Robert Wurtz II
In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly. And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory. And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke. Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts. (Isaiah 6:1-5)
Our passage is a tremendous revelation that brings Isaiah into what we may refer to as a heavenly perspective. Knowing the context is vital. The opening portion of the passage gives a clue, In the year that king Uzziah died. Uzziah was a great king over Judah that began reigning at age 16. The scripture tells us he did what was right in the sight of the Lord. King Uzziah 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. (2 Chronicles 26:5) Indeed, as a young teenager, Uzziah wanted to know God’s will, that he might lead the nation of Israel rightly. As was customary, He would have hand-copied the Law of Moses from beginning to end. (Deuteronomy 17:18) Knowing this, there can be no doubt that Uzziah knew God’s Law. This knowledge allowed him to test any instruction he may have received from the prophets. However, we read the words, “as long as he sought the Lord.” This is both insightful and dreadful. It is wonderful to know that He sought the Lord, but there is the added implication that there came a time when Uzziah no longer sought the Lord. He began doing what was right in his own eyes.
Pride- the Enemy of True Prosperity
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. And Azariah the priest went in after him, and with him fourscore priests of the LORD, that were valiant men: 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. (2 Chronicles 26:16-18)
There is something about being around the things of God for long periods of time. The old saying “familiarity breeds contempt” comes to mind. Uzziah was 68 years old when he died. He was 16 when he began to reign. At some point in those 52 “in-between” years, he started to behave presumptuously. In Psalm 19:13, the Psalmist asks the Lord to keep him back from presumptuous sins; that is to say, a wilful flouting of God’s word. When Uzziah was a young man, he seemed to want everything done according to God’s word. He wanted to know God’s present will as well. Nevertheless, something happened.
Understand that we never get so great that we are exempted from obeying God. We never grow too wise or too experienced to need to inquire of the Lord. We must never lean to our own understanding; especially in things pertaining to the Kingdom of God. No matter what makes sense to us or what we wish to do, we must obey what God has said. If we ignore this rule, there may come a time in our lives when we somehow think we have a better way than God’s way. Pride will embolden us to intrude into God’s domain and begin innovating in the things of God, contrary to what God has said. Perhaps the Psalmist’s prayer ought to be ours as well; especially as we progress in years. “Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins; Let them not have dominion over me. Then I shall be blameless, And I shall be innocent of great transgression.” (Psalms 19:13 NKJV)
When He Was Strong
Notice our text from 2 Chronicles 26, “When he was strong, his heart was lifted up to destruction.” Strength comes in many forms. Typically, the strength is more estimation of oneself than reality. God had helped him and made him great. Uzziah’s circumstance was the same as Israel’s first king, Saul. When he was “small in his own eyes” he behaved one way towards the things of God; nevertheless, when he was “strong in his own eyes” he behaved another. Obedience somehow became optional.
Uzziah arrogated to himself authority that was not his. He behaved as the Pagan Canaanites of the day who viewed themselves as demigods. The Levites said to him, go out of the sanctuary; for you have trespassed; neither shall it be for your honor from the LORD God. In other words, God is not going to praise you for doing this. The best we can ever hope to do is simply obey God. We cannot improve on simple obedience.
Again, when Uzziah was strong, He no longer sought the Lord; He moved in presumption. This is what the Psalmist prayed God would keep him from so that he would not be guilty of the “great transgression” (Psalm 19:13). The word presumption means failing to observe the limits of what is permitted or appropriate. Uzziah was moving in the non-permitted and the inappropriate. What was his response to being withstood by the priests?
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. 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. (2 Chronicles 26:20, 21)
Rather than listening to reason, the man got angry. Surely the voice of God was in the mouth of these men. There were over 80 of them, and they were valiant men. He could have come to his senses but kept on until leprosy appeared on him. Then he wanted to flee, but it was too late. This is insightful and serves as yet another Old Testament example of God’s estimate of innovation in His Kingdom. Uzziah’s flippancy and reckless treatment of the things of God came at a high price. Not only was he driven from the temple, but as a leper, he was segregated from ordinary interaction with people.
An Answered Question
|(The King Uzziah Stricken Rembrandt 1635)
No doubt Isaiah and the rest of Judah wondered why God had smitten a man who had been such a great king. The question itself would suggest an earthbound — worldly perspective. A cursory read of the writings of Moses is enough to show us that God expects things to be done according to His will; and when innovation is attempted, disaster ensues. Nevertheless, this remains a temptation even in modern times. In fact, we have the same type of scenario happening today as Bible-based teachers seek to do ministry according to God’s word. As with the reaction of Uzziah, there is a fit of anger at any real attempt to bring correction. We desperately need a revelation of God’s heavenly perspective in our times. Why? Because if the enemy can prevail in getting the Saints to presume upon God’s methodologies and designs in areas like evangelism, worship, etc., he has the battle well on the way to being won.
The enemy is forever working to make Christians into Uzziah’s. He wants them in a worldly mindset devoid of a heavenly perspective. Isaiah learned a terrible lesson once he encountered God. He didn’t need to ask why Uzziah had been stricken like he was. God is thrice holy (holy, holy, holy) and to be in His genuine presence is to become utterly aware of our feebleness and sinfulness. This is why coming into the presence of the Lord in prayer and spending time reading through the scriptures over and over is so essential. We must protect the heavenly perspective in all that we do. If we start thinking like the world, then we will become presumptuous; failing to observe the limits of what is permitted or appropriate.