Uzziah, the Leader Who Fell by Pride (2 Chron. 26)

Uzziah, The Leader Who Fell by Pride (2 Chronicles 26)

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church on Sunday, October 27, 2019 

The Patriot and pride:

One of my favorite moves is the Patriot. It is a movie that takes place during the Revolutionary War. Mel Gibson stars as Benjamin Martin who leads the militia to repeatedly defeat the British. His character is based on the Swamp Fox, a real man, who knew the terrain so well he defeated the British repeatedly using his knowledge of the area as a strength.

Watch this clip from the movie. 

https://youtu.be/yRkynBxVwQU

Pride is a weakness and a sin.

We are in a sermon series on forgotten lives from the Old Testament. We are in our final sermon and one such person is Uzziah. Let’s talk about this man.

My theme is:

Uzziah, The Leader Who Fell by Pride (2 Chronicles 26)

My application is:

While you seek the Lord, seek humility.

Let’s read 2 Chronicles 26:

And all the people of Judah took Uzziah, who was sixteen years old, and made him king in the place of his father Amaziah. He built Eloth and restored it to Judah after the king slept with his fathers. Uzziah was sixteen years old when he became king, and he reigned fifty-two years in Jerusalem; and his mother’s name was Jechiliah of Jerusalem. He did right in the sight of the Lord according to all that his father Amaziah had done. He continued to seek God in the days of Zechariah, who had understanding through the vision of God; and as long as he sought the Lord, God prospered him.

Now he went out and warred against the Philistines, and broke down the wall of Gath and the wall of Jabneh and the wall of Ashdod; and he built cities in the area of Ashdod and among the Philistines. God helped him against the Philistines, and against the Arabians who lived in Gur-baal, and the Meunites. The Ammonites also gave tribute to Uzziah, and his fame extended to the border of Egypt, for he became very strong. Moreover, Uzziah built towers in Jerusalem at the Corner Gate and at the Valley Gate and at the corner buttress and fortified them. 10 He built towers in the wilderness and hewed many cisterns, for he had much livestock, both in the lowland and in the plain. He also had plowmen and vinedressers in the hill country and the fertile fields, for he loved the soil.11 Moreover, Uzziah had an army ready for battle, which entered combat by divisions according to the number of their muster, prepared by Jeiel the scribe and Maaseiah the official, under the direction of Hananiah, one of the king’s officers.12 The total number of the heads of the households, of valiant warriors, was 2,600.13 Under their direction was an elite army of 307,500, who could wage war with great power, to help the king against the enemy. 14 Moreover, Uzziah prepared for all the army shields, spears, helmets, body armor, bows and sling stones. 15 In Jerusalem he made engines of war invented by skillful men to be on the towers and on the corners for the purpose of shooting arrows and great stones. Hence his fame spread afar, for he was marvelously helped until he was strong.

16 But when he became strong, his heart was so proud that he acted corruptly, and he was unfaithful to the Lord his God, for he entered the temple of the Lord to burn incense on the altar of incense. 17 Then Azariah the priest entered after him and with him eighty priests of the Lord, valiant men. 18 They opposed Uzziah the king 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 been unfaithful and will have no honor from the Lord God.”19 But Uzziah, with a censer in his hand for burning incense, was enraged; and while he was enraged with the priests, the leprosy broke out on his forehead before the priests in the house of the Lord, beside the altar of incense. 20 Azariah the chief priest and all the priests looked at him, and behold, he was leprous on his forehead; and they hurried him out of there, and he himself also hastened to get out because the Lord had smitten him. 21 King Uzziah was a leper to the day of his death; and he lived in a separate house, being a leper, for he was cut off from the house of the Lord. And Jotham his son was over the king’s house judging the people of the land.

22 Now the rest of the acts of Uzziah, first to last, the prophet Isaiah, the son of Amoz, has written. 23 So Uzziah slept with his fathers, and they buried him with his fathers in the field of the grave which belonged to the kings, for they said, “He is a leper.” And Jotham his son became king in his place.

