Thursday, April 10, 2014

Isaiah 22: 19-21

19 “I will depose you from your office,
And I will pull you down from your station.
20 “Then it will come about in that day,
That I will summon My servant Eliakim the son of Hilkiah,
21 And I will clothe him with your tunic
And tie your sash securely about him.
I will entrust him with your authority,
And he will become a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the house of Judah.

Last week, we were introduced to Shebna, who was a steward and head of the royal household to King Hezekiah in Judah. God called Isaiah to prophesy against him, as the steward had let his position get the best of his head and his service. This week, we start reading about the process of Shebna's outplacement.

In verse 19, we read that Shebna will be deposed from his office. Original word meanings for 'depose' include to put away, to put down, to put aside; a laying down, disposal, or burying. (Online Etymology Dictionary) When you expand 'depose,' you get 'deposition,' which also gives us the idea of a testimony--a putting down or laying down of your word. Isaiah brought Shebna the news that he would be deposed. He would lose his place of position within Hezekiah's administration. If we agree with the historical data that suggest Shebna had a correspondence (with evil intent) relationship with Assyria's Sennacherib, then we might also say that Isaiah was calling him to dispose of his deposition: "Your testimony is no longer desired here."

"High places are slippery places; and those are justly deprived of their honour that are proud of it and puffed up with it, and deprived of their power that do hurt with it. God will do it, who shows himself to be God by looking upon proud men and abasing them, Job 40:11, 12."
--Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible

This was said last week, but is important to reiterate: The 'I' in the "pulling down" of Shebna is not Isaiah, not even really Hezekiah, but God. Scripture doesn't tell us how Shebna rose to his office nor--outside of building a royal tomb for himself--what other things he might have done to earn a call from the nation's prophet with his demotion papers. But, Scripture does tell us that God is not too far away to act in circumstances that grieve Him, and pride is one of those sins that He speaks of and deals with swiftly in His people.

"All the trees of the field will know that I am the Lord; I bring down the high tree, exalt the low tree, dry up the green tree and make the dry tree flourish. I am the Lord; I have spoken, and I will perform it."
--Ezekiel 17:24

Then, verse 20, there is a new calling announced: Eliakim, the son of Hilkiah, will be summoned to step forward and take Shebna's place. Note the use of "My servant" in the passage. Again, this is not Hezekiah making an appointment, but God saying that, "in that day," "My servant" will be called. A man of God's own choosing.

As we move into verse 21, you might imagine a look of anguish on Shebna's face--his hands over his ears, as he cannot believe what he is hearing. Isaiah is not finished speaking, as he not only deposes but disrobes Shebna in a physical representation of his slippery slope down and out of office. First, he takes his tunic, which was the basic garment for all men--though likely of finer quality given Shebna's position. Eliakim gets that. Then, Shebna's sash--a symbol of high position--was to be tied firmly around Eliakim. Finally, the words: "I entrust him with your authority," which can be more literally translated as "rule," and "he will become a father" to the nation.

Can you see Shebna, perhaps standing before his in-construction lofty final resting place, hearing that it was all going to be taken from him? No position. No authority. Certainly, no side benefits. No legacy outside of what Isaiah would capture in Scripture. Recall that Shebna is not fired, but demoted. He would be a scribe, part of Eliakim's supporting staff. But, that was a long way to fall in the scheme of things back in the day.
"When they called to the king, Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, who was over the household, and Shebnah the scribe and Joah the son of Asaph the recorder, came out to them."
--II Kings 18:18 (meeting Sennacherib's representatives at the gates of Jerusalem)

It's not an "official" cross-reference passage, but in all this talk about clothing, I couldn't help but recall Jesus' appearance before Pilate. Jesus did not don a fancy tunic, nor the sash of an official to the king. In mocking Him, the soldiers placed on Jesus a purple robe and a crown of thorns. The King of the Jews certainly didn't dress like one. Nor did He lord His authority over them. This is a concept Shebna did not understand. Not only did clothes not make the man, but authority is not self-made.

"So Pilate said to Him, 'You do not speak to me? Do You not know that I have authority to release You, and I have authority to crucify You?'  

Jesus answered, 'You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above....'"
--John 19: 10 and 11a

What was Shebna's downfall would be a quality seen in Eliakim that would redeem the integrity of the office, as well as signify him as a type of Christ (more on that next time). The more Shebna tried to mold himself into an authority figure, using all the external, worldly items at his disposal (!), the closer he found himself to earning God's displeasure and, ultimately, permanent displacement. God spoke the word Himself to His people: "You shall have no other gods before me." (Exodus 20:3). Jesus would echo the same principle: "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth." (Matthew 28: 18, emphasis mine) Jesus didn't have all authority until His Father gave it to Him.

Do we see in Whom lies control of our lives?! 

"God undertakes the doing of it, not only because he would put it into the heart of Hezekiah to do it, and his hand must be acknowledged guiding the hearts of princes in placing and displacing men (Proverbs 21:1--"The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the Lord; He turns it wherever He wishes."), but because the powers that are, subordinate as well as supreme, are ordained of God."
--Matthew Henry


Official Study Break! Then, we close out Chapter 22. ....'Til next time!


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Next time:  Isaiah 22: 22-25
Note: I read from the New American Standard Bible translation,
specifically, The MacArthur Study Bible (NASB).
I will quote other sources if used in a post.

I also use Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible
(with notes from the King James Version).