2 Chronicles 26:1–28:27, 1 John 2:1–6, Psalm 103:15–22
If I were reading only the Old Testament, at times I’d become depressed. Some of the kings that led God’s people started well, but ended badly. Uzziah was one of them. He was only sixteen when he began to reign, and he lasted fifty-two years on the throne. Today’s OT reading says he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, like his father Amaziah had done, setting himself to seek God under the instruction of Zechariah, and “as long as he sought the Lord, God made him prosper.” (2 Chronicles 26:3–5)
However, this didn’t last. “When he was strong, he grew proud, to his destruction. For he was unfaithful to the Lord his God and entered the temple of the Lord to burn incense on the altar of incense.”
God said only the priest were allowed to do that, so they withstood King Uzziah and warned 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. Go out of the sanctuary, for you have done wrong, and it will bring you no honor from the Lord God.”
Uzziah was angry. Immediately, leprosy broke out on his forehead right there in the house of the Lord by the altar of incense. (2 Chronicles 26:16–19) He never recovered, but died a leper.
After Uzziah, his Son Jotham ruled well, but could not bring the people away from their corrupt practices. Then Ahaz, Jotham’s son took the throne and did not do right in the eyes of the Lord. Again, this is depressing.
God judged him also, this time by giving him into the hand of the king of Syria. Syria “defeated him and took captive a great number of his people and brought them to Damascus. He was also given into the hand of the king of Israel, who struck him with great force. For Pekah the son of Remaliah killed 120,000 from Judah in one day, all of them men of valor, because they had forsaken the Lord, the God of their fathers.” (2 Chronicles 28:5–6)
The failures of these kings remind me of my failures and inconsistency in loving and obeying God. However, the OT reading is not the end of God’s story. John gives warnings about consistent sin, which is a sign of unbelief, but also about the forgiveness that is mine by faith. Jesus is my advocate . . .
“My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.” (1 John 2:1–6)
The first part of this passage makes clear that Christians are not sinless, but we have an Advocate in Jesus Christ. The reminder in these readings is that persistent sin usually identifies those who have no faith. This passage also seems to sum up the lives of those kings. Either they obeyed God in faith, or they obeyed in faith and then fell into disobedience, or they never had faith and never did obey.
Because of my Advocate, when I sin, I am forgiven, even cleansed. Also, because of Jesus obedience is possible. His life in me changes my attitudes and motivations.
These days, I’m thinking about the brevity of life and the importance of obedience. So also was the psalmist who wrote, “As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field; for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more. But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children’s children, to those who keep his covenant and remember to do his commandments. The Lord has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all.” (Psalm 103:15–19)
What assurance that God’s love persists. His redemption is greater than all my sins and errors. He put me in His kingdom by grace because of Jesus Christ. If eternal life depended on my performance, I could never be secure.