And as long as he sought the Lord, God made him to prosper.I. THE SEEKERS OF THE LORD.
1. Every real seeker of the Lord must be a heaven-born soul (John 3:8). This involves the bestowment of a Divine existence, the creating of a new nature (2 Peter 1:4). This is the nature that habitually seeks after God.
2. Seeking the Lord includes —
(1) (2) (3) II. THEIR EXPERIENCE OF PROSPERITY. If you ask a worldling what constitutes prosperity he will say, "Many excellent bargains, good customers, ready money, quick returns, the accumulation of property, health, friends, extended connections, and the like." But what is Christian prosperity? 1. Spiritual growth. 2. Triumphant victories. The life of a Christian is the life of a conqueror. 3. The taking of spoils from the vanquished foe. The most valuable lessons are often learnt from the heaviest calamities. III. THE EXTENSION OF PROSPERITY: "As long as he sought the Lord." (Joseph Irons.)
(2) (3) II. THEIR EXPERIENCE OF PROSPERITY. If you ask a worldling what constitutes prosperity he will say, "Many excellent bargains, good customers, ready money, quick returns, the accumulation of property, health, friends, extended connections, and the like." But what is Christian prosperity? 1. Spiritual growth. 2. Triumphant victories. The life of a Christian is the life of a conqueror. 3. The taking of spoils from the vanquished foe. The most valuable lessons are often learnt from the heaviest calamities. III. THE EXTENSION OF PROSPERITY: "As long as he sought the Lord." (Joseph Irons.)
(3) II. THEIR EXPERIENCE OF PROSPERITY. If you ask a worldling what constitutes prosperity he will say, "Many excellent bargains, good customers, ready money, quick returns, the accumulation of property, health, friends, extended connections, and the like." But what is Christian prosperity? 1. Spiritual growth. 2. Triumphant victories. The life of a Christian is the life of a conqueror. 3. The taking of spoils from the vanquished foe. The most valuable lessons are often learnt from the heaviest calamities. III. THE EXTENSION OF PROSPERITY: "As long as he sought the Lord." (Joseph Irons.)
1. Spiritual growth.
2. Triumphant victories. The life of a Christian is the life of a conqueror.
III. THE EXTENSION OF PROSPERITY: "As long as he sought the Lord."
I. WE HAVE THE MARVELLOUS HELP WHICH JEHOVAH GIVES TO A RIGHTLY-PURPOSED MAN, AND ITS CONSEQUENCES. No one can suppose that Judah was very prosperous before the accession of that king. For, not only had it been humbled at the battle of Beth-Shemesh, but Jerusalem itself had been ravaged and partially dismantled. And, considering the extreme youth of the king, only sixteen years of age when he came to the throne, one would naturally have expected to read of the gradual increase of the disorders of the kingdom through the contests of opposing factions, and of its gradual diminution and enthralment through the successes of its enemies. But, on the contrary, the first thing recorded of Uzziah is that "he built Eloth and restored it to Judah"; and thenceforward, throughout the greater part of his reign, the story of no single disaster or defeat interrupts the current of prosperity. First of all the Philistines, and then the Arabs, the Mehunim, and the Ammonites were compelled to restore to Judah the cities they had before appropriated, were, indeed, in some instances reduced to the condition of tributary nations. And the internal administration of the country was not less fortunate than its external relationships. Jerusalem was refortified, and for the first time in Biblical history we read of "engines, invented by cunning men, to be on the towers and upon the bulwarks, to shoot arrows and great stones withal." And "he built towers in the desert, and digged many wells; for he had much cattle, both in the low country and in the plains; husbandmen also and vinedressers in the mountains and in Carmel; for he loved husbandry." Everything shows that the kingdom reached a condition of prosperity such as it had not known since the days of Solomon. And the explanation of it all is the marvellous help of the Almighty. You may see it in almost all aspects and exigencies of life — the wonderful help of God making s Christian prosperous and strong. It is quite true that we sometimes trouble ourselves, as Uzziah must have often in those difficult years troubled himself, with the thought that we have no inherent ability for the work which God gives us to do, whether it be work of service or of sanctification. But in that imagination we are altogether wrong, and therefore wrong in letting ourselves be depressed and unnerved by it. For the Scriptural doctrine always is that it is the marvellous help of God that makes a man strong, that no man is or can become strong, in any religious sense of that word, apart from such help. "Work out your own salvation, for it is God that worketh in you." There can be no other explanation of the prosperity of Uzziah, his conquest of difficulties greater than ours, his faithfulness under burdens heavier than ours, than simply that God, because of his faith in God, helped him. And in all times, when duty, sorrow, responsibility, or doubt presses upon ourselves, we can adopt a course that has never failed, and resolve, "I will seek unto God, and unto God will I commit my cause, which doeth great things, and unsearchable, marvellous things without number... to set up on high those that be low, that those which mourn may be exalted to safety."
