Thursday, August 25, 2016

Comfort My People: The Prophecies Of Isaiah, Day 58

Comfort My People:
The Prophecies Of Isaiah
Day 58

Yesterday we noted that the people of Jerusalem were depending on man's effort against their enemy instead of calling out to the Lord. In other words, they were depending on works rather than faith to save them. "The Lord Almighty has revealed this in my hearing: 'Til your dying day this sin will not be atoned for,' says the Lord, the Lord Almighty." (Isaiah 22:14) The only atonement which is provided for us is that which is obtained through faith. Works won't save us. Works won't be enough to save us from the troubles of this life and works won't be enough to save us from our sins. "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith---and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God." (Ephesians 2:8)

Next Isaiah names two men who were officials during the reign of King Hezekiah and he uses these men as an example of the difference between works and faith. We first read of these men in 2 Kings 18 when the Assyrian field commander and his men were outside the gates of Jerusalem. Hezekiah sent three officials out to speak with the Assyrians: Eliakim, Shebna, and Joah. Isaiah is going to make an example of the attitudes of two of the men: Eliakim and Shebna.

"This is what the Lord, the Lord Almighty, says: 'Go, say to this steward, to Shebna the palace administrator: What are you doing here and who gave you permission to cut out a grave for yourself here, hewing your grave on the height and chiseling your resting place in the rock?'" (Isaiah 22:15-16) Evidently Shebna, who is called a steward in Isaiah 22 and a secretary in 2 Kings 18, was in the process of digging out a great tomb for himself on a hillside. This was a Judean practice of wealthy and influential men. The tomb would have impressive carvings or columns on the outside and it would be up on a hill where the citizens could see it. Even after death, a person could exalt himself through the magnificence of his tomb. It indicates pride and a desire to have one's name known for all generations. Isaiah feels Shebna is getting too big for his britches. He thinks of himself as a mighty man in the land, a man to be honored and revered, a man who wants to make a name for himself both in life and in death. He doesn't have the faith to believe anything the prophet Isaiah is saying about the coming destruction and captivity. Shebna is living as if Judah and Jerusalem will continue on, just as it is, forever. He is planning to be buried in his fancy tomb with many generations of his descendants, not taking to heart the words of the prophet.

Some of the background materials I studied suggest that perhaps Shebna ended up being taken captive during one of the Assyrian incursions into Judah. This next passage indicates such a thing, "Beware, the Lord is about to take firm hold of you and hurl you away, you mighty man. He will roll you up tightly like a ball and throw you into a large country. There you will die and there the chariots you were so proud of will become a disgrace to your master's house. I will depose you from your office, and you will be ousted from your position." (Isaiah 22:17-19) The glorious tomb Shebna planned as a monument to his name will remain empty. He will die in a foreign land because he had no regard for the Lord or for His prophet. 

Next we look at another official of King Hezekiah. We are not told what Eliakim's official office was or his actual title. I wonder if maybe we aren't told Eliakim's official title because he was a humble man, a man who didn't boast about himself, a man who didn't make a big deal of his position. The Lord has something wonderful to say about him, "In that day I will summon My servant, Eliakim son of Hilkiah." (Isaiah 22:20) The Lord calls this man "My servant". Can there be any title greater than that? Hezekiah may have bestowed upon this man an impressive title that would have looked good on a resume, but we are only informed of the title the Lord bestowed upon him, that of being a servant of God. There are only a few men in the Scriptures the Lord refers to as His servants: Abraham, Moses, Caleb, David, Job, Isaiah, Zerubbabel, and the the Lord Jesus Christ. It is a high honor indeed when the Lord refers to Eliakim as "My servant", for he is among the most faithful men found in the Scriptures. Eliakim didn't make much of himself, but because of his faith, the Lord makes much of him.

The Lord tells the prideful Shebna he is going to lose his position to the humble Eliakim. "I will clothe him with your robe and fasten your sash around him and hand your authority over to him. He will be a father to those who live in Jerusalem and to the people of Judah." (Isaiah 22:21 Because the godly man Eliakim will hold a high position in the land, he will be an example to the people, a "father" to them in the faith.

