When He Became Strong…

Maybe one of the most tragic verses in the entire Bible is 2 Chronicles 26:16:

“But when he became strong, his heart was so proud that he acted corruptly, and he was unfaithful to the LORD his God…”

This verse was written about King Uzziah who was the king of Israel between 787 and 735 BC. Isaiah the prophet was a contemporary of Uzziah’s. God had just “helped” (2 Chronicles 26:7) him in his battles against his enemies and Uzziah proved victorious to the point that the passage describes him in this way:

“Hence his fame spread afar, for he was marvelously helped until he was strong.”

That description is then followed by the fateful description in verse 16:

“But when he became strong, his heart was so proud that he acted corruptly, and he was unfaithful to the LORD his God…”

Notice a few things:

1. God made him strong. Our source of strength and our provision is God. One of the most presumptuous sins of humanity is taking credit for what is rightly due to God. What is responsible for your personal success in life? Is it your brains, strength, common sense, perseverance, vision, opportunism, good fortune? Whichever choice you responded to, it came from God. God made you smart. God made you strong. God gave you common sense. God supplied the vision, perseverance. Whatever you call luck, is really the smile of God upon you. God gave Uzziah the victory over the armies of the Philistines, the Arabians and the Meunites (whoever they were). Who is responsible for your personal success in life, your blessings? Uzziah’s fatal mistake was not giving God the credit for his fame. Do you recognize how blessed you are? Do you recognize where those blessings came from? Psalm 3:5 says: “I lay down and slept; I awoke, for the LORD sustains me.” And you thought you did that all by yourself, didn’t you?

2. His heart was so proud. His second mistake flows from the first but is not a necessary jump. (There are other second options, a subject for another blog). Uzziah took personal credit for his strength and for his fame. This is the “god-complex.” Uzziah was master of his domain. He ruled the roost, he was the man. God prospered him and he took credit for it. His heart became proud. Proverbs tells us to watch over our hearts with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life. Jesus says that out of the heart flows the stuff of defilement (Steve’s version of Mark 7:14-21), that is why we need renewal and rebirth. The issues of the heart cannot be ignored, they cannot be stifled or controlled. What is the status of your heart? Interestingly enough, the Spirit knows your heart. Isn’t it time to have a tune up of the heart, to make sure it is firing with the Spirit? There is a great line from a hymn that calls us to “tune our hearts.” A humble heart is ready to admit that God is in control.

3. Uzziah acted corruptly, and he was unfaithful to the Lord his God. Do you know what horrific act Uzziah committed that is described in the text? He went to the temple to burn incense to God! On the surface it seems so innocuous. So benign. But it wasn’t. He was not authorized to do what he did. He wanted to not only usurp the place of God, he wanted to usurp the law of God, the temple of God and the priests of God. He was so full of himself that he only saw his own desire. Doesn’t that sound familiar? The resultant act that flowed from the pride was almost irrelevant – it is expressed in so many ways. We can be totally out of God’s favor even in church. You see God is not interested in the outer show, he is interested in the internal demeanor. Is your heart on its knees before God? I don’t know, only you and God know.

Uzziah was king for 52 years. He became king when he was 16 years old. He is characterized as a king who did right, he sought God and God prospered him. Then this event at the end of his life tarnished his reputation. God “smote” him with leprosy and a leper he died, and he is remembered for being a “leper.” What a tragic ending.

There is another way for you to write this verse and I hope this is the description of your life – something worth putting on a grave marker:

“But when he became strong, his heart was so humbled that he acted righteously, and he was faithful to the LORD his God.”

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