UZZIAH, JOTHAM AND AHAZ
The quality of
leadership is one of the most discouraging aspects of Israelite history. The number of really dedicated and
consecrated kings among the ancient Jews was very small. However, we cannot
blame the kings alone for the tragedies that befell the two nations—
Amaziah, was not a very honorable man.
He became king when he was twenty-five years old and reigned for
twenty-nine years. “And he did that
which was right in the sight of the Lord, but not with a perfect heart” (2
Chron. 25:1-2). Toward the end of his life, “he brought the gods of the
children of Seir, and set them up to be gods, and bowed himself before them,
and burned incense to them.” “Amaziah turned away from following the
Lord.” The Israelites conspired against
him. He fled to
Uzziah began his
reign when he was just sixteen years of age and reigned fifty-two years. He had an opportunity to make a great
king. “He did that which was right in
the sight of the Lord, according to all that his father Amaziah had done. And he sought God in the days of Zechariah,
who had understanding in the visions of God: and a long as he sought the Lord,
God made him to prosper” (2 Chron. 26:1-5).
He declared war on the Philistines—
God warned the Israelite people—including the prophets, priests and kings—not to be proud of their prosperity. “But if your heart turn away, so that you will not hear, but shall be drawn away, and worship other gods, and serve hem, I declare unto you this day that you shall surely perish, and that you shall not prolong your days upon the land, where you pass over Jordan to go to possess it” (Dt. 30:17-18). King Uzziah apparently forgot the warnings of Moses and from other great prophets. The Lord had helped Uzziah in all his achievements, “but when he was strong, his heart was lifted up to his destruction: for he transgressed against the Lord his God, and went into the temple of the Lord to burn incense upon the altar of incense” (2 Chron. 26:16).
God had assigned certain responsibilities to the priests. No king—including the great king David—could usurp the authority and duties of the priests. So when Uzziah offered incense on the altar of incense, “Azariah the priest went in after him, and with fourscore priests of the Lord, that were valiant men: and withstood Uzziah the king, and said unto him, It is not for you Uzziah, to burn incense unto the Lord, but to the priests and the sons of Aaron, that are consecrated to burn incense; go out of the sanctuary; for you have done wrong; neither shall it be for your honor from the Lord God”(2 Chron. 26:17-18).
Uzziah became very angry. He had a censer in his hand to burn incense. While he was angry with the priests, God sent leprosy on him. The priests drove him from the sanctuary because the Lord had afflicted him with leprosy. Tragically, king Uzziah was a leper until the day of his death. He lived in a separate house because of his leprosy. Uzziah was cut off from the house of the Lord. We would probably say in modern times: “He could not attend worship services any more.” What a tragic end for a king who could have been great!
The story of
King Uzziah was not included in the Bible just to fill up space. There are great lessons Christians in every
generation should learn. Two lessons in
particular must be mentioned. When we
are wonderfully blessed—either as Christians or just as Americans—we must not
take undue pride in our accomplishments.
The fall of Uzziah was directly related to his heart’s being lifted up
(2 Chron. 26:16). Do you remember the
words of Proverbs: Pride goes before
destruction; and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Prov. ? During the eighth century B. C., the prophet
Hosea wrote: “The pride of
We also learn from Uzziah that we must have authority for what we do in the work and worship that God demands of his people. The priests of the Mosaic covenant were authorized to offer sacrifices and to burn incense on the altar of incense. No one else—including prophets and kings—had the authority. When king Uzziah burned incense, God punished him with leprosy (2 Chron. 26:19-21). That sounds very harsh, does it not? But we must not forget what happened to Nadab and Abihu (Lev. 10:1-2). We must learn that God means what he says and says what he means.
died, his son Jotham reigned in his stead.
