Are you familiar with the paradox: “What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object?” 2 Chronicles 26 poses a situation that resembles that.
The characters in the confrontation were: 1-Azariah, the High Priest; 2-King Uzziah (aka Azariah); 3-80 priests; 4-a surprise visitor. But first, how about a little background to the situation.
King Uzziah (aka Azariah) took the throne when his father, Amaziah, was assassinated in Lachish; he was only 16 yrs. old. Promptly Zechariah, a godly prophet, became his mentor and advisor. The result of that relationship: “He 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 Similar to the relationship between Jehoiada and Joash (2 Kgs. 12:1-3), as long as the mentor was alive, everything was great. However, when the mentor died, the wheels came off.
We don’t know the exact number of years that this relationship lasted during his 52 year reign, but without a doubt it fostered the amazing accomplishments of Uzziah listed in 2 Chron. 26:6-15. Then Zechariah died and the wheels came off.
“But after Uzziah became powerful, his pride led to his downfall. He was unfaithful to the LORD his God, and entered the temple of the LORD to burn incense on the altar of incense.” 2 Chron. 26:16 The law of Moses was crystal clear concerning the burning of incense on the altar of incense in the Holy Place: ONLY THE PRIESTS! That is when the tension exploded.
“Azariah the priest with 80 other courageous priests of the LORD followed him in.” As High Priest, it was Azariah’s duty to do something to stop this blasphemous behavior by King Uzziah. He rounded up 80 “courageous priests”. Why does the text note that they were “courageous”? Everyone knew that to confront/challenge a King as powerful as Uzziah was to face possible death; hence, courageous.
The showdown didn’t take place out in the open air, but rather in the Holy Place. Notice that it says they “followed him in.” That meant that 82 men were packed into the Holy Place (68’ X 34’) which already contained the golden lampstand, the golden table of bread and the golden altar of incense. The tight standing quarters added to the tension.
That is when Azariah fired out, “It is not right for you, Uzziah, to burn incense to the LORD. That is for the priests, the descendants of Aaron, who have been consecrated to burn incense. Leave the sanctuary, for you have been unfaithful; and you will not be honored by the LORD God.” Oh, my goodness. The tension could have been cut with a knife. Azariah basically opposed Uzziah with, “WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE?”
Then Uzziah blew a gasket: “Uzziah … became angry. … he was raging at the priests in their presence before the incense altar in the LORD’s temple” Uzziah was threatening all 81 priests with: “WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE?”
That is when the surprise visitor showed up. “… leprosy broke out on his forehead. When Azariah the chief priest and all the other priests looked at him, they saw that he had leprosy on his forehead, so they hurried him out. Indeed, he himself was eager to leave, because the LORD had afflicted him. King Uzziah had leprosy until the day he died. He lived in a separate house—leprous, and banned from the temple of the LORD.” Without a word, the LORD God judged Uzziah with leprosy which shouted, “WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE?”
That day all 82 men had to answer: WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE? Everyone left humbled before the LORD God. Jehovah was supreme, sovereign, mighty.
Today, we need to answer: WHO DO WE THINK WE ARE? Is the LORD supreme in our lives? If so, praise God, for it only by His grace.
If He is not supreme, if our lives do not reflect daily faithful service to Him, then it is time to change. And if we truly surrender, we will know that the answer to that question comes from the lips of Mary: “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” Lk. 1:38
Mike Sublett is a pastor at Hi-Land Christian Church, 1615 N. Banks St., Pampa, Texas 79065. Email him at email@example.com.