Summary: This message is part of a series that parallels some characteristics of the favored nation of Judah with America. It points the way back to God as the only true hope for a God blessed people.
ISAIAH 22:15-25 [HOPE FOR LIFE Series]
HOPING IN HUMANS
[After the gloomy view of Judah’s present and future, the prophet turns his attention to an internal matter in the affairs of Jerusalem during his own time. This segment serves to personalize the generalized statements made concerning the nation in 22:1-14.]
The nation of Judea had blinded itself in the face of approaching judgment, choosing revelry instead of repentance, pleasure instead of purpose, carelessness instead of character, selfishness instead of sanctification, folly instead of faith. To help us grasp the previously generalized folly of the nation our text brings the complaint to focus on a single individual. The individual chosen (no doubt because he was particularly guilty) to illustrate the condition of the nation is Shebna, the prime minister. He is a high-office holder in Judea who has betrayed his office by attempting to memorialize himself [or lifted himself up] while failing to carry out the obligations of his office. He plans for his own well-being and not for the ongoing life of the nation. He should have been acting in the interest of his people, formulating far-seeing policies which took into account all the factors, particularly God's Word. Instead this government official looks only to the immediate future and only as it relates to himself. As a result, says Isaiah with biting words, God will toss him aside like a filthy rag and give his office to another, who will truly act as a father to the people. This man will be trustworthy and dependable. But even that godly man will not be able to save the nation single-handedly. Ultimately the accumulated weight of the nation’s rebellion will pull God’s leader down with it. The sin of the nation, its blindness, is such that one sighted capable leader will be inadequate to turn the nation from its downward direction. [Background for this message was taken from The Book of Isaiah by John Oswalt, pp 415-424]
[Our Scripture lesson this morning is] though godly men are a sign of hope, they are not to be our hope (CIM). We are to hope in God, not in man.
I. A MAN OF WRONG PRIORITIES, 15-19.
II. THE RAISING UP OF GOD’S MAN, 20-24.
III. THE INSUFFICIENCY OF GOD’S MAN, 25.
In verse 15 God sends Isaiah to Shebna, the prime minister, who is over all governmental activity. Thus says the Lord God of Hosts, “Come, go to this steward, to Shebna, who is in charge of the royal household,
Thus says the Lord God of Hosts, the Sovereign of the Universe, the Commander of the Hosts of Heaven. He is the One who has something to say to him who thinks himself somebody in the small circles of Judah. The One who sees everything will speak to one of those who seem to see nothing of spiritual import or of his responsibility to God.
He tells Isaiah to go to this steward Shebna. The demonstrative pronoun indicates contempt. This steward is over or in charge of the royal household. To us the title of Prime Minister would be better understood. He was second only to the king [Hezekiah] and in charge of all government activity (36:3; 1 Kgs 4:6; 2 Kgs 15:5). God is pointing out that the rot and misguided priorities among His people commences at the very highest levels. This deterioration was working its way through the nation as a whole.
We seem to envy the mighty and want their power and prestige, but they are mere humans and prone to corruption more than most because of the opportunities their position affords. God raises up shepherds over His people and expects them to walk according to a higher standard, but in their pride and rebellion they act as evil as those who are only responsible for themselves.
God’s charge against the chief-steward is found in verse16. ‘What right do you have here? And whom do you have here, that you have hewn a tomb for yourself here, you who hew a tomb on the heights? You who carve a resting place for yourself in the rock?
Shebna violated the trust of his stewardship as the Master of the Palace. According to Isaiah’s charge, he used the role to advance his own agenda and make his mark on history. Though the tomb on the heights was undoubtably literally hewn it is use to indicate that Shebna purpose was to establish a lasting name for himself. His pyramid of pharaoh influenced tomb [in ancient cultures one’s place of burial indicated who he was in life] was intended to establish him in history and provide his family enduring prominence. He thought he could immortalize himself as somebody of great significance.
The thought is that he was more concerned about his place and his legacy than he was about the welfare of the people he was asked to govern. Here at the place of self-interests is where he invested his life when he should have focused on the critical condition of the nation. Instead of seeking to glorify God, he was seeking to glorify himself. Right here therefore is where the prophet confronts him. [God’s covenant people’s continuous establishing of self-sufficiency over dependency on God often brought confrontation by God’s prophets (1 Sam. 13:10; 1 Kgs 13:1-6; 18:16-17). This is typical of God. He will not allow His people to escape from Him and most especially when they wish to avoid Him. Oswalt, pp 420-421.] We will always be better served by remaining in God’s will than by trying to establish a life separate from Him.