16 July 2014 - clay

Are we trying to do it on our own?

oldtestament

16 But when he was strong his heart was lifted up, to his destruction, for he transgressed against the Lord his God by entering the temple of the Lord to burn incense on the altar of incense. 17 So Azariah the priest went in after him, and with him were eighty priests of the Lord—valiant men. 18 And they withstood King Uzziah, and said to him, “It is not for you, Uzziah, to burn incense to the Lord, but for the priests, the sons of Aaron, who are consecrated to burn incense. Get out of the sanctuary, for you have trespassed! You shall have no honor from the Lord God.”

2 Chronicles 26:16

I use a chronological Bible reading plan. Sometimes it can get repetitive, especially when reading through Kings and Chronicles together since there are many places where the same story is given, albeit with some different information. Other times it is like reading the highlights and then diving in to the source material.

A recent reading was 2 Kings 15 and 2 Chronicles 26. The passage in Kings talks about the different kings11. Shocking, right? A book about kings called Kings. who reigned in Judah and Israel over a period of time. The first part of chapter 15 speaks of King Uzziah, who became king when he was 16 and reigned for 52 years. Later it mentions that God struck him with leprosy during some portion of his reign but it doesn’t say why. I wondered what Uzziah might have done to cause this to happen because it says that Uzziah did good in the Lord’s eyes.

When I finished 2 Kings I turned to 2 Chronicles, silently hoping that I wasn’t about to read the same story over again. It started out the same, but then it jumped into why Uzziah became a leper and isolated from his kingdom.

Kings, as I’m sure you can imagine, amass a great deal of power. With essentially unlimited power, things can tend to go to your head and make you feel more important than you really are. As Lord Acton famously said, “absolute power corrupts abosolutely”.22. The complete quote is “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.” A detailed read about this quote and Lord Acton can be found here. In that culture, there were still things that kings were not allowed to do. One of them was to burn incense in the temple. 

Burning incense was the job of the priests, the descendants of Levi whose sole job was the maintenance and sacramental work of the temple. I can imagine the priest on duty at the time King Uzziah came in probably tried to stop him, but the king, full of himself and eager to make his offering to God himself, must have shoved past him to enter the holy place. Only priests were allowed to enter the holy place, it being the only room in the temple that offered access to the Holy of Holies, the presence of God in the temple.33. I wrote a series about this several years ago, but that series isn’t available right now. Instead, hit Wikipedia for some good info.

Why was Uzziah so prideful? He was king, he was rich, he had a huge army and an enviable system of defenses built up around his cities. When someone has been that successful, it isn’t a shock that they think they can do everything better that those whose full-time job it is to perform certain tasks.44. I know a politician similar to this mindset, but I’ll keep that to myself.

But in doing so, Uzziah tried to jump across the Old Testament divide created between God and his people. The divide existed because of Adam and Eve’s fall so many years earlier. The sacrificial system had been implemented in order to bridge that divide.

For the last 2000 years we’ve had a better system. We have the Great High Priest available to us to intercede directly with God. How much do we try to make ourselves better without going to Christ first? How many times will we try moralistic therapeutic deism55. A great essay about this from Albert Mohler is here. before we realize it doesn’t work?

We have to remove ourselves and our pride from the equation and realize that we are unable to cross this chasm by ourselves. The sin that built the chasm in the first place is the same sin which keeps us planted firmly on our side of it. Our lives should be lived in service to Christ, not attempting to do Christ’s job for Him. We do a terrible job of it anyway.

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. 1. Shocking, right? A book about kings called Kings.
2. 2. The complete quote is “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.” A detailed read about this quote and Lord Acton can be found here.
3. 3. I wrote a series about this several years ago, but that series isn’t available right now. Instead, hit Wikipedia for some good info.
4. 4. I know a politician similar to this mindset, but I’ll keep that to myself.
5. 5. A great essay about this from Albert Mohler is here.

Bible / Old Testament

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