Chewing on King Uzziah’s story this morning in 2 Chronicles 26. Sixteen years old when he took the throne. Fifty-two years at the top of the food chain. Started well. Ended . . . well, not so well. Taking note, for my own instruction and warning, on what takes a seeker of God from being a super power to living in a separated house.
He set himself to seek God in the days of Zechariah, who instructed him in the fear of God, and as long as he sought the LORD, God made him prosper.
(2Chronicles 26:5 ESV)
Uzziah sought the LORD, the LORD prospered Uzziah. “God helped him” against his enemies (26:7). And the more he rose as victor, the more nations that paid annual taxes to him. As his fame increased, so did his power. Increased funds led to increased military spending led to increased power led to even greater fame. All because the LORD helped him. Not only was he helped, says the Scriptures, “he was marvelously helped.”
In Jerusalem he made engines, invented by skillful men, to be on the towers and the corners, to shoot arrows and great stones. And his fame spread far, for he was marvelously helped, till he was strong.
(2Chronicles 26:15 ESV)
A military marvel, Uzziah had built an army that “could make war with mighty power” (v.13). He was a super power in the day.
But . . . oh, that ominous word “but” . . .
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’s he thinking? He’s a military man, not an anointed priest.
Because he has mastered earth, did he think he could now direct heaven? The super power became super proud. This military genius became incredibly stupid as he walked in unfaithfulness to the God who had “marvelously helped” him.
In his clouded, arrogant, misdirected, egotistical thinking the king reasoned, “If I can build such an army and rule over so many of my enemies, then truly I don’t need anyone to mediate my presence before God. If I am great enough to command such an army, then surely I must be clean enough to walk on holy ground in the presence of God.”
He went into the holy place and offered incense. Uninvited and unconsecrated, his head was so full of his own press clippings that he couldn’t imagine a place too holy for him or any duty beyond his worthiness. His accomplishments so many that entering the sanctuary apart from God’s anointing seemed unnecessary. But he was wrong.
Eighty priests told him he was wrong (v.17-18). And when he responded with arrogant anger at their rebuke, God told him he was wrong, as well.
. . . Now he had a censer in his hand to burn incense, and when he became angry with the priests, leprosy broke out on his forehead in the presence of the priests in the house of the LORD, by the altar of incense. And Azariah the chief priest and all the priests looked at him, and behold, he was leprous in his forehead! And they rushed him out quickly, and he himself hurried to go out, because the LORD had struck him.
(2Chronicles 26:19-20 ESV)
Leprous. And not just some scaly skin on his forearm, but “leprous in his forehead!” No doubt now as to his uncleanness. No question now that he was unfit to be anywhere near the holy of holies. The junk that secretly ruled in his heart now the disease that showed plainly on his body. And, knowing the law, he knew that not only was there no place for him in the sanctuary, but, because of his contagion, there was also no place for him within the community. Only a separate house.
And King Uzziah was a leper to the day of his death, and being a leper lived in a separate house, for he was excluded from the house of the LORD.
(2Chronciles 26:21a ESV)
From super power to separated house. Because, when he was strong, he grew proud. When God had shown Himself present and proven Himself faithful, the king received for himself the glory and responded by being unfaithful. When God had “marvelously helped,” Uzziah mistakenly exalted himself and thought he had outgrown the need for anyone to mediate on his behalf.
Oh that I might beware of such arrogance. That I would be kept, in any way, from misinterpreting the Lord’s help for my ability or worthiness. That I would always humble myself in the sight of the Lord, casting myself solely upon His Son and His marvelous help on my behalf. Never forgetting His atoning sacrifice, always acknowledging my need for an eternal Intercessor.
By His grace. For His glory.