I have been slowly going through the entire bible. I started in January 2017 with a plan to read through the bible in a year. This has shifted to my current plan to instead get through it in two years, which I will do. I have been reading through it slowly. I don’t follow some well known plan but do have my own method. I treat the Gospels and Acts as a section and the rest of the NT as a section. So I have gone through those sections more than once in this timeframe. For the OT I started Genesis forward and Job forward. I am now at Ezra and the last few of the Minor Prophets. In addition I have been reading through Proverbs every month. I could have crammed and completed this in a year but I have been focused on going more slowly and thoughtfully. I find I get more out of the scriptures using this approach. Small bites are easier to chew and digest than big ones.
Going through this process I saw something in 2 Chronicles. I never saw in previous readings that Uzziah never again sat on the throne after his transgression with the incense and that Jotham reigned while Uzziah lived out the remainder of his life primarily in isolation. I am going to look at two passages, 2 Chronicles 26 and Isaiah 6. You may find the connection between them interesting.
The ‘he’ in verse 16 below refers to Uzziah. Uzziah was a good king in Judah up to this point. Isaiah was an advisor and probably his friend. Isaiah had a decades long ministry and prophesied across the reign of four kings, Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah (Is. 1:1)
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. 2 Chronicles 26:16 (NKJV)
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. 2 Chronicles 26:19 (NKJV)
When Uzziah was seeking to burn incense and the priests opposed him he lost his temper and refused to back down. His transgression, rooted in his pride, resulted in the Lord giving him leprosy until the day of his death. In Kings he is referred to as Azariah. Once he became a leper he dwelt in an isolated house and his son Jotham sat on the throne in his place until his death (2 Kings 15:15, 2 Chron. 26:21). There is a spiritual principle. If the enemy cannot oppose our work for the Lord, which he could not do with Uzziah, then he gets behind us and pushes us beyond the boundaries the Lord has set. He whispers in our ear and appeals to any root of pride or insecurity in our hearts and speaks to what we could or should be doing. In this case the reign of Uzziah had been blessed but here he presumed he could take on an office that was not his, the priestly role.
His vision was obscured by his pride. What of Isaiah?
1 In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. 2 Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one cried to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; The whole earth is full of His glory!” 4 And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke. 5 So I said: “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, The LORD of hosts.” 6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a live coal which he had taken with the tongs from the altar. 7 And he touched my mouth with it, and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; Your iniquity is taken away, And your sin purged.” Isaiah 6:1-7 (NKJV)
I have mentioned this before in my writing. This was not Isaiah’s prophetic call. He was already functioning in the prophetic office. When he had this encounter with Yahweh he realized that his vision was also obscured. Lepers were required to cry out ‘unclean, unclean’ in public so no one would have contact with them. King Uzziah would have suffered this indignity. Isaiah and the nation knew of Uzziah’s pride and failure but he was now gone and a new era had begun (Proverbs 14:34) and Jotham was a godly king. Yet when the veil between the natural and spiritual realm was removed something that was obscuring Isaiah’s vision and perspective was also removed. Here Isaiah saw the one on whose behalf he was speaking. How did he respond? Isaiah saw himself and the nation as being people of unclean lips compared to the transcendent holiness he encountered and recognized the need to be cleansed. His pride was consumed by the coal from the altar. It didn’t; burn Isaiah’s lips, it burned away any confidence in himself.
What of us? Do we see the problem as ‘out there,’ the Uzziah’s in life? Is the problem our political leaders? Our supervisor at work? These issues are real but even more real is our need for cleansing like Isaiah, having a coal from the altar touch our lips and cleanse our hearts. If we have had a cleansing encounter we are ready to speak with authority and power as Isaiah did. Perhaps Isaiah had other encounters he never recorded. I do not know. I do know I can remember where I was driving in my car decades ago when I began to pray for the fear of the Lord in my life because I saw it as a lack. I still need it.