I’ve been reading lately through the book of Isaiah. In the past I avoided this book due to it being among those classified as “Prophetic Warnings and Doom” in my head. Generally I try to avoid those due the danger of personal depression. 🙂 However, I have learned to really enjoy Isaiah. There are some great nuggets in there, and a LOT of prophecy pertaining to the coming of Christ and His reign. There are also a number of places where Jesus Himself quotes Isaiah, and I figure if it was good enough for Him to use, I’d better pay attention to it.
One of these prophecies is found in Isaiah 22. Now at the outset, this chapter does ring of the “doom and gloom” variety. It discusses the impending destruction of Jerusalem and how God is even more angered by the people because instead of mourning and repenting in the face of death, they are a) preparing for battle simply in their own strength and then b) leaving the result up to fate instead of asking God for His forgiveness and help.
You say, “Kill the ox and slaughter the sheep, eat meat and drink wine. Eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!” (v. 13b)
The passage that really struck me though was a little further on. Isaiah makes reference to a man named Shebna who supervises the palace. Apparently this Shebna had a very high opinion of himself and yet God says that he will throw Shebna away and replace him with another. This is where it gets interesting because in verse 22 God says this about the man who will replace Shebna, the palace administrator:
I will give him the key to the house of David—the highest position in the royal court. When he opens doors, no one will be able to close them; when he closes doors, no one will be able to open them.
THAT sounds familiar, doesn’t it! This is exactly what Jesus said of Peter in Matthew 19.
Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means ‘rock’), and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.And I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. Whatever you forbid on earth will be forbidden in heaven, and whatever you permit on earth will be permitted in heaven. (Matt. 19: 18-19)
There is also a warning here though. In the Isaiah passage, God talks about how the man who replaces Shebna will be fastened like a peg in a solid place and will gain honor and respect. In the analogy, all sorts of smaller containers will be hung off of this peg and “His father’s family will gain increasing prominence because of him, including the offspring and the offshoots.” The warning comes at the very end though where God says that “the peg fastened into a solid place will come loose. It will be cut off and fall, and the load hanging on it will be cut off.”
Now, in my mind, if we carry this analogy back over to the situation in the New Testament, we see Peter being set as the cornerstone on whom Jesus is going to build His church. He is the peg on whom the offspring and offshoots (the bowls and containers) are being hung. The question that comes immediately to my mind is whether the warning at the end has any connection to Peter and the church, or whether that part of the prophecy was simply for the Isaiah situation.
If it was for the church, what does it mean? Is the church going to be “cut off” in some way in the future? There are a lot of possible situations and outcomes which can come to mind, but I’ll leave the speculation alone for now. Suffice to say that we the church should be very careful in our actions and decisions in order that we NOT come loose and be cut off. Pauls seems to allude to this in Romans 11 where he says:
17 But some of these branches from Abraham’s tree—some of the people of Israel—have been broken off. And you Gentiles, who were branches from a wild olive tree, have been grafted in. So now you also receive the blessing God has promised Abraham and his children, sharing in the rich nourishment from the root of God’s special olive tree. 18But you must not brag about being grafted in to replace the branches that were broken off. You are just a branch, not the root.
19 “Well,” you may say, “those branches were broken off to make room for me.” 20 Yes, but remember—those branches were broken off because they didn’t believe in Christ, and you are there because you do believe. So don’t think highly of yourself, but fear what could happen. 21 For if God did not spare the original branches, he won’t[f] spare you either.
If you have thoughts on this or any other insight, I’d love to hear it. I hope you have been challenged and blessed by this.