“Know Thyself: King Uzziah”

2 Chronicles 26:1-5, 15b-21


            One of my favorite bathroom signs has to be “Wash your hands and say your prayers for Jesus and germs are everywhere.” And He is and they are. Jesus being everywhere means that you are never alone, which can be a good thing and a bad thing. Germs being everywhere means that there is a chance that you could get sick. Now sometimes it is an extremely small chance, but at the same time, washing your hands after you have gone to the bathroom is a good idea.

            This is especially true if you’re going out to eat. You’ll find, or hopefully find in restaurant bathrooms a sign which says “Employees must wash hands before returning to work.” Last thing any of us want is to have the chef go to the bathroom and not wash their hands. We don’t want the cashier or wait staff to hand us our money or touch our plates if they hadn’t washed their hands.

            Same things when going to the doctor’s office. You want to make sure that the hands of your surgeon, physical therapists, doctors and the nurses are clean. At the least, most hospital rooms have a hand sanitizer thing right inside or outside the door. There’s the old phrase, “Cleanliness is next to Godliness.”

            As we look at King Uzziah this evening, we hear a very familiar phrase. “He did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, just as his father Amaziah had done” (2 Chron. 26:4). Uzziah, much like the other kings we have looked at, started out great doing what was right in the eyes of the LORD. But there was something different about this king compared to those of the past. We’re told that Uzziah “sought God during the days of Zechariah, who instructed him in the fear of God. As long as he sought the LORD, God gave him success” (2 Chron. 26:5). And success is exactly what God have Uzziah.

            In the part between our readings tonight, the writer of Chronicles expands on how it was God blessed Uzziah. The cliff-note version is something like this: Uzziah had many military victories, his army was well organized and well equipped, his defenses were up to date and they had the latest military hardware. Uzziah also engaged in numerous building projects in and around Jerusalem. He was an avid farmer who had so much livestock and crops and vineyards that he had to build cisterns in order to properly take care of them. Uzziah was truly a Renaissance man, a man with many talents and a man who was knowledgeable in many areas.

            And then we get to the last words of verse 15 … “until he became powerful.” Pride we’re told is the downfall of Uzziah. Proverbs 16:18 says, “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before the fall.” Being king, being extremely successful, being very well-liked … Uzziah thought he could do whatever he wanted. So he goes to the temple of the LORD, he goes up to the altar of incense and proceeds to burn incense to the LORD. Now going to the temple and doing something for the LORD seems like a good thing to do right? It is, unless it is something which only certain people are suppose to do … like the priests. Uzziah, even as king had limits placed on him by God, and by doing what the priests were only allowed to do … Uzziah overstepped those limits.

            The consequences for this wasn’t that the high priest and eighty other priests just simply led the king away, no … in the midst of his rage against the priest, Uzziah’s forehead breaks out with leprosy. The LORD had afflicted Uzziah with leprosy. Scared out of their minds, the priests and Uzziah get out of the temple as fast as they could.

            They rush Uzziah out because Uzziah is now unclean and nothing unclean is allowed to be in the presence of Almighty God. The priests lead Uzziah away, out of the temple, out of the city where he will spend the rest of his days. Uzziah will live in this separate house, this house where he was relieved of his responsibilities as king until he dies. Being isolated, being unable to fulfill his responsibilities, unable to go to the temple to worship God, unable to be around anyone and to be considered as an outcast is what became of this great king. All because Uzziah’s pride got the best of him.                   

It’s interesting this idea of being unclean. We have the Jews in our Passion reading who are afraid of becoming unclean because they want to be able to celebrate the Passover. So instead of taking Jesus into Pilate’s palace, they have Pilate come out to them to get Jesus. They are having Pilate do all their dirty work because they are not allowed to execute anyone.

              Jesus however … He doesn’t argue, He doesn’t fight back. He voluntarily goes into Pilate’s palace, thus declaring Him to be unclean.

            But this isn’t the first time Jesus has done this. This isn’t the first time in which Jesus has done something which would officially make Him unclean. Jesus has touched people with different diseases, He was touched by a woman with a bleeding disorder who was considered unclean, Jesus has associated with Samaritan and Gentile people who the Jews considered to be unclean, Jesus has touched someone who was dead. All these things would have made Jesus unclean according to the Jewish laws. But the thing is … of all the people … Jesus is the only one who is clean! He’s clean because, as He says, “What comes out of a man is what makes him ‘unclean.’ For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man ‘unclean’” (Mark 7:20-22).

            So it’s the people of the Old Testament, it’s King Uzziah, it’s s the prophets, it’s the Israelites in the Promised Land, it’s the Jewish leaders, it’s the disciples of Jesus, it’s you and me who are the ones who are unclean. All these people and us are unclean because we have been infected! Adam and Eve were told that if they ate of the fruit from the tree of Knowledge and Good and Evil that they would die. They ate the fruit and were infected. They were infected with sin which comes with it the punishment of death. They ate, they eventually died … but not before they passed down their sin. Their sin is passed down through the generations to you and me and will continue to be passed down from generation to generation. We are all unclean.

            And yet, the holy, perfect, innocent, blameless Son of God didn’t consider His equality with God a prize to put on display. Instead, He made Himself nothing, putting off the constant exercise of His divine power, allowing Himself to be viewed as a great and terrible sinner, and evening permitting Himself to be cut off from God’s people in the most hideous forms of death known to man. Jesus purposely, intentionally lowered Himself in order to bring us up from the depth of the muck and mire of our sin to forgive us, to wash away our sins with His blood, to make us clean.

            For Uzziah, for you and me, for all people, past, present, and future … no amount of handwashing, no amount of scrubbing will ever be able to make us clean and wash away our sin. It is only by the blood of Jesus in which can wash away our sin and make us as white as snow.

            I challenge you, the next time you wash your hands, think of what is which makes you unclean. Examine your heart and confess that sin to God in that moment knowing that God is there with you, He hears your prayer, and He forgives you. He washes away your sin and holds you up so you can continue to live for Him and for those around you. Amen.

            The peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord, now and forever. Amen.


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