II. THE PERIL OF PROSPERITY, WHICH WAS TOO GREAT A PERIL FOR UZZIAH. His splendid career elated him, and "his heart was lifted up to his destruction." Instead of reverent praise to God for having helped him so marvellously, he began to flatter himself with the thought that his success had been achieved by his own wisdom and skill, and "he transgressed against the Lord, and went into the temple of the Lord to burn incense upon the altar of incense." It is easy to find excuses for Uzziah, which are sufficient to protect him from our blame, but not sufficient to reduce the heinousness of his sin in the sight of God. It might, for instance, be said that his old godly counsellor Zechariah had lately died. Or it might be said that he was but imitating the conduct of his father, of Jeroboam, of the idolatrous kings around him. But, whatever our charity may dispose us to urge in palliation, the fact remains that he showed his gratitude to God for the marvellous help he had received by setting at nought the express commandment of God. For when Korah, Dathan, and Abiram were destroyed, their brazen censers were made into broad plates for a covering of the altar "to be a memorial unto the children of Israel" (so runs the law) "that no stranger, which is not of the seed of Aaron, come near to offer incense before the Lord." Nor can Uzziah have forgotten that law. It was, indeed, when he became wrath with the faithful priests who reminded him of it, and pressed forward with his censer, that that moment "the leprosy rose up to his forehead," and, conscience-smitten, he hastened out of the temple. Just think of the contrast which that sin caused between the earlier and the later parts of Uzziah's reign. There is another place in the Old Testament where that warning is embedded in associations of even greater interest than these — the song of Moses in the thirty-second chapter of Deuteronomy. The marvellous works which God had wrought for Israel are enumerated first. Then follow the ungrateful exaltation of Israel in their own eyes, their desertion of God, and the wrath they thereby brought quickly upon themselves. It is just a type of the process that takes place in many hearts. First of all, God blesses us, enables us to do what otherwise we could not possibly have done, makes us great in control over ourselves, and perhaps, also, in influence over others. We, in some crisis of temptation, listen to the whisper that it was our own hand that made us strong; self-complacency begets presumption; until at last conscience smites us; we know ourselves to be leprous in spirit in the sight of God, and the self-built fabric of prosperity crumbles in a moment. Blessed for us if the Lord gives us what He gave Uzziah — seven quiet years for penitence, thought, and humbler service. It may be well to linger a little upon the different stages of this process, which sometimes leads a godly man from strength to leprosy. Obviously pride was at' the bottom of Uzziah's sin. Uzziah seems to have thought, "Philistines and Ammonites, it's I have defeated them, and my name which they applaud and fear even to the entering in of Egypt. My father left the kingdom circumscribed, so reduced that he had to give hostages to Joash; I have made it great and free." And still whenever by the help of God we have done any useful work, we are liable to a similar temptation, to attribute to ourselves the credit of having done it, and in our self-complacency to forget and to dishonour God. There is nothing but sin, failure, and ruin to be found in yielding to that temptation. For the immediate and necessary consequence of pride is presumption, which, though it may not take the exact form it took in the case of Uzziah, may take an equally sinful form. One form it often assumes now, in the case of men whose real knowledge of God is very defective, is that of patronising the Gospel. But much as that habit of thought requires to be guarded against, it is probably in other directions that most of us are more apt to err. The remembrance of what we have done by the help of God prompts us to attempt what we have to do apart from His help, with confidence in ourselves as sufficient for it, with a neglect of Divine aid as more or less unnecessary and superfluous. Any particle of the pride which leads us to attribute to ourselves the success of the past, whatever the particular form or particular associations of that pride, is a mistake even according to human judgment, an element of weakness which will grievously impede us, and a sin in the sight of God. And, whilst that principle teaches us what is forbidden, it teaches us also what is enjoined. Pride always means folly and failure. And therefore trust in God, the more perfect and supreme the better, means wisdom and success. It was whilst Uzziah "looked unto God" that he was marvellously helped and made strong. And it will be in proportion as we trust in Jehovah that we shall have vigour to finish and patience to bear whatever He gives us to endure or to do.
