2 Chronicles 26:3-5,16-23
Have you ever wondered how or why something or someone who started out so well all of a sudden veers off course badly. Of all the potholes in the pathway of believers, the pothole of pride is the most devastating and has the potential to inflict the most damage to our lives and witness. The pothole of pride shares similar characteristics with other potholes in that it usually emerges without any warning or advance notice. Like most potholes, you do not know that you have hit it until you have hit it.
Take for example Uzziah who was the king of Judah. Here was a guy who was blessed beyond measure. He started out with such promise and yet he ended up such a tragic failure. The unparalled levels of success that Uzziah experienced early on in his reign were a direct result of the relationship he cultivated with God. In verse 5 we read, “He sought God during the days of Zechariah, who instructed him in the fear of God. As long as he sought the LORD, God gave him success.” Verse 5 helps us to see that from his youth, Uzziah was taught to reverence, honor, obey, and seek God. As a result of the lessons he learned in his youth coupled with a love for God and the things of God, he went on to become one of the most successful kings in the history of Judah. There is a lesson here for parents; success in life is predicated on a fear of LORD and instruction in the ways of the LORD. The earlier children come to know the LORD and are instructed in the ways of the LORD, the greater the chances for successful living. It is important to note that God granted Uzziah success not only in governing, but also in all areas of life. Why is this important? It is important to note because the secret to Uzziah’s success was not his education, his wealth, his relationships or even his decision-making prowess. The secret to Uzziah’s success was that he sought the LORD. In other words, Uzziah lived out Proverbs 3:5&6, “Trust in the LORD with all thy heart and lean not to thy own understanding and He shall direct thy path.” Once again, there are many potholes along our path that are unseen until we hit them. Therefore, we need God’s direction and guidance daily. We need God’s direction and guidance at all times, in all places and in all things.
By the time we get to verse 16, Uzziah has been driving along the roadway of life and things are going quite well for him until he hits the pothole of pride. In verse 16 we read, “But after Uzziah became powerful, his pride led to his downfall.” Isn’t it interesting that Uzziah’s problems did not start until after. The word after should serve as a warning to all of us, because there is an after waiting for us. Have you ever noticed that things do not start changing until after. We were fine, but after his or her mother moved in…I was doing great but after I met him…I was on track to become supervisor, but after they hired him or her… We really need to watch out for after. One of the reasons after is such a problem is because pride does not work alone, it needs something to feed off of. Uzziah was OK as long as he was a nobody, but after he became somebody pride had something to work with. Pride and after go together. One of the reasons pride is not a problem before is because pride needs an activating event. Pride needs something to activate it so that it can work. Notice how pride becomes an issue after the promotion, after the accomplishment, after you have started school, after you have obtained your degree, after you have reached a plateau, after we have accomplished a goal, after you have made some gains in life. They do not have to be big gains, they can be small gains the point is that pride needs something to work with.
As we examine the life of Uzziah, we see that Pride colors our perspective and alters our judgment. A close look at Uzziah’s life highlights that pride is the product of a skewed self-concept that leads to a poor sense of judgment. After Uzziah became powerful the way he saw himself in relationship to God and others changed. The narrative of Uzziah teaches us just how easy it is to fall into the pothole of pride and how pride distorts our perspective and judgment. There are some who will say they have no identification with Uzziah because they are not rich and powerful. I would say to them that pride does not need riches or power, but it simply needs a host with a willing heart to entertain it. You see Uzziah exemplifies what happens when believers push God to the background and push self to the fore ground. The struggle with pride has more to do with how we see ourselves, others and things in relationship to God. In other words, what priority to do we assign to ourselves, others, things and God. Do I have to know everything, Do I have to be in-charge, is it necessary that I remind people of the position and the power I hold, do I honestly believe that I am the only one capable of completing certain tasks, all of these and other similar lines of thought come under the umbrella of pride. The real problem for Uzziah and us occurs when we began to believe our own press clippings and love of self supplants love for God.
In verse 16 the Bible tells us that after he became powerful, he became unfaithful to God. Uzziah, like Saul one of his predecessors, entered the temple to burn incense on the altar of incense. Uzziah took it upon himself to do something that was reserved only for the priests according to temple protocol. Here we see how pride will cause us to exercise poor judgment. Like a cars alignment is thrown off after hitting a pothole, Uzziah’s sense of judgment was thrown off because the pothole of pride caused his self-concept to be thrown off. We also see how the seeds of Pride left unchecked will bear the fruit of arrogance. Arrogance is the belief that you are:
- Above the law – I can do whatever I want to
- A law unto yourself – I set the rules
- There is no law that can govern me – who is going to stop me or punish me
This kind of thinking is clearly an affront to the sovereignty of God. In verse 18 we read that Azariah warned Uzziah that he was running dangerously close to being outside the will of God and would lose favor with God. Losing favor with God is no small thing. Personally, I never want to lose favor with God. When a believer has lost favor with God it means that essentially God is not pleased. To demonstrate His displeasure God leaves us to our own devices and come whatever may whatever will we are on our own. The only remedy is to get back inside the will of God and into God’s good graces as quickly as possible. Think of it as a parent being furious with their children. Just like parents, we cool off after our children come around and acknowledge their wrongdoing.
