Scripture Reference: Isaiah 22:15-25
Shebna was a powerful man. In terms of the power and authority he enjoyed, one could say that he was like the Secretary of State of Judah. As in so many cases, Shebna (called the Palace Administrator) was intoxicated by his power. He saw it as a means, not to serve others, but to achieve his selfish ambitions.
Many leaders before Shebna have allowed themselves to be corrupted by power and many following him fell into the same trap. It is a trap when one considers the end of those who abuse power to serve themselves. While they are dreaming of achieving great heights, they often end up with the polar opposite of what they fought so hard to achieve.
I would venture to say that there are even more Shebna’s around today than there were in ancient times. The list is long. History surrounding the likes of Shebna are blots and dark spots on the book of humanity. One more recent example is Napoleon. Concerning Napoleon’s lofty ideals, Victor Hugo sums it up in Les Misèrables: “The throne of the world was expected; it was Saint Helena that was seen.” There are many other examples, for mankind has the ability to repeat the mistakes and consequences of history.
Shebna’s ideals were not much different from Napoleon’s. He was arrogant and in his pride attempted to immortalize himself by devising a plan to be buried among kings. His sense of entitlement spurred him on. But God would have none of this. As we know, He makes it His mission to resist the proud and allow their plans to come to nothing. So, He sent Isaiah to Shebna with a message:
Go, say to this steward,
to Shebna the palace administrator:
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 chiselling your resting place in the rock?
“The height” is significant since it refers to the man’s sense of self-importance. God saw what he has planned in his heart and God makes sure that he knows that God sees into the deepest recesses of the heart. The prophet arrives to announce his own secret thoughts to him. Only now it is secret no longer. God is going to put an end to his plans. Not only that, God will make his worst fears come true. Instead of achieving the honor he selfishly sought, he will die an embarrassing death. God talks of hurling him like a rock; of rolling him up like a ball. His destruction will be swift and irreparable. This is a warning not only to Shebna, but to all who think that it is okay to put their own agendas above what is right and true:
Beware, the LORD is about to take firm hold of you
and hurl you away…He will roll you up tightly like a ball
and throw you…
You see, God loves it when people are humble. When they are humble, it gives Him the opportunity to lift them up. In Matthew 23 Jesus went into a lengthy discourse with His disciples. He placed before them the religious leaders of the day as an example of what not to be. They loved everything that promoted their importance. They loved the reserved seats in the front rows. They loved to be honored with their religious titles. It’s not much different today. Jesus concludes by telling His followers that the one who wants to exalt himself will be humbled and those who humble themselves will be exalted. God wants to do it. He despises it when men wants to do what is rightfully His to do.
God then makes it clear that He will replace Shebna with someone with a humble heart. His name is Eliakim and he never sought honor and high positions. He will receive what he never searched for. And this is where it gets really interesting. When one looks closer, it becomes abundantly clear that the contrast painted here between the top guy in the palace and Eliakim is an example of the contrast between power hungry, image-making religious leaders and Jesus Christ who humbled Himself even to the point of death on a Cross and was therefore elevated to the point where now —every knee shall bow….
Listen to what Isaiah says when he refers to Eliakim:
I will place on his shoulder the key to the house of David; what he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open.
Wait a minute, you say…yep, my thoughts exactly. These are the words our Lord has uttered concerning Himself in Revelation 3:7. Notice that His authority is so huge that the keys can’t be worn at His side. It has to be placed on His shoulders. His authority is absolute. He opens. He shuts. In short, He’s in charge. It is clear from the Scriptures that Jesus has been appointed to replace all corrupted church leadership. No longer do we call men our shepherds, since He is the Great Shepherd of the sheep. No longer to we call men high priest, since He is the final and eternal High Priest over all God’s house, etc.
The sooner we realize that all glory, all power, all wisdom, honor, all thanks and all praise belong to Jesus, the easier it will be for us to avoid the traps of arrogance and pride and avoid it’s humiliating consequences.
“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!” Revelation 5:12
Seven times over, He alone is Worthy.
- A Dire Vision of the Fall of Sin (jesuscarriesme.com)
- The Highest of the Highest – Hebrews 4:14-16 (part 2 of 2) (lion2lamb.wordpress.com)
- The Secret of Humility (joyofthemaster.wordpress.com)