2 Chronicles 26: Lessons from Uzziah’s Downfall Regarding the Dangers of Pride

Introduction: Uzziah was one of Judah’s many tragic kings. He started walking with God. Yet, he slowly drifted from God and then rebelled against God’s law. For Uzziah, pride eventually led to his downfall. From his failure, God reveals seven lessons regarding the dangers of pride. Unrepentant pride can lead to: (1) complacency, (2) ungratefulness, (3) self-reliance, (4) covetousness, (5) spiritual blindness, (6) judgment, and (7) public shame or humiliation.

First, Uzziah was a reformer who initially tried to serve God. Pride, however, later caused him to become complacent in his success. Pride can also cause you to lower your defenses and allow Satan to slowly pull you off your walk. Second, God blessed Uzziah with wealth, security, and honor. But he never thanked God for these gifts. Over time, he came to believe that he was responsible for his success. Pride can also cause you to become ungrateful to God and take credit for His blessings in your life. Third, Uzziah used his God-given success to fortify Judah and build up a strong army so that no one could threaten him. His desire to be self-reliant, however, also caused him to drift from God. Pride in your accomplishments can also cause you to seek independence from God or believe that you don’t need Him in your life. Fourth, Uzziah’s pride caused him to covet power that God did not give him. This included the power that God had reserved for the priests. Pride can also cause you to covet unholy things that God did not mean for you to have. Fifth, Uzziah became angry when the High Priest Azariah rebuked him for usurping the role of the priests. Pride can also harden your heart and cause you to become blind to sin. Sixth, because Uzziah refused to repent, God judged him with leprosy. Unrepentant pride in your life can also eventually lead to God’s judgment. Finally, Uzziah spent his final years living in isolation. He was also denied the honor of being buried in David’s tomb. Unrepentant pride can also lead to social rejection and humiliation as others judge you.

1. Complacency: Pride May Cause You to Become Complacent in Success. 2 Chr. 26:1-5.

  • Uzziah becomes King of Judah. Following Amaziah’s death, his son Uzziah succeeded him. He initially followed God, and God blessed him. “1 And all the people of Judah took Uzziah, who was sixteen years old, and made him king in the place of his father Amaziah. He built Eloth and restored it to Judah after the king slept with his fathers. Uzziah was sixteen years old when he became king, and he reigned fifty-two years in Jerusalem; and his mother’s name was Jechiliah of Jerusalem. 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 Chr. 26:1-5; 2 Kgs. 15:1-7; Isa. 1:1). Although he likely served as a regent for either 10 or 11 years while his father was in jail, Uzziah’s reign began in 767 B.C. In the book of Kings, he is referred to by the alternative name Azariah (2 Kgs. 15:1-7). He reigned for 52 years from age 16 until he was 68 years old. Judah was in disarray when his reign began. Out of pride, his father Amaziah began a war against Northern Israel that God did not command or condone. This resulted in Judah’s defeat, the destruction of Jerusalem’s protective walls, the gold from the Temple and Jerusalem being looted, and many people being taken into captivity (2 Kgs. 14:8-11). Amaziah also embraced idolatry by worshiping the gods of Edom (2 Chr. 25:20). Uzziah was a reformer who initially refused to follow many of his father’s mistakes (2 Kgs. 14:3). He initially listened to the prophet Zechariah. (2 Chr. 26:5). He also initially trusted God, and: “He did right in the sight of the Lord . ..” (2 Chr. 26:4; 2 Kgs. 15:3). When he trusted God, he succeed in every aspect of his administration (2 Chr. 26:6-15). The name Uzziah means “The Lord is my strength”. His alternative name in the book of Kings, Azariah, meant the “the Lord has help.” In addition to living at the time of Zechariah’s ministry, Isaiah began his public ministry during his reign (Isa. 1:1). But he did not live in complete obedience to God. His pride led him to become complacent. He tolerated pagan worship by failing to remove the pagan high place (2 Kgs. 15:4). Because his heart was not fully devoted to God, he slowly drifted from Him.

