I am old enough to have seen this often in my lifetime: The parents are on fire for the Lord, their children are Christians but not so passionate, and their grandchildren have hardly a trace of love for God.
In a chapter in the Bible that sounds almost like reading somebody else’s mail, we read God’s rebuke to a man named Shebna (Isaiah 22:15), who doesn’t mean much to us in our day but who was evidently a big deal at the end of the seventh century before Christ. The chamberlain and treasurer to Judah’s King Hezekiah during the days when Assyria was breathing down their necks, Shebna was there with Eliakim, the palace administrator, on the day the Assyrian envoy showed up to read Israel the riot act (2 Kings 18) before pillaging Judah and imposing ruinous taxes on them.
This is pretty much all we know about Shebna until this personal prophecy against him in Isaiah that is sandwiched between more epic prophecies against nations. The charge against Shebna is not specified but it is clear enough that in some way he has departed from God in his heart and is busy erecting a fancy sepulcher (Isaiah 22:16) to ensure his name would be honored for generations to come. Not only will this not come to pass, but he also will be violently ejected from Israel and buried in another land (verses 17-19). Moreover, Shebna’s office will be given to Eliakim.
In contrast to Shebna, Eliakim received high praise from God. (In the narrative of 2 Kings 18, the two men had always been named together, and there was no hint that their hearts were so differently disposed toward God. Only God sees the hearts of men who otherwise seem to be equally godly.) God calls Eliakim a “peg,” as in something strong and immovable in righteousness (Isaiah 22:23), and astonishingly says something about him that he will later say about Jesus himself:
“… I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David. He shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open. And I will fasten him like a peg in a secure place, and he will become a throne of honor to his father’s house. And they will hang on him the whole honor of his father’s house …” (Isaiah 22:23-24).
But then, without a smooth transition to brace us for this, God says in the very next verse that “the peg that was fastened in a secure place will give way” (verse 25). This sad part of the prophecy tells us that eventually even this firm peg will come to an end; evidently, Eliakim’s successors will not be as strong in the Lord as he.
The story reminds me again that children of godly people cannot ride their parents’ coattails or coast on their godly upbringing or their mother’s spirituality. The walk of righteousness is every man’s walk and involves prayer and devotion to God’s Word. Slippage occurs imperceptibly and must be watched for. Stay close to the Lord and do not be content with repeating the old stories of your parents’ godly lives.