Crossing the Line

What a tragedy!

Uzziah was one of Israel’s more extraordinary kings. The Chronicler in the Old Testament recounts his achievements and exploits.

King at just sixteen years of age, Uzziah “did right in the sight of the Lord.” He conquered Israel’s enemies, built cities, accumulated great wealth, and “became very strong.” He developed the barren wilderness with wells and guard towers, and cultivated extensive herds, flocks, and farmlands. Finally, he formed an extraordinarily well-trained and well-equipped army (including elite commando forces), and sponsored innovative “war machines” that made him famous and feared.

Few, if any, of Israel’s kings achieved such lofty success. Uzziah rode high.

Then this.

“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.” (2 Chronicles 26:16)

ImageLet’s cut him some slack. He’s the King. He’s a valiant warrior. He’s a shrewd leader. The people prospered under his rule and enjoyed peace. If he wants to enter the Temple and burn some incense to the Lord, why not?

The priests of his day protested, but we can easily imagine them just protecting their own turf. A little professional jealousy perhaps? It’s not as though Uzziah declared himself to be God or anything like that. Surely, the whole incident is blown out of proportion. You can understand (and even sympathize a little with) Uzziah’s anger at the pedantic priests.

But the Lord had a zero-tolerance policy.

The Scripture says that leprosy immediately broke out on Uzziah’s forehead…and he was a leper until the day that he died, and lived the rest of his life in seclusion, “cut off from the house of the Lord.”

A sad ending to a story of success.

Successful leaders are always tempted to cut spiritual corners, expect preferential treatment, and rationalize the crossing of boundaries. Good leaders step back from the line. Not all leaders do. The risk, always, is not just reputation but blessing.

Uzziah lost both.

Are you facing some boundaries right now? Step back. The dizzying heights of success can distract us from the daily call to obedience. Pride thwarts the plan and purposes of God for our lives. Uzziah’s fate sounds a warning to us all.

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15 Responses to Crossing the Line

  1. Tim Ross says:

    David, Excellent post. Obedience is one of our most difficult things to do. It has been a struggle for me all my life. Sometimes I’m obedient and doing well. But then temptation comes and I fall. Thank you for these words. They are an encouragement to me.

  2. Ed Skidmore says:

    David, Reading your post reminded me of how often I’ve seen leaders start out strong and then end poorly. Uzziah assumed that his “kingliness” would translate quite naturally to “priestliness” or any other vocation to which he might aspire. He was so wrong. In our own aspirations to “diversify” our work we just might depart from what we do best to a sideline that dilutes our effectiveness. Naturally, Uzziah had a pride and obedience issue when he headed over to the temple. That same kind of departure comes our way like a camel’s nose under our tent flaps. Lord, protect us from our wayward selves!

  3. timriter@aol.com says:

    David,

    Hope life continues to go well with you! I loved this piece, and the title instantly made me think…book. And, the piece would lend itself to expansion. Just wanted to tease your mind with the idea!

    Blessings, Tim

    • David Timms says:

      Hi, Tim. I’m thinking about books again, my friend. Been on my heart for the past month or so. I’m forever grateful for your investment in me. Thanks! I hope you’re doing well.

  4. Phil McKinley says:

    My mind jumps to the greatness of our country. Folks believe that we are just inherently great, but they forget the reasons why we became great. Uzziah would make a good lesson for those willing to listen. I pray our leaders are willing to listen.

  5. Valerie Beeson says:

    Hi David. This is Valerie Beeson. I was a student in your Art of Interpretation class. It’s nice to be reading your blogs now. My pastor, Lance Hahn at Bridgeway Church, spoke of Uzziah recently. I am only recently hearing about him in such detail. I enjoy reading all you have to say. Very enjoyable and helping me grow in my faith. Thank you.

  6. John York says:

    Dear David,
    Great to be in the loop again. Keep them coming,
    John and Helen York

    • David Timms says:

      I’ve been meaning to drop you an email to touch base about our lives,and let you know about “Because of Grace.” So glad you found it — and delighted to re-connect. That email is still coming. 🙂

  7. Valerie Beeson says:

    Last night I was thinking about King Uzziah and God showed me how every living being he creates has its own domain. Leaving that domain is not allowed. It leads to death. This is the same sort of thing that happened to Lucifer and all the angels who followed him. God gives us many wonderful things. Yet, there are also those things in which we are prohibited from. We are not God. This is great thought provoker. 🙂

    • David Timms says:

      Could we frame this in terms of calling and leading? God leads us in certain ways and calls us to certain places/actions/service. When we take charge and push beyond His leading and calling, we usually end up in a less than desirable way. Thanks for your thoughts, Valerie.

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