Understanding His story helps us to understand that His-Story is our Story!
Understanding His story helps us to understand that His-Story is our Story!
The Key to the Kingdom - Isaiah 22
By: Michael Anderson http://prodigalmike.com
How much do you know? (Answers at the end of the lesson)
Since the beginning of the human race, pride has been an issue. Adam and Eve desired to be equal with God by gaining the knowledge of good and evil and in pride they expected to receive wisdom from a fruit. Cain, the people of Noah’s day, the Egyptians who enslaved Israel, and even wandering Israel itself were all punished because of pride. We have covered this subject in quite a few lessons, but here it is again in Isa. 22. There is a reason it keeps coming up over and over! It is the foundation of all sin and we exercise our pride every time we sin. Why have you lied in the past? Why have you cheated? Why have you spoke badly about someone else? The list goes on, but ultimately, it is because we want to lift ourselves up and have what we want. Paul calls it, thinking more of ourselves than we ought (Rom. 12:3). We all experienced it as children, didn’t we? What makes a child defiant? Pride! As adults, it may be prestige, power, to be important, to feel good, to have fun or to have things, but it is our sinful prideful nature that tells us to do whatever we want in spite of what God’s Word says.
The Kings of Israel, from King Saul to the very last king, all have problems with pride. King David is probably the closest any king gets to being a humble shepherd. A shepherd cares for his flock and David sets the bar high for that. But, he steals the wife of one of his most trusted officers and friend. Then in pride, he has him murdered to cover up the scandal! Even good King Uzziah went into the Temple to offer incense only to be rebuked by the priest. He threw a temper tantrum, but he knew they were right! Other kings, like Ahab, even made themselves priests of other gods so that they could live a sinful lifestyle without a guilty conscience. At times, it is obvious that there are Kings of Israel and Judah who are being nothing but prideful, petty and childish.
If I had to pick the most humble king, I would have to say it was David. We can determine this from his writing. His psalms and speeches reveal a man that had a humble heart. (Most of the time.) But, I think there is a very close second! Hezekiah. Hezekiah’s humility saves Israel in the face of the Assyrian conquest and the siege of Jerusalem. But, even Hezekiah has a period of problematic pride and it was just after the Lord defeated Assyria. More about that later in this lesson…
In this lesson, students should gain a better understanding of the dangers of pride even for the most godly people.
Everyone must guard against allowing pride to build up in their own minds even when they are receiving praise from others.
We must always be careful to give God proper credit and acknowledgement for His work.
As believers we must live in humbleness according to God's Word, always having faith even during difficult times.
Introduction - Isa. 22
There is a lot of debate about when Isa. 22 was written and what time period it applies to. Some scholars believe that Isaiah is writing chapter 22 about the time when Sargon was invading Philistia in 711 BC. Others believe that it was around 701 BC when Sennacherib of Assyria had laid siege to Jerusalem. I believe that it is clearly speaking of the time just after the siege of Jerusalem by the Assyrians in 701 BC during the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah’s reign. In this lesson, we are going to put the pieces of the puzzle together and see if that makes sense.
We do not know where the “valley of visions” is located (v.1) mentioned in the beginning of the chapter. The Scriptures do give us several clues suggesting that this all occurred just after the siege in 701 BC. In v.8, it speaks of “the defense of Judah”; in v.9, it says “the city of David” (which Hezekiah had fortified by 701 BC); also, v. 9 indicates they were storing up water in the lower pool (in preparation for the siege?); in v.10, “the buildings (houses) of Jerusalem were torn down to build walls” (Hezekiah used some of the houses to build new walls - 2 Chron. 32:5). Even today, tourists can see foundations from houses which were torn down and used in the wall when the new wall ran right through their living rooms). In verse 11, it indicates that the pool at the end of Hezekiah’s tunnel was complete and moving the waters from the ancient Gihon Spring to the new pool (called Saloam) (Hezekiah’s tunnel was finished by 701 BC); in v.15, Hezekiah’s government official, Shebna is mentioned (Hezekiah’s treasurer until about 701 BC); and in v.20, Eliakim is mentioned (Hezekiah’s treasurer after the siege of Jerusalem).
In this picture: Hezekiah's Wall in Jerusalem today.
The vision in 22 is also prophetic as Isaiah's vision looks forward and sees the walls of Jerusalem broken in many places and Jerusalem's defenses falling in spite of all the preparation that had been accomplished (22:5-8). What Isaiah saw in his vision was what was going to happen to Jerusalem even though God had delivered them from the Assyrians. They were now facing the death of their king, Hezekiah, and the eminent destruction of Jerusalem that would come with Babylon’s invasion several years later. So, how did it come to this point and who was this guy named Shebna that was building a tomb? As Paul Harvey used to say, “That is the rest of the story!”