  1. Uzziah becomes king (verses 1-5)
    1. Let’s put this sermon in context. As I have stated before chapters were not in the original Hebrew texts. Depending on your translation this chapter begins with “and” or “then” or “for.” The point is this chapter about Uzziah follows chronologically with the previous material.
    2. One thing we should share up front is that Uzziah is translated as Azariah in 2 Kings 14:21. He is written about briefly in 2 Kings 14 and 15. 1 and 2 Kings are historical books of the Old Testament as are 1 and 2 Chronicles among others. Similar material is written in 1 and 2 Kings and 1 and 2 Chronicles.
    3. Context during the history of Israel is critical, Swindoll shares the following:
    4. Uzziah was born during a tumultuous period in the history of the Hebrew people. One hundred years prior to Uzziah’s reign, the foolishness of Rehoboam (remember him?) had torn the kingdom into two bitter enemies: Israel in the north and Judah in the south. In the century that followed, the nations routinely warred against one another, as progressively evil kings occupied their thrones and dominated their people. Israel’s kings were all reprobate, violent pagans, while many of the kings in Judah were at least somewhat godly. But eventually the violence of the north became commonplace in Judah.[1]
    5. ESV Study Bible:The reign of Uzziah included co-regencies with his father Amaziah (796–767 C.) and his son Jotham (750–733). Uzziah’s reign saw the beginning of Isaiah’s prophetic ministry (Isa. 1:1; 6:1).[2]
    6. Uzziah is about to be anointed as king over all the people of Judah, not Israel, which would be the southern kingdom.
    7. Notice that Uzziah is 16 years old at this time.
      1. Think back to when we were sixteen years old.
      2. What were you doing?
  • Imagine your sixteen-year-old teenage self as king.
  1. It is possible that Uzziah was co-regent for a time with his father or maybe prior to this, but still he is very young. He also seemed to depend upon the Lord at this time.
  2. Verse 2 shows that he built a certain city “Eloth” and restored it to Judah. This may be part of his wars which are talked about later on.
  3. It seems that these first few verses are simply summarizing things.
  4. In verse 4 the text says that he did right in the eyes of the Lord and further compares him to his father in this way. As long as he sought the Lord, God prospered him.

Swindoll writes: Before we continue, allow me to make this personal by asking you a probing question. If your children follow in your steps, will they do what is right in the sight of the Lord? If your children emulate you—and they will—will you be able to say that their adult years were God-honoring?

Imagine walking over snow-covered ground a few paces ahead of your child. Each step you take leaves an imprint he or she can clearly see. Now imagine that little person following you stretching those short legs to place his or her feet in the footprints you left behind. That’s exactly what your children will do in life. In fact, that’s what we see Uzziah doing. He made good tracks early on, just like his father, but he made them with a reluctant heart, also like his father.[3]

