8 Asa begot Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat begot Joram (Jehoram), and Joram begot Uzziah. Matthew 1:8 NKJV
After King Jehoshaphat and his son, there were a series of kings in Judah that ranged from mixed-to-bad for the nation. God’s temple and the line of David were preserved, but that is about all you can say about them – the three kings (Ahaziah, Joash, and Amaziah) and an evil queen (Athaliah) did not even merit mentioning in the genealogy of Jesus in the first chapter of Matthew. It was as if they were not even there in God’s record of the regal line of Jesus Christ.
The next significant king in Judah was Uzziah. God blessed him in many ways. Uzziah built up the strength of the nation, defeating enemies all around, and was gifted with much personal strength and fame in the process. Unfortunately, as so often happens with success, he began to forget the true source of his strength and believed that it all came from within himself. Uzziah began to get puffed up and took on even God and his faithful priests, perceiving himself to be above these. As a result, he received a strong dose of correction from the Lord which dealt with his egregious misconception and inflated ego.
Uzziah’s reign lasted fifty-two years. It was not only a time of great growth and prosperity for Judah, it was also the time when God began to send prophetic messengers about the coming kingdom of God and its Messiah, Jesus Christ. These prophets and their writings make up an important section of the Old Testament. The Books of Isaiah, Hosea, Amos, and Micah foretold many things about the first coming of Christ and also tell us quite a bit about what will happen when Jesus returns.
Now, let us take a look at the rise and fall of Uzziah. As king, he started out great, and as God continually blessed him, he grew even greater throughout the region.
5 He sought God in the days of Zechariah (the prophet), who had understanding in the visions of God; and as long as he sought the Lord, God made him prosper…7 God helped him against the Philistines, against the Arabians who lived in Gur Baal, and against the Meunites. 8 Also the Ammonites brought tribute to Uzziah. His fame spread as far as the entrance of Egypt, for he became exceedingly strong…10 He dug many wells, for he had much livestock, both in the lowlands and in the plains; he also had farmers and vinedressers in the mountains and in Carmel, for he loved the soil. 2 Chronicles 26:5,7-8,10 NKJV
God showered Uzziah with divine favor in every aspect of his life. His nation grew strong and prosperous, he accumulated wealth and fame, and he earned the respect of neighboring nations as he prevailed against them. He also seemed to enjoy his rule, savoring the experience as he watched his land bring forth its agricultural fruits.
But ultimately, all of this success went to Uzziah’s head.
16 But when he was strong his heart was lifted up, to his destruction, for he transgressed against the Lord his God by entering the temple of the Lord to burn incense on the altar of incense. 2 Chronicles 26:16 NKJV
Unfortunately, Uzziah became proud in his heart, and felt that he was above even God’s rules and commandments. As others have found out before him, God takes the handling of the holy elements of His temple very seriously. On multiple occasions, people have died for mishandling the Ark of the Covenant, approaching it without God’s authority or in a profane manor. These holy elements represent the purity of heaven, and without the proper covering of a sin sacrifice, no human being can approach the divine. In the Old Testament, this sin cover was provided through the ritual sacrifice of bulls and goats, while today, believers are free to approach God covered by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, which they were given when they received Him into their hearts.
When King Uzziah’s priests saw him begin to offer the incense in the temple, they were horrified. They knew what had happened when people did similar things in the past, and they boldly told him to stop what he was doing immediately.
18 And they withstood King Uzziah, and said to him, “It is not for you, Uzziah, to burn incense to the Lord, but for the priests, the sons of Aaron, who are consecrated to burn incense. Get out of the sanctuary, for you have trespassed! You shall have no honor from the Lord God.”
19 Then Uzziah became furious; and he had a censer in his hand to burn incense. And while he was angry with the priests, leprosy broke out on his forehead, before the priests in the house of the Lord, beside the incense altar. 2 Chronicles 26:18-19 NKJV
Because of his pride and sinful act, Uzziah’s golden reign over Judah came to a sudden and inglorious end. No longer was he the center of attention presiding over the many blessings God had given the land, for he was forced to retreat into isolation by his leprosy for the remainder of his days.
King Solomon, another man given every blessing from God at the beginning of his reign only to lose it in the end due to sin, had summarized the problem this way:
18 Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. Proverbs 16:18 NKJV
We do not have to be kings or a great financial success to find ourselves feeling puffed up at times, sensing a feeling of entitlement or superiority over others. Pride can crop up in our hearts any time that God gives us a blessing or an advantage that we perceive others do not have. How quickly that can happen, as we begin to take personal credit for any good thing that God sends our way.
When these feelings pop up, it is often helpful to take on an attitude of thankfulness and appreciation for what God has given us, and to remember that we do not deserve any of it. Gratitude is the antidote for so many things – not only pride, but self-pity, fear, anxiety, and doubt. It reinforces our faith, and helps us to remember the true source of our strength – the Lord. Gratitude fans the flames of love and humility in our hearts, gives us a renewed dependence upon God, and strengthens our spiritual connection with our fellows.
1 …knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. 1 Corinthians 8:1 ESV
What are you grateful for? Take a moment to consider.
Lord, thank You for the countless gifts you have provided for us today. Each morning we awaken in Your loving presence with the hope that our struggles are in Your hands and that we can relax and enjoy this day’s journey. We claim Your blessing and protection for us and our loved ones throughout the day. Help us to stay “right-sized” in our attitudes towards ourselves, others, and You. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.