The Price of Pride

Posted: January 6, 2011 in 2 Chronicles

2 Chronicles 25-26, “The Price of Pride”

What has pride cost you?  All of us likely have a story (or several) of how foolish pride took us down a few notches.  (Fortunately for us, the canon of the Bible is closed, and our failings aren’t recorded! 🙂 )  Obviously the kings of Judah are no different.  Many of them (including those of Ch 25-26) start well, but finish poorly.  What got in the way of these particular kings was pride.  Pride is a costly thing!

2 Chronicles 25 (NKJV)
1 Amaziah was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned twenty-nine years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Jehoaddan of Jerusalem. 2 And he did what was right in the sight of the Lord, but not with a loyal heart.

  1. His actions were good…they apparently just weren’t sincere.  To do the work of God without a heart that loves God is to miss the point.  Anyone can mutter words of a prayer – anyone can sing a song – anyone can read a book of the Bible…but not everyone can do it with a heart that is loyal to & loves the Lord.  And yet that is the Greatest Commandment.
  2. God desires our heart!  He’s looking for loyal hearts… [King Asa] 2 Chronicles 16:9  For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him. In this you have done foolishly; therefore from now on you shall have wars.” []  Is your heart loyal?

3 Now it happened, as soon as the kingdom was established for him, that he executed his servants who had murdered his father the king. 4 However he did not execute their children, but did as it is written in the Law in the Book of Moses, where the Lord commanded, saying, “The fathers shall not be put to death for their children, nor shall the children be put to death for their fathers; but a person shall die for his own sin.”

  1. Followed the letter of the law, per Deut 24:16… Emphasizes personal responsibility.  Often times our family members have ongoing consequences as the result of our sin, but they ought not bear the burden for it in a court of law.  We’re all responsible for our own sins before the Lord; we can’t push the blame off to anyone else.
  2. The overlying principle here is justice; not revenge.  Vengeance belongs to the Lord alone, because the Lord is the only one who can righteously give out vengeance.  The best that human government can do is provide justice – which is what God set up for Israel in the law of Moses.
  3. This bodes well for Amaziah (one of his truly good acts).  It demonstrated that the king was submitted to the Law; he wasn’t above it.

5 Moreover Amaziah gathered Judah together and set over them captains of thousands and captains of hundreds, according to their fathers’ houses, throughout all Judah and Benjamin; and he numbered them from twenty years old and above, and found them to be three hundred thousand choice men, able to go to war, who could handle spear and shield. 6 He also hired one hundred thousand mighty men of valor from Israel for one hundred talents of silver.

  1. This wasn’t necessarily a census like the one David performed (1 Chr 21), though perhaps not to far from it.  Basically, Amaziah was just gathering his army together.  300K is a lot, but apparently, it wasn’t enough for Amaziah’s comfort.  Jehoshaphat seemed to have over a million men at his disposal, which might explain Amaziah’s hesitancy. In any case, he hires a mercenary army out of the northern kingdom of Israel for 100 talents of silver.  (~ 4 tons.)
  2. Already there’s a bit of a problem here.  Not only did Amaziah choose men from a nation outside of the pleasure of God (as we’ll see in vs. 7), Amaziah shows a fundamental lack of faith here.  Instead of trusting God to provide for the nation through the resources God already gave, Amaziah is attempting to complete the work of God through his own fleshly efforts.

7 But a man of God came to him, saying, “O king, do not let the army of Israel go with you, for the Lord is not with Israel—not with any of the children of Ephraim. 8 But if you go, be gone! Be strong in battle! Even so, God shall make you fall before the enemy; for God has power to help and to overthrow.”

  1. Pretty clear direction from God!  “Don’t take Israel – if you do, God will ensure you lose the battle.”  Why not Israel?  By this point, Israel was almost completely apostate.  God hadn’t yet sent them into captivity, but they certainly weren’t pleasing to God.
  2. If not Israel, who would help Judah?  God!  God could make Judah fall; God could help Judah overthrow. [] Our trust is in the Lord!  (Not in chariots, nor in horses… Ps 20:7)  How often do we find ourselves worrying about how WE’RE going to make things work?  So we manipulate, scheme & try to work things out to our benefit…  Instead, we ought to submit ourselves to the will & the word of God – implement the revealed wisdom of God – and then simply trust God as we walk by faith.