Jotham was twenty-five years of when he began to reign and reigned
sixteen years. Jotham seemed to have a
bright future when he became king in
Is it possible that Uzziah’s failure to honor the authority of the priests had some bearing on Jotham’s failure to enter the temple of the Lord? If parents rebel against God—as Uzziah did—the children become aware of it and may imitate the conduct of the parents. Uzziah tried to perform acts he was not authorized to do. Because of his rebellion, the Lord made him a leper until the day of his death (2 Chron. 26:19-20). On the other hand, if parents love the Lord God and devote their lives to his service, the children are likely to be faithful. However, there are no guarantees.
We would say of
Jotham if he were living in the Christian era: “He did not attend the services
of the church.” I am aware of the
differences between the temple and modern church buildings. The temple occupied a very significant
position in the nation of
When Jotham died
at the age forty-one, his son Ahaz began to reign in
Ahaz might have committed all these evil deeds had his father and grandfather been honorable men. But Uzziah and Jotham rebelled against God and set an example of wickedness for Ahaz. Uzziah failed to recognize and to honor he authority of the priesthood. He attempted to perform the service of a priest when he did not belong to the priestly tribe. In the eyes of modern theologians, the conduct of Uzziah may seem trivial, but the Bible makes it plain that God wants his people to do what he tells them to do in the way he tells them to do it. We have no more authority to change God’s arrangements for work and worship of the church than Uzziah had to serve as a priest. Can we not learn from the arrogance of Uzziah?
apparently had many commendable characteristics, but he failed to do his duty
when he did not enter the temple of the Lord.
His leadership caused the nation of
Will you think
for a few minutes about the abominable conduct of Ahaz? He “walked in the ways of the kings of
Ahaz made molten
images in honor of Baalim. Among
Many of the
pagan nations sacrificed their sons and daughters to the heathen gods. The Old Testament could not be plainer in its
condemnation of offering human sacrifice.
Please listen to a few Old Testament passages. “You shall not let any of
your seed pass through the fire to Molech, neither shall you profane the name
of thy God: I am the Lord” (Lev. ). “Again, you shall say to the children of
In addition to
his burning his children in the fire as a sacrifice to the heathen gods, Ahaz
sacrificed and burned incense in the high places and on the hills and under
every green tree. In other words, the king
of God’s people did all within his power to shame and to disgrace the Lord God
stories included in the Old Testament—and there are hundreds of them—are
recorded to warn us of the danger of turning aside from serving the God of
heaven. The apostle Paul quoted these
words from Psalm 69:9: “The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell on me.” Paul then informed his readers: “For
whatsoever things were written before were written for our learning, that we
through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope: (
So what can
Christians learn from reviewing the Old Testament stories of Uzziah, Jotham and
Ahaz? Uzziah teaches us that we must
have authority for what we do in service to God. We are not free to decide on our own what God
accepts as worship. We learn that
truth—not only from Uzziah and king David—but also from Nadab and Abihu. Nadab and Abihu were sons of Aaron, the high
Churches have no
right to introduce into the worship of the church any item that God has not
authorized. I remember talking with a
We learn from the life of Jotham that it is sinful not to meet and worship with God’s people. We must not accept the popular view that worship is the sole duty of Christians. Paid personnel, such as preachers, youth workers and other so-called “professional staff” should do the soul winning, visiting nursing homes, hospitals and prisons. That obviously is the very opposite of what Jesus taught in his Olivet Discourse (Mt. 25:31-46). All of us have a sacred obligation to meet with like-minded people to worship God as his word directs us. But when we meet regularly to worship God, we have only begun to serve him.
Ahaz teaches us that we must devote our worship to the right person—the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Ahaz offended God by offering the wrong sacrifices—human beings—to the wrong deity—the Baals. Jesus informed the Samaritan woman: “You worship you know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour comes, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeks such to worship him. God is Spirit: and they who worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth” (John -24).
May God help us to learn from the great Old Testament stories and to apply the great principles from those stories to our lives! After all, the Old Testament is also God’s inspired word.
I close with one more question. What did Ananias mean when he said to Saul of Tarsus: “Arise, and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts ). If you have not been baptized into Christ, why are you waiting?
The International Gospel Hour
Back to Home Page
Back to Transcripts Titles