Pride Goes Before Destruction

1 In the twenty-seventh year of Jeroboam king of Israel, Azariah the son of Amaziah, king of Judah, began to reign. He was sixteen years old when he began to reign, and he reigned fifty-two years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Jecoliah of Jerusalem. And he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, according to all that his father Amaziah had done. Nevertheless, the high places were not taken away. The people still sacrificed and made offerings on the high places. And the Lord touched the king, so that he was a leper to the day of his death, and he lived in a separate house. And Jotham the king’s son was over the household, governing the people of the land.’ Now the rest of the acts of Azariah, and all that he did, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah? And Azariah slept with his fathers, and they buried him with his fathers in the city of David, and Jotham his son reigned in his place.

In the thirty-eighth year of Azariah king of Judah, Zechariah the son of Jeroboam reigned over Israel in Samaria six months. And he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, as his fathers had done. He did not depart from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which he made Israel to sin. 10 Shallum the son of Jabesh conspired against him and struck him down at Ibleam and put him to death and reigned in his place. 11 Now the rest of the deeds of Zechariah, behold, they are written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel. 12 (This was the promise of the Lord that he gave to Jehu, “Your sons shall sit on the throne of Israel to the fourth generation.” And so it came to pass.) 2 Kings 15:1-12 ESV

Reading this chapter can become a bit confusing because it seems to chronicle the lives of two different kings serving over Judah at the very same time. In verse 1, we are introduced to Azariah, the son of Amaziah. Then in verse 13, we’re told that Shallum became king of Israel during the reign of Uzziah king of Judah. There is a simple solution though. The king of Judah went by two different names. Chapter 26 of the book of 2 Chronicles uses this alternate name exclusively when recording the history of his reign. But they are one and the same man.

As the opening verses indicate, Azariah (Uzziah) ascended to the throne of Judah after the death of his father, Amaziah. He was only 16-years-old at the time of his coronation and would reign for 52 years. Only one other king of Judah would enjoy a longer tenure on the throne of Judah: Manasseh.

Azariah’s lengthy reign brought stability to a nation that had been reeling after the assassination of its prior king, Azariah’s father. It was a time of blessing and prosperity because, unlike so many other kings of Judah, Azariah chose to seek the Lord.

…he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, according to all that his father Amaziah had done. He set himself to seek God in the days of Zechariah, who instructed him in the fear of God, and as long as he sought the Lord, God made him prosper. – 2 Chronicles 26:4-5 ESV

But there are three qualifying words in the above statement: “as long as.” Azariah’s prosperity and success were directly tied to his faithfulness. It was God who made him prosper. And as long as he remained faithful to Yahweh, he experienced His blessings. And, according to the book of 2 Chronicles, those blessings were many.

God helped him against the Philistines and against the Arabians who lived in Gurbaal and against the Meunites. The Ammonites paid tribute to Uzziah, and his fame spread even to the border of Egypt, for he became very strong. – 2 Chronicles 26:7-8 ESV

Azariah built cities within the territories he confiscated from the Philistines. He also ordered the construction of fortified towers throughout the land of Judah and had cisterns dug to provide water for his growing herds. Azariah had large land-holdings, consisting of farms and vineyards. He was wealthy, successful, and powerful. His army was well-trained and equipped with the latest weapons technology. And the city of Jerusalem was protected by state-of-the-art fortifications. As a result:

His fame spread far and wide, for the Lord gave him marvelous help, and he became very powerful. – 2 Chronicles 26:15 NLT

Azariah was enjoying the blessings of God. He had it all: Wealth, power, and fame. But you can almost sense that he was ripe for a fall. And the author of 2 Kings cuts to the chase, revealing that Azariah’s days of enjoying the blessings of God were going to be short-lived and followed by a time of judgment and despair.

Nevertheless, the high places were not taken away. The people still sacrificed and made offerings on the high places. And the Lord touched the king, so that he was a leper to the day of his death, and he lived in a separate house. – 2 Kings 15:4-5 ESV

The book of 2 Chronicles provides us with the details surrounding Azariah’s fall. And it’s an all-too-familiar story of the pitfalls of pride.

But when he had become powerful, he also became proud, which led to his downfall. He sinned against the Lord his God by entering the sanctuary of the Lord’s Temple and personally burning incense on the incense altar. – 2 Chronicles 26:16 NLT

Azariah was a man who became used to getting what he wanted. He had enjoyed unprecedented success. Everything he touched seemed to turn to gold. His victories were many. His landholdings were great. His wealth was extensive. And his power was unsurpassed. But all of this led to a pride problem. He became to believe that he could get away with anything. But when he entered the sanctuary of God and attempted to usurp the role of the priests, he overstepped his bounds. He violated the Mosaic law and incurred the wrath of God. And it is not as if Azariah didn’t know any better. He was confronted by the high priest and 80 other men of God.