9 Then Amaziah said to the man of God, “But what shall we do about the hundred talents which I have given to the troops of Israel?” And the man of God answered, “The Lord is able to give you much more than this.”

  1. Typical worry…not just for Amaziah, but for all of us. “But Lord, I already paid for this!  How am I going to get my money back?”  How sad is it that a little thing like money can get in the way of our obedience of Almighty God who loves us & sent His Son to die for us?
  2. Obviously money isn’t a problem for God.  God can & God does provide.

10 So Amaziah discharged the troops that had come to him from Ephraim, to go back home. Therefore their anger was greatly aroused against Judah, and they returned home in great anger.

  1. It’s interesting that the mercenaries were so angry.  After all, they already got paid & none of them had to actually go & potentially die on the battlefield.  One would think they’d be happy about getting easy money.  Why were they angry?  Perhaps rooted in pride: they were told they weren’t needed.  They were “mighty men of valor” (warriors) & they were just told they were the weak link in the army of Judah that would bring defeat.  Perhaps they got their pride hurt. Likely they were angry that they missed on the chance for more money as a result of looting Edom.  Greed (the idolatrous love of money) is the root of all kinds of evil (1 Tim 6:10).

11 Then Amaziah strengthened himself, and leading his people, he went to the Valley of Salt and killed ten thousand of the people of Seir. 12 Also the children of Judah took captive ten thousand alive, brought them to the top of the rock, and cast them down from the top of the rock, so that they all were dashed in pieces.

  1. Huge military victory…just exactly as God promised him.
  2. Amaziah went beyond the victory to mass execution.  Was this blessed by the Lord?  Probably not.  There’s no indication that God commanded this sort of bloodshed, but Amaziah seems to have a tendency of taking things into his own hand.

13 But as for the soldiers of the army which Amaziah had discharged, so that they would not go with him to battle, they raided the cities of Judah from Samaria to Beth Horon, killed three thousand in them, and took much spoil.

  1. The mercenaries ended up raiding Judah while Judah was at war, perhaps in an attempt to gain the loot they would have gotten by going to war as they were promised.
  2. Anytime we rely on our flesh, there are consequences & ramifications that follow.

14 Now it was so, after Amaziah came from the slaughter of the Edomites, that he brought the gods of the people of Seir, set them up to be his gods, and bowed down before them and burned incense to them.

  1. This is truly amazing.  Amaziah received a prophetic word that God would grant him victory in battle – God does exactly that as Amaziah sees a massive victory – and then Amaziah takes the false gods/idols of the people he just defeated & brings them back to Jerusalem to worship THEM instead of God.  In essence, Amaziah spits in the face of the God who delivered him & acts as a traitor against his Lord & King.
  2. Before we get too indignant, we need to ask ourselves if we do the same thing.  In what areas of our own lives do we witness the deliverance & power of God, and then immediately turn around to give our love & devotion to something else?  Perhaps even the very thing that God had delivered us from?

15 Therefore the anger of the Lord was aroused against Amaziah, and He sent him a prophet who said to him, “Why have you sought the gods of the people, which could not rescue their own people from your hand?”

  1. When God calls the idols “gods,” is He acknowledging that other gods exist?  No – He’s simply acknowledging how the people recognized them.  There is no other god besides God…God is God alone.
  2. God’s point?  Simply that false gods are powerless.  These statues of wood, gold (or whatever) were useless to the people of Seir…they couldn’t help them in their struggle against the True God, no matter how many prayers they undoubtedly uttered to them.  A piece of wood is just a piece of wood…no matter what shape it’s been carved.
    1. It’s no different with us.  Only God is God.  Our jobs & careers cannot give us true deliverance.  Our bank accounts cannot save us.  Not even our relationships with others can truly rescue us.  The only place that true deliverance is found is in Almighty God through Christ Jesus.
    2. This isn’t just important for non-believers to understand as they come to Christ; this is important for believers to remember in our walk WITH Christ.  We will always be fully dependent upon the Lord Jesus!  Nothing else can ever take His place in our lives.

