2 Chronicles 26 records the story of king Uzziah. The life and death of Uzziah is a classic warning to all, regarding the lure of success and a testament to the adage, “pride cometh before a fall.” It is a story that began well but sadly ended otherwise.
Uzziah, the son of Amaziah and Jecoliah (from Jerusalem) was appointed to be king over Judah, when he was merely sixteen years old and he reigned for fifty-two years (2 Chronicles 26:3). The Bible says that he did right in the sight of the LORD and as long as he sought the LORD, the Lord made him prosper (2 Chronicles 26:4-5). Under the blessings of God, Uzziah became a very powerful king. He warred against the Philistines and the Arabs and won, breaking down enemy walls and building his own defensive walls in their territories (2 Chronicles 26:6-7). In order to appease him, the Ammonites, who were his enemies, sent him gifts and the fame of his strength spread far and wide, even as far as Egypt (2 Chronicles 26:8). On the non-military front, he dug many wells, loved husbandry, built vineyards and amassed a lot of cattle in the foothills as well as the plains, meaning that he was prosperous (2 Chronicles 26:10). Strategically, he erected towers for military advantage and invented devices that could fire ammunition (arrows and stones) from these towers. He had an army of 2600 mighty men from his own family under whom he led an army of 307500 soldiers, training them in the arts of war (2 Chronicles 26:12-15).
The Bible says that he was marvelously helped (meaning that God gave him success), until he was strong (powerful and prosperous) and when he became strong, his power and prosperity led to his pride, and his heart was lifted up (in pride) to destruction (downfall) (2 Chronicles 26:16). He entered the temple of the Lord to burn incense, which was an activity that was reserved only for the consecrated priests of God. Azariah, the priest with eighty other priests who were valiant men, went in after him and confronted him of his sin. This made Uzziah angry and while he was still angry, a skin disease (leprosy) broke out on his forehead and he was evicted out of the temple. He did not resist because, he himself desired to leave the temple, as he had been smitten by the LORD. Until the day of his death, Uzziah remained a leper and died a leper (2 Chronicles 26:16-23) and was succeeded by his son, Jotham, to reign.
What can we learn from Uzziah?
First, we learn that success comes from the LORD, but the secret to success is not attributed to our own doing, but in our seeking; in our seeking of the LORD. As long as Uzziah sought the LORD, the LORD made him successful. Jesus said, “But seek ye FIRST the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and ALL these things shall be added unto you.” (Matthew 6:33).
Second, we can erect defensive walls and offensive towers on the outside, but if we don’t raise walls and towers against pride within ourselves, we do not have a strategic advantage in spiritual warfare. We must wear the armor of God to fight against the schemes of the evil one (Ephesians 6:10-18).
Third, we can do things that bring us food (cattle/meat) and drink (wells and vineyards), but unless we are grafted in the True Vine (Jesus Christ), we live fruitless and futile lives (John 15:1-5).
Fourth, it is said, that pride cometh before a fall, but before pride cometh power and prosperity. So when we are marvelously (miraculously) blessed by God, and we become powerful and prosperous, we must watch and pray so that we do not fall into the temptation (Matthew 26:14) of getting proud (as did Lucifer in the heavens (Ezekiel 28:2,15) or Uzziah on earth) and lift our hearts to destruction. From the point of pride, the only way is down.
Fifth, just as it is important to start out well, it is equally important to finish well, as well. Uzziah started out whole and ended up unclean.
Sixth, ironically, Uzziah in Hebrew means “God is my strength”, but toward the end of his life, Uzziah failed to live by his name.
Let us be like Uzziah in seeking the Lord, and let us not be like Uzziah in lifting our hearts in pride.
2 Chronicles 26:1-23 (KJV)
1 Then all the people of Judah took Uzziah, who was sixteen years old, and made him king in the room of his father Amaziah.
2 He built Eloth, and restored it to Judah, after that the king slept with his fathers.
3 Sixteen years old was Uzziah when he began to reign, and he reigned fifty and two years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name also was Jecoliah of Jerusalem.
4 And he did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that his father Amaziah did.
5 And he sought God in the days of Zechariah, who had understanding in the visions of God: and as long as he sought the LORD, God made him to prosper.
6 And he went forth and warred against the Philistines, and brake down the wall of Gath, and the wall of Jabneh, and the wall of Ashdod, and built cities about Ashdod, and among the Philistines.
7 And God helped him against the Philistines, and against the Arabians that dwelt in Gurbaal, and the Mehunims.
8 And the Ammonites gave gifts to Uzziah: and his name spread abroad even to the entering in of Egypt; for he strengthened himself exceedingly.
9 Moreover Uzziah built towers in Jerusalem at the corner gate, and at the valley gate, and at the turning of the wall, and fortified them.
10 Also he built towers in the desert, and digged many wells: for he had much cattle, both in the low country, and in the plains: husbandmen also, and vine dressers in the mountains, and in Carmel: for he loved husbandry.
11 Moreover Uzziah had an host of fighting men, that went out to war by bands, according to the number of their account by the hand of Jeiel the scribe and Maaseiah the ruler, under the hand of Hananiah, one of the king’s captains.
12 The whole number of the chief of the fathers of the mighty men of valour were two thousand and six hundred.
13 And under their hand was an army, three hundred thousand and seven thousand and five hundred, that made war with mighty power, to help the king against the enemy.
14 And Uzziah prepared for them throughout all the host shields, and spears, and helmets, and habergeons, and bows, and slings to cast stones.
15 And he made in Jerusalem engines, invented by cunning men, to be on the towers and upon the bulwarks, to shoot arrows and great stones withal. And his name spread far abroad; for he was marvellously helped, till he was strong.
16 But when he was strong, his heart was lifted up to his destruction: for he transgressed against the LORD his God, and went into the temple of the LORD to burn incense upon the altar of incense.
17 And Azariah the priest went in after him, and with him fourscore priests of the LORD, that were valiant men:
18 And they withstood Uzziah the king, and said unto him, It appertaineth not unto thee, Uzziah, to burn incense unto the LORD, but to the priests the sons of Aaron, that are consecrated to burn incense: go out of the sanctuary; for thou hast trespassed; neither shall it be for thine honour from the LORD God.
19 Then Uzziah was wroth, and had a censer in his hand to burn incense: and while he was wroth with the priests, the leprosy even rose up in his forehead before the priests in the house of the LORD, from beside the incense altar.
20 And Azariah the chief priest, and all the priests, looked upon him, and, behold, he was leprous in his forehead, and they thrust him out from thence; yea, himself hasted also to go out, because the LORD had smitten him.
21 And Uzziah the king was a leper unto the day of his death, and dwelt in a several 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 and last, did Isaiah the prophet, the son of Amoz, write.
23 So Uzziah slept with his fathers, and they buried him with his fathers in the field of the burial which belonged to the kings; for they said, He is a leper: and Jotham his son reigned in his stead.