When pride swells, we think our rights swell and we impose ourselves on others. We learn this today from the life of King Uzziah, whose pride made him unfaithful to God. God will not be mocked, and Uzziah found himself losing his throne and his health…
3 Uzziah was sixteen years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem fifty-two years. His mother’s name was Jekoliah; she was from Jerusalem. 4 He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, just as his father Amaziah had done. 5 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.
16 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. 17 Azariah the priest with eighty other courageous priests of the Lord followed him in. 18 They confronted King Uzziah and said, “It is not right for you, Uzziah, to burn incense to the Lord. That is for the priests, the descendants of Aaron, who have been consecrated to burn incense. Leave the sanctuary, for you have been unfaithful; and you will not be honored by the Lord God.”
19 Uzziah, who had a censer in his hand ready to burn incense, became angry. While he was raging at the priests in their presence before the incense altar in the Lord’s temple, leprosy broke out on his forehead. 20 When Azariah the chief priest and all the other priests looked at him, they saw that he had leprosy on his forehead, so they hurried him out. Indeed, he himself was eager to leave, because the Lord had afflicted him.
21 King Uzziah had leprosy until the day he died. He lived in a separate house—leprous, and banned from the temple of the Lord.
2Chronicles 26:3-5, 16-21
King Uzziah is a good example of a king who let his success overwhelm him with pride. Have you been there? It’s a risk for all leaders. If you fall victim to it early enough in your life, it can save you larger scale embarrassment later. Uzziah’s fall was very public and scandalous.
After he became powerful, we read that his pride made him unfaithful to God. He overstepped in the temple. Because he was so successful as a King in terms of his relations with other nations and the building up of his own, he thought that should give him the right to do what only the priests should do.
Isn’t that the way? When pride swells, we think our rights swell and we impose ourselves on others. This can create sure conflict with other people, yet when we are talking about the things of God, we find ourselves on dangerous ground.
The Lord commanded that only the priests who were descendants of Aaron serve in the temple to complete the acts of worship and sacrifice before God. Uzziah entered the temple and he was going to burn incense. The priests were incensed (couldn’t resist). They knew the law. The also knew the wrath of God, which could be issued toward Judah for this transgression.
Over 80 priests stepped in and up to action. They followed him in and confronted him with the truth. Not only was his action off-side in terms of the law, it was an act of unfaithfulness before God, which would not be honoured by the Lord. This was a priestly cease and desist order. Uzziah wasn’t listening.
His response was to rage at them until he was interrupted by God’s intervention. Uzziah started to break out with leprosy. He had it until he died, and because of it, he had to live apart from his people and he gave up his throne.
There are lessons here for each of us in terms of our own pride and prideful actions. Be careful what you believe your rights are and check them against God’s will and command. God will not be mocked.
Consider also, what your role is in confronting others who fall into this trap. Will you be willing to step in and up when a leader in your world oversteps? There is personal risk in doing so, yet there can also be high stakes involved if it relates to the ministry of God. We would certainly want the compulsion of the Holy Spirit within us to come forward.
For Uzziah, this was life and death and the demise of his leadership. What’s at stake in your next struggle with pride?