Uzziah “Censered”

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How easy it is to start well but finish in disgrace because we take our eyes off of the ultimate objective. Such is the story of Uzziah, one of the kings of Judah. He became king at the age of sixteen and in humility, did what was right in the eyes of the Lord. The Chronicler tells us of Uzziah’s early devotion to seeking the word and ways of the Lord for which he was duly blessed. Successful in conquest, construction, and provision for his people, Uzziah gained fame and power.

Ultimately, it proved too much…

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. Azariah the priest with eighty other courageous priests of the Lord followed him in. They confronted him 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.” (2 Ch 26:16-18)

It is so easy for our hearts to turn inward and see ourselves as the source of our own blessings, looking away from the true source in the Lord. The depraved core of our souls tells us to “look at what we did!” and begins the subtle musings of our own greatness. Gradually, our initial dependence on the Lord is replaced by thoughts of our own greatness; look at the church I built, the book I wrote, the number of speaking engagements I’ve had – the list is endless. As our hearts go, so go our eyes and soon we have lost sight of the purpose in the successes we are allowed, that is, the greater glory of our God.

When we peer into this vignette of Uzziah’s life we see that his prideful heart has placed his own desires above the glory of God. The desecration of the standards for temple worship are clear to us and spelled out in the passage. Only the priests were to handle the sacred objects and conduct this aspect of worship. Uzziah, his pride on full display, felt that his blessings had moved him into a far more rarified strata in God’s eyes, allowing him to assume the unction necessary to parallel the priesthood. From a distance, we might see him swinging the censer in an act of worship but God, who searches all hearts and knows our true motives, saw it differently. He saw Uzziah’s usurping of his Law as a challenge to His Glory.

And God shares His glory with no one…