Another kid king. Takes the throne at 16 years of age . . . rules until he’s 68. But another king who starts well and ends not so well. Another king tripped up by his success. Another king bounced because of blessing. Another king to serve as a warning to me.
I read about King Uzziah this morning and I’m thinking of the Avenger character, Tony Stark. Not Tony Stark the Iron Man, but Tony Stark before Iron Man, Tony Stark the military weapons inventor. King Uzziah heads up an army of over 307,000 mighty men. And for every one of them he makes “shields, spears, helmets, coats of mail, bows, and stones for slinging” (2Chron. 26:14). He fashions a fighting machine. Unstoppable. City walls can’t withstand them . . . enemy armies stand in awe of them.
Not only does he create a mighty offensive force, but he also innovates to ensure that Jerusalem’s defenses are unmatched. “In Jerusalem he made engines, invented by skillful men, to be on the towers and the corners, to shoot arrows and great stones” (26:15a). Sounds like this guy gathered the best minds and financed some serious research & development to ensure that Jerusalem’s ability to ward off enemy attack was unmatched. Uzziah became strong and the chronicler records, a couple of times, “his fame spread far” (26:8, 15).
But something else that’s recorded, subtly seeded for the careful eye to observe, is that this wasn’t solely because of who Uzziah was, but because of the God Uzziah served. “God made him prosper” (26:5) . . . “God helped him” (26:7) . . . “for he was marvelously helped, till he was strong” (26:15). Easy to miss this fact if you get too caught up in the innovation and domination under Uzziah’s reign. Easy for the reader to miss and, apparently, easy for Uzziah to miss, as well.
But when he was strong, he grew proud, to his destruction. For he was unfaithful to the LORD his God and entered the temple of the LORD to burn incense on the altar of incense. (2Chronicles 26:16 ESV)
What was he thinking? “If I’m a big enough man to enter through enemy walls uninvited, then I’m a big enough man to enter the holy place though prohibited?” “If I’ve amassed the power and track record to parade myself before the nations around me, then I’ve got what it takes to elevate myself before the God who prospered me?”
Pride does funny things to the mind. Losing touch with the Source of all blessings puts you at risk of opposing the Sovereign over all creation. Forgetting that we have nothing that we did not receive primes the pump of boastful arrogance so that we take credit for that which is but God’s favor (1Cor. 4:7). And when we start taking the credit . . . and believing our own press clippings . . . then we run the risk of doing something really stupid like egotistically waltzing into the presence of God and rewriting His book on how things should be done. We start improvising with the incense . . . because we start thinking it’s about us and what we have accomplished in our own strength.
Pride clouds the spiritual mind. Pride reinvigorates the old man against the Spirit. And pride, says the ancient teacher of wisdom, “goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Prov. 16:18). When the seeds of pride are watered then comes disgrace (Prov. 11:2). The mighty King Uzziah finished his days quarantined in a stand alone house because of pride. The uncleanliness of his arrogant heart manifest physically as the LORD struck him with the physical uncleanliness of leprosy.
Another king . . . another warning.
O’ that I might not presume on the grace of God. That I might not claim His work as mine. That I might not own His blessing as my success. That I might not have my mind clouded with reality distorting pride.
All by His grace . . . all for His glory.