(R. W. Moss.)
I. UZZIAH'S PROSPEROUS CAREER. "He was marvellously helped till he was strong." His good fortune, as the world would call it, dated from his seventeenth year. It was a trying position for a mere boy to be placed in; for the cares and responsibilities, as well as the temptations and luxuries, of a royal palace demand a ripe wisdom and strength of moral purpose rarely found at so early an age. But God's grace could qualify even so young a man for the task; and I am struck with the fact, that almost every one of the good kings of Judah was quite a youth when he succeeded to the throne. There is no reason why the season of young manhood should be given up to passion and frivolity. It was a great advantage to the young Uzziah that he had the loyal attachment and confidence of his people. But what mainly guarded him from the dangers around him, and kept him steady on his throne, was a sincere piety. Never forget the quarter from whence all true prosperity must come. Success does not depend on yourselves alone. Still less does it come from chance. Take God with you into all the affairs of life. Look to Him to bless your business. Ask His help in every fresh enterprise you undertake.
II. HIS MARVELLOUS PRESUMPTION. "But when he was strong, his heart was lifted up to his destruction." It requires special grace to keep a man right when he has had a career of unbroken prosperity. One day, when the celebrated George Whitfield was about to commence the service, an intimation was read out from the desk below: "The prayers of the congregation are desired for a young man who has become heir to an immense fortune, and who feels he has much need of grace to keep him humble in the midst of his riches." Nothing tries a man so much as the favour of fortune and the flattery of the world.
III. THE NOTE OF WARNING. As there are many kinds of prosperity, so there are many kinds of presumption. A man may be "lifted up to his destruction," for example —
1. By the pride of money. It does not take a large fortune to make some people "purse-proud " — and very disagreeable people these are.
2. The pride of intellect. I wish to put you on your guard against a current which is running very strong in our day. I mean the tendency to set up the reason against religion. Perhaps I might mention —
3. Pride of wit. Now I go in for a sunny, cheerful religion. God has, put within us a faculty of mirthfulness, which He did not mean us to suppress. There is no necessary connection between dulness and piety, between a long face and a new heart. True, but there are some men who are hardly ever serious.
(J. T. Davidson, D. D.)
1. Of individuals.
2. Of families.
3. Of Churches.
4. Of nations.
(W. Mackintosh Arthur, M.A.)