16 So it was, as he talked with him, that the king said to him, “Have we made you the king’s counselor? Cease! Why should you be killed?” Then the prophet ceased, and said, “I know that God has determined to destroy you, because you have done this and have not heeded my advice.”

  1. Amaziah had listened to the prophet before regarding the mercenaries, but he doesn’t listen now.  He’s so offended by what the prophet said (from God) that he’s willing to have the prophet killed.
  2. As a result, God proclaimed judgment against Amaziah.  The king wasn’t willing to receive the rebuke of God, so instead he’d experience the discipline of God.

17 Now Amaziah king of Judah asked advice and sent to Joash the son of Jehoahaz, the son of Jehu, king of Israel, saying, “Come, let us face one another in battle.” 18 And Joash king of Israel sent to Amaziah king of Judah, saying, “The thistle that was in Lebanon sent to the cedar that was in Lebanon, saying, ‘Give your daughter to my son as wife’; and a wild beast that was in Lebanon passed by and trampled the thistle. 19 Indeed you say that you have defeated the Edomites, and your heart is lifted up to boast. Stay at home now; why should you meddle with trouble, that you should fall—you and Judah with you?”

  1. How much time elapsed between the victory over the Edomites & this encounter with Israel?  We don’t know…but apparently Amaziah was riding high for a while because of the victory, and it emboldened him to go pick a fight with Israel to the north.  Joash saw this for what it was, and sent back a parable to Judah warning them that their pride was getting the best of them.
  2. Question: if Amaziah was able to see victory over Edom, and he knew that Israel wasn’t in the good pleasure of God (per vs. 7), why wouldn’t it be a good idea to go to battle against Israel?  Surely that would be an easy battle, right?  Wrong.  The ONLY reason that Amaziah & Judah defeated the Edomites was because of the work & power of God.  If God hadn’t helped Judah, surely the outcome of the battle would have been different.  But instead of acknowledging God’s role in the battle, Amaziah got built up in his pride & thought he could do it himself (perhaps with the non-assistance of his false gods). 

20 But Amaziah would not heed, for it came from God, that He might give them into the hand of their enemies, because they sought the gods of Edom.

  1. Why wouldn’t Amaziah back down?  Because like Pharoah in Egypt, his heart was hardened by God in righteous judgment of his sin. God allowed Amaziah’s pride to be his downfall.

21 So Joash king of Israel went out; and he and Amaziah king of Judah faced one another at Beth Shemesh, which belongs to Judah. 22 And Judah was defeated by Israel, and every man fled to his tent. 23 Then Joash the king of Israel captured Amaziah king of Judah, the son of Joash, the son of Jehoahaz, at Beth Shemesh; and he brought him to Jerusalem, and broke down the wall of Jerusalem from the Gate of Ephraim to the Corner Gate—four hundred cubits. 24 And he took all the gold and silver, all the articles that were found in the house of God with Obed-Edom, the treasures of the king’s house, and hostages, and returned to Samaria.

  1. Solid defeat of Judah by Israel.  Judah’s army was scattered, King Amaziah was captured, the wall of Jerusalem was broken down…even the temple was plundered.  Again, Amaziah’s pride cost him dearly.
  2. As an aside, how sad is it that Israel plundered the temple in Jerusalem?!  Supposedly, this was STILL the temple of their God (at least in name, if not in deed).  This is the extent to which Israel had fallen.  At this point, Israel was almost a completely apostate nation, only occasionally pretending to acknowledge God

25 Amaziah the son of Joash, king of Judah, lived fifteen years after the death of Joash the son of Jehoahaz, king of Israel. 26 Now the rest of the acts of Amaziah, from first to last, indeed are they not written in the book of the kings of Judah and Israel? 27 After the time that Amaziah turned away from following the Lord, they made a conspiracy against him in Jerusalem, and he fled to Lachish; but they sent after him to Lachish and killed him there. 28 Then they brought him on horses and buried him with his fathers in the City of Judah.

