Once, as I was reading Isaiah 6, something suddenly stuck out like a neon sign: “In the year that King Uzziah died…”
I was intrigued and thought, “I don’t know much about Uzziah. What was he like, and why was his death so important that it was a time marker in a very popular chapter in the Bible?”
So off I went. I found that an entire chapter was devoted to him in 2 Chronicles 26. I’ll mention only a few of his life’s highlights here, but a study on this man is worth the investment of time. Uzziah’s story is simultaneously amazing and incredibly sad.
He was the son of a king and just 16 years old when his father died. As was the custom, all the people made Uzziah the next king, and right from the beginning of his reign, it was clear that he was going to be a good king. One that was destined to serve faithfully for the next 52 years.
He led Judah by example, a real do-it-yourself kind of guy. The Bible said that he “did what was right in eyes of the Lord,” and God caused him to prosper. He loved the soil, and developed a farming system that included innovations like irrigation, and the result was a national bumper crop.
He was a city builder-and worked to improve and revitalize the region. He was a great military man and not only organized a great army of able soldiers, he invented weapons and chain mail to outfit his army of over 300,000 men.
He fortified Jerusalem, and built a strong and very tall wall around it-incorporating towers that held another invention, a catapult capable of slinging huge boulders at any approaching enemy.
During those amazing 52 years, Uzziah enjoyed not only the favor of God, but the people as well. His fame went far and wide. But, there was a problem.
As Uzziah continued to grow in strength and power, he did not manage his own life, and one sentence is all that was needed to explain the devastating course that his life was about to take: “But when he was strong, he grew proud, to his destruction.”
You see, Uzziah decided to take on one more job description and it proved to be his downfall. He decided that he was going to assume the role of priest and offer up a sacrifice to God in the sanctuary.
Azariah the priest was there to meet and block him, along with 80 other priests. They forbade Uzziah from doing what God only allowed priests to do—and the king was not happy.
The Jewish historian Josephus writes that Uzziah burned with anger, and he lunged at the priests. But as he did, God brought an earthquake that broke apart the building, allowing sunlight to fall on Uzziah’s forehead. And wherever that light hit, his skin turned to leprosy.
Immediately, the priests realized Uzziah’s condition. And amid the calamity, Uzziah had to be led out of the city, to a house apart from the people, where those with this deadly disease lived. There, he lived alone… until he died.
Imagine… 52 years of faithful service completely destroyed by unchecked pride.
Uzziah’s strength was not great enough to allow him to end well. Truth is, no one is exempt from the devastating effects that such pride with no accountability can bring into our lives.
As I look into his story, I am freshly motivated to do all I can to make sure that I don’t fail at this most important juncture of life. Though certainly not perfectly, I have lived my life for the Lord since I was 10 years old. And my prayer is that I will live for him ALL my days—and end well.