A Heart Lifted Up
By Mary Van Nattan Stephens
2 Chronicles 26:3 Sixteen years old was Uzziah when he began to reign, and he reigned fifty and two years in Jerusalem. His mother's name also was Jecoliah of Jerusalem. 4 And he did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that his father Amaziah did.
Uzziah was a king of Judah, the son of Amaziah, and the grandson of Joash. Both Amaziah and Joash had followed the Lord up to a certain point, but both had fallen into error later in their reigns. Uzziah had, nevertheless, apparently been raised to be a Jehovah worshipper and followed what his dad had done right.
A sad commentary comes in verse 5 which warns us of the the tragedy to come. 2 Chronicles 26:5 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.
Uzziah served the LORD for many years and was a tremendous blessing to Judah. He built many battlements, fought against his enemies with God's help, secured the land, and strengthened Judah tremendously. He even received honor from the heathen and became famous among them "...for he was marvellously helped, till he was strong." v.15 It was God that made him to prosper, but it was conditional "...as long as he sought the LORD..."
Now Uzziah had the example of his forefather, King Jehoshaphat and he could have followed his example; in fact, he did to a point. Of Jehoshaphat we read, And his heart was lifted up in the ways of the LORD... 2 Chronicles 17:6 The basis for Jehoshaphat's heart being lifted up was obedience and seeking the LORD. 2 Chronicles 17:3 And the LORD was with Jehoshaphat, because he walked in the first ways of his father David, and sought not unto Baalim; 4 But sought to the LORD God of his father, and walked in his commandments, and not after the doings of Israel. But, notice that Jehoshaphat's heart was lifted up in the ways of the LORD. It was not in his own fame or success as king of Judah. His heart was lifted up as a result of his humble obedience and reverence to God. James 4:10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.
This is the kind of lifting up we should desire and seek - to have our hearts lifted up in the ways of the Lord. There is nothing in this life that can compare to the having your heart lifted up in the ways of the Lord. From the moment of salvation onward the most blessed times are when we have this uplifting joy in the things of the Lord. This is a result of seeking and obeying Him and we can count on it as long as we do seek Him, even in adversity and times of spiritual warfare.
When God helps us marvelously and lifts us up and maybe even others hear of it, the peril is to then become proud and self-sufficient. Destruction and defeat so easily come from within. Proverbs 4:23 Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.
We read of Uzziah, But when he was strong, his heart was lifted up to his destruction... 2 Chronicles 26:16 When Uzziah became proud and trusted in the strength itself instead of the LORD, he was destroyed. His heart was not lifted up in the ways of the LORD, but rather in the results that he had received by his initial obedience and seeking of God.
Dennis Costella has written on this subject:
"Ruination finally visited King Uzziah, but it did not come at the hands of the enemies round about Judah. Instead, it came from within his own heart...fame proved to be his downfall. God was with Uzziah as long as his adoration and confidence were fixed upon the Lord and not upon himself, but once pride and self-sufficiency settled in his heart, it was only a matter of time before his fall.
"Pride often reveals itself in an exalted opinion of oneself, especially when it concerns one's own spirituality..."
Proverbs 16:18 Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.
It is so easy to slip over into trusting in the results of what God has done for and through us instead of trusting in God Himself. How many good preachers have fallen through being proud of their church? How many soul-winners have exalted themselves in the results that God gave them? How many mothers and fathers have taken the credit for raising good children with wisdom that they received from the Lord? How many wives have taken credit for "straightening out" their husbands because the men saw the Lord's hand in their lives and turned to Christ?
Jeremiah 9:23 Thus saith the LORD, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches: 24 But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the LORD which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the LORD.
The rest of verse 16 tells us of Uzziah, ...for he transgressed against the LORD his God, and went into the temple of the LORD to burn incense upon the altar of incense. 2 Chronicles 26:16
Mr. Costella continues,
"The king somehow got the notion that he was now spiritually qualified to burn incense upon the altar...Uzziah made the fatal error of equating prosperity with license to cut corners. How sad. No matter how apparently prosperous any believer is, he is still subject to the clear teaching of the Word."
How easy it is to fall into the false way of thinking that because we are so spiritual it is all right if we disobey the word of God in some area! Jack Hyles actually preached this in bold terms, indicating that if your "merits" outweigh your "demerits" you can get away with sinning and God will overlook it because you're just worth too much for Him to put you out of His work. What folly! How we must beware of thinking that somehow because we have been so good, God owes us something and we should be allowed to "have some fun" (i.e. "enjoy" the pleasures of sin for a season)! We are not sufficient to accomplish anything for God without God's own strength.