I. PROSPERITY AND PRIDE. "Uzziah did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his father Amaziah did. And he sought God in the days of Zechariah, who had understanding in the visions of God: and as long as he sought the Lord, God made him to prosper." The results of godly training and holy companionship are often seen in the prudence, and diligence, and sobriety which command success and reputation. The modes of life which the influence of the gospel forms, which are the tradition of Christian households, are just those which conduce to happiness and honour. Mere worldly prosperity is often the prelude to daring impiety. It is a perpetual question how to "remove" the "hireling" spirit out of the Church. Men whose ships bring them wealth, whose plans in business succeed, come to fancy themselves fit for any place of responsibility in the Church. Churches love to pay honour to men of wealth; choose for places of special service, not those of pure heart, and fervent faith, and lowly self-denial, but those who have succeeded in business, and whose plans, it is therefore thought, must needs be followed. Uzziah was a good king, but he was a bad priest; he was not the priest whom God had chosen. Men whose godliness, and integrity, and Christian conduct have won them respect are most valuable helps in all Christian activities. But mere worldly success is a poor standard by which to measure these things, and ought never to be allowed to secure to any voice and direction in Church affairs. "It appertains not to these to burn incense unto the Lord." It is a matter of personal experience how prosperity lifts up the heart, and lures us to destruction. "Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
II. PRIDE AND PUNISHMENT. "Here now," you may be ready to say, "is something in the story which is simply Jewish, quite foreign to the life of to-day. Do you mean to say that God visits men with judgments now? Is there anything here to come home to the hearts of Englishmen?" I do say that God is judging us; the same God who judged His people of old. There is in this very part of the narrative something to set us thinking on the mysteries of our daily life, and to help in their interpretation. Suppose, now, a physician had given us a purely medical report of this incident. Suppose he had told us that there was in Uzziah an unsuspected taint of leprosy: a taint which, if he had been careful of himself, especially avoiding strong passionate excitements, might never have developed into actual symptoms of disease. Hereditary or constitutional disease may often lurk for a lifetime unsuspected, till some circumstance favours its development, and instantaneously it works itself out in all its power. Of all such favouring circumstances, strong passionate excitement is the surest; in the heat of pride the seeds of sickness are frequently quickened. What stories are more impressive or more common than those of men suddenly stricken down on the eve of the gratification of their pride, in the first thrill of triumph, in the very fever of unbridled ambition? A man has been all his lifetime amassing wealth; satisfied at length, he builds himself a lordly mansion, that he may rank with the nobles of the land. He builds, but he never enjoys it — he is found some morning smitten with impotence; and the palsied speech-muscles refuse to articulate a word. A statesmen is summoned to the royal presence-chamber; at the council-table the blood-stain at his lips declares that honours and life will soon be laid together in the dust. A student is called to preside over some learned body; his brain gives way, and the asylum is henceforth his home. Instead of leprosy, read paralysis or haemorrhage, or softening of the brain, and it is just a narrative from our daily press. Say what we will, this is true, that pride and passion, unregulated ambition and impious recklessness, do terribly punish those whom they enslave. The Jewish story interprets the English life. If Englishman trace these things to natural causes, and go no further, while the Jew says, "God has smitten him," the Jew is right and the Englishman is wrong. It is a sign of unbelief and folly to refuse to trace God's hands, save in events that are utterly unintelligible. God's great work is to reveal, not to hide Himself. It is part of His order of nature that bodily pains should often reveal and rebuke the workings of an ungodly soul. The hour of pride is often, too, an hour of terrible revelation of hidden spiritual taints; which of us has not found secret sine leaping to light in the heats of unbridled passion? We flattered ourselves that God made us to prosper because we sought Him. Our seeking of Him became a tradition of the past, a memory; we thought we had overcome our temptations, laid aside our easily besetting sin; and, even while we boasted, we fell before God and men. We have thanked God we were not as other men; suddenly we have had to change our boasting, we have known ourselves the chief of sinners. As long as we seek God, He will make us to prosper; but only so long. Keep we ever near Him, ever following Him, ever obeying and trusting Him, and we shall be "marvellously helped and be strong."
III. PUNISHMENT AND SHAME. Hope concerning Uzziah is given in the record of his hasting to go out of the temple. His proud heart was broken; he was smitten with shame. There needed not "the priests, the valiant men," to thrust him out: "Yea, himself hasted also to go out, because the Lord had smitten him." It may have been mere terror that drove him forth, the force of circumstances, and not a convicted, penitent heart. His self-abasement may have been as godless as was his exaltation. It may have been so; but it may have been far otherwise. Assuredly God intended it to be otherwise. Of the seven years that he spent in the "several house" we know nothing; of this we may be sure, that during all those years God was seeking to restore and save his soul. In solitude, while his son was over his kingdom, and regents were doing the work God had taken from his hands, he might have learnt many a lesson he had not learnt upon the throne. The dignity and service forfeited through pride may be never regained. A stain may cling to the name; the reputation long held honourable, and lost through a shameful fall, may not even after death be recovered. Sons may blush more over the dishonourable grave and the one terrible sin of their fathers than they triumph in the glory of a whole life. Impiety is a fearful thing, and has a fearful curse.
