Monday, July 21, 2014

Hanging on the Right Peg

It is all too easy to put people on a pedestal, especially those we admire for one reason or another.

Perhaps it's someone we work with, the model employee whom we strive to emulate in our own career.  It could be the mother or father we uplift because of their parenting skills.   Or maybe it's a relationship between a husband and wife that we elevate, wishing our own marriage could be as perfect as theirs.

Even in the church, we tend to put our fellow Christians on pedestals. If we're honest, we're worse than American Idol judges with our own rating systems, each of us having a "good Christian" checklist in our minds that we unconsciously use to "rate" others and their walk with Christ.  When we find someone who meets those qualifications, we mentally place them high on a lofty shelf where we can look up to their visage  as we strive to be like them.

In this way, we put our faith in them versus in Christ; we strive to be like man versus like Jesus.

It's a recipe for disaster.

The prophet Isaiah speaks of such instances when we put our faith in men versus in God.

In Chapter 22, he speaks against a steward named "Shebna, who is in charge of the royal household" of Judah (v. 15).  2 Kings 18 further describes this man as second only after the king, obviously a position of great political influence, which would have also bestowed upon him great responsibility towards the people of Judah.

Yet, instead of spending his time caring for the affairs of State, Shebna made grand plans for how he would be remembered after this life, constructing a large tomb for himself.  Because of his pride and political corruption, God said, "I will depose you from your office" (v. 19).

Shebna was obviously not the kind of man one would stick his faith and trust in.  But then, God brings someone to power who sounds like a good leader, a man named Eliakim:

"Then it will come about in that day, That I will summon My servant Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, And I will clothe him with your tunic And tie your sash securely about him. I will entrust him with your authority, And he will become a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the house of Judah. Then I will set the key of the house of David on his shoulder, When he opens no one will shut, When he shuts no one will open. I will drive him like a peg in a firm place, And he will become a throne of glory to his father's house" (Is. 22:20-23).

Unlike his self-serving predecessor, Eliakim is a "father" or "supreme counselor"* to those in Judah.  The imagery here is of a ruler who nourishes the kingdom, one who has its best interests at heart rather than one who uses his position for personal gain.

Eliakim seems as solid as they come; the Lord even describes him as "like a peg in a firm place," a peg the Lord has driven in, Himself. 

Once firmly in power, you can bet the relatives and friends came out of the woodwork, each wanting to expand his own influence based on a relation to him.  Scripture says, "So they will hang on him all the glory of his father's house, offspring and issue, all the least of vessels, from bowls to all the jars" (v. 24).

The people of Judah put their faith in this man.  They hang all their hopes on him.

And in the end, they are disappointed; as Isaiah tells us, "'In that day,' declares the Lord of hosts, 'the peg driven in a firm place will give way; it will even break off and fall, and the load hanging on it will be cut off, for the Lord has spoken'" (v. 25). 

This peg, hammered firmly in place by the Lord himself--even it broke, fell.  I don't know whether that fall was Eliakim's mortal death, a fall from the king's favor, or evidence of pride and political corruption resulting from power going to his head.  Either way, the result is the same--the "load" of people hanging on him "will be cut off" and fall to the ground.

The only pegs firm enough to hold forever were the nails firmly hammered through Jesus' flesh and into an old wooden cross to secure our salvation.

The warning is clear--hanging one's trust and faith on any man will only result in both disappointment and, ultimately, being "cut off" from God.  The only way to avoid both is to put one's faith in Jesus Christ alone, to strive to emulate Him as the author and finisher of our faith, not to emulate an elevated pastor, deacon, or teacher. 

Even mature Christian men and women are just that--men and women who sin and fall on a daily basis just like you and me.  Our faith must be placed in God alone, not in someone else's relationship to Him. 

We can be sure: if our faith is hanging on anyone other than Christ, we will fall.

*Gesenius' Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon

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