The King Uzziah
(2 Kings 15: 1-7; 2 Chronicles 26)
Uzziah (also called Azariah) succeeded his father Amaziah in order to become the king of Judah at the age of sixteen. He reigned for fifty two years (B.C. 787-735). Uzziah was a successful king in the history of Judah. As the Bible said, “As long as he sought the Lord, God gave him success.” Uzziah had a powerful army that was equipped with new weapons. He triumphed over the Philistines and other enemies of Judah. He built towers in Jerusalem and repaired the walls. He improved agriculture and fortified his people. Under the reign of Uzziah, Judah became very powerful. In conclusion: “He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord.” Like a runner who has finished his race, Uzziah must have enjoyed his accomplishments. Unfortunately, there is always a turning point after the high. Uzziah suddenly fell from his majesty throne. He became a leper, a cursed man. He lost the greatness of his fame and reputation. He was isolated from his people. In his tragic ending, Uzziah suffered humiliation and shame.
This was the judgment of the Bible: “But after Uzziah became powerful, his pride led to his downfall. He was unfaithful to the Lord his God, and entered the temple of the Lord to burn incense on the altar of incense” (2 Chr.26:16). According to the Law of Moses, only priests could burn incense before the Lord. (See Exodus 30:7; Numbers 16:40; Deut. 33:10; 1 Chr. 23:13). As a king, Uzziah certainly knew the law. However, he dared to break it. He entered the temple and invaded the function of priests. Why did such a successful king make such a foolish mistake? It was because of his pride. Pride made him forgot the word of God. Pride made him angry. When the chief priest Azariah and other eighty priests came to prevent him, he might have even shouted at them: “I have followed the Lord and led our people for more than fifty years, as a king, do I not have the right to burn incense? Who are you? How do you dare to stop me, your king, to burn incense?” It was only after Uzziah “had leprosy on his forehead,” that God transformed his pride into humbleness.
We can learn two lessons from the story of Uzziah. First, the story lets us see our real situation. How useless and helpless we are if without God! How impossible for us to break out the yoke of sin! Uzziah’s sad story mentions us the word of Jesus: “Apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). Uzziah could do many things for his kingdom but could do nothing about his pride. He could conquer thousands of the Philistines but he could not save himself from sin. He spent fifty years to earn a good reputation but he destroyed himself in a second. Although Uzziah probably never bowed to any idols, there was an unseen idol in his heart. His self-righteousness became his supporter, comforter, and helper. How foolish Uzziah was! Who can raise a banner of righteousness into the temple of God? Who is holy enough to act as his own high priest? All men are sinners and no one can be justified without a Savior. Uzziah was a sinner, he needed a Savior! The people of Israel were sinners, they needed a Savior! We are sinners, we need a Savior! The second lesson we can learn is that, all of us, the children of God, inevitably face the dangers of temptation. Difficulties, sufferings, and persecutions are one kind of temptation; victories, prosperity, and blessings are another kind of temptation. No one can stand firmly except those who keep faith in God. Some people were defeated in the first kind of temptation since they doubted God as their only helper. They attempted to escape from their suffering by trying to find support from someone else, or by doing something by themselves. This can be seen through Ahaziah, king of Israel. When he was sick, he sent the messengers to consult the pagan god Baal-Zebub (2 Kings 1:2-3). On the other hand, some people, like Uzziah, were defeated by the second kind of temptation. God’s blessing, prosperity, and success were dangerous for these people. They thought they were rich, satisfied, confident, and safe enough, and thus they did not need God anymore.