Salvation in Isaiah 23
John Mason, an 18th Century Pastor in Essex said, “As the first step heavenward is humility, so the first step hell-ward is pride.”
He could have been describing the pathway of life of the person who is the subject of the second half of Isaiah’s prophecy chapter 22 – we only dealt with the first half of the chapter last time. There is more for us in Chapter 22 before we move to chapter 23.
Indeed both the section in 22 v 15 – 22 and the whole of chapter 23 have the same theme – man’s pride.
In chapter 22 the pride of ONE man – in chapter 23 the pride of a wealthy city.
The man is called Shebna and the city called Tyre.
And set in between are some beautiful references to the One who was the very opposite of pride – the most humble man who ever lived – the Lord Jesus Christ who is poetically represented in verses 23 – 25.
Three sections then to think about this evening.
1. Shebna – a man of pride.
2. Tyre – a city of pride.
3. Jesus Christ – the conqueror of Pride.
1. Shebna – a man of pride.
Pride is a terrible sin. Indeed it has been described as the most sinful and most destructive of all sins. Pride dethrones God from His rightful place as Lord and sovereign of the human heart. Man seeks to remove God’s place from the centre and object of our thinking – and to make that place his own. “I want what I want and I am determined to have it – and not even God will stop me.” These are the words of a prideful heart. “I will determine my life and my future. I will ensure that everything is taken care of and I will preside over my world – for I am capable of controlling everything to do with me.” Such was this man’s Shebna’s attitude in Isaiah 22. The prophet records several facts about Shebna.
1. He was the Chamberlain of King Hezekiah’s household – a very high official. He liked luxury, ostentation and a desire for personal glory.
2. He had responsibility for the King’s treasury. It was an office of great importance and significance which originated with King Solomon’s organisation of his political cabinet – 1 Kings 4 describes this arrangement of officials.
3. God expresses Divine contempt for this proud man – because he calls him, in verse 15
Go, get thee unto this treasurer, even unto Shebna, which is over the house,
4. Shebna had arrogantly cut out of a rock a tomb, a sepulchre for himself. He would have purchased a plot of land in the most up market place in Jerusalem probably very close to the tombs of the great Kings of Judah and other worthies of history. He wanted to be buried amongst the great and have his name remembered. The tomb would no doubt have been ornate and decorated lavishly. His name and attributes and achievements would have been recorded for all to see. According to one Bible Encyclopaedia the lintel of Shebna’s tomb, which has been found, is the third longest monumental inscription in archaic Hebrew.
5. Such arrogant pride was condemned by the Lord God. Shebna would be stripped of his office and would be taken into captivity – this would prevent him taking up occupation of his tomb after death – he would die in Babylon, says Isaiah speaking for the Lord God.
6. Looking further into Isaiah’s prophecy we find in Chapter 36 that Shebna was indeed deposed. When Rabshakek arrived at the walls of Jerusalem to speak for the King of Assyria we read who went to meet him –
36 v 3 Then came forth unto him Eliakim, Hilkiah’s son, which was over the house, and Shebna the scribe, and Joah, Asaph’s son, the recorder.
Now Shebna is merely the scribe, and not the chamberlain any more.
7. Shebna liked to charge around Jerusalem in a chariot or a state carriage which he provided for himself. We read about this in verse 18. First the prophet tells how Shebna would be rolled up like a ball and hurled hundreds of miles – to an undisclosed land of captivity.
18 He will surely violently turn and toss thee like a ball into a large country: there shalt thou die,
then comes the mention of the chariots –
and there the chariots of thy glory shall be the shame of thy lord’s house.
Perhaps the modern equivalent is of those who like to drive around in a flashy car as a status symbol.
But shame and disgrace would come to this man.
Pride always leads to waste of some sort – the tomb would be wasted – he would not be buried in it – he would not be remembered with the other dignitaries of Jerusalem for his greatness or achievements.
However the sovereign Lord has made sure that he was remembered – for his pride and his fall. Three verses in Proverbs come to mind –
Proverbs 11 v 2 When pride cometh, then cometh shame: but with the lowly is wisdom.
Proverbs 13 v 10 Only by pride cometh contention: but with the well advised is wisdom.
Proverbs 16 v 18 Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.
Shebna was removed from office – from his influential position and his influence in the court with the King.
