Who holds the key? Isaiah 22

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Today’s reading: Isaiah 18-22.

When you got the keys to your first car, you received much more than the freedom of a set of wheels. You also received the power of that car and authority over its movement. Keys are important. We talk about key ingredients, key leaders, key principles – all because of the significance of keys. Today’s devotional is about a nation and a man who forgot who held the keys of the kingdom.

The nation was Judah and the man was Shebna. He was the king’s treasurer, holding the keys to the wealth of the kingdom. Isaiah looked down the years to come and saw evil actions coming from the nation and the man. The event that precipitated their sin was Assyria’s invasion in the reign of King Hezekiah. We know that the Assyrians were eventually defeated when God destroyed their army with a plague. At the time of the prophecy, however, all the people saw was the rising tide of the enemy army overwhelming Israel, wiping out the towns around Jerusalem, and then surrounding the city itself.

Isaiah described the split personality of the inhabitants of Jerusalem. On the one hand, they undertook great preparations for the siege, including building a tunnel to bring water into the city. On the other hand, they partied as if there was nothing they could do to change their fate. “Eat, drink, and be merry,” they said, “for tomorrow we die.” In all their preparations, however, they made no acknowledgement of God’s control over their situation. They forgot that he held the key to their future. They did not turn to him for forgiveness or help.

Some of the most important men in the city fled at the threat of the Assyrian conquest. They didn’t know God would soon destroy the enemy army. They ended up being captured by the enemy instead, and apparently Shebna was among those who were captured. Isaiah predicted this, and on behalf of God said that Shebna’s authority would be taken from him and given to Eliakim. Isaiah said this about 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. I will drive him like a peg into a firm place; he will be a seat of honor for the house of his father. All the glory of his family will hang on him: its offspring and offshoots–all its lesser vessels, from the bowls to all the jars. Isaiah 22:22-24

Shebna’s peg was broken off to make way for Eliakim, whose authority foreshadowed that of Jesus Christ. Centuries later the apostle John recorded Jesus’ words as he took up the mantle of authority exemplified by Eliakim. Jesus described himself as “him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open (Rev. 3:7).”

When we face trouble we need to remember who holds the key. We can do our part to overcome our problems, but ultimately the outcome is in God’s hands. We need to acknowledge that, and not sin by ignoring his authority. We also need to avoid the fatalistic outlook that says there is nothing that can be done in the face of adversity. With God’s help, all that is needed can be done. The question is, are we right in our relationship with him so that we can receive his help?

image by Micky on Flickr, CC by 2.0

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6 thoughts on “Who holds the key? Isaiah 22

  1. “Blessed art thou, Simon Bar–jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

    Sounds familiar does it not? More about this later, but here we see the connection being made between the key bearers, between the House of David, and the Kingdom of God. In this name changing encounter for Simon, something special is being revealed, and something special is being said about his role in God’s plan.

  2. More eloquently:

    “Just as in Isaiah 22:22 the Lord puts the keys of the house of David on the shoulders of his servant Eliakim, so does Jesus hand over to Peter the keys of the house of the kingdom of heaven and by the same stroke establishes him as his superintendent. There is a connection between the house of the Church, the construction of which has just been mentioned and of which Peter is the foundation, and the celestial house of which he receives the keys. The connection between these two images is the notion of God’s people.”

    Oscar Cullmann, St. Peter: Disciple. Apostle, Martyr, Neuchatel: Delachaux & Niestle, 1952 (French edition), 183-184.

    • Surely Peter was given a special commission that he lived out and by doing so greatly advanced the kingdom of God. But two things I would point out. One: Jesus did not give up his authority. When he made his claim that he held the keys of the kingdom, he made that claim to the apostle John and the churches of John’s era. Second: similar commissions were given to the disciples or believers as a whole with a similar sharing of authority, as in Matthew 18:18. “Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.”

  3. Pingback: Bible Daily Devotional – Isaiah 22 – Who holds the key? | ChristianBlessings

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