Isaiah 22: 22 says,
I will place on his shoulder the key to the house of David; what he opens no-one can shut, and what he shuts no-one can open. 
This verse was originally part of a prophecy given to Isaiah concerning the raising up of Eliakim to a position of authority in Jerusalem and Judah. It also has a place in a long history of similar prophecies that we relate to the dominion of Jesus Christ over the works of the Devil.
In recent years this same verse has been mentioned in prophecies concerning the present day church and its relationship to secular governments and is one of the foundational verses of what is often referred to as dominion theology (click here for clarification of my use of this term). One of the most vocal prophets in this area is Dutch Sheets a well-respected intercessor, Sheets bases a lot of his ministry and prayer on this verse. Because of the growing prevalence of this verse in both prophecies and teaching in the church it has been on my heart to discuss it here and present some explanation behind the significance of the verse.
In verse 21 of the same passage Isaiah tells his audience that a person called Eliakim will receive authority in Jerusalem and the corresponding sash and robe that illustrate this position of authority. In addition to this we are told that he will become like a father to those living there. Highlighting that the authority Eliakim will carry is not just one of fear, but one of relationship, of genuine caring and of people respecting him mutually as the leader or authority figure. The description of Eliakim as a father to the people speaks of him leading and guiding the people in a way that helps them grow.
One of the big ways that a father leads is by growing his children towards independence, towards being able to take on more responsibility and ownership of their behaviour as they grow up and become less dependent on their father. When a good relationship prevails, this independence and growing more responsible means the father moves to a listening, supporting and advisory role, rather than the primarily commanding and instructing role they have in the life of a young child.
I think it is very significant that Isaiah chooses to use the term shoulder in this verse, telling us that the key is placed on the shoulder. At first it seems a funny place to keep a key, because we are picturing a physical key that opens the locks on our house and our car, however this is a key that opens spiritual and earthly doors. It is something that needs to be used wisely and it is something that is a responsibility, a burden. It needs to be carried carefully with wisdom and strength. So the leader who is chosen to carry it must be fit for the task, because he carries it in the same way that a strong man lifts a weight onto his back to carry it.
This is why the key is often associated with Christ who bares the burden of spiritual power for us. It is also associated with intercessors taking up the spiritual battle against the forces of evil and leaders who make room for the people they lead and open doors; both intercessors and leaders do these things through the anointing of God on their lives, just as it was on Eliakim’s life. The strength intercessors and leaders need is not primarily physical it is spiritual and mental, granted by God to enable them to fulfil their roles.
The relationship between intercessor and leader is vital here; the interaction both have with the spiritual world and the burdens they carry on the shoulders are closely related. The intercessor and the leader are dependent on each other, just as they are both dependent on God. Together they make room for each other, the intercessor opens doors for the leader and the leader in turn opens the doors for others to enter. The leader identifies a need and directs the intercessor so that the intercessor’s ministry is multiplied by the guidance of the leader.
Isaiah is simply stating fact when he says about God’s anointed that, “…what he opens no-one can shut, and what he shuts no-one can open.” Once the anointing of the Lord has been released the spiritual forces of darkness cannot stand against it. Our ideas of time though are not relevant to whether the gates are open or shut, instead God’s purposes are. There are gates that we have closed in the spiritual that will never be opened till we open them ourselves; conversely there are gates that we have opened in the spiritual that will never be shut till we shut them ourselves. Not because we are great, but because God is and he gave us the spiritual authority to open and shut those doors.
The profoundness of this is something worth exploring a little here. God chose Eliakim for this position of authority, just as God has chosen us all for a purpose. Being chosen by God does not mean we are all chosen to do the same thing. We are chosen by God to do the things he created us as individuals for, not the things he created someone else for. Some of us are missing our own open doors because we are banging on someone else’s door, some of us have opened our own doors, walked away, for many different reasons, and don’t realise that the door is still sitting open waiting for us to return. Likewise some of us have shut doors and they are still closed waiting for us to return and open them. Just because we walked away does not change the purposes of God, he is patient and enduring and when we return so will our anointed purpose and the doors will be as they should for me or you, the individual God created.
Some of us became discouraged because the doors didn’t appear to open when we knocked, so we walked away, however the doors did open in the spiritual for us but the earthly within and around us didn’t recognise this. The door is still open, eventually the earthly will recognise it, and God’s purposes will prevail.
How do you spot those purposes waiting to be fulfilled? Start with the things you prayed over but didn’t receive, go back, look, has anyone else received them? Consider whether they fit the purpose of your life? Do they match your gifting’s or your interests? Are they of benefit to the kingdom of God? If the door is open for you it may well be shut for others, simply because God is holding it open for you instead of them, for that door to be of use you need to return to it, because you are unique and valuable, only you hold the God given key to your purpose.