1. Hezekiah’s Pride and Hezekiah’s Sickness
There are only two kings of Israel of whom the Word of God directly says “and the Lord was with Him” - King David and King Hezekiah. “So the Lord was with him, and Hezekiah was successful in everything he did. He revolted against the king of Assyria and refused to pay him tribute” (2 Kings 18:7 NLT). In fact it says this about Hezekiah, “For he clung to the Lord; he did not depart from following Him, but kept His commandments, which the Lord had commanded Moses” (2 Kings 18:6). Asa may also be in that list? But, what we see there is that the people believed the Lord was with King Asa, it does not clearly state that “the Lord was with him”. Either way, it’s a pretty small club.
Even though the Lord was with Hezekiah, he still developed a problem… (Remember - “all have sinned and come short…) His problem was pride. Are you thinking, “I thought he was a humble king?” He was for most of his reign. He didn’t have that problem for most of the first fourteen years of his reign. He served the Lord and turned Israel toward the Lord: He reopened Solomon’s Temple for worship (2 Chron. 29:3–17); he rededicated the Temple to the Lord turning the hearts of his people back toward the Lord causing them to worship the way the Lord had instructed (2 Chron. 29:1–36); he reinstated the Passover celebration for the first time since the reign of David (2 Chron. 30) and he removed the pagan altars and places of worship which no king had done so completely before (2 Chron. 31)! But, something happened just after the Assyrians were destroyed at Jerusalem.
2 Chron. 32:22-26 gives us a quick overview of why Hezekiah became sick: “So the Lord saved Hezekiah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem from the hand of Sennacherib the king of Assyria and from the hand of all others, and guided them on every side. And many were bringing gifts to the Lord at Jerusalem and choice presents to Hezekiah king of Judah, so that he was exalted in the sight of all nations thereafter. In those days Hezekiah became mortally ill; and he prayed to the Lord, and the Lord spoke to him and gave him a sign. But Hezekiah gave no return for the benefit he received, because his heart was proud; therefore wrath came on him and on Judah and Jerusalem. However, Hezekiah humbled the pride of his heart, both he and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the wrath of the Lord did not come on them in the days of Hezekiah.” (Emphasis mine) So, in this passage we have the answer… Hezekiah had a problem with pride. Here’s what I see happening as I study the Scriptures: Hezekiah knew the Assyrians were coming and he made preparations for the city to stand against the siege of the Assyrians. Remember that 2 Kings 18:7 tells us that God was in agreement with everything Hezekiah had been doing including stopping the payment of tribute to the king of Assyria.
Stopping that payment was paramount to a declaration of war with Assyria and God was okay with that (2 Chron. 32:26). So, Hezekiah began to prepare for the imminent war that would surely come by digging a tunnel and providing water for the city, reinforcing the walls and even making alliances with surrounding nations. All of these preparations and city improvements were in place to make Jerusalem impregnable to an invading army and when 180,000 Assyrians were destroyed by the Lord (NOT by Hezekiah’s defenses), Hezekiah was adored by the people and he began to take credit for the victory. That’s why Hezekiah became proud! That’s why Hezekiah became sick! And, that’s why Hezekiah was going to die!
Hezekiah becomes deathly ill because of his pride (see: 2 Chron 32:26) and is put into a sick bed from which he will not rise unless the Lord intervenes. It was pride that put him in the sick bed and Isaiah had to give him the message that he was going to die. His sickness put someone else in charge of the Kingdom while he was in the sick bed and his name was Shebna. Remember, he had no heir at this point. His son Manasseh would become king at twelve years old and that was still fifteen years away. (2 Kings 21:1) He probably did not even have a wife/queen? If he died, the man in charge of the kingdom while the king was too ill to perform his duties would probably become king. That seems to give Shebna, the Steward of the King’s household, a big pride problem for himself. In fact, the Lord barely mentions Hezekiah’s pride (2 Chron. 32:26), but he spends a half of a chapter on Shebna's pride (Isa. 22) and pronounces him guilty?