(A. Mackennal, B.A.)
(J. Parker, D.D.)
For he loved husbandry.
(J. Parker, D. D.)
For he was marvellously helped till he was strong.
1. A time when we cannot help ourselves. Infancy.
2. A time of growth, when we can help ourselves. Youth, manhood.
3. When thus strong the supernatural help ceases.Not less provision made on that account. There is joy and co-operation with God. As an earthly father requires to be obeyed and served, beholds strength and disposition to co-operate, so the heavenly Father, etc. (G. Matheson.)
I. UZZIAH'S PROSPERITY.
1. The particulars of his prosperity.(1) He prospered in war. He had an army of 307,500 men, over whom were 2,600 mighty and valorous captains. All were fully equipped for service. With these soldiers Uzziah fought against the Philistines, the Arabians that dwelt in Gur-baal, the Mehunims and the Amorites, and in each case he was victorious.(2) He prospered in building. He repaired and fortified the walls of Jerusalem, reared towers "a hundred and fifty cubits high" (Josephus), built walled towns in the desert, and made channels for the conveyance of water.(3) He prospered in agriculture. "He planted it with all sorts of plants, and sowed it with all sorts of seeds."(4) Uzziah's prosperity appears to have been general. He did not keep up a great military establishment at the expense of other departments. His name spread far abroad, and he was acknowledged to be an illustrious and a highly-favoured prince.
2. The author of his prosperity. This was God. (Uzziah signifies "strength from Jehovah.") "He was marvellously helped." God helped him against his enemies, and in all he undertook. It might have been otherwise. Instead of victory he might have experienced defeat. His building and agricultural schemes might have proved unsuccessful. It is always well to set the Lord at our right hand. We may plough and plant, but He only can cause the seed to germinate, and grow, and fructify. We may contrive and work, but He only can bless our endeavours.
3. The secret of Uzziah's prosperity. It is distinctly set forth in the fifth verse of this (26) chapter, "He sought God in the days of Zechariah, who had understanding in the visions of God: and so long as he sought the Lord God made him to prosper." What is there that God cannot do for a man who takes Him into his counsels? He can help him "marvellously." He can exalt valleys and level mountains, make crooked places straight and rough places plain. He can bring clients into the office and ready-money customers into the shop. He has the hearts of all men in His hands, and all the forces of the universe; and He can do whatsoever He will.
II. UZZIAH'S PRIDE.
1. His prosperity made him proud. "His heart was lifted up." A great change for the worse was wrought in him. Whether it was brought about suddenly or gradually we are not told. We assume that Uzziah did not become proud all at once. He who had formerly recognised God as the prime cause of his splendid achievements became wilfully blind, and we shall soon see what effect this had upon his conduct.
2. His pride led him into presumption. The tendency of pride is to make men giddy, and as the result their vision is beclouded, their judgment is perverted.(1) The occasion of his presumption. Josephus tells us that it was "a remarkable day, a general festival," and we are left to supply the rest.(2) The nature of his presumption. He usurped the office of the priest. There are hereditary moral diseases as well as those which are physical and mental. Uzziah's folly was in some respects a reproduction of the folly of which Amaziah his father had been guilty.
III. UZZIAH'S PUNISHMENT.
1. He was resisted in his attempt to do that which was unlawful; resisted by the proper guardians of the temple. Azariah, the high priest, seeing what he was about to do, went in after him, and with him fourscore priests of the Lord, who were valiant men. No time was lost (ver. 18).
2. He was smitten with leprosy. "The leprosy rose up in his forehead before the priests in the house of the Lord." There was the bright scaly spot which told its own terrible tale — the mark of God's disapprobation, and it was on his brow, where all could see it.