  1. Uzziah succeeds in war (verses 6-15)
    1. The first instance is war with the Philistines.
      1. Broke down the wall of Gath
      2. And the wall of Jabneh
      3. And the wall of Ashdod;
      4. And he built cities in the area of Ashdod and among the Philistines.
    2. Verse 7 is about God’s help against the Philistines.
    3. Verse 7 mentions other ways that God helped him with war.
    4. Arabians who lived in Gur-baal and the Meunites.
    5. Verse 8 mentions the Ammonites too.
    6. This now mentions 4 people groups with war.
      1. Philistines
      2. Arabians
      3. Meunites: these people as well as the Arabians were nomadic groups to the south.
      4. Ammonites
    7. Further, the Ammonites also gave tribute to Uzziah.
    8. His fame extended to Egypt. This is the Lord’s blessing.
    9. Verse 5 had stated that the Lord blessed him as he sought the Lord. So, now we see the Lord’s blessing.
    10. Verse 8 says that he became very strong.
    11. Verses 9-10 are written about his work in Jerusalem and the surrounding areas.
    12. He built towers in Jerusalem, they were at the corner gate and the valley gate and at the corner buttress and fortified them.
    13. These seem to be repairs needed because in 2 Kings 25:23 we see how king Joash of Israel (the northern kingdom) captured King Amaziah and then did damage to the wall of Jerusalem.
    14. Verse 10 continues about his building campaigns. He built towers in the wilderness and dug cisterns and took care of livestock needs.
      1. Interesting note about how much livestock he had.
      2. There is an interesting note that he loved the soil.
    15. Verses 11-15 are written about his military. He had an army ready for battle. What is interesting about this is that it means they had a paid army. Oftentimes they could not afford an army and would need to recruit a militia for battles. Now, their wealth is increasing and they can afford an army.
    16. Verse 12 gives the numbers: 2600 of the heads of household of warriors. The warriors are “valiant.”
    17. Verse 13 continues with the numbers under the direction in verse 12:
      1. An elite or powerful army
      2. 307,500
  • They could wage war with great power.
  1. To help the king against the enemy.
  1. In verse 14 we see the supplies: army shields, spears, helmets, body armor, bows and sling stones. The ESV Study Bible shares: Murals from the siege of Lachish (701 B.C.) show defenders on the city walls shooting arrows and hurling stones from behind wooden frames on which shields have been hung.[4]
  2. In verse 15 this continues with engines for war
    1. These were on the towers
    2. And the corners for the purpose of shooting arrows and great stones.
  3. His fame spread.
  • Uzziah downfall (verses 16-23)
    1. Verse 16 begins with a change of direction.
    2. Everything has been good about Uzziah up until this point.
    3. BUT…
    4. When he became strong…
    5. His heart was so proud and this pride caused him to act corruptly.
    6. He was unfaithful and the writer is going to share how he was unfaithful.
    7. He entered the temple to burn incense on the altar of incense. Keil and Delitch: “When Uzziah had become mighty… his heart was lifted up (in pride) unto destructive deeds.” He transgressed against his God, and came into the sanctuary of Jahve to offer incense upon the altar of incense. With a lofty feeling of his power, Uzziah wished to make himself high priest of his kingdom, like the kings of Egypt and of other nations, whose kings were also summi pontifices, and to unite all power in his person, like Moses, who consecrated Aaron and his sons to be priests. Then, and Ewald, indeed, think that the powerful Uzziah wished merely to restore the high-priesthood exercised by David and Solomon; but though both these kings did indeed arrange and conduct religious festal solemnities, yet they never interfered in any way with the official duties reserved for the priests by the law. The arrangement of a religious solemnity, the dedicatory prayer at the dedication of the temple, and the offering of sacrifices, are not specifically priestly functions, as the service by the altars, and the entering into the holy place of the temple, and other sacrificial acts were.[5]
      1. He thought he could do whatever he wants.
      2. He thought I am the king. I have conquered enemies. I have great possessions. I can do what I want. I don’t need the priest to do this.
  • Before we are so critical of him, do we do the same thing?
  1. We may think, I am an adult, I worked hard for my money, I can buy this. But do we think and ask if the Lord wants us to buy it. Our money is really the Lords. Everything is the Lord’s. He created all things (Genesis 1-2).
  2. We may think, I am an adult, if I want to look at these pictures on the internet I can.
  3. We may think, I’ll do what I want with MY time. But we are neglecting our children or grandchildren or the church.
  • Pride focuses on ourselves. We must focus on God and then others (Matthew 22:37-39).
  • Pride does what we want to do and justifies every sin.
  1. Pride makes us lie, cheat and steal.
  2. Pride leads to adultery. Pride makes us think, “I deserve this.” You think, “I can cheat on my wife, or my husband.” You may even justify it that he/she is not faithful to you in other ways. You may say, “He is always at work all the time.” You may say, “He already cheated on me with pornography.”
  3. Pride leads to idols. “I deserve this nice car.” I deserve this __________.
  • Pride leads to anger.
  • Pride leads to our lies to cover up our sins.
  • Satan had pride and this led to his fall:
  1. Ezekiel 28:11ff
  1. God cannot have pride. Think about it, it is IMPOSSIBLE for God to have pride. To have pride means to think of yourself higher and greater than you are. The Lord already IS the greatest BEING. There is no one greater than Him. God knows it is best for us to worship Him and humbly bow to Him.
  1. Verse 17 tells us how this went down.
  2. Uzziah is in the temple.
  3. Azariah the priest enters.
  4. Azariah enters with his 80 (wow) priests of the Lord. These are valiant men.
  5. Azariah entered prepared to take this man, their king, down.
    1. Azarariah stood for truth and risked his livelihood for this.
    2. He could have been rebuked by the king and maybe his men would not support him.
  • He was going against the king.
  1. That is another application, we must stand for truth.
  1. In verse 18 they opposed him, and we read the conversation.
  2. This burning of incense is for the priests, the sons of Aaron, they are consecrated.
  3. Numbers 3:10: So you are to appoint Aaron and his sons, and they will be responsible for their priesthood; but the unauthorized person who comes near must be put to death.
  4. They order him out of the sanctuary. They tell him he has been unfaithful. They tell him he will have no honor from the Lord.
  5. In verse 19 we read that Uzziah was enraged. He breaks out with leprosy.
  6. In verse 20 we read that Azariah the chief priest hurried him out of there. Uzziah himself recognized the Lord’s punishment and got out as well.
  7. Verse 21 tells us he was a leper until the day of his death.
    1. He had to live in a separate house.
    2. He was cut off from the house of the Lord.
  • His son, Jotham, was leading as king.
  1. 2 Kings 15:5-7 records similar words.
  2. Verses 22-23 record his death and burial. Isaiah was a prophet while he was king (among others) (See Isaiah 1:1 and 6:1).
  3. I like what one writes: As L. C. Allen has explained, the “royal trilogy” of Joash, Amaziah, and Uzziah, all of whom served the Lord faithfully only during the first part of their reigns, dramatically presents a message to believers to “hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first” (Heb 3:14).86[6]
  4. The ESV Study Bible shares: A stone plaque was found in Jerusalem, on the Mount of Olives, from the Second Temple period that bears the inscription, “Here were brought the bones of Uzziah, king of Judah. Do not open!” It may be that the king’s bones were moved to the Mount of Olives many centuries after his death.[7]

Swindoll writes:

I mentioned before that I played in the Third Marine Division band. Something I learned as a musician is that the most important notes you play are often those in the last few bars of the piece. You can recover from a rough beginning. You still have time to settle down and find yourself in the middle. But there’s nothing to follow those last notes except silence. The quality of those final notes on the final page of the finale will usually be the ones that shape the audience’s memory of your performance.