As we have noted previously, vehicles that have been damaged by potholes make strange noises. Uzziah after hitting the pothole of pride began to make a strange noise. The text says in verse 19, “He was raging at the priest.” One of the indications that you have hit the pothole of pride is breaking out into a rage. It is understandable when we are annoyed to get a little loud and elevate our voice, but if you go into a rage when people challenge you, or call into question a decision you make, or when people refuse to see things your way, that is more than mild annoyance that is the pothole of pride.
Uzziah, though, was unrepentant and so God took his hand off of him and removed His hedge of protection from around him. Verse 19 says, “Leprosy broke out on his forehead.” An unrepentant proud heart will cause things to happen, not so nice things too. When believers live outside the will of God believing they can dictate to God and/or what will happen in God’s kingdom you can bet we will have problems with our finances, family, career/job, relationships, children, church, etc. The fact that the leprosy just broke out is a very curious statement. It is curious in the sense that leprosy is a very contagious disease and nowhere in this chapter do we read that Uzziah came in contact with a leper or a leper colony. This is not to say that he had not at some earlier point in his life. I suspect the condition was present and the removal of God’s protection on his life caused it to surface. When I was in my early twenties, I was in attendance at a congregational meeting. The church I was attending was meeting to discuss the future of the church. One of the deacons, a long-standing member, stood up and went into a rage because he did not like the direction the meeting was going in and he had very strong feelings about what the church should do. About two minutes after he stopped speaking, he had to be rushed to the hospital because he was having a massive stroke. Today, I understand the damage a proud unrepentant heart can cause. Deacon McKnight died five days later.
Uzziah’s poor judgment coupled with a failure to heed the warnings of Azariah the priest lead to his demise and the end of what potentially was a brilliant career. David McPherson, Pastor of the Maranatha Bible Church in New Orleans shared a true story of a US Air Force transport plane flying over Alaska. In the mid 1950s, a US Air Force transport plane with its captain and 5 crew members was flying over Alaska. As they were entering an unusually fierce snowstorm the navigator contacted an air base only to be told that he had veered several hundred miles off course. Correct coordinates were given to the navigator, who continued to insist that his own calculations could not be that far off. Soon the plane ran low on fuel. The six men decided to abandon the plane and parachute to safety, but because of the -70 degree temperature and winds that gusted to 50mph, they were all frozen within minutes of hitting the ground. A rescue team discovered and retrieved the bodies three days later. It was later revealed that as a result of the navigator’s pride, five other people went to their deaths.
In the end, Uzziah lost everything. Everything that Uzziah had built, worked for, and acquired when it was all said and done someone else was given control over it and Uzziah was relegated to living out his days separated from all that he built. The truth is that it did not have to end that way. It did not have to end that way for Uzziah and it does not have to end that way for us.
What can we do to change the ending? The truth is that we can overcome pride and not allow pride to overcome us.
One of the first ways we overcome pride is by confronting it. In verse 18, the Bible says, “They (the priests) confronted him.” Many times pride masquerades under the cover of stubbornness, obstinacy, shutting down or withdrawing. No matter what form pride takes, it must be confronted. It would have been easy for the priest to allow Uzziah to do whatever he wanted to do, but then in the eyes of God they would have been equally as guilty. Part of the reason we do not like to confront people is because it makes us feel uncomfortable. However, it is part of our Christian responsibility to offer correction to our brothers and sisters when they have strayed. There was a song my mother used to play called “No Charge.” It was a song about a son who presented a mother with a bill for all of the chores and things he did around the house. Taking out the garbage, five dollars. Washing the dishes, ten dollars. Going to the store, three dollars. Mowing the lawn, seven dollars. The mother’s response was carrying you for nine months, no charge. Staying up late and taking care of you, no charge. Cooking meals for you and cleaning your clothes, no charge. Helping you with you homework and providing you with a roof over your head, no charge. Just like this mother confronted her son’s arrogance we too must confront the arrogance and pride of those around us.
After they confront Uzziah, they said. The way potholes are repaired is by refilling them. The hole must be cleaned out of debris and refilled. When we are confronted we must be open to the counsel of others. The old saying is “you do not have to listen to all of the people all of the time, but you do have to listen to some of the people some of the time.” As we are open to the counsel of others, God is able to fill in the potholes caused by pride that have formed in our lives and prevent us from causing irreparable damage to ourselves and others.
A third way we overcome pride is by Giving God the credit, glory and honor. How often do we begin sentences with God did…God helped me…God provided…God made the way for…God opened the door of…God created the opportunity for… Remember the Bible said that Uzziah was successful as long as he sought the LORD. I wonder which Uzziah do we identify with, the Uzziah who sought the LORD and tried to live a life that was pleasing to God, or are we the Uzziah who after he became powerful did not care what God thought and did what pleased him.
The Biblical narrative of Uzziah illustrates how poorly we sometimes handle the wealth, position, blessings, skills or talents that God gives us. Uzziah’s downfall points to just how easy it is for us to forget that all that we have and will ever have is by the grace of God. For as much as we might think we have earned whatever we have acquired throughout life, we need to think again. Job said it best, “The LORD giveth and the LORD taketh away. Blessed be the name of the LORD.” Do we bless God on a daily basis for all God has given us. The antidote for arrogance and pride is humility. Daily we must humble ourselves before God thanking Him for His good goodness, grace and mercy, and loving-kindness. Let us learn from Uzziah that as easily as it comes, pride can take it all away in an instant.
March 21, 2010