3. He was thrust out of the temple as unclean. It was not necessary, however, to use force; conscious that God had smitten him, he hurried out, self-condemned, probably shrieking out his woe, and cursing his folly.
4. He was separated from society (Leviticus 13:46).
5. He, being a leper, was buried alone. Josephus tells us that he "was buried by himself in his own garden." In all likelihood his resting-place was a field or garden adjoining the usual burial-place of the kings.Lessons:
1. God is the giver of prosperity.
2. Prosperous men are in danger of becoming proud.
3. Pride is often followed by presumption.
4. Presumption is sure of punishment.
(J. Baker Norton.)
It appertaineth not unto thee, Uzziah, to burn incense unto the Lord.
(J. Parker, D. D.)
(J. Parker, D. D.)
Monday Club Sermons.I. HIS REIGN AS KING. This was pre-eminently successful. The Arab hordes on his south-east borders were subdued, and the Ammonites were reduced to tribute. He was no less vigorous in defensive than offensive operations. He paid as great attention to the arts of peace as of war. He was the special patron of agriculture; he dug wells, built towers in the wilderness for the protection of the flocks, and cultivated rich vineyards.
II. UZZIAH'S SIN. Uzziah was ambitious; he was not willing that any in his realm should enjoy prerogatives denied to him.
III. UZZIAH'S PUNISHMENT. Henceforth the most menial subject would not exchange places with the leprous king. As lessons taught by this narrative we learn —
1. Prosperity is dangerous. The record of Uzziah does not stand alone. Prosperity seldom draws men to God. Gratitude does not increase in proportion as God's favours multiply. A man's piety is not usually increased by his becoming rich. It is seldom men are more religious in health than in sickness. "Before I was afflicted I went astray; but now have I kept Thy Word."
2. God is to be approached reverently. Uzziah seems to have thought that by being a king, successful and famous, he had earned the right to enter the holy place and offer sacred incense. It is often expected that God will accept worship if the display of wealth mingle with it largely. Does not the ability to offer such choice incense gain for one the right to lift the sacred veil and stand where God hath said His Priests only should enter, and "the stranger that cometh nigh shall be put to death?" Uzziah thought that God would not exclude a favoured king from that sacred presence. Men often think that it is possible to find some incense wafted from a worldly censer which shall ascend as fragrance to the unseen holy. But what had Uzziah's kingdom to do toward fitting him to perform a priestly act? Man's approach to God is through Christ. In the Old Testament dispensation, not even a symbol of His person or work could be accepted or admitted into the holy place, other than that which God had appointed.
3. Sin, though in high places, must be rebuked. It seemed a bold act for the priests to say to Judah's king, "Go out of the sanctuary, for thou hast trespassed." They were the humble ministers of religion, and he the proud and pampered king of a victorious people. He had transcended his limit, and must be rebuked, though he be a king. Such invasions of religion are not rare. The world is always ready to take religious duties into her own hands, to tell how God is to be worshipped, what doctrines are to be preached, what duties prescribed, what faults are to be rebuked, and what allowed. She enters with a regal tread, and speaks with imperious voice. What shall be done? Does and will the Church stand firm in her antagonism to wrong and sin, though they stand in kingly pride to offer polluted incense on her sacred altars?
4. Men may be blinded to sin, till they see its consequences. It is not probable that Uzziah realised his guilt till the "leprosy rose up in his forehead." Then he hasted to go out of the sanctuary. Perhaps he feared other and severer judgments would follow. Had God stayed His retributive hand, and the king been suffered, with no leprous spots, to leave the altar as proud and ambitious as he entered, his guilt would have been as great. The smitten forehead, like a detective, laid the offender under arrest, and thus exposed him; but it did not create or increase his sin. Many, guilty of the most grievous wrongs, think themselves respectable, and claim the confidence of others, till some providence uncovers their evil deeds. It is a mistake to suppose that all the criminals are in prison. A bad men is as bad on one side of iron bars as on the other.
(Monday Club Sermons.)
Then Uzziah was wroth.
(W. H. Bennett, M.A.).