Beware the cup that is full
As long as he sought the Lord, God gave him success.
2 Chronicles 26:5 NIV
Bible Reading: 2 Chronicles 26:1-23
His name means “The Lord is my strength.” If only Uzziah would have remembered and lived up to his name, his life would have ended differently. But let’s not get ahead of the story. King Uzziah was only sixteen years old when he became king and he reigned in Jerusalem for fifty-two years. Think about it — sixteen years old and leading a nation. We sell our teen-agers short when we simply tell them that they are too young to lead. There is no minimum age limit for the wisdom of God to flow through you.
Let’s look in at Uzziah as he takes the reins of the tiny nation of Judah: “He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, just as his father Amaziah had done. 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” (2 Chronicles 26:4-5 NIV). One of the things I find very interesting is that if you look at the “good” kings, it seems that one of the things they all have in common is that they all are close to a prophet of God.
“As long as he sought the Lord, God gave him success.” Is that true for you? Maybe it seems that every time you get serious about God your whole life falls apart. Often, when I seek the Lord, it seems that failure follows, not success. Maybe the way we define failure and the way God defines it is two completely different things? What turns out to be an utter tragic disaster for us sometimes turns out to be a win in God’s eyes. Think about Joseph in the Bible. Wouldn’t you think being sold into slavery by your brothers would turn out to be an experience that belongs in the failure column? Yet it turned out that for Joseph it was just part of God’s very crooked pathway to becoming the Prime Minister of the most powerful nation on earth and becoming the savior of his people. How about being abandoned by your friends and even by God himself and then being crucified as a common criminal? Wouldn’t that go down as a colossal failure? It appears to be a disaster and yet it turns out that it was the biggest victory in the history of the human race.
Evidently our definition of failure differs from God’s. Let me suggest something to you. As long as you seek the Lord, then the failures you experience along the way are in fact victories, victories in disguise. Some of you are right now going through some immense disappointments, some seemingly never-ending struggles. Some of the problems we face are financial, some relational, and numerous other things. If I were to ask you to define your life, some would say, “I’m a mess. I’m not making it.” But if you will let God be the author of your biography, those failures will turn out to be secret win-win victories in your life. If you are seeking the Lord but things aren’t going well, just hang on. The author of the universe is writing your story — hold out for the surprise ending.
Now I’m not talking about a surprise ending like Uzziah’s life. You don’t want that kind of surprise ending. Let’s get back to our king. He was a brilliant military genius. His reputation as a military leader was known worldwide. Even in the annals of the Assyrian Kings, Uzziah was mentioned – “Uzziah of Judah – don’t mess with him. He is a brilliant and powerful king.”
“In Jerusalem he made machines designed by skillful men for use on the towers and on the corner defenses to shoot arrows and hurl large stones. His fame spread far and wide, for he was greatly helped until he became powerful” (2 Chronicles 26:15 NIV). No wonder he was such a great and well known leader. He made machines to hurl large stones and machines to shoot arrows. How cool is that for 2700 years ago. But Uzziah didn’t do these things on his own. The above verse says he was greatly helped. That means that God was with him, helping him, giving him wisdom and success. Uzziah didn’t come up with all this success himself… he was blessed… helped by God himself. God is always looking for a people he can use, a people who will be his men and his women, a remnant that he can build on, that the whole world will know that he is God. Don’t forget that God has one plan, that the world might be saved, that he would get his lost children back. He is always searching for who he can use to accomplish his purposes.
The verse says that God helped him until he became powerful. “But after Uzziah became powerful, his pride led to his downfall” (2 Chronicles 26:16 NIV). All that wisdom, all that military genius, all that success given him because he sought the Lord and it went to his head.
“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 NIV).
One day, filled with pride, Uzziah enters the temple to burn incense at the very altar of God. He goes stomping into that temple and takes charge with an authority that was never given him. He is in the holy place. He is moving right toward that curtain and just on the other side is the Shekinah glory. He is a big shot now. He should be able to go right into God’s presence. He doesn’t need the priests. He forgot that all of his success was the result of him being dependent upon God. He forgot about God and attributed all of his success to his own genius. He succumbed to the same temptation that Satan has been using successfully ever since he tempted Eve in the garden. You can be as God.
“Azariah the priest with eighty other courageous priests of the Lord followed him in” (2 Chronicles 26:17 NIV). You bet they were courageous. Uzziah is the king and with one command their heads are off. But there comes a time when you have to speak truth to power. There is a time to make a stand. “They confronted him and said, ‘It is not right for you, Uzziah, to burn incense to the Lord. That is for the priests, the descendants of Aaron, who have been consecrated to burn incense. Leave the sanctuary, for you have been unfaithful; and you will not be honored by the Lord God’” (2 Chronicles 26:18 NIV).
Things escalate now: “Uzziah, who had a censer in his hand ready to burn incense, became angry. While he was raging at the priests in their presence before the incense altar in the Lord’s temple, leprosy broke out on his forehead. When Azariah the chief priest and all the other priests looked at him, they saw that he had leprosy on his forehead, so they hurried him out. Indeed, he himself was eager to leave, because the Lord had afflicted him” (2 Chronicles 26:19-20 NIV).
There’s a sad ending to Uzziah’s story. “King Uzziah had leprosy until the day he died” (2 Chronicles 26:21NIV). What a tragic ending to a 52 year career.
Why are we looking at this sad story and is there a lesson for us to learn from such a tragic life? It’s one thing to start humble but to have a successful life you have to stay the course and continue dependent on God all of your life. Affliction and adversity bring disappointment and sorrow but it is prosperity that brings the greatest danger to spiritual life. As Americans most of us are far more prosperous than most people of this earth. I heard a Chinese proverb that says it well: “The cup that is difficult to carry is not the cup that is empty but the cup that is full to the brim.”
Prayer: Lord, help us to be thankful for all of the blessings that you have given us and to never forget that all of those blessings come from you. Help us to follow you closely and not become dependent on our own resources or abilities. Help us to remember that you are our source and that every success is from your hand.
[easyazon-image align=”left” asin=”B0097WVXUS” locale=”us” height=”160″ src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/518QFzxScCL._SL160_.jpg” width=”99″] Amazon #1 bestselling author Bob Saffrin lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota with his wife Barb and their beagle Rocky. He and Barb have two children and four grandchildren. Bob loves the outdoors and has been on many backpacking trips in the rugged Boundary Waters area of Minnesota including winter camping.
Check out Bob’s book, [easyazon-link asin=”B0097WVXUS” locale=”us”]Psalms, The Sunrise of Hope[/easyazon-link]