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Uzziah became king of Judah when he was 16 years old. As he looked to God, God gave him success. Uzziah broke down the walls of enemy towns and built up towns that had been ruined. He built towers in Jerusalem and made them super strong. Lots of people worked on his farms and vineyards, and his fields gave the people lots of good food.
King Uzziah also had a powerful and well-trained army ready to do battle at a moment’s notice. He even had inventions built to shoot arrows and hurl rocks so that they could defend the city against enemy armies. King Uzziah became famous! The countries near and far were afraid of him because God was helping him become powerful.
But King Uzziah let his pride rise, rise, rise up and feel good about himself for all he’d done. He started thinking he was pretty “big stuff,” instead of giving all the credit to God.
One day King Uzziah decided to go into the Holy Place in the Temple and burn sweet-smelling spices to God — but God had clearly said THAT job was only for the priests, the sons of Aaron.
Have you ever heard the phrase “pride comes before a fall”? Well that happened to Uzziah. He lifted up his head all proud of himself, and that pride led to his fall, fall, fall.
Pride can be a sneaky and deceiving thing. Did you notice that the thing he did wrong was something he may have even felt was “good”? He wanted to offer God a gift in the Temple. Could it be King Uzziah thought, “Look how successful I am. It’s obvious God is happy with me, so I’m just as good as the priests to burn sweet-smelling spices.”? Or maybe he was a guy who let his emotions be boss and he thought, “If it feeeeels right to me, then that means it’s right.” I don’t know, but whatever he was thinking was flat out wrong.
When Uzziah entered the Temple to burn the spices by himself, the priests heard about it, and that was not okay with them. A priest named Azariah, along with 80 others priests, courageously rushed into the Temple after Uzziah. They were going to get him OUT, OUT, OUT of there!
It didn’t matter to the priests how powerful and famous Uzziah was. It didn’t matter how many “good choices” Uzziah had made in the past. Right now was what mattered. The courageous priests knew that they couldn’t let Uzziah ignore God’s Holiness. King Uzziah was powerful, but in this case, he was wrong! And if the king was going to go against God, then the priests were going to go against the king.
These priests knew King Uzziah could call his strong army to come against them if he wanted. But they also knew what God had said, so they were not going to just sit by and watch Uzziah disobey like that. These guys had a fear of God, not men, even if that man was the king. They were willing to stand up for God regardless of what might happen to them.
As the priests rushed in, Uzziah was just about to start burning the spices in the Holy Place. The priests told him, “Uzziah, it is not right for you to do this. This job is only for the priests, the children of Aaron. God set us aside to do this job, not you. Leave the Temple right now. You have been unfaithful to God, and He will not honor you.”
Now Uzziah had a choice when the priests confronted him and told him to get out, didn’t he? He could have humbled himself the same way King David did when Nathan told him he was wrong. King Uzziah could have said, “Ohhhh… you’re right. I started thinking I was big stuff, and I had forgotten that everything I have and have done comes from God. I’m sorry. I’ll change.”
But King Uzziah was so prideful, that instead of humbling himself like that and admitting he was wrong, he got furious with the priests! He got raging mad — stomping and yelling at them.
Right then — Wham! — God struck Uzziah with leprosy. The priests of course saw the oozy, itchy, owie skin pop out on Uzziah’s forehead. “Uzziah, get out, out, out! You are not clean!” they cried, and they hurried to get the king out of God’s Holy Place. The king didn’t fight them any longer. He got out, out, out because he realized God had struck him with the oozy, itchy, owie sickness.
From that day on, the king couldn’t live in the palace. He lived in a separate house so that he wouldn’t give anyone else the oozing sickness. And Uzziah was never allowed back into the Temple again for the rest of his life because of the sickness. Uzziah’s son took over the job of running the kingdom.
What do you think would have happened if Uzziah had humbled himself like King David had? I suppose we’ll never know. But let’s be like David. Never angry or defensive when we’re wrong. But soft and recognizing God’s scolding as His love and kindness, like soothing oil on our head.