Verse 20 tells us what happened next – When the Lord God removed the Chamberlain he had a man ready to fulfil the role Shebna would have filled.
Eliakim would be the new Chamberlain and is called a servant. “My servant” was a title of honour afforded to Eliakim, a man already habitually carrying out the will of his master and not seeking to gain a name for himself. Eliakim became a noble man and was secured in his office. He would be completely different to Shebna – he would be a protective, caring man exercised by love and compassion for those entrusted to his keeping. Eliakim became a type of the Lord Jesus Christ – a servant yet with authority. He was given as robe, a girdle and power of office of government. Proud leaders never prosper – humble diligent ones do!
2. Tyre – a city of pride.
Turning from a proud man we now come to a proud city.
Isaiah 23 is the concluding prophecy against individual heathen nations – both small and great. At this time of Isaiah’s prophecy Tyre was a world class capital of commerce. Founded between 2750 BC and 2500, Tyre was located 25 miles south of Sidon and 35 miles north of Mount Carmel. The main city, of this city state of Phoenicia, was located on the main land but the fortress was on an island a short distance off shore amongst other trading facilities. Ships from Tyre went all over the then known world. The city was most successful and very rich. Tyre was the place to go to make your fortune.
Verse 1 speaks of the calamity facing a fleet of merchant ships returning to their home port at Tyre. The term Ships of Tarshish came to be used for any large, first class vessels built for long distance travel. The citizens of Tyre would have been familiar with them seeing them come in and go out with goods. There are some traditions that claim that the ships from Tyre went as far away as India and the British Isles. Tyre became the market place of the world.
Verse 8 calls her merchants Princes simply because of their vast wealth. But, as so often happens, such a situation leads to pride. The community was proud of her great achievements – and she boasted about it. Ezekiel also describes this flourishing and prosperous city –
Ezekiel 27 v 3 And say unto Tyrus, O thou that art situate at the entry of the sea, which art a merchant of the people for many isles, Thus saith the Lord GOD; O Tyrus, thou hast said, I am of perfect beauty.
More than that she claimed godlike status – for in the next chapter of Ezekiel God addresses the city and says this to her –
Ezekiel 28 v 2 Son of man, say unto the prince of Tyrus, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Because thine heart is lifted up, and thou hast said, I am a God, I sit in the seat of God, in the midst of the seas; yet thou art a man, and not God, though thou set thine heart as the heart of God: 3 Behold, thou art wiser than Daniel; there is no secret that they can hide from thee: 4 With thy wisdom and with thine understanding thou hast gotten thee riches, and hast gotten gold and silver into thy treasures: 5 By thy great wisdom and by thy traffick hast thou increased thy riches, and thine heart is lifted up because of thy riches: 6 Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Because thou hast set thine heart as the heart of God; 7 Behold, therefore I will bring strangers upon thee, the terrible of the nations: and they shall draw their swords against the beauty of thy wisdom, and they shall defile thy brightness. 8 They shall bring thee down to the pit, and thou shalt die the deaths of them that are slain in the midst of the seas.
God will tolerate pride like this and he has His sovereign way of dealing with this sin. Isaiah’s prophecy refers to Nebuchadnezzar’s invasion in the 6th Century BC. Tyre was humbled and destroyed. Now notice the terms of verse 9 –
The LORD of hosts hath purposed it, to stain the pride of all glory, and to bring into contempt all the honourable of the earth.
It was God who brought proud Tyre to an end of her vast wealth. He may have used the Babylonians after a 13 year siege – but still it was God who moved against pride – as He always will. He is able “to exalt that which is low and to abase that which is high.”
What are we to learn from these portions of scripture?
1. The ease with which God Almighty can bring about his judgements on the proud individual. The figure of tossing a ball – in the case of Shebna – is contrasted to any complicated machinery to hurl something a long distance. Throwing a ball is a simple action – it is child’s play. Dealing with a proud man is an easy thing for God to do. We should make sure that such a thing does not happen to us in our pride. Rather we should avoid it by cultivating humility.
2. Neither can we resist such action when it comes from Divine judgment. When you throw a ball it must follow the line of projection – and we must follow the line of God’s judgement when it comes. How much better to be humble before God and avoid such judgment!