  • Like his predecessors, Uzziah disobeyed God by tolerating evil in Judah. In the book of Kings, God reveals where Uzziah’s downfall started. He tolerated evil like the kings before him: “He did right in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his father Amaziah had done. Only the high places were not taken away; the people still sacrificed and burned incense on the high places. The Lord struck the king, so that he was a leper to the day of his death. . ..” (2 Kgs. 15:3-5). Canaanite pagan altars were typically built on “high places” (1 Kgs. 13:32; Jer. 7:31). Whenever the Jews came across pagan altars, they were ordered to destroy them (Nu. 33:52; Dt. 12:2-3). Failing to observe this rule would eventually cause the Jews to blend their worship of God with Canaanite pagan practices (Jer. 2:20). Failing to follow this rule also caused many kings to stumble. Uzziah (Azariah) was not alone in his path to failure that began with partial disobedience by not removing the pagan high places of worship (2 Kgs. 15:4). His father Amaziah committed the same sin: “Only the high places were not taken away; the people still sacrificed and burned incense on the high places.” (2 Kgs. 14:4; 2 Chr. 25:1). His grandfather, Joash (Jehoash), also committed the exact same sin: “Only the high places were not taken away; the people still sacrificed and burned incense on the high places.” (2 Kgs. 12:3). And their forefathers committed the same sin as well. King Solomon was a reformer who ultimately led a path to failure that began with the same small act of disobedience in refusing to remove the pagan worship centers (1 Kgs. 3:2). He later built special altars on “high places” for his foreign wives to worship their pagan gods (1 Kgs. 11:7-8). King Jeroboam also followed after Solomon’s example and built altars for idol worship with unauthorized priests (1 Kgs. 12:31). King Asa’s disobedience in this area also led to his downfall (1 Kgs. 15:14). King Jehoshaphat was also a reformer who failed for the same acts of disobedience (1 Kgs. 22:43). King Manasseh later rebuilt pagan altars on high places after King Hezekiah destroyed them (2 Kgs. 21:3). Thus, several kings began with great intentions. But their partial or full disobedience led to their downfall. You should never accommodate evil in your life. Eventually, it will become a snare that would lead you to ever greater sins and pain.

  • Fear God to avoid complacency. Few could imagine that a king who listened to God’s prophets would later rebel against Him. Uzziah saw no harm in tolerating evil because of the other good things that he was doing for God. Solomon, however, slowly drifted from God despite building the Temple and wisely guiding the people with his God-given wisdom. From his wasted blessings, Solomon warned that: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (Prov. 1:7; 9:10). “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; a good understanding have all those who do His commandments; His praise endures forever.” (Ps. 111:10). This did not mean that Uzziah needed to fear the arbitrary wrath of God. Instead, he needed to fear God by hating that which was evil: “The fear of the LORD is to hate evil; . . .” (Prov. 8:13). If you are tolerating any evil in your life, the fear of God is missing in your life as well.

  • Don’t become complacent in your walk. Uzziah’s eventual downfall is a warning to all believers. Believers should never allow spiritual success to lead to complacency. The moment you let your guard down, Satan will try to pull you off your walk with God: “Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.” (Gal. 6:9). “But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary of doing good.” (2 Thess. 3:13). “Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we received mercy, we do not lose heart,” (2 Cor. 4:1). “Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart,” (Lk. 18:1). “For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (Heb. 12:3; Rev. 2:3). Have you grown complacent in your walk?

2. Ungratefulness: Pride May Cause You to Become Ungrateful to God. 2 Chr. 26:6-8.

  • Uzziah fails to thank God for his God-given wealth, security, and power. Uzziah’s next step in his path to pride and self-destruction took place when he failed to thank God for the blessings that He gave to Uzziah in the form of wealth, security, and power: “Now he went out and warred against the Philistines, and broke down the wall of Gath and the wall of Jabneh and the wall of Ashdod; and he built cities in the area of Ashdod and among the Philistines. God helped him against the Philistines, and against the Arabians who lived in Gur-baal, and the Meunites. The Ammonites also gave tribute to Uzziah, and his fame extended to the border of Egypt, for he became very strong.” (2 Chr. 26:6-8). As a result of God’s blessings, Judah enjoyed peace and prosperity during Uzziah’s reign. He was a skilled builder and architect. This included rebuilding the port for sea trade in the city of Elath on the northern coast of the Gulf of Aqabah. This was an important city during Solomon’s reign (1 Kgs. 9:26-28; 10:22), and Jehoshaphat’s reign (2 Chr. 20:36). He also gained fame and the fear of his enemies. With God’s help, his armies defeated the Philistines and took part of their territories. He also prevented the Ammonites from ending their tributes (2 Chr. 26:6-8). But Uzziah failed to thank God for any of these blessings. This also caused him to slowly drift in his walk from God.