"I will place on his shoulder the key to the house of David; what he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open." (Isaiah 22:22) The "house of David" would be the king's palace at Jerusalem. In ancient times the chief man in charge of the palace would have the key to the palace and its storehouses and he would fasten the key to the shoulder of his robe. It symbolized his authority and position in the king's house. He was a man so trusted by the king that the king could safely give him the key to everything he owned. If he opened a door, nobody could come along behind him and lock it, because he alone possessed the key. If he locked a door, no one else could open it, because he alone possessed the key. In our study of Genesis we learned that Pharaoh trusted Joseph, the son of Jacob, so much that he made him second in command to himself, bestowing upon Joseph the authority over the storehouses. If Joseph locked a door, nobody could open it. If Joseph opened a door, nobody could lock it back. Likewise, God the Father has entrusted the key to all He owns to the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus is called "Him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What He opens no one can shut, and what He shuts no one can open." (Revelation 3:7b) Only the most worthy, faithful, and humble men were equipped to hold the key to the king's palace and storehouses. Shebna was not found worthy and so his office will be given to Eliakim, a man of faith, a man of integrity.

"I will drive him like a peg into a firm place; he will become a seat of honor for the house of his father. All the glory of his family will hang on him: its offspring and offshoots---all its lesser vessels, from the bowls to all the jars." (Isaiah 22:23-24) In ancient times people didn't have walk-in closets with shelves and rods and fancy organizing bins. A person would hang his clothes on a sturdy peg driven into the wall of his bedroom. They didn't have cabinets or pantries either, so a woman would hang her pots and jars by their handles on sturdy pegs in the cooking area. Eliakim is going to be such a spiritual giant in the faith that he is like a sturdy peg driven into a well-built wall: all his family members will look to him for godly guidance. He will set an example they can follow. This is in contrast to the house of Shebna, who himself was not a sturdy peg and was unable to hold his office or his family together, not even being buried in his own tomb.

In the office where I work there is a wooden coat rack affixed to the wall in the back hallway. It has wooden pegs sticking out of it for us to hang our coats on. A peg on one end looks like all the other pegs but it isn't sturdy. It pops out every time anybody hangs anything on it and both coat and peg fall on the floor. It can be picked up and popped back into the hole but it falls out again as soon as anybody tries to hang anything on it. Because that peg isn't sturdy and reliable, we've learned to avoid it.

Shebna was like the peg on the coat rack at my office. He did not have a firm foundation of faith. He lived by worldly standards and not by God's standards. This made him the weak peg on the coat rack that nobody could hang anything on. So the Lord removed him from the coat rack altogether, sending him captive to a foreign land. The Lord will replace Shebna with Eliakim and, "'In that day,' declares the Lord Almighty, 'the peg driven into the firm place will give way; it will be sheared off and will fall, and the load hanging on it will be cut down,' The Lord has spoken." (Isaiah 22:25) Shebna's peg will be cut off because he was a poor example to the people. He was not a faithful servant to the king or to the Lord. Anyone who placed confidence in Shebna, hanging their weight on him, would fall with him

In contrast the godly Eliakim will be a faithful servant in the household of the king and in the family of the Lord. Those who look to him for godly guidance will be hanging in a firm place. His advice will be according to God's word and not to man's carnal ways. He will be like one of the sturdy pegs in the coat rack at my work, the ones we can confidently hang our coats on with the assurance they won't end up getting dusty on the floor. 

Eliakim is the type of person we should all strive to be. We should be so firmly grounded in the faith, so knowledgeable of the word of God, so close in our walk with Christ, that we are a peg upon which others can safely rely. Then we will encourage others in the faith. We will be able to lift up those who are down. We will be able to strengthen those who are weak. We will be able to instruct those who are new to the family of God. The Lord will place upon our shoulders a key and we will be able to witness to our fellow man, opening up to them the door of the household of God.

It's morning and the entire day is still before us. Whatever we do today, let's do it in the spirit of Eliakim, a man who made little of himself but made much of God, a man of humility that the Lord was proud of, a man who led others to the Lord.

No comments:

Post a Comment