They confronted King Uzziah and said, “It is not for you, Uzziah, to burn incense to the Lord. That is the work of the priests alone, the descendants of Aaron who are set apart for this work. Get out of the sanctuary, for you have sinned. The Lord God will not honor you for this!” – 2 Chronicles 26:18 NLT

But rather than repent of his sin, Azariah became angry. He didn’t like being told what he could or could not do. And so, God struck him with leprosy. In just seconds, Azariah’s entire life was turned upside down. He was immediately removed from the temple and, because of his leprosy, would never set foot in the house of God again – for the rest of his life. He would spend the last 11 years of his reign in quarantine and isolation, as his son ruled the nation as his co-regent. Eventually, Azariah died, and his son took his place as king of Judah. He was buried and the only lasting legacy he left behind was his failure. The people would say of him, “He had leprosy” (2 Chronicles 26:23 NLT).

Azariah had fallen prey to the age-old sin of pride. He had failed to heed the warnings of his predecessor, Solomon. In his book of Proverbs, Solomon included the wise but often ignored saying, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs16:18 ESV). And Azariah learned a painful lesson on the pervasive power of pride. Because he had enjoyed the seemingly endless blessings of God, he had wrongly assumed that he could do no wrong. But God has standards, and He expects His children to live according to His will and in keeping with His commands. The king was not exempt from God’s rules, and Azariah learned that lesson the hard way. 

About three years before Azariah’s fateful decision to play priest and offer sacrifices to God, Zechariah, the son of Jeroboam II, became king in Israel. And the assessment of his reign is a familiar one.

And he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, as his fathers had done. – 2 Kings 15:9 ESV

Unlike Azariah, Zechariah’s reign was brief, lasting only six short months. And it would end with his assassination by Shallum, who would take his place on the throne of Israel. But Zechariah’s abbreviated reign fulfilled a promise that God had made to Jehu, king of Israel. Jehu had obeyed God’s command and destroyed the house of Ahab. Not only that, he ordered the execution of any who worshiped Baal and turned the temple of Baal into a public latrine. As a reward for Jehu’s cleansing campaign, God made a vow:

“You have done well in following my instructions to destroy the family of Ahab. Therefore, your descendants will be kings of Israel down to the fourth generation.” – 2 Kings 10:30 NLT

Zechariah was the fulfillment of that promise. But his reign would only last half a year. His murder would usher in an era of intrigue, deception, and instability. Over the next 20 years, the northern kingdom of Israel would have six different kings, and only one of them would die a natural death. The rest would be assassinated. It would be a time marked by pervasive wickedness, rampant idolatry, and increasing resistance on the part of the people to heed God’s call to repentance.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

 

2 Chronicles 25-26, 2 Timothy 3

The Power of Pride.

2 Chronicles 25-26, 2 Timothy 3

You should know this, Timothy, that in the last days there will be very difficult times. For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good. They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that! 2 Timothy 3:1-5 NLT

Joash is replaced on the throne of Judah by his 25-year old son, Amaziah. We are told that this young man “did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, yet not with a whole heart” (2 Chronicles 25:2 ESV). He was not entirely devoted to God. Early on in his reign, he hired 100,000 mercenaries from Israel, paying them each 100 talents of silver. But he was warned by a man of God not to follow through with his plan, but to trust God instead. “Why should you supposed that God will cast you down before the enemy? For God has power to help or to cast down” (2 Chronicles 25:8 ESV). Amaziah would listen to the warning and send the 100,000 Israelites away, and he would enjoy a great victory in battle. But God would also allow him to suffer the consequences of his ungodly alliance with Israel, when the mercenaries raided the unprotected cities of Judah while Amaziah was busy fighting the Edomites.

It doesn’t take long to see what the chronicler meant when he wrote that Amaziah did not display whole-hearted devotion to God. “After Amaziah came from striking down the Edomites, he brought the gods of the men of Seir and set them up as his gods and worshiped them” (2 Chronicles 25:14 ESV). This young man turned his back on God, and when warned by the man of God, he refused to listen. In his pride and inflated self-worth, he would challenge the Israelites to battle, and ultimately lose, because God stood against him. Sadly, his son, Uzziah, would follow in his footsteps. He would start out well, doing “what was right in the eyes of the Lord,” but he would end poorly, marked by pride, arrogance, and a facade of religious fervor.

