come to an end. Eliakim a true historical figure, but was God’s man for a particular time in Jewish history. When that time was up, so also would Eliakim’s time in office be ended. Verse 25 included in prophecy so Isaiah’s audience would know that these events would happen in (for them) near future.

D. Emmanuel

Why was it important for Isaiah’s people to know Eliakim’s tenure in office would end? To distinguish him from a future righteous ruler who would govern God’s people.

Bible speaks of another “who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens”. (Rev. 1:18; 3:7) This one is “the holy one, the true one”, whose time in office will never come to an end. He is the one whom “God also has highly exalted and given Him the name which is above every name,that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth,and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil. 2:9-11)

Eliakim’s peg would be removed from its secure place; the peg of the Lord Jesus will never be removed. The burden the Lord Jesus carried will never be cut off: he carried the load of our sin and just punishment of his Father for our sin. That great work of redemption will never come to an end. Shebna was a bad example, Eliakim a good administrator, the Lord Jesus a “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.” (Isa. 9:6-7)

God removed Shebna from office, winding him up in a ball and throwing him away to exile. He will do the same with all powers and authorities who oppose him by means of the one who has the government of all creation on his shoulder. A day is coming when “he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, when he has brought to an end all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.” (1 Cor. 15:24-25) At the end of this age, death itself will be cast into the lake of fire. (Rev. 20:14)

Many Shebna’s in our world, a few Eliakim’s, only one Emmanuel. Each one has God-ordained purpose. The bad: encourage us to rely on God instead of people and governments; also to pray that God would give us righteous leaders. The good: cause us to thank God for his goodness to us. The Wonderful: ah, now, there’s real cause for rejoicing; that changes things for both this life and next.

“Now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation.” (2 Cor. 6:2) The Lamb has won, the Lamb will win; all his foes and ours will be defeated. He will bring us safely through whatever difficulty comes our way. For that we must rejoice and give him the glory. May we not put our confidence in wrong thing: our own genius, our faith, even a faithful leader like Eliakim. Instead may we trust solely in the Lord Jesus, bowing at his name, falling in worship at his feet, crowning him King of kings.


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