Before Sunday School this past Sunday, I watched a Matt Chandler sermon. It was the story of King Uzziah from 2 Chronicles 26. Unlike his father’s half-hearted commitment to the Lord (2 Chr. 25:2), Uzziah possessed genuine passion to honor God. The author of Chronicles states,
“Uzziah was sixteen years old when he became king, and he reigned fifty-two years in Jerusalem; and his mother’s name was Jechiliah of Jerusalem. He did right in the sight of the LORD according to all that his father Amaziah had done. He continued to seek God in the days of Zechariah [the priest], who had understanding through the vision of God; and as long as he sought the LORD, God prospered him.”
In other words, God blessed the king as he attempted to live a life to the glory of God. King Uzziah was also a discerning man when it came to issues of national security. Much of his effort was focused on Judah’s military (surely he was a republican!).
“Moreover, Uzziah prepared for all the army shields, spears, helmets, body armor, bows and sling stones. In Jerusalem he made engines of war invented by skillful men to be on the towers and on the corners for the purpose of shooting arrows and great stones. Hence his fame spread afar, for he was marvelously helped until he was strong” (2 Chr. 26:14-15).
Uzziah was a man on a mission. He knew what he what he wanted to accomplish and moved forward with his plans. However, he couldn’t accomplish anything on his own. He was only able to be successful because “he was marvelously helped.” Don’t you love that choice of words?! He was marvelously helped by the LORD and by those who served him.
And that’s why the next verse is so incredibly jarring.
“But when he became strong, his heart was so proud that he acted corruptly, and he was unfaithful to the LORD his God…” (2 Chr. 26:16).
Pretty discouraging, eh?!
He started strong but finished wrong! He was humble at the beginning of his reign only to end up full of pride. He came out of the gate seeking God and one of the last adjectives employed to describe him is “unfaithful.” We are immediately informed what he did to prove that his heart was amiss. He decided that he could perform the role of priest and entered the temple with the goal of burning the incense. Azariah, the priest and eighty others attempted to stop the king, but he would not relent. The result was tragic. God disciplined him by giving him leprosy. Uzziah would live out the rest of his days in seclusion (2 Chr. 26:16-21).
Chandler’s comments on this text reminded me afresh of my desire to finish well as Christian.
In church later that morning, our pastor spoke about Daniel. Daniel is a great example of a believing man who refused to grow lukewarm in his faith. You are probably familiar with the account of Daniel in the lion’s den. You may not be aware that Daniel may have been in his eighties. He had lived the whole of his adult life in exile. But rather than become bitter, he remained tender in his relationship with the Lord. We are told that Daniel set aside time every day for prayer (6:10). And when he was warned that his devotion to God might be punishable by death, Daniel exhibited great courage. Like his friends who were put into the fiery furnace, Daniel understood that God was more than able to protect him (see Dan. 3:17). And that is exactly what God chose to do. A group of hungry lion’s licked their chops as Daniel most assuredly prayed, praised and rested in the shadow of a mighty angel (Dan. 6:22) The next morning, King Darius rushed to the execution chamber, hoping Daniel was still alive.
“he cried out with a troubled voice…’Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you constantly serve, been able to deliver you from the lions?'” (6:22).
Consider Daniel’s reputation! King Darius knew him to be a servant of the living God. He described Daniel as an individual who constantly served the LORD. Unlike Uzziah, Daniel had no intention of fading. He refused to allow the external circumstances of his life to dampen his internal relationship with his Creator.
I have often said that that I want to be a geezer for Jesus. That’s not necessarily an easy goal to achieve. Life is hard. Sin wears us out. Our physical strength weakens. Our culture dulls us. Finishing well requires persistence and prayer. And I need to be marvelously helped along the way. And I have been marvelously helped! God has remained with me and many individuals have served Him by serving me. Many names come to mind such as Jodi, Ray and Char Hauser, several pastors and a lot of wonderful friends, some of whom continue to encourage me by their example as well as their words. I’ll continue to need them all if I am to reach geezer-for-Jesus status!
One scholar once studied the characters of the Bible and found that 2/3rds of them did not finish well. But 1/3rd of them did! I want to be in that third! Don’t you?