Who Gave You Permission?
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By Pastor Steve Ellison
Isaiah 22:15-25 is a very interesting and somewhat difficult to interpret passage, at least in terms of the details. The overview seems somewhat easier, at least to me. I want to look at the big picture. Remember when God wrote His Bible, He was not writing a history book or a science book but rather the story of Redemption. Where it records history, it is accurate. Where it describes science, it is accurate. However, science or history is never the purpose in the writing. The science or the history recorded in Scripture is not exhaustive or complete. What is included in the Scripture is carefully selected to tell the story of Redemption, nothing more, nothing less. God always included everything we need to know about Redemption and left everything else out. Our study of the Bible will become much more meaningful to us if we keep that in mind. The details that are included are all important. Those left out are all unimportant, however interesting or intriguing they might be.
Imbedded in this passage, we find our next question from God. Shebna was a powerful leader in the nation of Israel. He served under King Hezekiah just prior to the invasion of the Assyrian king Sennacherib about 700 BC. Shebna held an office that was likely a combination prime minister and treasurer, making him second only to Hezekiah. It seems that Hezekiah and Shebna were so afraid of the Assyrians that they could not put their trust in God. Rather, they sought out an alliance with the Egyptians as protection from the Assyrians. That put them out of the good graces of God and merited a general prediction of their downfall. In addition, Shebna had another great character flaw which many throughout history have suffered from as well: pride accompanied with a desire for recognition.
Isaiah 22:15-16 reads, “This is what the Lord, the Lord Almighty, says: ‘Go, say to this steward, to Shebna, who is in charge of the palace: 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?’” (NIV) Obviously Shebna has an overinflated view of himself and his importance. He is trying to build a name for himself. He wants to make sure that he is remembered after he is gone. The rest of Isaiah 22 is a direct prophecy against Shebna, detailing how he will not be buried in this prominent place he has prepared but rather how he will be violently taken to another country where he will die in disgrace. It is also foretold that his official governing position will be given to Eliakim. In stark contrast to Shebna, it is foretold that Eliakim will be a father to those who live in Jerusalem and to the house of Judah. The prophecy goes on to say that he will be given the key to the house of David and what he opens no one can shut and what he shuts no one can open. Eliakim is clearly a type of Christ as revealed in Revelation 3:7. Isaiah 22:25 lets us know that Eliakim is not the Christ, only a type, a shadow, of the Christ to come.
It is virtually impossible to read Isaiah 22:15-25 and not see a picture of the end times when the governing position will be ripped from Satan, the angel of light who fell from heaven because of his pride and desire to make a name for himself. The kingdom will be taken from the “ruler of this world” the “prince of the power of the air” and given to its rightful owner, Christ. There is a strict warning in this passage concerning allying ourselves with this world. We must form only one alliance, really a dependent relationship, and that must be with Jesus the Christ. Do it before it is eternally too late.