Walking away from the purposes of God does not automatically close spiritual doors, but it does stop you entering them, do you need to return to the doors that are standing open for you? If you see an open door that is not recognised in the earthly realm you need to pray now that the earthly recognises and accepts it, this is a prayer for the earthly realms to be peeled back and the spiritual realm revealed.
For those of us that are leaders it is also important to realise that the leader’s door is not always the same as the door for those following. Sometimes, after entering via their own door, the leader must open another door to let the others into the same promise and fulfilment. (Sometimes it is the same door but it must be made wider and perhaps even more recognisable for others to enter.)
Failure to realise that doors that have been shut in the spiritual need to be opened in the spiritual, can leave us wondering why we are unable to break through to the next level, or why we can’t achieve our ministry goals. This is because we forget that the earthly is directly affected by the spiritual. When we find ourselves struggling to break through and facing numerous obstacles we need to take hold of the spiritual realm and work with God to open the door so that our earthly efforts can come to fruition. Finding people to intercede and pray with us both strengthens and speeds our breakthrough.
It is understandable though that the Devil opposes this; he works to thwart the plans of God and discourage the church. We need to realise though that obstacles are not an indication of a closed door, just a reminder that what we are doing is important and the Devil doesn’t want us to succeed. Pushing through spiritual obstacles is what intercessors and leaders do, and they do it especially well when they work together.
God though knows us even better than we do, and sometimes this means we have to be prepared to let God open and close doors, as he will. Even when we think he should act differently. The result of allowing God to lead us in this way is that he will open the doors which best lead us towards his purpose for our lives and close the ones that lead us away from that purpose. Even when the doors seem to bring persecution and trouble God works this together for the good of those who love him.
In verse 23 Isaiah goes on to relay how God will drive Eliakim into place and use him as a peg on which to hang others, so that the glory given to Eliakim can be spread to those others that he is supporting. Eliakim becomes the point from which others both hold on and are publically displayed. He must be driven firmly into God to get the strength to do this. If Eliakim falls so do all those he is holding up. It doesn’t mean they won’t survive Eliakim’s fall, but it does show the effect that a leader has on the lives of others and how the undoing of a leader can bring difficulties and shame to the lives of those following them.
Dutch Sheets and other prophetic voices have invoked verse 22 as a mandate for Christian success or influence over the political structures of modern society and when lined up with similar scriptures such as Isaiah 9 v 6, we can indeed see a positive outlook for Christian influence on political power structures. To succeed though we must have confidence in God’s willingness to work everything together for good. We must trust that he has delegated us authority to open doors and keep them open, to shut doors and keep them shut. We must rely on his wisdom to choose the right individuals and when we are called we must be willing to work with God to achieve his purpose for our lives.
Deuteronomy 33:12 says, “Let the beloved of the LORD rest secure in him, for he shields him all day long, and the one the LORD loves rests between his shoulders.” Just as the person called of God carries the key on his shoulder the LORD carries them in turn on his shoulders, giving them the strength to succeed in achieving his purpose for their lives.
Alexander, D. & Alexander, P. (Eds.), (1984). The Lion Handbook to the Bible. Herts, England: Lion Publishing.
Barker, K. (Ed.), (1995). The NIV Study Bible. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.
Brand, C., Draper, C., & England, A. (Eds). (2003) Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary. Nashville, Tennessee: Holman Reference.
Davis, J.D. (1977). Davis Dictionary of the Bible. Grand Rapids,Michigan: Baker Book House.
Goodrick, E. W., & Kohlenberger, J. R. (2012). The Strongest NIV Exhaustive Concordance. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan.
Sheets, D. (2015, January 12). Isaiah 22:22: The Key To Governmental Authority. Retrieved from The Elijah List website: http://www.elijahlist.com/words/display_word.html?ID=14291
Thompson, F.C. (Ed.), (1988). The Thomson Chain-Reference Bible: Fifth Improved Edition. Indiana, USA: B. B. Kirkbride Bible Co., Inc.
Zondervan. (2010, November 1). Updated NIV Bible Text. Retrieved from http://www.biblica.com
All scriptures references are taken from the New International Version of the Bible, unless otherwise stated.
For an example of Dutch Sheets’ use of this verse see: http://www.elijahlist.com/words/display_word.html?ID=14291
Isaiah 9: 6 says, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
Clarification Note: There is debate around what constitutes Dominion Theology. Whether Dominion Theology is seen as something of merit will be dependent on the definition used. Here I am referring to Dominion Theology as the active involvement of Christians in politics and political power structures, I am not here advocating the exclusion of non-Christians from the political arena. (Click here to return to article text.)