June 11: The Danger of Success
2 Chronicles 26:1–28:27; 1 John 2:1–6; Psalm 103:15–22
Western culture is obsessed with success. Society places successful people on a pedestal, as if they’re somehow smarter or better than everyone else. Christians certainly aren’t immune to this trend, as is demonstrated by the growing celebrity-pastor following. The need to succeed can tilt a church out of balance when the leader or the donors with the deepest pockets become the focus, and ultimate authority, instead of Christ.
Uzziah’s story demonstrates the danger of success. Most of the kings of Judah prior to Uzziah—who was appointed king at the age of 16—failed God and His people. They achieved success in their own eyes, but biblical history paints them as men who were spiritually weak and sought their own gain at the sacrifice of others. Success achieved through force may look like strength, but it’s actually weakness. The distinction of great leaders is their ability to rise alongside those they lead, not over them.
At the beginning of his reign, Uzziah showed every sign of becoming a great leader: “And he did what was right in the eyes of Yahweh, according to all that Amaziah his father had done. And he began to seek God in the days of Zechariah who was teaching in visions of God. And whenever he sought Yahweh God made him have success” (2 Chr 26:4–5). Uzziah rose with his people, and he was willing to be taught by those he respected.
But then King Uzziah became proud: “But on account of his strength his heart grew proud unto destruction. And he acted unfaithfully against Yahweh his God” (2 Chr 26:16). Uzziah went so far as to place himself in the role of the priests; as a result, God afflicted him with leprosy. Instead of following God’s will as he always had, Uzziah let success—and the desire for ultimate authority—become his guide (2 Chr 26:16–21).
We should not judge success according to societal norms, but on our submission to God’s will and reign over our lives. We should question whether we are living up to our God-given potential and using our God-given gifts for His glory. And we should be cautious of pride—both in ourselves and others—so that we can discern whether confidence comes from self or from God, as it should.
What do you feel proud of? How can you be better at helping others rise with you?
JOHN D. BARRY
- Then all the people of Judah took Uzziah which was sixteen years old, and made him king in the stead of his father Amaziah. He built Eloth, and restored it to Judah, after that the king slept with his fathers. Sixteen years old was Uzziah, when he began to reign, and he reigned two and fifty years in Jerusalem, and his mother’s name was Jecholiah of Jeruslaem. And he did uprightly in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his father Amaziah did. And he sought God in the days of Zechariah (which understood the visions of God) and when as he sought the Lord, God made him to prosper. For he went forth and fought against the Philistines and brake down the wall of Gath, and the wall of Jabneh, and the wall of Ashdod, and built cities in Ashdod, and among the Philistines. And God helped him against the Philistines, and against the Arabians that dwelt in Gur Baal and Hammeunim. And the Ammonites gave gifts to Uzziah, and his name spread to the entering in of Egypt: for he did most valiantly. Moreover Uzziah built towers in the wilderness, and dug many cisterns: for he had much cattle both in the valleys and plains, plowmen, and dressers of vines in the mountains, and in Carmel: for he loved husbandry. Uzziah also had an host of fighting men that went out to war by bands, according to the count of their number under the hand of Jeiel the Scribe, and Maaseiah the ruler, and under the hand of Hananiah, one of the King’s captains. The whole number of the chief of the families of the valiant men and under the hand of Hananiah, one of the King’s captains. The whole number of the chief of the families of the valiant men were two thousand and six hundred. And under their hand was the army of war, three hundred and seven thousand, and five hundred that fought valiantly to help the King against the enemy. And Uzziah prepared them throughout all the host, shields, and spears, and helmets, and brigadines, and bows, and stones to sling. He made also very artificial engines in Jerusalem, to be upon the towers and upon the corners, to shoot arrows and great stones: and his name spread far abroad, because God did help him marvelously till he was mighty. But when he was strong, his heart was lifted up to his destruction: for he transgressed against the Lord his God, and went into the Temple of the Lord to burn incense upon the altar of incense. And Azariah the Priest went in after him, and with him fourscore Priests of the Lord, valiant men. And they withstood Uzziah the King, and said unto him, It pertaineth not to thee, Uzziah, to burn incense unto the Lord, but to the Priests the son of Aaron, that are consecrated for to offer incense: go forth of the Sanctuary: for thou hast transgressed, and thou shalt have non honor of the Lord God. Then Uzziah was wroth, and had incense in his hand to burn it: and while he was wroth with the Priests, the leprosy rose up in his forehead before the Priests in the house of the Lord beside the incense altar. And when Azziah the chief Priest with all the Priests looked upon him, behold, he was leprous in his forehead, and they caused him hastily to depart thence: and he was even compelled to go out, because the Lord had smitten him. And Uzziah the King was a leper unto the day of his death, and dwelt as a leper in an house apart, becasue he was cut off from the house of the Lord: and Jotham his son ruled ove the King’s house, and judged the people of the land. Concerning the rest of the acts of Uzziah, first and last, did Isaiah the Prophet the son of Amoz write. So Uzziah slept with his fathers, and they buried him with his fathers in the field of the burial, which pertained to the Kings: for they said, He is a leper. And Jotham his son reigned in his stead. Jotham was five and twenty years old when he began to reign, and reigned sixteen years in jerusalem, and his mother’s name was Jerushah the daughter of Zadok. And he did uprightly in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his father Uzziah did, save that he entered not into the Temple of the Lord, and the people did yet corrupt their ways. He built the high gate of the house of the Lord, and he built very much on the wall of the castle. Moreover he built cities in the