One of the few bright spots in Judah’s post-division history was King Uzziah. At the tender age of 17, he ascended the throne by default, replacing his conquered and captured father, Amaziah, with little to no power as co-regent, a mere figure head in a vassal state of the then mighty Northern Kingdom. When political intrigue and foreign pressures began to take their toll on Israel and King Jehoash died, his son Jeroboam II, in an ingratiating gesture, released King Amaziah back to Judah. Apparently, Uzziah had such command and control of the Southern Kingdom that dear old dad was not reinstated but eventually fled to Lachish, succumbing to assassins. Uzziah’s career blossomed with economic policies that ushered in an era of prosperity and military conquest. In fact, he seemed to prosper at everything to which he put his hand.
In this heady season of success, however, Uzziah forgot how he got there. The Bible tells us, “And he sought God in the days of Zechariah, who had understanding in the visions of God: and as long as he sought the LORD, God made him to prosper…And God helped him…” (2 Chronicles 26:5, 7a). Uzziah was a successful king because he submitted his life to God. And, in this grateful state, with such an appreciative attitude, Uzziah marched into the temple to say “Thank You” to God; and here’s where he slipped a cog.
God is as particular about His subjects’ worship as He is their service. Giving God credit for an abundant life is admirable but how one gives this credit is equally important. According to Exodus 30:7 and Numbers 18:1-7, only priests were allowed to burn incense. [It is noteworthy that no exclusions are specifically mentioned in these verses but the implication is clear: if God ordained the priests to burn incense, then only the priests were authorized to burn incense and anyone else who attempted to burn incense would be sinning.] Uzziah, in all sincerity, went into the temple to burn incense, even over protests of priests who tried to warn him.
What a sad end to an illustrious career. Because Uzziah, even in sincere thanksgiving, did not obey God in his worship, he was stricken with leprosy. Here is a great king, a successful leader of people, a sincere servant of God, now resigned to banishment from the palace and populace, bearing in his flesh the pungent and putrid punishment of presumption. The failure to understand that just any worship (as long as it is sincere and intense) is acceptable to God ended a kingship in shame and disgrace.
Today, God does not reach down and directly intervene in the matters of men but, rather, promises justice and accountability in the Judgment. Hence, to believe that whatever worship we determine to surrender to God will be acceptable is to miss history’s lesson. A person’s worshiping in “spirit and in truth” is more than “giving God the glory” as one pleases; it is only acceptable as He pleases. For Uzziah, the sacrifice was in vain but the divine record of it does not have to be. Oh, how great was Uzziah’s sacrifice.