The Folly of a Self-Made Man

Please read 2 Chronicles 26 in your Bible.

https://www.behance.net/gallery/110813615/Sermon-Illustrations-2021

      Have you heard the word “hubris?”  It means arrogance, overconfidence, and foolish pride.  Because it comes from a Greek word that had connotations of shame, this word can be defined as a shameful degree of pride.  The person with hubris is setting themselves up for a fall.  In the Bible “hubris” parallels the Hb word pasha, one of the many words for sin.  In this case, it is a sin motivated by pride.  It is an inflated view of self that motivates a person to defy God.

      I asked the internet for two examples of hubris.  The first example was politicians.  Imagine that: politicians with hubris?  C’mon…really?  Jon Lovett is a podcaster, comedian, and former staff member of the Obama administration.  His quote on the subject of hubris is as follows: “America needs a strong, rational, positive, practical conservative movement. It needs that bulwark against liberal delusion and hubris. It needs a voice that says we are imperfect, that life is complex, that government can create need even as it meets need, that you can’t fix everything, and freedom is worth some danger and sorrow.”

(www.brainyquote.com.)

      The other example is Pepe LePew, the cartoon skunk who thinks he is such a lover he courts every black cat in sight.  Over the course of each cartoon, he gets in all sort of zany misadventures trying to woo black cats that he, in his hubris, are deeply in love with him and just playing “hard to get.”  So there you go – don’t be like a bad politician or Pepe LePew!

Don’t idolize yourself: trust God instead.

1. Uzziah’s biography. (1-5)

      Uzziah was his father’s son: He had his good points and his bad moments. (See 2 Kings 14:21-22; 15:1-7.)  Uzziah was apparently his “throne name” but was known as Azariah personally.

      His father Amaziah’s report card shows an “I” for ”incomplete.”  In 2 Kings 25:2 we read; HE DID WHAT WAS RIGHT IN THE EYES OF THE LORD, BUT NOT WHOLEHEARTEDLY.  2 Kings 14:4 tells us his reforms were incomplete; he did not remove the sites where idol worship was conducted.

      Uzziah’s report card would show the same grade.  2 Kings 15:3-4 tells us Uzziah did exactly the same that his father had done; he did RIGHT except for failing to remove the HIGH PLACES where idols were worshipped.  Though he didn’t worship idols himself, he allowed the people to do so.

      Now we will take a look to see how 2 Chronicles 26 develops this “grade.”  First, a look at Uzziah personally.  Verse three tells us he became king at a relatively young age (16) and had a long reign (52 years).

      His mother’s name is listed in v. 3, a rather unusual thing.  This might be because He was a young king and Jecoliah had a lot of influence on him.  The verse tells us she was native to Jerusalem which may be an explanation of her loyalty to the capital and to Judah.

      Another influence on Uzziah is named in verse five; Zechariah was the source of Uzziah’s instruction in the fear of God.  This is not the same Zechariah who wrote the Old Testament book of that name.  That Zechariah came 200 years later.

      Verse five also contains a spoiler: AS LONG AS HE SOUGHT THE LORD, GOD GAVE HIM SUCCESS.  Before his story is told, the blame for his failure is put where it belongs.

2. Uzziah’s success as the “Commander in Chief.” (6-15)

      Uzziah’s successes in battle are listed in verses six through eight.  Uzziah went to war to strengthen Judah’s borders.  He enjoyed military success against the Philistines, Arabs, Meunites, and Ammonites.  Even as far south as Egypt they knew about Judah’s victories.  The text sums it up saying, Uzziah HAD BECOME VERY POWERFUL.  The writer explains the reason for Uzziah’s success on these battlefields: GOD HELPED HIM (v. 7).

      Uzziah also enjoyed success in agriculture (v. 10).  TOWERS were erected for the protection of herds and crops.  CISTERNS a water supply water for cattle and crops.  Uzziah had a lot of LIVESTOCK and hired people to work the cattle and the crops.  Part of the reason for Uzziah’s economic success was that HE LOVED THE SOIL.

      Another reason and/or effect of Uzziah’s victories was his extraordinary military preparedness as detailed in verses 2, 9, 11-15.  He reclaimed, rebuilt, and restored the city of Elath to Judah’s territory (v. 2).  He repaired and improved the fortifications around Jerusalem (v. 9).  In those days having a professional standing army was unusual.  Uzziah’s was especially well-prepared (vs. 11-14).  

