by Johnathan Arnold
Notwithstanding, the harshest judgment is reserved until verses 15-25, and it is not against national Israel; it is against an obscure figure named Shebna. Isaiah declares, “Behold, the Lord will hurl you away violently, O you strong man. He will seize firm hold on you and whirl you around and around, and throw you like a ball into a wide land” (vv.17-18, ESV). The imagery is amusing: like a ball on a string, God will swing the “strong man” Shebna in circles, then pitch him into a desolate land.
Shebna was too self-important to be worried with the spiritual condition of God’s people or provide fatherly oversight.
Neglect of Duty. Shebna’s preoccupation with being memorialized amounted to tragic misconduct as a leader; he was too self-important to be worried with the spiritual condition of God’s people. Shebna should have called Israel to “be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness” (James 4:9); instead, he was building his legacy. Isaiah prophesied that Eliakim would replace him and “be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to the house of Judah” (v.21). This is exactly what Shebna should have been doing: providing fatherly, spiritual oversight.
God’s judgment on Shebna has alarming implications for everyone in leadership, especially those in church offices. God’s anger towards ministerial misconduct is a theme in the prophetic books: according to Zechariah 10:3, “My anger is hot against the shepherds, and I will punish the leaders; for the Lord of hosts cares for his flock, the house of Judah.” In the New Testament, James 3:1 warns, “Not many should become teachers, my brothers, knowing that we will receive a stricter judgment.”
Great leaders are not concerned with the size of their platform; they do not expect a biography to be written about them or a grand ceremony to memorialize them.
Great leaders are not primarily concerned with the size of their platform — how many people attend their church or follow them on social media. Unlike Shebna-like leaders, godly leaders do not expect a biography to be written about them or a grand ceremony to memorialize them. They are serious about Peter’s admonition to those who shepherd the flock: “be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time” (1 Peter 5:5-6).
Attentiveness. Unlike Shebna, who neglected his duty to provide fatherly oversight to God’s people, godly leaders are attentive. As it is written, “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood” (Acts 20:28). Like sheep farmers, they should “know well the condition of your flocks, and give attention to your herds” (Proverbs 27:23).
The pastoral charge is not just to preach great sermons; it requires being a neighbor. “Leaders…are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account” (Hebrews 13:17, ESV). Overseers must have a personal presence in the lives of their people, assess their spiritual condition, and provide guidance and exhortation wherever needed. This day-to-day task is all-consuming and leaves little time for tomb-building.
The pastoral charge is not just to preach great sermons; it requires being a neighbor. Overseers must have a personal presence in the lives of their people.
Shebna-like leaders are proud and neglectful; they will be seized by the strong hand of the Lord and cast away from His presence like a ball into a wide land. Christlike leaders are humble and attentive; they will receive the unfading crown of glory. May we labor diligently, trusting in the mercy of the Lord.