2. The Key to the Treasury is the Key to the Kingdom!
“‘Come, go to this steward, To Shebna, who is in charge of the royal household, ‘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 height, You who carve a resting place for yourself in the rock?’” (Isa. 22:15-16)? Shebna was the steward of the King’s household (Isa. 22:15). The evidence suggest that he was second in command and while King Hezekiah was sick, Shebna the Steward who was also the treasurer, effectively became the Steward of the Kingdom. Kind of a substitute King. Much like a Prime Minister or a Vice president but with much more power. What is often true today and was true in Hezekiah’s day is - whoever controls the money - controls the kingdom! And Shebna controlled the money. He held the Key to the House (or treasury) of David (22:22). That meant more than just having access to the treasures and stores of materials that belonged to Judah and her king. It was probably not an actual key? Rather, it meant that he held all of the power and control that went with the authority of being ruler over the Kingdom. And the scriptures tell us that even though they had to pay tribute to other countries from time to time, Hezekiah and his kingdom became extremely wealthy (i.e. 2 Chron. 32:27).
Let’s make this a little more clear in our minds. As it became clear that Assyria would not take Judah’s refusal to pay tribute lying down, Hezekiah would have either given or at least approved the orders to fortify Jerusalem, but it would have been Shebna who began carrying it out. He controlled what was purchased, who was contracted, how much was paid and most importantly, who got paid. As a leader, he became powerful and prideful. There were people who followed and backed him as leader of Israel and I think Shebna may have been hoping to take over as king. I think that is what is being addressed in verse 16. His pride is revealed when the Lord said, “That you have hewn a tomb for yourself here, You who hew a tomb on the height” (22:16). Shebna’s pride is clearly seen in his construction of his elaborate personal tomb. Another sign of Shebna’s pride as a leader of Judah was that the people of Jerusalem also lifted themselves up in pride and that surely was because of their leadership. What we see is that the people of Israel had reached a point of over confidence (Isa. 22:1-2) and it may have been because of Shebna’s elevation of self and his confidence in his own accomplishments in protecting Jerusalem? He may have been misappropriating funds as he built his tomb and felt that he was entitled.
Here is how it reads in the NLT: “This is what the Lord, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, said to me: ‘Confront Shebna, the palace administrator, and give him this message: ‘Who do you think you are, and what are you doing here, building a beautiful tomb for yourself—a monument high up in the rock” (Isa. 22:15-16)? Let me share with you some deep, deep theology --- When the Lord God of Heaven says to you, “WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE?”... You are in trouble!!! Ok, that’s not deep or hard to understand but you had better believe it is true! Shebna was in trouble. The Key of the House of David was The Key to the Kingdom and the Lord was going to remove the Key from Shebna and give it to Eliakim, the son of Hilkiah, who would be put into his place (v.22). Shebna's pride had grown until he was now building a very expensive and beautiful tomb for himself. The Lord takes a jab at him and you can almost hear the indignant tone in the Lord’s voice as He calls Shebna, “mighty man” (v.17 - Heb. geber = “Mighty man” - see: NLT). The Lord tells him He is going to grab him and crumple him into a ball, and throw him into a distant barren land where he will die.
Connection: Shebna’s tomb is still there in Israel today. There was an inscription in stone that is partially readable. It says, “This is ... [... ...] ...iah, the royal steward. There is no silver or gold here only ... [his bones?] ... and the bones of his maidservant with him. Cursed be the man who opens this.” It was discovered in 1870 and the British Museum purchased the stone one year later.
What is interesting is that Shebna seems to have been buried in a cave as a poor man. No gold or fabulous wealth were contained in the tomb and I think the inscription had to be put there because everyone knew he had once been wealthy and powerful and had been building a rich man’s tomb. We do not know where he died but someone buried him just outside of Jerusalem. Just as David sang of Saul in 2 Sam. 1, we can truly say of Shebna - “How the mighty have fallen”...
Shebna’s pride was in his “glorious chariots” which the Lord was going to break and make useless (v.18). Shebna had been running the country and had evidently made alliances and deals with Egypt. Egypt was the chariot manufacturing center of the world. You might remember that from previous lessons. If you wanted lite, strong chariots you bought them in Egypt. Apparently Shebna had been pushing for a formal alliance with Egypt and Isaiah addresses the wrong of thinking an alliance with Egypt would save Judah in several places in the book of Isaiah (see: Isa. 19:1-20:6). That makes me wonder if Shebna was building an Egyptian style tomb like the Pharaoh’s built for themselves.
Ultimately all of this makes sense in this statement from the Lord to Shebna, “‘You are a disgrace to your master’” (v.18 NLT)! If all of this is as I have postulated, then that may explain why Hezekiah’s pride was not detailed in more depth than Shebna’s was?