2 Corinthians 3:5 Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God;
Another pitfall of this self-righteousness is that we can fall into thinking that our mistakes and follies are not as bad as other peoples'. This is equally wicked. Sin is sin and ...he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment. James 2:13
Continuing about Uzziah we read in 2 Chronicles 26:17, And Azariah the priest went in after him, and with him fourscore priests of the LORD, that were valiant men: 18 And they withstood Uzziah the king, and said unto him, It appertaineth not unto thee, Uzziah, to burn incense unto the LORD, but to the priests the sons of Aaron, that are consecrated to burn incense: go out of the sanctuary; for thou hast trespassed; neither shall it be for thine honour from the LORD God. 19 Then Uzziah was wroth, and had a censer in his hand to burn incense: and while he was wroth with the priests, the leprosy even rose up in his forehead before the priests in the house of the LORD, from beside the incense altar.
What terrible results the lifting up of the heart in pride gives! Not only did Uzziah usurp the authority to the priests and enter into that which was not his, but he was angry when he was rebuked. As Costella wrote:
Anger is an unavoidable consequence of wounded pride, for "Only by pride cometh contention..." [Proverbs 13:10] How do we respond to correction? Do we retaliate, "Not me"? If so, then know that hard times lie ahead...
Hebrews 12:5 And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: When we despise those that correct us for sin, we will no doubt despise the Lord when He chastens us, for as sure as we are saved, He will chasten us. Hebrews 12:6 For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.
The LORD God also will not honor us when we lift ourselves up in pride against Him and His commandments. Just one example: How many people have lost their power and honor from God when they began to lift themselves up in pride and correct His word? Thinking their scholarship, results, etc. make them qualified to correct the very words of God, they will then begin to exalt their own opiniones instead of God and His word that gave them the fruit in the first place. The result: they lose the blessing of the Lord.
2 Chronicles 26:20 And Azariah the chief priest, and all the priests, looked upon him, and, behold, he was leprous in his forehead, and they thrust him out from thence; yea, himself hasted also to go out, because the LORD had smitten him. 21 And Uzziah the king was a leper unto the day of his death, and dwelt in a several 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. The final results of Uzziah lifting his heart up in his own strength instead of in the Lord was that he was stricken with leprosy which ultimately resulted in him being cut off from the house of the LORD. His relationship with God was permanently marred because of his pride, and this to such an extent that he did not even repent or return to seeking the LORD as he had done before.
Here is an example of how this pattern works. Someone decides that since they are saved and belong to the Lord, the devil cannot touch them. They have seen the power of God, even in their own experiences, and know He can protect His own from the enemy. They begin to trust this as a sort of "charm" that will protect them no matter what they do. They then proceed to watch occult movies, or to listen to evil music, or to read devilish books for entertainment. Rather than obeying the Lord in not touching the unclean thing and seeking Him for protection from our devouring adversary (1 Peter 5:8), they decide that because they have the Holy Spirit in-dwelling them, they are strong enough to "handle" these things. They have more power in them than the devil has, or so they think. If someone should try to point out that we are warned not to "...give place to the devil." (Ephesians 4:27) and to "...have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness..." (Eph. 5:11), they will brush all Biblical warning aside as not applying to their case. They will be offended and wroth that you would even imply that they could fall to the devil. The end result is a sort of spiritual leprosy that keeps them from true fellowship with the Lord and with His people. Their continued pride keeps them from repenting. (This is not entirely "made up." I saw something very like this happen in a lady's life.)
Romans 12:1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
James 4:8 Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. 9 Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. 10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.
Hosea 10:12 ...it is time to seek the LORD...
Seeking the LORD God and obeying Him is a choice. You must make it for yourself. Is your heart going to be ...lifted up in the ways of the LORD (2 Chron. 17:6), or it is going to be lifted up to your own destruction?
For those who will seek the LORD and obey Him in humility, there is great joy and uplifting in store. For those who will trust in their own strength and disobey God's word, there is trouble to come. The words of the great Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, ring down the centuries to all who will not walk with a humble heart before God:
Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honour the King of heaven, all whose works are truth, and his ways judgment: and those that walk in pride he is able to abase. Daniel 4:37
graphics by Mary
Original vintage graphic: source unknown.
Updated Oct. 2018