2 Chronicles 26:15b–16 (Speaking of Uzziah, King of Judah) 15bAnd 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 unfaithful to the Lord his God and entered the temple of the Lord to burn incense on the altar of incense.
Statements like, “You deserve it!” or “Go ahead. You’ve earned it.” are not uncommon. Such declarations come from advertisers, encouraging consumers to engage in some overdue self-indulgence. These ideas are useful in moving products because many people feel they should be the recipients of something special or the best merchandise available. The drive for flattering recognition and pampered desires connect to our exalted sinful sense of self-worth and our ungodly pursuit of self-gratification.
Issues in association with prideful desires for privilege and favorable treatment are nothing new, even for people of God. The verses above are about King Uzziah. He takes the throne of Judah after his half-hearted father, Amaziah, who was defeated in battle, embarrassed and ridiculed by Joash, king of Israel, and killed by his own people for desertion. Uzziah finds himself on the throne as king at the age of sixteen. He goes after God wholeheartedly, and God blesses his reign with increasing power and prominence, until he became strong and self-assured. Pride fills his heart to such a degree he becomes emboldened to function in the role of a priest and offer incense in the temple, a service set apart only for priests, not kings. God strikes him with leprosy as a consequence of his arrogant act. Consequently, he has no place in the palace or among the people for the remainder of his life.
Uzziah’s is one of many stories recorded in Scripture about the eventual stumbling of people, who after experiencing the blessing of God’s grace and kindness, become full of pride. There are times God brings people to places and positions they never thought possible, as they live as humble and dependent servants of God and His people. As time goes by, they grow accustomed to avenues of recognition and reward. Losing sight of God and His gracious provisions, they begin to feel they are achieving success as a proper return for their abilities and gifts. Their thoughts and their words, once gladly exalting the Lord, sadly turn to themselves. The oblivious masses continue to cheer their performance, but the word of the Lord proves true – their pride leads to the destruction of all that is pleasing and honoring to God.
What should we take from a story like this? Oh, humble recipient of the gifts of God’s goodness and grace, don’t get too full of yourself!