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. 2 Chronicles 26:5
Over the last few weeks, we’ve been surveying the lives of some of the kings of Judah. Maybe you’re not into history. But Paul assures us that all of the Old Testament is good to study. He even encouraged the Roman Christians to dig into the Scriptures.
For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. Romans 15:4
Azariah was the son of Amaziah. He reigned fifty-two years in Jerusalem. In Isaiah 6 and in 2 Chronicles 26, he is called Uzziah. Since we get most of our information about him in 2 Chronicles, I’ll call him Uzziah, too.
(Side Note: Don’t let the change in spelling throw you off. We do that even today. What used to be Bombay is Mumbai, for example. Our Declaration of Independence uses “compleat” and “Brittish” which were the correct spellings in that day. The Hebrew language went through some changes as a result of the Babylonian captivity. Sometimes the different spellings reflect the before and after.)
Early in his reign, Uzziah found a mentor and followed his guidance. Perhaps he understood that his father’s downfall came when he rejected the God of Israel for the gods of the Edomites. The new king wanted to know what it meant to fear the Lord, and he worked to live that out. God honored and blessed him because of it.
The lesson for us, of course, is to seek out godly mentors to guide us, especially at points of new beginnings. New moms, find someone who’s raised good godly kids and seek their advice. New teachers, new nurses, new insurance salesmen, new cashiers, new retirees … Find someone who is a little further up that road who can offer some encouragement to keep going. If you have trouble, make it a matter of prayer that God would bring someone to you.
2 Chronicles 26:6-15 detail his military successes against the Philistines, the Arabians, and the Menuites. The Ammonites paid tribute money to stay on his good side.
People noticed the hand of God in Uzziah’s life. 2 Chronicles 26:15 says “his fame spread far, for he was marvelously helped, till he was strong.” When we allow God to work in us and through us, it cannot be ignored by others, even if they don’t acknowledge God themselves. However, we must be mindful of the source of our help and success. That’s where Uzziah failed.
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. 2 Chronicles 26:16
Uzziah had had tremendous success. He was famous. His military was strong. And he believed he could do anything. The King James says he “transgressed” which carries the idea of crossing a line. He went too far.
What did he do? On the surface, it doesn’t sound like much. He burned some incense in the Temple. The Hebrew carries the idea that he violated God’s holiness. Only the Levitical priests were allowed into the presence of God to burn incense. Perhaps Uzziah thought as long as he had political and military authority over the people, he should have spiritual authority as well.
We need to be careful that our successes and God’s blessings on our lives don’t prompt us to feel entitled to more blessing, more favor, or more success. That is a presumption on God’s grace. For Uzziah, it led to judgment.
The priest (also named Azariah for extra confusion) boldly stood up to the king and ordered him out of the sanctuary. This was Uzziah’s chance to back down, to leave, to ask for forgiveness. Instead, the king became enraged that the man of God dared question him. As the king defiantly stood in the Temple, the censer still in his hand, leprosy broke out on his forehead. He was thrust out of the Temple and spent the rest of his life in seclusion, barred from public worship and even regular human interaction. His son, Jotham, handled the affairs of government.
When we transgress, we must humbly take the opportunity to repent and make things right that God graciously gives us. Let’s be honest– it is painful and humiliating to be called out for sin. We like to think we are beyond that. We aren’t. And when Scripture, or the sermon, or a trusted mentor shines a light on those dark places, we need to respond with the humility of David rather than the arrogance of Uzziah.
Next week, we’ll see how Jotham does on his own.