Building towards the glory of Isaiah 25, we find ourselves again in the midst of continued judgment on sinful nations. Tonight we find judgments against them city of Jerusalem and on Shebna, a man.
Verses 1-14 comprise the proclamation against Jerusalem and at first make reference to Jerusalem as the Valley of Vision. This name sarcastically suggests that Jerusalem was blinded by its revelry and sin. This pursuit of pleasure and idols over God and righteousness left them exposed to outside attackers. Indeed, God subjected them to this fate as punishment for their sin. The valley is overran worth chariots and conquerers.
Verses 12-14 in this passage are particularly telling. They reveal that God was and is in control and had been providing protection from these invaders. But He removed His protection and nothing the inhabitants of the city did prevented the invasion. Ironically, the evil citizens of Jerusalem ignorantly feasted and drank as their punishment and death approached:
“And in that day the Lord GOD of hosts Called for weeping and for mourning, For baldness and for girding with sackcloth. But instead, joy and gladness, Slaying oxen and killing sheep, Eating meat and drinking wine: “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!” Then it was revealed in my hearing by the LORD of hosts, “Surely for this iniquity there will be no atonement for you, Even to your death,” says the Lord GOD of hosts.” Isaiah 22:12-14
Verses 15-25 tell us about Shebna and his judgment. He was a steward, responsible for the caring of the king and His house. Shebna had arrogantly thought very highly of himself, so much so that he carved a tomb for himself out of rock high up. This one act most likely represented Shebna’s overall character, which must have been ungodly and self-seeking. For this, God would throw Shebna down from his high position and replace him with another named Eliakim. And Eliakim would be established as one powerful and strong (a peg in a secure place).
What can we learn from these two punishments? After having read Isaiah for 22 chapters now we are familiar with the themes of punishment and redemption. The punishment is easy enough to see, but the clues we are given about the sins can help us be more steadfast in our walk with God.
First, the people in Jerusalem were drinking and feasting as their punishment approached. Surely you can recognize how you might find yourself in this position if you have not already. The pleasures of sin can and do blind us to the reality of its consequences. While we delay doing the right thing, our punishment slowly approaches.
Second, Shebna, although performing the role of accountant or house manager, thought of himself so much that he equated his final resting place to be that of a king, highly visible and prestigious. This one public act betrayed his innermost thoughts about himself, revealing a selfish nature that made him think of himself as greater than his authorities and leaders. This mindset led him into sin, where God noticed that Shebna was not deserving of the blessings God had given Him and took his position away. Looking at Shebna, we wonder whether there are any telling signs in our lives that our hearts are not right? Are we fully preparing our hearts to serve God every day, as servants? This we should be, and act as, not as those that think they are owed something.
God has given us life, food, clothing, shelter and salvation. What else could we need? This humble attitude of praise and thanksgiving ought to rule our hearts.