Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Tale of Two Kings

Reading 2 Chronicles 26  
Which king would you pick?  A 16 year-old kid with nothing, or a 46 year-old king with everything. Which would you want? Of course, kings aren't picked or voted in, but most of us might think the king with everything would make a better king. But Uzziah tells us a different story, for he was both of these kings.
When his father, Amaziah, died by assassination, Uzziah was thrust into kingship at the ripe old age of sixteen. It is hard to image what this must have been like for him, but undoubtedly it came a little unexpectedly. Uzziah could not trust in his wisdom (apparently he had not seen enough Walt Disney movies to have believed in the innate wisdom of children), he could not trust in his experience, and apparently, given the assassination of his father, he could not trust in his secret service police. So, in what did he trust?
He sought God during the days of Zechariah, who instructed him in the fear of God. As long as he sought the LORD, God gave him success. (2 Chronicles 26:5)
Uzziah sought God. Uzziah listened to the instruction which was given by Zechariah, who taught him to fear the Lord. It seems this fear of the Lord was trusting in the Lord with his fears; going to the Lord in dependence. (Whatever else it was, it certainly appears to have been that.) And we read, “As long as he sought the LORD, God gave him success.” What did success look like? According to 2 Chronicles 26:6-7, it looked like God helping him against the Philistines, being able to rebuild towns, the neighboring countries bringing tribute to him, and his fame spreading far and wide as he becomes very powerful.
As surely as Uzziah's dependence on God led to his prosperity, his prosperity led to his dependence on all the stuff he had. Where we had read “Uzziah sought God...” we now read, “Uzziah built towers... he fortified them...and dug many cisterns.” (2 Chronicles 26:9-10) Where he had read about how God helped Uzziah against his enemies (2 Chronicles 26:7), now we read, “Uzziah had a well-trained army of 307,500 men trained for war, a powerful force to support (help) the king against his enemies.” (2 Chronicles 26:11-13) There was a subtle but sure shift in what Uzziah trusted.
Uzziah had been a simple man, a young man, a helpless man who was dependent on the Lord. But Uzziah was becoming the modern man, the self-made man, the successful man who was depending in what man could do. Of course, he himself was at the center of what he trusted in.
In Jerusalem he made machines designed by skillful men for use on the towers and on the corner defenses to shoot arrows and hurl large stones. His fame spread far and wide, for he was greatly helped until he became powerful. But after Uzziah became powerful, his pride led to his downfall. (2 Chronicles 26:15-16)
Until this point it seems that there was mixture. He had begun trusting in the Lord, the Lord helped him, he was becoming successful, and gradually we see a shifting occur from trusting in the Lord to leaning on what he could do. Over time it appears he sought the Lord less and less; he trusted in the Lord less and less. Pride, trusting in ourselves, creeps in little by little as we seek the Lord less and less.
Now this doesn't mean he ceased being religious. He still had a form of worship. He still wanted God's help. But now he was at the center and God was not. Trusting in the Lord, means doing what he said. If I trust Him, I believe that His ways are best. So Uzziah, in his pseudo-worship enters the temple to burn incense on the altar of incense. (2 Chronicles 26:16-20) What's the big deal? God had prescribed that only the priests could do that, not kings. Uzziah disregarded God's word, and even got angry against the priests for trying to stop him. He ceased fearing the Lord. Maybe he said, “I don't need a priest to worship, I can worship myself.” He began to trust in Himself. How often do we want to do things our way and not God's way?
Uzziah was struck with leprosy. Leprosy provided a perfect picture of what pride does. Pride, trusting in our own wisdom, or the power of man, to alleviate our fears and our concerns, separates us from God and others. Uzziah now lived in the separate house, was excluded form the temple and was even buried in a separate place than the kings, all because of his leprosy, which proceeded from his pride (2 Chronicles 26:21,23). Uzziah had been humble. He had sought the Lord, He had trusted in the Lord and feared the Lord. This is the essence of what faith is. Real faith always results in seeking the Lord and relying on Him; it is always centered in Him. It is not even focused on our faith, but Christ.
On what are you leaning? Pride and humility are often about where we go with our fears. Do we go to God who cares for us, trusting Him, listening to Him, doing what He says? Or, do we turn to our own ideas, worldly wisdom, or the power of what we can do without needing Him?
As went the king, so went the people. And Israel's kings, no matter how good they started, always seemed to end up in pride. But Christ is a king who remained completely humble, one who always trusted His Father, always sought the Father's will. When we bow to Jesus, He will place His Spirit in us teaching us to trust in Him. As goes the King, so goes His people!
Tomorrow, we will be studying Isaiah 6. Isaiah 6:1 begins, “In the year that king Uzziah died...”. It begins with the death of the proud king, and the rest of the chapter is about the coming of the Humble King. In Isaiah 6 I have discovered one of the most gloriously Christ-centered chapters in all of the Old Testament.
Love the Gospel, Live the Gospel, Advance the Gospel,

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