From “Growing in the character of a disciple”: Chapter 5 – God’s assessment of the faithfulness of the kings of Judah and Israel
Now look at Amaziah’s son, King Uzziah of Judah. He too began well but then allowed himself to slip. He dropped his standards as a result of the same problems of pride, over-confidence and presumption:
1And all the people of Judah took Uzzi’ah, who was sixteen years old, and made him king instead of his father Amazi’ah. 2He built Eloth and restored it to Judah, after the king slept with his fathers. 3Uzzi’ah was sixteen years old when he began to reign, and he reigned fifty-two years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Jecoli’ah of Jerusalem. 4And he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, according to all that his father Amazi’ah had done. 5He set himself to seek God in the days of Zechari’ah, who instructed him in the fear of God; and as long as he sought the LORD, God made him prosper.2 Chronicles 26:1-5 (RSV)
Here we see God’s assessment of how King Uzziah began his reign. It focuses entirely on the fact that he:
a) did what was right in the eyes of the LORD
b) feared God
c) sought the LORD
Again, none of these things have anything to do with Uzziah’s abilities, achievements or victories in battles. They are all about his loyalty and faithfulness to God. That makes sense. Why should God praise us or reward us for our talents or abilities, when it was He that gave them all to us in the first place? Those things interest us, but not God, because our talents do not entitle us to any credit or reward.
Thus, in a certain sense, it would be inappropriate to praise Mozart for what he composed, given that the music usually just arrived, complete, in Mozart’s head. All he had to do was to write it down. It was all given to him by God. So the credit for Mozart’s music really belongs to God, more than to Mozart. However, what we could praise Mozart for is his diligence in writing it down after he had received it in his head. That states the extent of Mozart’s contribution more accurately. He was a diligent worker, for which he deserves credit, but the music itself was God’s, not his.
The same principle applies to the Kings of Israel and also to us. When we appear before Jesus at the Judgment Seat of Christ, He will not reward us for being good looking or clever or successful or powerful. If we have any of those things it is no credit to us, because they came from Him, not us.
Jesus will limit Himself, therefore, to rewarding us for our faithfulness in terms of what we did with what He gave us. So, at the Judgment Seat of Christ those who were given great talent have no advantage over those who were given very little talent. Once you stop to consider this, it becomes obvious that that would be how God would see things.
In the later part of his long reign, King Uzziah became less faithful and less obedient. God’s blessings upon him for his faithfulness, and all the success that that brought him, started to go to his head and he became proud. He then usurped the role of the priests and became angry when they tried to stop him doing so. God therefore punished Uzziah towards the end of his reign. What a shame for Him to spoil his good record in that way and to have his decline into unfaithfulness recorded in the Bible, for all of us to see for the next 3000 years.
That failure must be a lesson to us, especially as we approach the end of our lives or ministries. That is when there is the greatest temptation to become self-satisfied and to rest on our laurels We must never allow ourselves to become proud or complacent, such that Jesus revises downwards the ‘grade’ that He is going to give us:
15 In Jerusalem he made engines, invented by skilful men, to be on the towers and the corners, to shoot arrows and great stones. And his fame spread far, for he was marvelously helped, till he was strong. 16But when he was strong he grew proud, to his destruction. For he was false to the LORD his God, and entered the temple of the LORD to burn incense on the altar of incense. 17But Azari’ah the priest went in after him, with eighty priests of the LORD who were men of valor; 18and they withstood King Uzzi’ah, and said to him, “It is not for you, Uzzi’ah, to burn incense to the LORD, but for the priests the sons of Aaron, who are consecrated to burn incense. Go out of the sanctuary; for you have done wrong, and it will bring you no honor from the LORD God.”2 Chronicles 26:15-21 (RSV)
19Then Uzzi’ah was angry. Now he had a censer in his hand to burn incense, and when he became angry with the priests leprosy broke out on his forehead, in the presence of the priests in the house of the LORD, by the altar of incense. 20And Azari’ah the chief priest, and all the priests, looked at him, and behold, he was leprous in his forehead! And they thrust him out quickly, and he himself hastened to go out, because the LORD had smitten him. 21And King Uzzi’ah was a leper to the day of his death, and being a leper dwelt in a separate house, for he was excluded from the house of the LORD. And Jotham his son was over the king’s household, governing the people of the land.
However, Uzziah’s son Jotham did better. He avoided the sin that Uzziah had committed in the Temple. That was good but, despite speaking well of Jotham, God still notes in the end that he did not prevent the people from following corrupt practices. In short, Jotham did well, but he did not go as far as he should have gone to try to lead the people into the right path:
1Jotham was twenty-five years old when he began to reign, and he reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Jeru’shah the daughter of Zadok. 2And he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD according to all that his father Uzzi’ah had done–only he did not invade the temple of the LORD. But the people still followed corrupt practices.2 Chronicles 27:1-2 (RSV)
Nonetheless, because of the general faithfulness that he did show, God made King Jotham mighty:
So Jotham became mighty because he ordered his ways before the LORD his God.2 Chronicles 27:6 (RSV)