  • Give credit to God for His victories to avoid becoming prideful. Uzziah’s failure to give God the credit for his blessings later caused him to believe that he was responsible for his victories. This in turn later led to pride and his downfall. “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before stumbling.” (Prov. 16:18). “A man’s pride will bring him low, but a humble spirit will obtain honor.” (Prov. 29:23). “Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.” (Matt. 23:12; Lk. 14:11). “When you are cast down, you will speak with confidence, and the humble person He will save.” (Job 22:29). “But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, ‘God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’” (Jam. 4:6). “A man’s pride will bring him low, . . .” (Prov. 29:23). Uzziah should have boasted about God's success. “If I have to boast, I will boast of what pertains to my weakness.” (2 Cor. 11:30). Do you boast in your success? Or, do you give the credit to God?

3. Self-Reliance: Pride Can Cause You to Seek Independence From God. 2 Chr. 26:9-15.

  • Uzziah misuses God’s blessings by seeking to become self-reliant. After God blessed Uzziah with wealth, security, and power, Uzziah sought to build up fortresses and his army to allow him to feel that he did not need God or anyone else to protect him. “Moreover, Uzziah built towers in Jerusalem at the Corner Gate and at the Valley Gate and at the corner buttress and fortified them. 10 He built towers in the wilderness and hewed many cisterns, for he had much livestock, both in the lowland and in the plain. He also had plowmen and vinedressers in the hill country and the fertile fields, for he loved the soil. 11 Moreover, Uzziah had an army ready for battle, which entered combat by divisions according to the number of their muster, prepared by Jeiel the scribe and Maaseiah the official, under the direction of Hananiah, one of the king’s officers. 12 The total number of the heads of the households, of valiant warriors, was 2,600. 13 Under their direction was an elite army of 307,500, who could wage war with great power, to help the king against the enemy. 14 Moreover, Uzziah prepared for all the army shields, spears, helmets, body armor, bows and sling stones. 15 In Jerusalem he made engines of war invented by skillful men to be on the towers and on the corners for the purpose of shooting arrows and great stones. Hence his fame spread afar, for he was marvelously helped until he was strong.” (2 Chr. 26:9-15). Many would have seen Uzziah’s actions as wise efforts to protect against foreign or domestic threats. But God did not want Uzziah to use his God-given wealth and power to grow independent from Him.

  • Don’t pursue wealth and power if they draw you away from Jesus. The Bible makes clear that God helped Uzziah until he made himself strong: “ . . . for he was marvelously helped until he was strong.” (2 Chr. 26:15). Uzziah failed to understand that he was separating himself from God as he sought to become self-reliant and independent through his wealth, his security, and his status. Jesus warned: “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? For what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mk. 8:35-37). God does not want His people to struggle for money or wealth. But He may limit a person’s access to money or wealth if those things cause the person’s heart to drift from Him and feel self-reliant.

4. Covetousness: Pride Can Cause You to Covet Unholy Things. 2 Chr. 26:16.

  • Azariah coveted absolute power out of a corrupt and prideful heart. Out of pride, Uzziah was no longer content to be just King of Judah. He then coveted the power and respect of the priests. Thus, he entered God’s Temple in an attempt to usurp the power of the priests, something that God expressly prohibited: “16 But when he became strong, his heart was so proud that he acted corruptly, and he was unfaithful to the Lord his God, for he entered the temple of the Lord to burn incense on the altar of incense.” (2 Chr. 26:16). Under God’s law, only the Levites could perform the role of the priests in the Temple worship. The penalty for violating this law was death: “So you shall appoint Aaron and his sons that they may keep their priesthood, but the layman who comes near shall be put to death.” (Nu. 3:10). “You shall put them on Aaron your brother and on his sons with him; and you shall anoint them and ordain them and consecrate them, that they may serve Me as priests.” (Ex. 28:41). “You shall gird them with sashes, Aaron and his sons, and bind caps on them, and they shall have the priesthood by a perpetual statute. So you shall ordain Aaron and his sons.” (Ex. 29:9). Uzziah’s power had corrupted him. He coveted that which God had not given him, absolute power over church and state.