      His innovations in weaponry (v. 15) are a subject of speculation.  There is no archaeological evidence of siege weapons like catapults or ballistae existing at this time, so some scholars think this was more likely a kind of fortification that repelled enemies trying to scale the walls.  I think it may be possible Uzziah’s engineers did develop siege weapons like this, but they were later destroyed and lost to history.  In any case, this was some kind of new tech.  Perhaps no king since Solomon had enjoyed fame and power equal to Uzziah’s.

3. Uzziah’s failure as a self-appointed priest. (16-23)

      As frequently happens, success created hubris and Uzziah’s PRIDE LED TO HIS DOWNFALL (v. 16).  The text presents just this one incident.  It is more likely this incident was a good example or part of a pattern of behavior where Uzziah forgot the Lord and all His benefits.

      After all, pride can come on a person slowly.  Uzziah’s success slowly caused him to lose his FEAR/vision of God.  He stopped seeking the Lord and cared only for his own opinions.

      Being self-sufficient is a virtue only in worldly thinking.  People of faith realize everything comes from God.  They give Him glory and cultivate dependence on Him.

      Offering incense to God was the ministry of the priests (see Exodus 30:7-8; Numbers 18:7).  Pride caused Uzziah to defy God’s law and act as a priest.  Maybe he wanted to be like the pagan kings who did priestly things (see Genesis 14:18; Numbers 12:10).  This led to a confrontation in the temple (vs. 17-19).

      It took courage for Azariah (he might be the Azariah II listed in 1 Chronicles 6) and the other priests to stand up to the king as they did.  Uzziah was plainly in the wrong but hubris made him stubborn; his desire to be a “self-made man” brought him low.

      God condemned Uzziah’s sin and disciplined him with leprosy (vs. 19-20).  Hurt pride easily turns to anger and Uzziah refused to listen to the priests: LEPROSY was the result.  The biblical word for LEPROSY is not the same disease as the modern illness; it referred to all kinds of skin disorders.

      What’s important is not the medical nature of the illness but the theological outcome.  God had declared such skin disorders made a person “unclean.”  Unclean persons were not allowed to be in the temple or in the community at all.  Because of the contagious nature of such diseases, persons having it were quarantined.

      The fact that the disease began on Uzziah’s FOREHEAD is important because it would have been immediately noticed.  It wasn’t there one second, and the next it was.

      Because of his proud defiance, Uzziah’s life ended tragically (vs. 21-23).  The nature of the illness required Uzziah to live separately from the palace and the temple.  Leviticus 13:46 required persons with this kind of disease to be quarantined outside the community.  The phrase SEPARATE HOUSE is full of meaning: there’s the NIV marginal note and the equivalent phrase in Ugaritic (a contemporary language to ancient Hebrew) meant “house of pollution.”

      It may also have so adversely affected his health that Uzziah could no longer rule the country. (See the NIV marginal note.)  In any event, Uzziah’s throne was taken from him and his son Jotham required to rule in his father’s place.  Thankfully, Jotham learned from his father’s predicament and ruled Judah more wisely.

      After his death, Uzziah’s illness may have prevented him from being buried in the royal tombs.  In that case, he was buried in a cemetery owned by the crown but probably provided for burial of similarly unclean corpses.  The original language remains ambiguous on this point; either he was buried with the previous kings over the people’s objections (they said, “HE HAD LEPROSY”) or he was laid to rest in the equivalent of a “potter’s field.”  Which seems a more tragic end from your point of view?

Don’t idolize yourself: trust God instead.

      The scary thing about hubris is that the people who suffer from it the most are the people who are least aware of it.  Pride is a deceptive vice and its most powerful deception is self-deception.

      This means we must do two things.  One, we must be on guard against pride in ourselves more than we are sensitive to pride in others.  We are too likely to overlook our pride and too likely to find the fault in others.

      Two, since it has such deadly consequences, we need one or more accountability partners who will speak to us honestly and identify blind spots created by pride.

      But I believe our job is bigger than just avoiding pride.  We must also cultivate the virtue of humility.  One way we can do that is to put into practice what Paul wrote in PPS 2:3-4; DO NOTHING OUT OF SELFISH AMBITION OR VAIN CONCEIT, BUT IN HUMILITY CONSIDER OTHERS BETTER THAN YOURSELVES.  EACH OF YOU SHOULD LOOK NOT ONLY TO YOUR OWN INTERESTS, BUT ALSO TO THE INTERESTS OF OTHERS.

RESOURCES:

Zondervan Bible Commentary, 1 and 2 Chronicles, J. Keir Howard

Expositor’s Bible Commentary, 1 and 2 Chronicles, J. Barton Payne https://http://www.brainyquote.com/topics/hubris-quotes

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