Friday, December 01, 2006

"If the whole body were an eye..."

Some do evil in the sight of the LORD, some do good. All are flawed in different ways, none are the King that God's people really need. Jehosphaphat was a King who fell in weakness. He loved the Word of God but made alliances with those who hated it. Uzziah takes to the throne many years later as a 16 year old, but his reign is not marked by the same weakness.

In his early years he seeks God and does good. He has a man of God to teach him, Zechariah and his life prospers greatly. He accomplishes many thing in international relations, in architecture and agriculture in addition to excellence in the civil service and engineering. Unsurprisingly he becomes world famous.

And it is at the height of his powers that his worst day comes. He is compentent and excellent in everything he turns his hand to, and yet in one thing he fails.

In his strength he appears to have stopped truly seeking God, stopped listening to Zechariah... and he becomes proud. He hasn't become externally godless. He wants to offer incense to God in the temple. From everyones perceptions he's pure and righteous. He's worshipping! What could be wrong with that?

But as the King charges into the temple to worship the priests confront him. They bar his way and speak against him. He has become unfaithful to God and is badly in the wrong. The work of the temple is not something the King can excel in. God has said apart the sons of Aaron to be priests - not the Kings.

At this point Uzziah could and should admit his error and flee from the temple in humility. But he remains proud and his folly turns into anger. And in his anger he incurs God's wrath and becomes leprous. So terrible is this day that the leprosy remains for the rest of his days and he is buried with the epitaph, "he was a leper" rather than being remembered for all his great accomplishments (and they were many!).

Weakness led Jehoshaphat to compromise over God's word, strength led Uzziah to compromise the worship of God. He failed to see the body as a body and sought to take roles that had been given to others. If the who body were an eye, how terrible it would be.... Uzziah was an expert in so many fields he considered himself untouchable and unstoppable...

Pride like this begins much earlier, in stories untold. Had he begun to ignore Zechariah's teaching? Was anyone checking his heart against God's word on a regular basis? Were the little expressions of self-confidence and pride going unchecked? Day by day... hour by hour... And yet I can't stand over Uzziah... his story simply exposes sin in my heart.

After many years in student work and thousands of words blogged I can easily imagine myself to be wise and capable. I can imagine that I know what I'm doing and have divine insight into any situation. It is to be hoped that I have acquired some measure of competence but in that humility is required. I cannot do all things. And God does not require me to be able to. I don't always get things right, and I'm not expected to. Humility will keep my mouth shut on many occasions, and it will let others get on and serve... sometimes in failure, often in with greater success.

We imagine that our leaders need to have spotless records but is it not better than we live with "permission to fail", confessing our sin and repenting of it. Pursuing humility more than expertise. We need an ethic of grace that doesn't encourage us to sin, but gives room for repentance and restoration.

That permission only comes when we have a faithful king and priest who can saves us. Eventually, that Priest-King who is full of Humility comes onto the scene: Jesus. It is he who is faithful to God's word, and true in worship. And it is He who is formed inside and worn outside Christians. Any humility on my part is only found in putting on Christ. Christ who accepts me in my pride failings, who grants repentance and recieves this proud fool when I crawl back to him on my knees...

Mark my Words - reflections on King Jehoshaphat
Reformation Day - Orthodoxy - an overview of 2 Chronicles

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