mountains of Judah, and in the forests he built palaces and towers. And he fought with the kings of the children of Ammon, and prevailed against them. And the children of Ammon gave him the same year an hundred talents of silver, and ten thousand measures of wheat, and ten thousand of barley: this did the children of Ammon give him both in the second year and the third. So Jotham became mighty, because he directed his way before the Lord his God. Concerning the rest of the acts of Jotham and all his wars and his ways, lo, they are written in the book of the Kings of Israel, and Judah. He was five and twenty years old, when he began to reign, and reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem. And Jotham slept with his fathers, and they buried him in the city of David: and Ahaz his son reigned in his stead. Ahaz was twenty years old when he began to reign, and reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem, and did not uprightly in the sight of the Lord, like David his father. But he walked in the ways of the kings of Israel, and made even molten images for Baalim. Moreover he burnt incense in the valley of Ben-hinnom, and burnt his sons with fire, after the abominations of the heathen whom the Lord had cast out before the children of Israel. He sacrificed also and burnt incense in the high places, and on hills, and under every green tree. Wherefore the Lord his God delivered him into the hand of the king of the Aramites, and they smote him, and took of his many prisoners, and brought them to Damascus: and he was also delivered into the hand of the king of Israel, which smote him with a great slaughter. For Pekah the son of Remaliah slew in Judah sixscore thousand in one day, all valiant men, because they had forsaken the Lord God of their fathers. And Zichri a mighty man of Ephraim slew Maaseiah the king’s son, and Azrikam the governor of the house, and Elkanah the second after the king. And the children of Israel took prisoners of their brethren, two hundred thousand of women, sons and daughters, and carried away much spoil of them, and brought the spoil to Samaria. But there was a Prophet of the Lord, (whose name was Oded) and he went out before the host that came to Samaria, and said unto them, Behold, because the Lord God of your fathers is wroth with Judah, he hath delivered them into your hand, and ye have slain them in a rage, that reacheth up to heaven. And now ye purpose to keep under the children of Judah and Jerusalem, as servants and handmaids unto you, but are not you such that sins are with you before the Lord your God? Now therefore hear me, and deliver the captives again, which ye have taken prisoners of your brethren: for the fierce wrath of the Lord is toward you. Wherefore certain of the chiefs of the children of Ephraim, Azariah the son of Johanan, Berechiah the son of Meshilllemoth, and Jehizkiah the son of Shallum, and Amasa the son of Hadlai, stood up against them that came from the war, And said unto them, Bring not in the captives hither: for this shall be a sin upon us against the Lord: ye intended to add more to our sins and to our trespass, though our trespass be great, and the fierce wrath of God is against Israel. So the army left the captives and the spoil before the princes and all the Congregation. And the men that were named by name, rose up and took the prisoners, and with the spoil clothed all that were naked among them, and arrayed them, and shod them, and gave them meat, and gave them drink, and anointed them, and carried all that were feeble of them upon asses, and broght them to Jericho the city of Palm trees to their brethren: so they returned to Samaria. At that time did King Ahaz send unto the kings of Assyria to help him. (For the Edomites came moreover, and slew of Judah, and carried away captives. The Philistines also invaded the cities in the low country, and toward the South of Judah, and took Beth Shemesh, and Aijalon, and Gederoth, and Sochoh, with the villages thereof, and Timnah, with her villages, and Gimzo, with her villages, and they dwelt there. For the Lord had humbled Judah, because of Ahaz king of Israel: for he had brought vengeance upon Judah, and had grievously transgressed against the Lord.) And Tilgath-Pilneser king of Assyria came unto him, who troubled him and did not strengthen him. For Ahaz took a portion out of the house of the Lord and out of the king’s house and of the princes’, and gave unto the king of Assyria: yet it helped him not. And in the time of his tribulation did he yet trespass more against the Lord, (this is king Ahaz) For he sacrificed unto the gods of Damascus, which plagued him, and he said, Because the gods of the kings of Aram helped them, I will sacrifice unto them, and they will help me: yet they were his ruin, and of all Israel. And Ahaz gathered the vessels of the house of God, and brake the vesseles of the house of God, and shut up the doors of the house of God, and shut up the doors of the house of the Lord, and made him altars in every corner of Jerusalem. And in every city of Judah he made high places, to burn incense nto other gods, and provoked to anger the Lord God of his fathers. Concerning the rest of his acts, and all his ways first and last, behold, they are written in the book of the Kings of Judah, and Israel. 2 Chronicles 26:1–28:27
- My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not: and if any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, the Just. And he is the reconciliation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. And hereby we are sure that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But he that keepth his word, in him is the love of God perfect indeed: hereby we know that we are in him. He that saith he remaineth in him, ought even so to walk as he hath walked. 1 John 2:1–6
- The days of man are as grass: as a flower of the field, so flourish he. For the wind goeth over it, and it is gone, and the place thereof shall know it no more. But the loving kindness of the Lord endureth forever and ever upon them that fear him, and his righteousness upon children’s children, Unto them that keep his covenant, and think upon his commandments to do them. The Lord hath prepared his throne in heaven, and his kingdom ruleth over all. Praise the Lord, ye his Angels, that excel in strength, that do his commandment in obeying the voice of his word. Praise Lord all ye his hosts, ye his servants that do his pleasure. Praise the Lord all ye his works, in all places of his dominion: my soul, praise thou the Lord. Psalm 103:15–22