  1. Although captured by Israel, apparently Amaziah was eventually released & he returned to reign in Jerusalem.  God had shown that His hand of blessing was removed from him, and the destruction that was promised by the prophet (vs. 16) finally came to pass when he was assassinated in Lachish.
  2. Note this took place at least 15 years after the pronouncement of the prophet.  Amaziah had decades in which to repent & seek the Lord’s forgiveness.  Yet apparently he didn’t do it once.
    1. There are many people in the same boat as Amaziah.  God has pronounced judgment on them because of their sin, but instead of seeking the face of God & the forgiveness available through Jesus Christ, they continue in their stubborn-hearted rebellion.  Even Nineveh repented when Jonah spoke of the judgment of God, and God responded!  How much more opportunity do all of us have in light of the glorious gospel of Christ?

2 Chronicles 26 (NKJV)
1 Now all the people of Judah took Uzziah, who was sixteen years old, and made him king instead of his father Amaziah. 2 He built Elath and restored it to Judah, after the king rested with his fathers. 3 Uzziah was sixteen years old when he became king, and he reigned fifty-two years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Jecholiah of Jerusalem.

  1. Long reign!  52 years is one of the longest of any of the kings…  Started at age 16 – likely as a result of his father being held captive in Israel.

4 And he did what was right in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his father Amaziah had done. 5 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 prosper.

  1. Knowing that Amaziah’s heart was not loyal to the Lord & that he died in rebellion & apostasy against God, what does the author mean here by saying Uzziah did what was right, “according to all that his father Amaziah had done”?  This seems to be a reference to his actions.  Remember that Amaziah had done what was right in the sight of God, but his heart wasn’t loyal to God (Ch 25:2).  Likewise, Uzziah’s actions honored the Lord God & Uzziah submitted himself to the Law of God.
  2. Yet Uzziah goes further than his father before him.  Not only were his actions right in God’s sight, his heart was as well.  Uzziah “sought God.”  Whether through personal prayer & devotion, or through the wise counsel of Zechariah, Uzziah sought out the Lord & desired to please Him.
  3. The result of seeking God?  God prospered the king & nation with many blessings – as seen in the next many verses.

6 Now he went out and made war against the Philistines, and broke down the wall of Gath, the wall of Jabneh, and the wall of Ashdod; and he built cities around Ashdod and among the Philistines. 7 God helped him against the Philistines, against the Arabians who lived in Gur Baal, and against the Meunites. 8 Also the Ammonites brought tribute to Uzziah. His fame spread as far as the entrance of Egypt, for he became exceedingly strong.

  1. God prospered Uzziah militarily.
  2. Uzziah seems to have been the strongest king at this point since the reign of Solomon…

9 And Uzziah built towers in Jerusalem at the Corner Gate, at the Valley Gate, and at the corner buttress of the wall; then he fortified them. 10 Also he built towers in the desert. He dug many wells, for he had much livestock, both in the lowlands and in the plains; he also had farmers and vinedressers in the mountains and in Carmel, for he loved the soil.

  1. God prospered Uzziah economically.  Uzziah not only built the infrastructure & towers, but he also addressed the agricultural needs.

11 Moreover Uzziah had an army of fighting men who went out to war by companies, according to the number on their roll as prepared by Jeiel the scribe and Maaseiah the officer, under the hand of Hananiah, one of the king’s captains. 12 The total number of chief officers of the mighty men of valor was two thousand six hundred. 13 And under their authority was an army of three hundred and seven thousand five hundred, that made war with mighty power, to help the king against the enemy.     

  1. God prospered Uzziah with his army.  This army was a bit larger than his father’s (Ch 25:5, 300K solidiers), but the people he had seemed to be extremely capable.  They weren’t merely able to handle a shield; they “made war with mighty power.