3. And as for a city, community or nation – God will deal with corporate pride as easily as with individual pride. Empires grow great and fall. Nations become prosperous and then decay. 150 years ago when Britain was at the height of her Empirical domination of the world – that Empire upon which the sun never set ruled by a Christian Queen Victoria – pride set in. British people forgot their God. They indulged in the luxury of free thought rather than thinking God’s thoughts with Him. They played with evolution and so called enlightenment doctrines that excluded God. It was a proud thing to do. And now we pay the price with the descent of all that is Godly and honourable – what decay in such a time. How devastating pride is! We think we are free of God’s judgment – but we are not. His withdrawal of restraint in Western culture has allowed base wickedness to rise up. Pride is at the root of it all! Oh my friends – what is to become of us and our people? What hope is there for us? Isaiah, the prophet who brought the problem up, also brings to us the solution.
3. Jesus Christ – the conqueror of Pride.
Turn back to Chapter 22 and verses 21 – 25.
Eliakim became the chamberlain. He was invested with his office and given royal robes to wear, v 21.
He shall be next to the King Himself in authority.
1. The key of the Kingdom illustration. V 22, the key of David will be embroidered onto the shoulder of the robe and only he would wear it. This was a badge of office indicating authority to go anywhere in the land. The thought of the key would be one that could open any door or lock any door. The Lord Jesus Christ appropriated this expression to Himself in Revelation 3 v 7
And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write; These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth;
The Lord Jesus Christ has all authority to do what he will on behalf of His people – for He is the King!
2. The Nail illustration. V 23 He would be metaphorically fastened as a nail in the wall. Let us explain this. On the walls of ancient temples and palaces nails or spikes were fixed in order to hang suits of armour, shields, helmets, swords and spears – and many other objects that had been taken in war as spoils of victory – or that had been used by famous ancestors. Our stately homes in Britain abound with such items. The declaration made about Eliakim is to convey that the people of Jerusalem would identify Eliakim as a victor, as someone to look to for support – a dependable man.
Our saviour the Lord Jesus Christ is figured here as one who has overcome our enemies – sin, Satan and hell – and displayed their captured armour, signifying their defeat on our behalf.
3. The Glory of His Father’s House – v 24.
There is a wonderful significance in this phrase and refers to the glorious nature of the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Church is the family of God and the Lord Jesus Christ PURCHASED this church in glory. All the glory that is ascribed to us the children of God is rightly ascribed to the Prince of Glory – the Lord Jesus. We were people dead in our trespasses and sins – in misery and under the sentence of death. Our Saviour ransomed us at inconceivable cost – he paid with His own blood which He shed on the cross.
1 Peter 1 says
18 Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; 19 But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: 20 Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you,
More than this, this verse teaches that the Lord Jesus Christ is in process of PRESERVING his Church whom He has purchased and redeemed. And furthermore has the commitment to PERFECT the church.
Not one of His elect children will be missing. That is glorious! All will be made perfect and righteous – How glorious that thought is. My friends, Jesus is a glorious saviour and all glory is due to His Name!
Who are those in verse 24 who HANG on Him the glory of His father’s house?
They are those of the true church – who come as penitent sinners hanging everything on Christ.
They are those who are justified believers who hang on Him the glory of the favoured position in which we stand. We give the Lord Jesus Christ the credit for what He has done for us in justifying us.
We hang garlands of glory around His neck as the victor that He is.
But notice finally verse 25. We can see too that in order for the glory to be revealed the nail had to be cut down – a reference to the death of the Lord Jesus at Calvary – when men took Him and slew the Prince of Glory – on a cross – bearing shame and scoffing rude… suffering anguish and pain. The nail – the Lord of glory was removed – cut down – and brought low.
Is there anyone here tonight who is yet a proud sinner who believes that you can face God on your own?
Remember Isaiah tells us that God is capable of dealing with our pride. Jesus humbled himself – the very opposite of pride – in order to deal with the sin of pride.
God is angry with pride. Jesus, by humbly dying for sinners on a cross, turned away God’s anger.
My friend – you need also to humble yourself before the mighty hand of God – before He humbles you – and condemns you forever. Trust in the glorious saviour – turn to Him away from your sin of pride and rebellion – and find forgiveness and pardon in Him.
Our pride offends God – we need His mercy. James says
that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy. (James 5 v 11)
And Peter –
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, (1 Peter 1 v 3)
May everyone here know God’s mercy tonight for His name’s sake!