Eliakim: The Faithful Steward

22: 20-25

    DIG: Eliakim had replaced Shebna as steward at least by the time of the Assyrian invasion of 701 BC (see 36:3). How do his qualities contrast with those of Shebna? In spite of his good leadership, what will ultimately happen? Why?

    REFLECT: Do you see any of Eliakim’s qualities in yourself right now? In what way(s) are you far from being the kind of person that Eliakim was? How can you be more like Eliakim?

    Our attention now shifts to Eliakim, who replaced Shebna. But where Shebna only thought about himself, Eliakim was truly a father to the people of Judah. He was trustworthy and dependable. He was involved in the negotiations with Sennacherib (Second Kings 18:18, 26, 37; Isaiah 36:3, 11, 22 and 37:2). He would also be a respected leader and faithful administrator who would make wise decisions (22:22). But even he would not be able to save the nation single-handedly. Ultimately, the accumulated weight of sin would pull the nation down. Several generations later the Babylonians would destroy Jerusalem in 587 BC (see Em – A Day of Terror in the Valley of Vision). The blindness of the nation was such that a one sighted man would not be sufficient to turn it from its path of destruction.

    In that day I will summon My servant, Eliakim son of Hilkiah (22:20). The title of My servant, has great significance in the book of Isaiah. It is first applied to Isaiah in 20:3, then to Israel in Chapters 40 to 55, as well as to the unnamed Suffering Servant, and finally, it is applied to Israel again in Chapters 65 and 66. Although the term obviously contains a sense of obligation, it goes further than that and expresses privilege. Privilege not implying superiority, but in the sense of it being a privilege to be a servant. Yeshua would say: For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:46).

    Eliakim would wear the badges of honor and authority. I will clothe him with your robe and fasten your sash around him and hand your authority over to him. He will be a father to those who live in Jerusalem and to the house of Judah (22:21). The king’s officers wore distinguishing liveries to mark their respective offices and ranks. The robe is said to have been a long garment made of linen cloth. In the Orient, this was the symbol of power being transferred from one to his successor.

    And Isaiah says that Shebna’s successor, Eliakim, will prove to be faithful and points out Eliakim’s authority. He has the power of the keys. And I will place on his shoulders the key to the House of David (22:22a). Oriental keys being unusually large, a long and heavy object, it is often a matter of convenience to carry them on the shoulder. As the possession of a key may be taken as evidence of property or of trust, the key became an emblem of wealth or authority. This idea is expressed beautifully in 9:6, where it is said of the Messiah: For to us a child is born, to us a Son is given, and the government will be upon his shoulders.74

    What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open (22:22b). To hold the keys is to have the authority, because he had total supervision of the royal chambers. The one who held the keys was the one who would decide who could, and who could not, be able to see the king. Through this near historical period, Eliakim would hold the keys to the House of David. Christ gave Peter the keys to the Kingdom in Matthew 16:19. But who holds those keys now? Revelation 3:7 tells us that Jesus does. These are the words of Him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What He opens no one can shut, and what He shuts no on can open.

    Lastly, we see Eliakim’s glory and Shebna’s demise. I will drive him like a peg into a firm place; he will be a seat of honor for the house of his father (22:23). Eliakim will be like a peg driven into a firm place, and upon that peg the house of Eliakim will hang its glory. The reference here is not to the tent pins, which are driven into the ground for the purpose of fastening the tent cords, but to wooden pins, or pegs which are put into the wall for the purpose of holding clothing and various household utensils. When these pins are driven into the plastering of a house they are very insecure, and most of the time fall out. To fasten them into a firm place they must be built into the wall as the house is built. They are then firm, and being large, help to strengthen the walls and at the same time afford useful support for anything hung on them.75 A beautiful reference to these house-pegs is made in Ezra 9:8, where it speaks of God’s grace which had given the people a firm place in His sanctuary.

    All the glory of his family will hang on him: it’s offspring and offshoots – all its lesser vessels, from the bowls to the jars (22:24). Eliakim was so dependable that even the insignificant, not just the influential, could entrust themselves to him. In that light, we should measure ourselves against him and ask whether even the lesser vessels in our lives can depend on us, or whether we, like Shebna, are too busy building our own reputations.

    Even though Eliakim and Hezekiah were God-fearing men, the cancer of those like Shebna would eat away at the moral fabric of the nation of Judah. There were not enough Eliakims. When that day comes, the peg fastened firmly in place will give way; it will be cut down and fall, and the weight that was on it will be cut off. For ADONAI has spoken (22:25 CJB). And 115 years later, in that day when God’s patience would run out, He would send King Nebuchadnezzar and his army to destroy Jerusalem. So here, Isaiah warns that eventually even this peg would give way and fall from the weight of spiritual corruption. The nation would be sent off into exile for 70 years in Babylon. I am sure Isaiah was saddened and horrified by what he saw and prophesied. But he was a faithful servant.

    What does it mean to be an Eliakim rather than a Shebna? Above everything else, it means we have gotten ourselves off our hands. That’s the difference between a David and a Saul, or a Jesus and a Judas. The second person in each of these pairs was always looking out for himself. He was worried about his image, about what other people thought of him, about how he was going to supply his own need, and about how people would remember him. These were the last things the first person in each pair worried about. How about you?

    I am convinced that these are the kinds of things Jesus had in mind when he said we must become like little children to enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 18:3-4). There are a number of things about children that are not heavenly. They are ignorant and naïve, they can be petty and selfish; and if you are a parent, you know they are not innocent. But, by and large, they lack self-consciousness. It does not occur to them to worry about how they are appearing to others. Status means nothing to them. But how quickly that changes when they grow up. We become absorbed not with the reality but with the image. We are consumed with a need for approval and position, and all too often with the approval of the wrong people and the positions that are worthless. That was Shebna. In his sermon, “The Weight of Glory,” C. S. Lewis says that it matters little what we think of the Lord, but it matters for all eternity what the Lord thinks of us.

    That is the kind of person we see in Eliakim. Like Christ, he will care more for the welfare of others then he does for his own. And like Messiah, his greatest joy will be to make it possible for people to enter the throne room of the king. He will be seeking God’s grace so that he can be responsible, reliable, and true in the cesspool of court intrigue. He will be concerned for the needs of others above his own to the extent that he will shoulder loads that are really too heavy to carry. But he will carry them, not because he constantly needs to prove to himself that he is indispensable or that he is really somebody, but because he does not want others to have to bear those loads.

    This is the opportunity Jesus offers each of us. We may choose to be Shebna or Eliakim. We may focus on the temporal or the eternal. If we focus on the temporal, we and all our works will perish with it. If we choose the eternal, then none of our temporal works will ever be lost (Romans 8:13).76 He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep, to keep what he cannot loose. This is truly good news.

 

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