14 Then Uzziah prepared for them, for the entire army, shields, spears, helmets, body armor, bows, and slings to cast stones. 15 And he made devices in Jerusalem, invented by skillful men, to be on the towers and the corners, to shoot arrows and large stones. So his fame spread far and wide, for he was marvelously helped till he became strong.

  1. God prospered Uzziah creatively.  Uzziah was able to fully outfit his army with the equipment they needed for battle.  And beyond the standard issue armor, this was a time of creative arms research as new weapons were added to the army’s arsenal.
  2. Note how all this took place – the key is in vs. 15: “he was marvelously helped till he became strong.”  This was GOD’s doing.  All Uzziah had done was seek the Lord & submit to God in obedience; the prosperity came from the hand, work, and help of God.
    1. This is something that the prosperity-gospel teachers tend to forget.  What’s so often (wrongly) taught is that if you give enough money & do enough good works, then God is obligated to prosper you (usually financially) – as if He’s supernaturally constricted & forced to grant someone financial blessing.  That reverses the roles between men & God.  God is not obligated to ANYONE to do ANYTHING.  God is obligated to Himself & Himself alone (which is the reason we can have such great faith in Him…He’s not subject to the whims of man; He’s faithful because He is unchanging).  As human beings, WE are the ones subject to God; not the other way around.  When God prospers someone financially, it’s because He has chosen to do so; not because someone manipulated Him into it.
  3. The good thing is that Uzziah (and the nation) prospered!  The bad thing is that Uzziah seemed to forget from whence his prosperity came.  See vs. 16…

16 But when he was strong his heart was lifted up, to his destruction, for he transgressed against the Lord his God by entering the temple of the Lord to burn incense on the altar of incense.

  1. Bad idea!  There were many things that a king could do, but entering the temple to offer incense wasn’t one of them.  Even in this (probable) act of worship, Uzziah was breaking the Law of God because he was taking something to himself that didn’t belong to him; it belonged to the priests alone.  Why did he do it?  Because “his heart was lifted up” – like his father before, Uzziah became prideful.
  2. So often it’s when we are “strong” that trouble & temptation comes our way!  When we’re weak & hurting, we’re often on our knees before God seeking His help & His strength.  But when things are going well, everything is coming up roses, we’re strong & start to think we can do it all ourselves.  At that point, the moment is ripe for us to get hit with temptation of pride, which is exactly what happened with Uzziah.  And just like with Uzziah, we can set ourselves up for a big fall.  Proverbs 16:18  Pride goes before destruction, And a haughty spirit before a fall. []

17 So Azariah the priest went in after him, and with him were eighty priests of the Lord—valiant men. 18 And they withstood King Uzziah, and said to him, “It is not for you, Uzziah, to burn incense to the Lord, but for the priests, the sons of Aaron, who are consecrated to burn incense. Get out of the sanctuary, for you have trespassed! You shall have no honor from the Lord God.”

  1. We’ve got to admire the priest’s courage here.  It took a lot of guts to stand up before the King of Judah & tell him there was something he wasn’t allowed to do & attempt to physically restrain him.  Azariah was absolutely right in standing up to the king, as he was properly representing God at the time.
  2. Question: “What was the big deal about the king offering incense?  After all, he was just doing an act of worship.”  It was a HUGE deal!  God gave very specific instructions regarding who was allowed to come into temple at what times, and the king wasn’t on the list.  Remember that the priesthood belonged to the tribe of Levi (specifically of the line of Aaron); the king was of the tribe of Judah (of the line of David).  God specifically chose Levi out of all the tribes for this purpose, and no one from any other tribe had the right to set foot inside the actual temple itself, under penalty of death.
    1. We can only approach God under God’s conditions.  We cannot approach God without His invitation…and we have His invitation in Christ!
  3. Another part of the problem is that Uzziah’s act destroyed the message of what the priesthood & temple was all about.  Just like Moses had misrepresented God by striking the rock twice () & thus sinned against God, Uzziah did the same thing. The priests represented the chosen, sanctified people of God (all of us as the Church in Christ) – the work of the high priest pointed to the work of the Great High Priest Jesus Christ.  Uzziah could not assume that for himself.  There is only one King of Israel who serves as both King AND Priest, and that’s the Lord Jesus.  For Uzziah to take on this role was to show himself (though surely unintentionally) as the Chosen Messiah.  Thus Uzziah misrepresented God & trespassed against God.

