Thursday, May 5, 2016

Sometimes Weaker Is Better

Sixteen years old was Uzziah when he began to reign, and he reigned fifty and two years in Jerusalem. His mother's name also was Jecoliah of Jerusalem. And he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his father Amaziah did. - II Chronicles 26:3-4

If you've read through the list of Israel's and Judah's kings in the books of Kings and Chronicles, then you'll know that the phrase "did that which was right in the sight of the Lord" is, unfortunately, an uncommon phrase.  Yes, it's in there a few times, but more often than not, the Bible tells us that the kings did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord.  Honestly, it gets a bit depressing.  But now and then, there arose a king that decided to trust the Lord and do His will, and Uzziah was one of those kings. . . for a while.

Second Chronicles 26 details how Uzziah sought God, and because of that reliance, God made him prosper (v. 5).  The chapter also tells us that God helped Uzziah in the fights against his enemies (v. 7).  The Scripture goes on to talk about how much Uzziah accomplished during his reign because of God's aid and blessing.  Unfortunately, in verse 16, the story takes a horrific turn: 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. 

Everyone knew that only the priests were allowed to go into the temple and burn incense.  It was their job.  It was God's command.  It had been that way since the temple and priesthood began.  But Uzziah didn't care about God's rules anymore.  Evidently, all his prosperity had gone to his head, and Uzziah had begun to think that he was truly "somebody."  Like Nebuchadnezzar, he looked around at his kingdom and accomplishments and said, "Wow!  Look at what I've done!  I must be the best king ever!"  God knocked Nebuchadnezzar off his self-appointed pedestal by turning him into some form of a beast that lived off the land.  He humbled Uzziah by striking him with leprosy--a disease that remained until Uzziah's death.

There is a reason the Bible warns us over and over again about pride.  God hates it, and it's dangerous--not just to us, but to others as well.  Not only that, but I want to take particular notice of the phrasing the Bible used, But when he was strong, his heart was lifted up to his destruction.  When he was strong.  When I read that phrase, I immediately thought of Paul's thorn.  Though the Bible doesn't specify the nature of Paul's thorn, it does tell us why the thorn was there.  In fact, it tells us twice in the same verse: And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. (II Corinthians 12:7) 

The purpose of Paul's thorn was to keep him weak and humble, and I dare to say that the purpose of our thorns may be the same.  You see, when we're weak, we're dependent on God.  We stay close to Him.  We lean on Him for strength.  Our thorns serve as reminders that we cannot make it on our own.  Without them, we're in danger of becoming like Uzziah or Nebuchadnezzar.  In that perfect world where everything goes our way, who needs God, right?

I don't know about your thorn, but I know about my own.  I know how many times I've begged and cried to the Lord to remove it.  I understand how often I've felt hindered from doing the things I want to do for the Lord because of my thorn.  I feel the heartache each morning when I awake to realize that the thorn is still present.  But after reading today's passage in II Chronicles, I see things differently.  If it takes a thorn to keep me humble and dependent on God, then I'll bear the thorn gladly because the alternative is completely unacceptable.  Yes, I see now that sometimes weaker is better!

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