3. Shebna Brought Down and Eliakim is Lifted Up!
Eliakim replaced Shebna and became Hezekiah’s treasurer/administrator (Prime Minister), probably after Assyria laid siege to Jerusalem in 701 BC and maybe during or just after Hezekiah’s sickness. Some scholars believe Shebna was removed completely from office, while others believe he was demoted for mishandling funds concerning the building of his elaborate tomb. Eliakim replaces him at Hezekiah’s side. Here is why Eliakim is important… he is a picture of Christ! Shebna is a picture of the broken Law and sin. Eliakim’s name speaks of Christ. Eliakim literally means “Resurrection of God”. Shebna is represented by what? Pride, Pride, greed, gego,and finally - a tomb. Shebna represents the consequences of rebellion and the prideful desires of the flesh that come with self-centeredness and materialism (sin). Shebna represents death, while Eliakim represents resurrection to new life.
Eliakim was a godly man that was trustworthy and loved the Lord. He was hand picked by the Lord to take Shebna’s position as treasurer/administrator of the King’s Household (another term for the King’s kingdom). Eliakim may be one of the most easily seen pictures of Christ in the whole of the Bible! Here it is: “‘And then I will call my servant Eliakim son of Hilkiah to replace you. I will dress him in your royal robes and will give him your title and your authority. And he will be a father to the people of Jerusalem and Judah. I will give him the key to the house of David—the highest position in the royal court. When he opens doors, no one will be able to close them; when he closes doors, no one will be able to open them. He will bring honor to his family name, for I will drive him firmly in place like a nail in the wall. They will give him great responsibility, and he will bring honor to even the lowliest members of his family’” (Isa. 22:19-24 NLT).
Application - Finding Jesus on Every Page
What does this lesson teach us about God? Man? Sin? Grace?
The depth of the lessons to be learned from Isaiah are so great that we could spend years studying it and never reach the bottom of the well. In past lessons, we learned that the only reason Jerusalem was not destroyed during Hezekiah’s reign was because of the humbleness and broken heartedness of King Hezekiah. But, that was after he became sick and almost died. Sometimes God has to get our attention and it is always wise to consider if that is what He is doing when hard times come. Does that mean that all hard times are given to us to bring us back onto the track? The Scriptures do not teach that. On the contrary. Like the man born blind in John 9, sometimes God allows things to happen just because they will bring Him glory! But God will allow things to happen and it always for our good (Rom. 8:28)! So, as we have seen in the Scriptures, when we turn our hearts toward God in truthful and full humility, the Lord often changes the outcome.
What about the Key of the House of David? Jesus wins and possesses several keys in the New Testament. In Rev. 1:18, Jesus said, “I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades” (NIV). In Matt. 16:19, Jesus said that He would give “the keys of the kingdom of heaven” to Peter (and the church). That’s a study we will do later, but for now, the Key to the House or Treasury of David was taken from Shebna and given to Eliakim. It symbolized the fact that Jesus won that key along with several others by His life, death and resurrection when HE overcame death and sin. “‘Write this letter to the angel of the church in Philadelphia. This is the message from the one who is holy and true, the one who has the key of David. What he opens, no one can close; and what he closes, no one can open…” (Rev. 3:7 NLT) Jesus has the Key of Eternal life! The eternal Kingdom of God. He is the Door! He is the Gate! No one can enter by any other way.
What is the Key of David? In the Scriptures, a key is the symbol of authority. Jesus has won the the authority of being the Door through which one must enter in order to gain eternal life! The Key of David is held by the one who is the fulfillment of the promise given to David. The promise that there will be one of his descendants who would rule from Jerusalem (The New Jerusalem) forever (2 Sam. 7:12-17). Jesus is the one David was promised would come and He has come for us! As the Church, through Christ, it is our job to bring as many people as possible through the door that he opens and no one can shut. That is to lead them to Faith in Christ Jesus! But know this… there will be many that will find the door shut because of their refusal to know the Savior as Lord. And the door that He shuts can never be opened! It is an eternal decision.
That should give you some food for thought? We will expand on all of this in later lessons...
God speaks through Isaiah to call the people of Israel to humility.
God acts by removing the proud and lifting up the humble.
God reveals His Grace by giving Hezekiah and Judah more time to seek Him.
Why do you think God relented after telling Hezekiah that he was about to die?
What do you think the elaborate tomb that Shebna was building represents?
Why do you think Eliakim was handpicked by God Himself to replace Shebna?
What parallels do you see between Shebna and Eliakim versus the law and the Grace brought by Jesus Christ?
Answers to: How much do you know?
1) Because of his pride after the victory over Assyria.
2) He was an official in the court of Hezekiah and he was the treasurer/administrator of the king’s household.
3) He replaced Shebna and treasurer/administrator and he was a very godly man.
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