  • Like his father, Uzziah’s pride turned his heart against God. Uzziah observed how pride led to his father’s destruction. God provided Amaziah with a victory over Edom (2 Kgs. 14:7). Out of pride, Amaziah then picked a war with Northern Israel and lost (2 Kgs. 14:8-16). While his father’s pride resulted in a war, Uzziah’s pride led to a different type of power grab. He attempted to take total control by merging the separate roles of church and state (2 Chr. 26:16-20). God never wants any ruler to assume absolute authority. The notion of checks and balances in power has its origin in God’s Word.

  • Uzziah’s sins of disobedience, covetousness, and presumption. Like Uzziah, Saul once committed similar sins. Samuel told Saul to wait seven days for his return, at which time Samuel would perform sacrifices to God. But Saul eventually grew tired of waiting. He disobeyed God’s prophet and took on the role of the priests by leading the sacrifices (1 Sam. 13:8-9). In addition to worshiping idols, Jeroboam (the first King of Northern Israel) also violated God’s law by performing his own sacrifices (1 Kgs. 12:33). Moses warned the Jews not to be presumptuous by acting without the direction of God’s appointed Levite priests. Those who failed to do so would be judged: “The man who acts presumptuously by not listening to the priest who stands there to serve the LORD your God, nor to the judge, that man shall die; thus you shall purge the evil from Israel.” (Dt. 17:12). Uzziah, Jeroboam and Saul all presumed that they could fulfill the role of God’s priests when that was not their role. The Jews also made the sin of presumption by trying to invade the Promised Land after God judged them and told them that the first generation would need to die off in the wilderness because of their sins (Dt. 1:41-46). Never assume that you are following God’s will when you are either disobeying His Word or acting on your own. You should always read the Word and pray for His guidance. Failing to do this will likely cause your flesh to lead you astray.

  • Satan is the father of pride who seeks your destruction through pride as well. Satan is the father of pride. His pride also caused his downfall. “But you said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God, and I will sit on the mount of assembly in the recesses of the north. I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High. Nevertheless you will be thrust down to Sheol, to the recesses of the pit. Those who see you will gaze at you, they will ponder over you, saying, ‘is this the man who made the earth tremble, who shook kingdoms,”’ (Is. 14:13-16). When you are prideful, you are under Satan’s direct influence.

  • Pride is one of the worst sins to God. Through his pride, Uzziah committed one of the sins that God “hates”: “ . . . pride and arrogance and the evil way and the perverted mouth, I hate.” (Prov. 8:13). His pride would later lead to his destruction (Prov. 16:18). “A man’s pride will bring him low, . . .” (Prov. 29:23). His pride also deceived him into thinking that he was doing the right thing by assuming the role of the High Priest: ‘“ . . . The arrogance of your heart has deceived you,’ . . . declares the LORD.” (Jer. 49:16).

  • Satan’s goal is to create chaos by causing God’s people to rebel against His Word. Satan’s goal has always been to break down order through rebellion. His goal is to create chaos and misery. Satan first led a third of the angels in rebellion against God’s rule (Rev. 12:3-9). He then led Eve to rebel against God’s rules (Gen. 3:1-4). He then led Adam and Eve to rebel against each other (Gen. 3:16). Satan also becomes the father of those who rebel (Jo. 8:44). Jesus once quoted a prophesy: “I will strike down the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered.” (Mk. 14:23). When influenced by Satan, the corrupt “despise authority.” (2 Pet. 2:10). Solomon later said that rebellion was the sign of an “evil man.” (Prov. 17:11). According to Paul, rebellion is also part of the spirit of “the prince of the power of the air.” (Eph. 2:2). Samuel also said that: “. . . rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft . . .” (1 Sam. 15:23). After leaving Egypt, the Jews’ lack of faith caused them to repeatedly rebel against God and His appointed leader Moses (Nu. 14:22). As a result of the Jews’ repeated refusal to obey and have faith, God eventually banished them to spend 40 years wandering in the desert (Nu. 14:34). For everything good and holy, Satan has created a counterfeit to deceive people. If God’s perfect government leads to peace and harmony (1 Tim. 2:1-2), rebellion only brings strife, death, and misery. For those who rebel and follow Satan, Satan can only offer misery and pain.

