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.
“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)
Let’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.