What does this passage reveal about God?

Both Amaziah and Uziah were to have been God’s royal representatives. The king was to rule on God’s behalf, mediating the sovereignty and power of God. He was answerable to God. He was to protect and lead the people on behalf of God and according to His will, not his own. But Amaziah and Uziah both became full of themselves. Their God-given power and authority went to their heads. They overstepped their bounds and determined that they knew better than God. As kings, they had been told by God to obey His law. “And when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself in a book a copy of this law, approved by the Levitical priests. And it shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God by keeping all the words of this law and these statutes, and doing them, that his heart may not be lifted up above his brothers, and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, either to the right hand or to the left, so that he may continue long in his kingdom, he and his children, in Israel” ( Deuteronomy 17:18-20 ESV). Keeping God’s law would prevent the king’s heart from becoming “lifted up above his brothers.” In other words, the Word of God, coupled with a healthy fear of God, would keep the king’s ego in check. But virtually every one of the kings of both Judah and Israel would struggle keeping this command of God. Their reigns would be marked by pride, disobedience, unfaithfulness, and the rejection of God. 

What does this passage reveal about man?

Uzziah was blessed by God. He benefited from having a spiritual mentor in the form of Zechariah, who instructed him in the fear of God. And we’re told  that “as long as he sought the Lord, God made him prosper” (2 Chronicles 26:5 ESV). He become strong and powerful. He enjoyed God’s help in battle. He amassed a powerful army and his fame spread throughout the land. But then we read these sobering words: “But when he was strong, he grew proud, to his destruction. For 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 ESV). His success went to his head. He began to see himself as the sole source of his own power and prestige. Soon it was not enough for him to be king. Now he wanted to be priest. So he entered the temple of the Lord and attempted to take on the role of the priest by burning incense to God. But like Saul, the first king of Israel, he would learn that this was not God’s will. God had established a divine order when it came to his kingdom. The king was to rule on behalf of God, the prophet was to speak on behalf of God, and the priest was to minister on behalf of God. And each was to act as a mediator between God and the covenant people. These three roles provided a kind of checks and balances in God’s kingdom. We see repeatedly that when the king would stray, God would send His prophet to warn them and call them back. When the king sinned, he had to offer sacrifices for his sin through the priest of God. He could not do it on his own. But Uzziah decided that he was fully capable of performing both roles. Even when he was confronted by the priests with his open rebellion against God, rather than repent, he became angry. And God struck him with leprosy. His condition would end up separating him from the people of Judah, as he was forced to live in isolation for the rest of his life. But worse than that, he could no longer enter into the Temple of the Lord, separating Him from God and preventing him from being able to have his sins atoned for.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

Paul warned Timothy that “in the last days there will come times of difficulty” (2 Timothy 3:1 ESV). He told him that, as time progressed, things were going to get progressively worse. These “last days” would be marked by a litany of ungodly characteristics. People will love themselves, money, materialism, and pleasure – all more than they love God. Through their lifestyle, they will actually scoff at God; but will also put on a facade that they are actually religious. They will have the appearance of godliness, but deny the One who could provide the power to make it real in their lives. Paul describes a people who claim to be religious, but who are self-centered and narcissistic. Their world will revolve around themselves and their own desires. They will have all the appearances of godliness, but lack any of the power that should come with it. Uzziah attempted to burn incense in the Temple. Burning incense was a God-ordained activity, but Uzziah was doing it in an ungodly manner. And doing godly things in an ungodly manner will never bring honor from God. He is never pleased with outward attempts at godliness that are not based on obedience to His will and in keeping with His Word. Going through the religious motions means nothing to God. He wants our hearts – our whole hearts. Uzziah’s main problem was that he was not whole-hearted in his devotion to God. He loved himself. He loved his power. He loved his influence. He became prideful and his pride would lead to his own destruction. The king was to keep a copy of the Law of God with him at all times, reading it daily and obeying it faithfully. I am to keep God’s Word with me at all times. Paul reminds me, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV). God’s Word is the greatest antidote to pride. It reminds us of His power, holiness, and righteousness, but also of His love, mercy, and amazing grace.

Father, self-love is an ever-present reality in my life. I can so easily become infatuated with my own self-worth and take credit for my own successes. But I have to constantly be reminded that You are the source of not only my existence, but of my salvation. I am nothing without You. I can do nothing without You. Please protect me from becoming like those whom Paul describes. I don’t want to repeat the mistakes of Amaziah and Uzziah. May I learn to love and serve You whole-heartedly and willingly all the days of my life. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org