  • Do not surrender to covetousness or your own understanding. Uzziah never sought God’s guidance in prayer. Instead, he surrendered to his fleshly instincts by doing what seemed wise in his own eyes: “There is a way which seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.” (Prov. 14:12). “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, But a wise man is he who listens to counsel.” (Prov. 12:15). It is, however, not enough to simply pray for God’s guidance, you must also make no provision for the flesh when your flesh tells you to do something different: “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.” (Rom. 13:14). “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.” (Gal. 5:16). “Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” (Gal. 5:24). “[K]nowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin;” (Ro. 6:6). Have you surrendered to your flesh or the ways of the world in any area?

5. Spiritual Blindness: Pride Can Cause You to Become Blind to Sin. 2 Chr. 26:17-19a.

  • Uzziah’s pride blinds him to the rebuke of Azariah the High Priest. Because his pride made him spiritually blind to his sins, Uzziah became angry at the High Priest Azariah when Azariah rebuked him for violating God’s law. “17 Then Azariah the priest entered after him and with him eighty priests of the Lord, valiant men. 18 They opposed Uzziah the king 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 been unfaithful and will have no honor from the Lord God.” But Uzziah, with a censer in his hand for burning incense, was enraged; . . .” (2 Chr. 26:17-19a.) Azariah was one of the few high priests to properly perform his role by serving as a check on a king who abused his power. Many of Judah’s kings slid into rebellion against God without any recorded response from the priests. This caused all of Judah to suffer.

The High Priest Azariah risked his own death to rebuke Uzziah1

  • Turning from God can also harden your heart. Like Uzziah, turning from God will cause you to darken your heart and make it harder for the Holy Spirit to guide you: “being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart;” (Eph. 4:18). “For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.” (Ro. 1:21). “They do not know, nor do they understand, for He has smeared over their eyes so that they cannot see and their hearts so that they cannot comprehend.” (Is. 44:18). “May their eyes grow dim so that they cannot see, and make their loins shake continually.” (Ps. 69:23; Ro. 11:10). “For the LORD has poured over you a spirit of deep sleep, He has shut your eyes, the prophets; and He has covered your heads, the seers.” (Is. 29:10). If God has allowed hardship to enter your life or rebuked you, examine your life for any unconfessed sin.

  • Compromise with the world can lead to spiritual blindness. Uzziah’s covetousness for power blinded him to the evil that had grown within him. Paul warns “For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.” (Rom. 8:5). They are people “whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things.” (Phil. 3:19). “For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting.” (Rom. 16:18). They are spiritually blind to the path leading to salvation: “These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power,” (2 Thess. 1:9). Uzziah’s compromises also undermined his role as God’s standard bearer of morality. Without Uzziah fulfilling this role, many lived according to their own morality. “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” (Jdgs. 21:25; 17:6). Many who make compromises with the world also become spiritually blinded. Have you guarded your heart and prayed for the Spirit to keep you on the narrow path?

  • Do not conform to this world. The accumulation of wealth and power is promoted throughout society. Believers, however, should avoid letting their thinking conform to the world: “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Ro. 12:2). Letting the cares and concerns of the world control you is one of the many steps that lead to compromise in your walk: “And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.” (Matt. 13:22; Mk. 4:19). Have you conformed to the world in your walk?