19 Then Uzziah became furious; and he had a censer in his hand to burn incense. And while he was angry with the priests, leprosy broke out on his forehead, before the priests in the house of the Lord, beside the incense altar. 20 And Azariah the chief priest and all the priests looked at him, and there, on his forehead, he was leprous; so they thrust him out of that place. Indeed he also hurried to get out, because the Lord had struck him.

  1. Unfortunately, Uzziah did not receive the rebuke of the priest well.  He didn’t just get irritated; he “became furious” & intended to continue with what he was doing.  At that point, God intervened & struck Uzziah with leprosy.
  2. Objection: “Wasn’t that a bit harsh?  Leprosy?!”  Actually, no – it was rather merciful of God.  God had every right to strike Uzziah dead at that moment.  For God to allow Uzziah to live as a leper was a tremendous act of mercy!  The leprosy itself made a point: the sin hidden in Uzziah’s heart broke out visibly on his head.
  3. Note that both the priests AND Uzziah understand what has happened at that point.  The priests were obligated to thrust Uzziah out of the temple (he wasn’t supposed to be there in the 1st place & as a leper, he couldn’t even be in the temple courts any longer).  In addition, Uzziah himself also “hurried to get out” when he realized what the Lord had done to him.  Whether he was afraid of the leprosy killing him on the spot, or just under the weight of the conviction of his own sin, we don’t know.  But obviously he did recognize it was from the Lord, and in response Uzziah hastily repented (by changing direction).
    1. Give Uzziah a bit of credit at this point.  For us, too many times when we’re shown what we’re doing is wrong & we come under conviction by the Lord, we just continue on doing what we’re doing.  We may even experience the discipline of God, but like Amaziah we continue on in our rebellion.  Not Uzziah…Uzziah made a quick change of direction.  So ought we!  At the very moment we understand the sinfulness of our own sin, we need to repent, confess, and seek the forgiveness of God through Jesus!

21 King Uzziah was a leper until the day of his death. He dwelt in an isolated house, because he was a leper; for he was cut off from the house of the Lord. Then Jotham his son was over the king’s house, judging the people of the land.

  1. Uzziah lived with the consequences of his actions for the rest of his life.  Technically he was still king, but he couldn’t even live any longer in the city of Jerusalem, so his son was co-regent with him, judging the people in Uzziah’s place.
  2. The terrible consequences of pride & our sin!  Uzziah was not only thrust out of the Temple itself – he could no longer go to the Temple gates to offer sacrifice – he could no longer rule over his people – he could no longer even live with his own family.  A few moments of sin cost Uzziah dearly for the rest of his life.
    1. Does this mean that God no longer loved Uzziah?  No.  It simply means that Uzziah experienced long-lasting consequences of his sin.  Sometimes the consequences of our actions last the rest of our lives, but it doesn’t mean God no longer loves us.

22 Now the rest of the acts of Uzziah, from first to last, the prophet Isaiah the son of Amoz wrote. 23 So Uzziah rested with his fathers, and they buried him with his fathers in the field of burial which belonged to the kings, for they said, “He is a leper.” Then Jotham his son reigned in his place.

  1. Uzziah couldn’t even receive the normal kingly burial in the tombs of the kings.  Instead, because of his leprosy he had to be buried in the ground.

Conclusion:

Pride has a price!  It’s just not worth the cost. … What’s the solution?  Humility before the Lord.  Jesus told us that whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted (Mt 23:12).  Peter writes the same thing: 1 Peter 5:6-7 (6) Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, (7) casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. []

The question for us is how we are going to handle pride when it pops up in our own lives.  What does it take for us to listen to the Lord?  To humble ourselves – or to BE humbled by God?  God loves us too much to allow us to continue in our pride.  May we be those who willingly humble ourselves to seek the glory of the exalted God.

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