I was freshly reminded yesterday in 2 Chronicles that it doesn’t matter how strong we are when we begin our Christian life; what matters is how we finish. The story of Uzziah puts the fear of the Lord in me.
And all the people of Judah took Uzziah, who was sixteen years old, and made him king… Uzziah was sixteen years old when he began to reign, and he reigned fifty-two years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Jecoliah of Jerusalem. And he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, according to all that his father Amaziah had done. 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 26:1, 3-5
For many years, Uzziah pursued the Lord, and God helped incredibly and blessed him with amazing success and widespread honor:
…And his fame spread far, for he was marvelously helped, till he was strong. (14)
But Uzziah’s story took a sad turn:
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. (16)
When the priests confronted him, Uzziah became angry and “leprosy broke out on his forehead in the presence of the priests in the house of the LORD, by the altar of incense.” (19).
One moment of sin that changed the course of his life…
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. (21)
After reigning 52 years, at age 68, a life that began with humility, seeking the Lord and being blessed by him ended with Uzziah living his final years in isolation, excluded from the temple, unclean with leprosy, cut off from family and friends. All because he had forgotten who had made him strong, successful and great. The verse that most strikes me is verse 16:
But when he was strong, he grew proud, to his destruction.
This passage reminded me of several things:
First, only God is great. We are weak and God can remove our strength any time he desires. We are dependent creatures. Needy and helpless apart from our God.
All success and blessing comes from God. Our God is generous and gracious and pours out his blessings on those who seek him. We must never forget where our blessings come from.
We must beware of pride. Even those of us who are unsuccessful can be proud and arrogant, but the temptation to pride increases when God gives us success.
Just because God has blessed us in the past doesn’t mean he owes us blessings in the future. Especially if we think he will continue to bless us though we willfully violate his laws. Apparently, Uzziah assumed that since God had so prospered him in the past he could blatantly sin and God would continue to bless him.
We must always fear the Lord.
The fear of the LORD leads to life, and whoever has it rests satisfied; he will not be visited by harm. PR 19.23.
Accomplishments don’t lead to life; success doesn’t cause us to rest satisfied; talent doesn’t keep us from harm. It is the fear of the Lord that does these things.
Lord Jesus, thank you that you died to pay for all our pride and arrogance, and you desire to prosper us in you. Help us always to fear you, and acknowledge that you are the one who gives us any success we have. Help us to finish strong for your glory.