  • The High Priest did what was right in the face of political pressure. Believers are normally required to submit to human authority: “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority,” (1 Pet. 2:13, 17; Ro. 13:1-5). But that rule does not apply when a believer is asked to violate God’s law. Here, the High Priest correctly put God’s law above politics. This has applications for the Church today. Many laws now celebrate what the Bible calls evil. Churches have largely stayed silent to protect themselves. But churches should never put their political interests above God’s law. If God’s law is ridiculed, will you defend it before skeptics?

  • The Church is meant to be God’s salt and light against sin. The Church was meant to be God’s salt in the wound of sin. If it ignores its role, it is worthless: “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men.” (Matt. 5:13). Is your church God’s salt when civil leaders turn against His morality?

6. Judgment: Unrepentant Pride Can Lead to God’s Judgment. 2 Chr. 26:19 b-20.

  • God judges Uzziah with leprosy for his unrepentant pride. Because Uzziah did not repent of his actions, God judged him with leprosy. “19b. . .and while he was enraged with the priests, the leprosy broke out on his forehead before the priests in the house of the Lord, beside the altar of incense. 20 Azariah the chief priest and all the priests looked at him, and behold, he was leprous on his forehead; and they hurried him out of there, and he himself also hastened to get out because the Lord had smitten him.” (2 Chr. 26:19 b-20). As stated above, the penalty for Uzziah’s sin was death (Nu. 18:7). Thus, God showed mercy upon Uzziah by giving him a disease that allowed him time to repent of his sins.

God judged Azariah (Uzziah) for his pride2

  • Uzziah’s leprosy symbolized God’s judgment of his sins. Uzziah and those around him would have had no question about the cause of his leprosy. Throughout the Bible, leprosy is used as a symbol of both sin and God’s punishment of sin. For example, God infected Miriam with leprosy as a punishment for her sin when she rebelled against Moses’ leadership (Nu. 12:10). God also most likely gave the Syrian general Naaman leprosy because of his pride (2 Kgs. 5:1). His cure required that he submit to God in humility and obey God’s prophet Elisha in faith (2 Kgs. 5:5-19). God later punished Elisha’s servant Gehazi with Naaman’s leprosy after Gehazi coveted the financial gift from Naaman that Elisha turned down, lied to Naaman to steal the gift for himself, and then lied to Elisha about his many unrepentant sins (2 Kgs. 5:25-27). For all of these individuals, their ugly leprosy was the outward manifestation of their gross sins inside.

  • Leprosy, like sin, causes the victim to lose feeling. Leprosy kills the nerve endings in the infected skin. Appendages fall off because the victim cannot feel when he or she is causing damage to a finger or toe. Sin also causes the victim to become numb to the pain he or she is causing: “being darkened in their understanding . . . they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness.” (Eph. 4:18-19). “by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron,” (1 Tim. 4:2). Feeling pain is important. For example, pain receptors keep your body from making an injury worse. Your pain receptors tell your hand to remove it from a hot stove before it gets burned. Like leprosy, unchecked sin can dampen the ability of the Holy Spirit to convict you of your sin.

  • God will also judge those who live governed by pride and covetousness. Like Uzziah, Satan was also blessed with power as one of God’s most important angels. Also like Uzziah, his pride also caused him to covet God’s power (Is. 14:13-14). Like Satan and Uzziah, Korah also rebelled against Moses and God’s appointed order in the wilderness because he was prideful as the nation’s worship leader. He was able to start a rebellion because he found 250 “men of renown” who demanded that Moses share power (Nu. 16:2). Yet, the pride that causes a person to feel entitled to power can ultimately lead to destruction (Prov. 16:18). Those who rebel out of coveting also violate God’s Tenth Commandment (Ex. 20:17; Dt. 5:21). For the unsaved, “coveting” also disqualifies a person from heaven (1 Cor. 6:10; Eph. 5:3-6). The covetous leader will also feel torment. A person who covets can never satisfy their covetousness by giving into their desires (Hab. 2:5). A covetous leader will never feel satisfied and will inevitably lust after more power. If you feel pride in your accomplishments or in your looks, repent of those feelings. They may be the fuel that causes rebellion in your heart.

