Today’s reading: 2 Chronicles 25-27.
“If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story.” Orson Welles
Hollywood is full of stories of screen idols whose famous lives ended badly. Marilyn Monroe, for instance. In the field of music legends Elvis Presley stands out. In the political arena we remember Richard Nixon for his notorious fall from power. The list goes on. There are many who failed to finish well after starting strongly.
The Old Testament is full of similar stories for the Bible is always true to life. Among the great persons of the Bible who started strong and finished badly, Uzziah is noteworthy. He began ruling at age sixteen and remained on the throne for 52 years. He presided over a time of great prosperity for Judah. He accomplished much in the areas of expanding Judah’s territory, in repairing and fortifying Jerusalem, in building up the army, and in modernizing agricultural activities throughout the country. With great foreshadowing, the writer of Chronicles said, “as long as he sought the LORD, God gave him success.” Then, at the height of his power and influence, Uzziah’s life took a strange turn.
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 Chronicles 26:16
Warren Wiersbe says it was arrogance, not ignorance, that caused Uzziah to overstep his bounds. He refused to turn back even when all the priests confronted him and warned him to leave the temple. In anger he stood his ground until God struck him with the living death of leprosy. He failed to heed the basic principle of the law that only consecrated things could enter God’s presence, and only Levites could be consecrated to serve in the temple. He was forced to live in isolation for the rest of his life, a period of ten years during which his son ruled with him. The Bible says, literally, that his heart was lifted up leading to his destruction. It sounds simple enough. We all know that pride goes before a fall. Still, I wonder how pride works in a man or woman to make them take such destructive steps. What does the Bible say about it?
Pride causes the blindness of self-deception. “For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself.” Galatians 6:3. The spiritual blindness of pride leads to all kinds of unwise actions. The proud person doesn’t see where their misguided steps are taking them.
Pride brings opposition from God. “God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.” James 4:6. God doesn’t suffer long with those who exalt themselves. God is rightly jealous for his own glory which is the most exalted thing in the universe, and he actively opposes any who try to make themselves equal with him.
Pride makes a man think he has no bounds or limits. “The pride of thine heart hath deceived thee, thou that dwellest in the clefts of the rock, whose habitation [is] high; that saith in his heart, Who shall bring me down to the ground?” Obadiah 1:3. The proud person begins to believe that nothing is closed or off-limits to them, that they can do no wrong. In turn, any who contradict them are wrong.
Pride makes a man a fool. “Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools.” Romans 1:22.
The mystery of a great man’s fall becomes more clear when seen through the wisdom of the Bible. Not all such cases are due to pride, but Uzziah’s certainly was. How do we protect ourselves from such a disaster? First, start strongly like Uzziah by seeking the LORD. Next, make finishing strongly a priority of your life. Stephen Covey talks about beginning with the end in mind. In other words, picture now what you want your life to look like as you look back on it from the other side of the grave. Steve Farrar, in Finishing Strong, describes four principles that will go a long way in helping you finish the race of life successfully:
- Stay in the scriptures
- Stay close to a friend who will help you succeed
- Stay away from sexual temptations
- Stay alert to the tactics of Satan (and pride is certainly one of the main tactics)
How about you? What are you doing to finish strong? Do you know examples of men or women who show us how to finish well?
Image by TC Morgan on Flickr, CC by-nc-sa 2.0