Recently I was reading from 2 Chronicles 26 and was reminded afresh from the life of Uzziah how foolishly confident we are in ourselves. Uzziah was a king that could be evaluated this way by the Lord: “He did right in the sight of the LORD according to all that his father Amaziah had done. He continued to seek God in the days of Zechariah, who had understanding through the vision of God; and as long as he sought the LORD, God prospered him” (2 Chronicles 26:4-5). After this evaluation the Lord illustrates exactly how He prospered Uzziah. He had success in war (v. 6-7), fame among the nations (8), and he was extremely well prepared for war (v.9-15). This whole section between verses 5-15 is bookended with statements about God’s prospering of Uzziah. The text couldn’t be any clearer that the success that Uzziah had was all from the hand of God. But Uzziah did what we are all so prone to do. We are skilled at taking the path from humility to pride. It goes like this: we trust the Lord, have God’s blessing and experience His empowering, but then we take credit for what God has done. Verse 15 says this: “hence his fame spread afar, for he was marvelously helped until he was strong” (2 Chronicles 26:15). The very next verse says this: “But when he became strong, his heart was so proud that he acted corruptly and he was unfaithful to the LORD his God” (v. 16). It is a sad reality that we can actually turn God’s good gifts and blessings into reasons to boast before Him and others. We foolishly take God’s gifts of grace, claim ourselves as their source, and transform them into supposed works of our own merit. That is when we become strong in our own eyes and our undoing has already begun. Uzziah was confronted about his sin, but became enraged (v. 19a). The text concludes by listing the consequences of his unrepentant pride: leprosy the rest of his life (19), living in a separate house (20), cut off from the house of the LORD (21), unable to rule (21), and buried in a different place (23).So what is the exhortation from this text? Be humble; Seek God and He will prosper you according to His good plan and purpose for His own glory. But on the other hand, the exhortation is to be careful. Failure to seek God allows even God’s prospering of you to be the seedbed of pride.
On the very same day that I read this chapter about Uzziah I read John 12:23-26 which is a text that very clearly explains the redemptive work of Christ. Christ begins by saying “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” We know from the gospel of John that “the hour” refers to his death, burial, resurrection, and eventual ascension. In explaining this to His disciples Jesus says this: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat fall into the earth and dies it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” There are two ways John 12 helps us apply what we saw in 2 Chronicles 26. First, the only way we can live a life of humble dependence upon God is if we have entrusted and are entrusting ourselves to the One who died like a grain of wheat in our place. Second, the next verse applies this principle of Christ’s own death to us: “He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal. “If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him” (John 12:25-26). In other words, a life following Jesus is a life conformed to His death. Living the Christian life means living a life that does not find its strength in itself but in becoming nothing so that God can do something for His glory through us. Be humble and be careful. Don’t become strong in your own eyes, let God make you strong in your weakness and then don’t ever claim His strength for yours. Follow Jesus who like a grain of wheat fell into the ground and died and bore much fruit for God.