  • God humbles the proud. Because Uzziah exalted himself in the Temple before God, God humbled him. “Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.” (Matt. 23:12). “When you are cast down, you will speak with confidence, and the humble person He will save.” (Job 22:29). “But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, ‘God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’” (Jam. 4:6). Because Amaziah’s pride would not let him repent, it led to his defeat and later his death (Prov. 16:18). “A man’s pride will bring him low, . . .” (Prov. 29:23). When you are prideful, your heart will also deceive you into doing foolish things.

  • God can use illnesses to cause you to repent. If a person lives in rebellion, God can allow that person to become sick to bring the person to repentance: “The Lord will smite you with consumption and with fever and with inflammation and with fiery heat and with the sword and with blight and with mildew, and they will pursue you until you perish.” (Dt. 28:22; Lev. 26:16). Illnesses can have many sources. Yet, if you are suffering from an illness, you should examine your heart for any sins and repent.

  • When God has revealed your sins, repent. Even though Saul never received leprosy, there are many similarities in his failure to acknowledge his sins. When Samuel confronted Saul for his sins, Saul offered excuses and refused to repent (1 Sam. 13:10-12). God judged him only after Samuel failed to repent of sins (1 Sam. 13:13-14). When the High Priest Azariah revealed Uzziah’s sins, Uzziah also failed to repent. Samuel explained the correct path to repentance: “When Your people Israel are defeated before an enemy, because they have sinned against You, if they turn to You again and confess Your name and pray and make supplication to You in this house, then hear in heaven, and forgive the sin of Your people Israel, and bring them back to the land which You gave to their fathers. When the heavens are shut up and there is no rain, because they have sinned against You, and they pray toward this place and confess Your name and turn from their sin when You afflict them, then hear in heaven and forgive the sin of Your servants and of Your people Israel, indeed, teach them the good way in which they should walk. And send rain on Your land, which You have given Your people for an inheritance.” (1 Kgs. 8:33-36). Unlike Saul and Uzziah, when Joshua sinned at the battle for the city of Ai by acting presumptuously, he tore his clothes in grief and cried out for God not to allow His name to be profaned by their sins: ‘“9 For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land will hear of it, and they will surround us and cut off our name from the earth. And what will You do for Your great name?’” (Josh. 7:9). When God reveals your sins, do you repent so that you can be forgiven? (1 Jo. 1:9).

  • Humble yourself so that you will accept correction. One commentator observes that “Uzziah came into the temple as an arrogant king, and he left as a humbled leper and stayed that way for the remainder of his life. He could not even go into the outer courts of the temple which were once open to him as to other worshippers (he was cut off from the house of the LORD). In overstepping this boundary, he found his freedom more restricted than ever before.” (David Guzik on 2 Chr. 26).3 Instead of hardening his heart with excuses, God wanted Uzziah to circumcise his heart so that he would accept Samuel’s correction. “So circumcise your heart, and stiffen your neck no longer.” (Dt. 10:16; 30:6; Ro. 2:28-29; Col. 2:10-11). When you accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior and allow the Holy Spirit to guide you, He will also circumcise your heart if you let Him: “in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ;” (Col. 2:11). When you soften or circumcise your heart, God will reward you with a heart to know Him: “I will give them a heart to know Me, for I am the Lord; and they will be My people, and I will be their God, for they will return to Me with their whole heart.” (Jer. 24:7). “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the Lord, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” (Jer. 31:33; Col. 2:11). In the areas where are you stiff necked in your walk, will you invite the Holy Spirit to soften your heart?

  • In the end times, people will also be blinded by their vanity and pride. Like Uzziah, people during the end times will become arrogant and vain: “For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy,” (2 Tim. 3:2). “For they all seek after their own interests, not those of Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 2:21). Ask God to show you where you may be self-absorbed or vain.

