Therefore said I, Look away from me; I will weep bitterly, labour not to comfort me, because of the spoiling of the daughter of my people. For it is a day of trouble, and of treading down, and of perplexity by the Lord God of hosts in the valley of vision, breaking down the walls, and of crying to the mountains. — Isaiah 22:4-5
When Adolf Hitler became Germany’s chancellor in January of 1933, he began a campaign of terror and hate directed at Jews and others he felt were inferior and a detriment to German society. After suffering defeat in World War I, times were tough in Germany and many were eager to grasp Hitler’s philosophy of blame. There were also many outside of Germany who were attracted to his style of propaganda, and his number of followers began to spiral out of control. Some world leaders, such as Winston Churchill, tried to sound the warning, but they were largely ridiculed and ignored.
Even when Hitler began his deadly trek across Europe, America did not get involved. When America finally was forced into the war in 1941, it was almost too late. If the world had heeded the warnings issued by Churchill and others at the beginning of Hitler’s reign, as many as 30 million lives could have been saved, including six million innocent Jewish men, women, and children.
In our text today, Isaiah warned Jerusalem that the Assyrian army was going to invade their city. The Assyrian army had already defeated many of Judah’s neighbors, and now they had their sights set on Judah, and Jerusalem in particular. Isaiah mourned because the inhabitants of Jerusalem refused to repent and turn to God for help. Instead, they took matters into their own hands and fortified their walls, built up their arsenal of weapons, and secured their water supply. Even with all their preparedness, they were concerned for their safety, but instead of turning to God, they decided they would spend their time partying and enjoying what time they had left.
In our Christian walk, it is vital that we listen to the warnings and admonitions in God’s Word, as well as the instruction we receive from our spiritual leaders who watch for our souls. Ignoring God’s Word and those who are trying to encourage us to go in the right direction will bring painful consequences. If we are ignoring God’s Word, do we have a relationship with Him? Just as God, through Isaiah, tried to get the inhabitants of Jerusalem to repent and turn back to Him, He may sometimes use a minister, Sunday School teacher, parent, friend or others to encourage us to draw closer to God in a certain area of our life.
Today, take a moment to evaluate. What spiritual warnings have you heard lately, either individually or as part of a group? Did you pay attention? Let us determine to learn a lesson from Judah and pay careful heed to the warnings God sends our way.
This chapter is generally considered to describe the siege of Judah and Jerusalem by Sennacherib of Assyria when Hezekiah was king of Judah. Some commentators believe it predicts the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians at a later time, but the historical facts concerning the diverting of the water supply, and the demotion of Shebna fit the description of the Assyrian siege recorded in 2 Kings 18–20 and 2 Chronicles 32:1-33.
The “burden of the valley of vision” referred to Jerusalem, which was built on the top of two mountains, but was surrounded by mountains that were higher. Jerusalem was also the city where the Temple resided and where God had revealed Himself to the prophets through visions.
The houses in those days were built with flat roofs edged by a short parapet wall. The rooftops were used for many purposes, such as walking, sleeping, or conducting business. The windows of the houses that faced outside were covered with a lattice for privacy but the lattice also prevented the inhabitants from seeing outside. If there was any activity outside they wanted to see, they would go to their rooftops to look out. Isaiah described the inhabitants of Jerusalem as going to their housetops to watch the enemy advance on their city.
Apparently, a large number of the leaders of Jerusalem were frightened by the impending siege from the Assyrians and, ignoring their responsibilities to the people and their families, they fled from the city. This led to their disgrace and ultimate capture by the Assyrians.
Isaiah was grieved to see his people suffer the attack from the Assyrians, and in verse 12 he reminded Jerusalem of God’s call to repentance. Elam was a city belonging to the Medes and Kir belonged to the Persians. Both of these nations were subject to the Assyrians during Hezekiah’s time and were apparently assisting the Assyrian army in their conquests. In verse 8, Isaiah referred to the “covering” of Judah, which was removed. The Assyrian army would conquer the surrounding fortress cities of Judah that were a “covering” or protection for Jerusalem, leaving it vulnerable to the enemy.
The people of Jerusalem did what they could to protect themselves. Hezekiah designed a system to reroute the water supply inside the walls so the enemy could not sabotage it. This engineering wonder can still be seen in Israel today. The people also built an extra wall around the city and broke down the houses between the two walls to fortify the two walls. They also depended on their arsenal, housed in a building built by Solomon and named “the house of the forest” because of the amount of cedar from Lebanon which was used to build it. But with all their preparation, most of the people neglected to do the most important thing: to call on God for help. Instead of heeding God’s call to repentance, the people were eating and drinking and living it up without any concern for what might happen when the Assyrians came.
God was angry with the people of Jerusalem (verse 14) and He declared that He would not forgive this sin of neglect and that they would ultimately be destroyed. Hezekiah eventually convinced the people to repent when the Assyrians came, and Jerusalem was spared from this particular siege. Still, Jerusalem was destroyed in the end when the Babylonians besieged it under King Nebuchadnezzar.
Shebna was the treasurer in charge of the king’s house and in a position of great authority. It was not uncommon for persons of high rank and their families to be buried in a sepulcher which was hewed out of a rock. But in Shebna’s case, he was preparing his sepulcher in a high place to make it more conspicuous. Isaiah informed him that he would be taken into captivity and never use the sepulcher he had created for himself. Shebna would be driven from his position and Eliakim would become the treasurer. In 2 Kings 18:37, it mentions that Eliakim was over the household and Shebna was the scribe, indicating that Shebna was demoted to a lower position. It appears that Shebna was one of the leaders who fled from Jerusalem because of fear of the Assyrian siege. He was captured by the Assyrians, bringing disgrace to himself and his household, and fulfilling Isaiah’s prophecy in verse 18.
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
II. The message of condemnation: the Holy One of Israel provoked, rebuking and judging
C. Prophecies related to the foreign nations
11. The judgment of Jerusalem (22:1-25)
a. The destruction of the city (22:1-14)
(1) The siege of the city (22:1-11)
(2) The rejection by the city (22:12-14)
b. The rulers of the city (22:15-25)
(1) Shebna, the corrupt ruler (22:15-19)
(2) Eliakim, the choice ruler (22:20-25)
Even though the inhabitants of Jerusalem heard Isaiah’s warnings, they chose to go their own way and try to handle their problems on their own. We, too, can hear the Word of God expounded time after time and still choose to ignore God’s divine plan for our life. Ask God today to help you not to be just a hearer of the Word, but also a doer.