But You Did Not Look To God (Isaiah 22-23)

Isaiah 22:1-15, 11; 23:1-18

"The Lord stripped away the defenses of Judah, and you looked in that day to the weapons in the Palace of the Forest.You saw that the walls of the City of David were broken through in many places; you stored up water in the Lower Pool.10 You counted the buildings in Jerusalem and tore down houses to strengthen the wall. 11 You built a reservoir between the two walls for the water of the Old Pool, but you did not look to the One who made it, or have regard for the One who planned it long ago. But see, there is joy and revelry, slaughtering of cattle and killing of sheep, eating of meat and drinking of wine! 'Let us eat and drink,' you say, 'for tomorrow we die!' 14 The Lord Almighty has revealed this in my hearing: 'Till your dying day this sin will not be atoned for,' says the Lord, the Lord Almighty" (Isa 22:8-14, NIV).

Theme: Where do you find your security? The charge against Jerusalem is her self-sufficiency (Isa 22:8-11). In Isaiah 22, when the city (1-14), individual (15-19) and family (20-25) become self-sufficient, they have committed the unforgivable sin (Isa 22:14).

In their time of crisis (8a), the people of Jerusalem relied on their arsenal (8b), cannibalized the city to strengthen the walls (9a, 10), and secured a safe water-supply (9b, 11a). Shebna (15-19) is an important official with the spirit of self-reliance. In a different way Eliakim (20-25) would be caught in the same trap if he should come to see himself and allow himself to be seen as the chief support of others, as the indispensable man (23-25). The story line of this oracle is self-sufficiency.
  1. The self-sufficient city (22:1-14): The people in general.
  2. Cases in point (22:15-25): Shebna and Eliakim.
  3. Self-sufficiency from wealth and pride (23:1-18). The fall and rise of Tyre.
I. The Self-Sufficient City (22:1-14)

The irony of the valley of vision (Isa 22:1, 5) is twofold: Jerusalem/Mount Zion (which is not a valley) has become a "valley." She was more than the locus of Isaiah's ministry. She was to be the focal point of his expectations (Isa 2:2-4; 25:6-9; 26:1-4; 33:20-24; 40:9; 54:1ff; 62:1ff; 66:10-13). But the spiritual vision to be expected there has become a blind and reckless drive for present pleasure without regard for God (Isa 22:11, 13). A strong disconnect is exposed between the superficial merriment and momentary glee of the people of Jerusalem (Isa 22:1-2a, 13) and the timely repentance called for by God (Isa 22:12). Catastrophe was coming to them (Isa 22:2b-8) in "the valley of vision" (Isa 22:1, 5), for they resisted turning to Yahweh. Thus, "in that day" their military and domestic preparations for security would not hold, exposing their vulnerability when attacked (Isa 22:8-14).

II. Cases in Point: Shebna and Eliakim (22:15-25)

Shebna, a self-possessed and arrogant leader in Jerusalem, is set out as an example of this false trust in the strength of foreign powers with their "glorious chariots" (Isa 22:18). Trusting in Egypt rather than Yahweh is a losing proposition. Shebna will be brought down and replaced by Eliakim, who is called God's "servant" (Isa 22:20-21). But even Eliakim, who is much more loyal than Shebna, will fall short. The "key of the house of David" will be given to him, and God will "fasten him like a peg in a secure place. . . . And they will hang on him the whole honor of his father's house" (Isa 22:22-24). Unfortunately, this responsibility and honor will prove too heavy for Eliakim to bear, and the "peg" will "give way" (Isa 22:25).

III. Self-sufficiency from wealth and pride: The fall and rise of Tyre (23:1-18)

The fifth oracle concerns the judgment—and redemption—of Tyre, here characterized as the world's prostitute (Isa 23:16). Faced with their own destruction, those living in Tyre struggled with a question: "Who has purposed this . . . ?" (Isa 23:8). There must be a reason behind it. There must be a larger narrative explaining this disaster. Isaiah wastes no time in answering their question: "The Lord of hosts has purposed it" (Isa 23:9). Why? Because of the "pompous pride" which aggressively put itself in a position above all others (e.g., "the bestower of crowns"; Isa 23:8) as the "honored of the earth" (Isa 23:9). Such arrogance can become a civic idol; Tyre had sold its soul. Consequently, the final image here is not one of wholesome health and harmonious delight but of a "forgotten prostitute" that would never be mistaken for an innocent or a life-giving beauty (Isa 23:16-18).

  1. Sin That Will Not Be Atoned For (Isaiah 22). My daily bread from Dec 2010.
  2. God Will Humble the Proud (Isaiah 23). My daily bread from Dec 2010.