Without question, Uzziah started well. The majority of his career provided a godly, safe, prosperous environment for God’s people. But the final notes of his performance spoiled the whole concert. Observe what his audience remembered:

“So Uzziah slept with his fathers, and they buried him with his fathers in the field of the grave which belonged to the kings, for they said, “He is a leper.” And Jotham his son became king in his place. 2 Chronicles 26:23; emphasis added

Because he was a leper, he lived out the rest of his days all alone. Think of it! When he died, they buried him in a field adjacent to the royal cemetery—not within it—because he was still considered unclean. They didn’t mark his gravestone with “He was a king.” They didn’t even say, “He was a king who became a leper.” By the end, his greatness was forgotten. They wrote what they remembered: “He was a leper.[8

When he finally accepted his status as a “nobody,” he took his place alongside the rest of humanity. Then, and only then, was he prepared to meet the only real Somebody. My hope is that Uzziah, quarantined from society at large and permanently barred from public service, allowed the Lord to make him somebody worth emulating. It’s quite possible. After a long string of outright evil kings and good kings gone bad, Uzziah’s son, Jotham, became the only king of Judah in 130 years to be listed as exclusively good. I would like to think that it was the seven years Jotham spent in coregency with his father, perhaps learning from his mistakes.

If so, that’s the kind of impact every “nobody” should have, including you . . . and me.[9]

Close:

Remember that I began this sermon with the clip about the pride of General Cornwallis. Let’s contrast that with George Washington.

As you likely know, I love history and I love Revolutionary War history. Last year I listened to an audio book about George Washington. It was called Washington, A Life by Ron Chernow. There is a point in the book in which he writes the following about Washington as Commander and Chief:

Washington’s job as commander in chief was as much a political as a military task, and he performed it brilliantly, functioning as de facto president of the country. His stewardship of the army had been a masterly exercise in nation building. In defining the culture of the Continental Army, he had helped to mold the very character of the country, preventing the Revolution from taking a bloodthirsty or despotic turn. In the end, he had managed to foil the best professional generals that a chastened Great Britain could throw at him.

As Benjamin Franklin told an English friend after the war, “An American planter was chosen by us to command our troops and continued during the whole war. This man sent home to you, one after another, five of your best generals, baffled, their heads bare of laurels, disgraced even in the opinion of their employers.”[10]

I don’t know whether Washington was humble or not, I hope so, but I do know that pride is a weakness and the root of many sins.

Seek the Lord and seek humility.

Do you know Jesus?

Luke 9:23:

Confess, Believe, trust, commit: Firmly make the decision to be with Him in order to become like Him and to learn and do all that He says and then arrange your affairs around Him.

prayer

 

[1] Excerpt From: Charles R. Swindoll. “Fascinating Stories of Forgotten Lives.” Apple Books. https://books.apple.com/us/book/fascinating-stories-of-forgotten-lives/id614832271

[2] https://www.esv.org/2+Chronicles+26/

[3] Excerpt From: Charles R. Swindoll. “Fascinating Stories of Forgotten Lives.” Apple Books. https://books.apple.com/us/book/fascinating-stories-of-forgotten-lives/id614832271

[4] https://www.esv.org/2+Chronicles+26/

[5] Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, vol. 3 (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1996), 666.

86 Allen, 1, 2 Chronicles, 345.

[6] J. A. Thompson, 1, 2 Chronicles, vol. 9, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1994), 326.

[7] https://www.esv.org/2+Chronicles+26/

[8] Excerpt From: Charles R. Swindoll. “Fascinating Stories of Forgotten Lives.” Apple Books. https://books.apple.com/us/book/fascinating-stories-of-forgotten-lives/id614832271

[9] Excerpt From: Charles R. Swindoll. “Fascinating Stories of Forgotten Lives.” Apple Books. https://books.apple.com/us/book/fascinating-stories-of-forgotten-lives/id614832271

[10] Chernow, Ron. Washington (p. 460). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. Quoted from: Burns and Dunn, George Washington, 27.

 

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