7. Social Shame: Unrepentant Pride Can Lead to Social Humiliation. 2 Chr. 26:21-23.

  • The people shun Uzziah for the rest of his life and even in death. Because Uzziah never repented, he lived in isolation and shunned by others until his death: “21 King Uzziah was a leper to the day of his death; and he lived in a separate house, being a leper, for he was cut off from the house of the Lord. And Jotham his son was over the king’s house judging the people of the land. 22 Now the rest of the acts of Uzziah, first to last, the prophet Isaiah, the son of Amoz, has written. 23 So Uzziah slept with his fathers, and they buried him with his fathers in the field of the grave which belonged to the kings, for they said, ‘He is a leper.’ And Jotham his son became king in his place.” (2 Chr. 26:21-23). To comply with God’s law and to avoid infection, Uzziah was “cut off” from the people. Yet, out of mercy and grace, God allowed David’s line to continue.

Uzziah was isolated and shunned as a leper4

  • Leprosy and sin have to be quarantined. In the ancient world, there was no cure for leprosy. Lepers had to be separated from society or the disease would spread (Lev. 13:4, 6). The leper had to tear his or her clothes, keep his or her hair uncovered and yell “unclean, unclean” whenever another person approached (Lev. 13:45). Before the Western world found a cure for this disease, it also placed persons infected with leprosy on islands or isolated locations where they could not infect others. For example, the United States turned the Hawaiian island of Molokai into a leper colony. Like leprosy, God also ordered people who intentionally sinned to be “cut off” from the community of believers because of the risk they posed to others (e.g., Ex. 30:38).

  • Unrepentant sin frequently leads to humiliation. A leper frequently lost his or her hair (Lev. 13:38-46), which was a sign of humiliation: “instead of well-set hair, a plucked-out scalp; . . .” (Isa. 3:24; 50:6; Jer. 7:29). When a sinner embraces evil, that person will typically be vilified by others when their conduct is exposed. This is especially true of public figures: “You shall become a horror, a proverb, and a taunt among all the people where the Lord drives you.” (Dt. 28:37), “I will make them a terror and an evil for all the kingdoms of the earth, as a reproach and a proverb, a taunt and a curse in all places where I will scatter them.” (Jer. 24:9; 44:8; 15:4), “You make us a reproach to our neighbors, a scoffing and a derision to those around us.” (Ps. 44:13; Is. 43:28; 2 Chron. 7:20; 1 Kgs. 9:7(b); Ezek. 5:15). Sometimes, sinners will still experience sorrow even after they repent. Even with Jesus’ path to salvation, there are still consequences for sin.

Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn (1606-1669) “King Uzziah with Leprosy” (1639)5

  • Leprosy, like sin, leads to death. A victim of leprosy will eventually die if untreated. Like leprosy, sin also leads to death when it is not treated: “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Ro. 6:23). Uzziah’s agonizing death from his disease was the inevitable outcome of his unrepentant sins.

  • Leprosy and sin have the same cure. Because leprosy is a symbol of sin, leprosy and sin have a common cure: “Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed.” (Is. 53:4-5; 1 Pet. 2:24). One of Jesus’ first miracles was healing a leper (Matt. 8:2-3). This showed His ability to cure the disease of sin.

  • Repent of your sins and change your ways. Believers also cannot be expected to enjoy the fullness of Jesus’ blessings if they fail to repent of their sins and live as a new creation. In preparation for Jesus, John the Baptist called all sinners to repent. ‘“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”’ (Matt. 3:2). Jesus also began His ministry with a call to repentance: “From that time Jesus began to preach and say, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”’ (Matt. 4:17; Lk. 18:13.) If you say that you are without sin, the truth is not in you (1 Jo. 1:8). Yet, if you confess your sins, Jesus will forgive you: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 Jo. 1:9). You can show that you have made real repentance by living as a new creation in Jesus: “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” (2 Cor. 5:17). If you have repented of your sins, are you living as Jesus’ example to others?

  • Even in death, Uzziah’s sins were odious to all around him. A Jew typically looked upon a leper with revulsion. This provided an image for the Jews to understand how God felt when looking upon their unrepentant sin. In death, the Jews treated Uzziah the same way they treated King Asa. The stench of Asa’s sins were so odious from his diseased feet that his attendants tried to cover up the stench at his funeral with spices (2 Chr. 16:13-14). Uzziah received God’s mercy and grace by being buried in David’s tomb. God was also faithful to keep His Covenant with David (2 Tim. 2:13). Uzziah’s son was allowed to assume the throne when Uzziah did not deserve this honor.