Friday, January 29, 2010

The Mysterious King on the Throne

Part one of this story series ...

Second half of 8th Century, B.C.
The Hebrew Temple.

The king was dead.

He'd made a terrible error, one not of misunderstanding or accident, but of sheer pride, arrogance and deliberate disobedience.

He'd been mighty.




But he'd let all of that go to his head. His younger days, those in which he relied on God reverently and humbly, were a faint memory. He'd allowed the successes of his reign to fill his head, to pump him up, to give him a sense of self-exaltation and conceit.

It wasn't always that way.

He'd taken the throne at the tender age of 16 and immediately trusted God for guidance. As long as that frame of mind existed, God prospered him. He pummeled some of Israel's top enemies: the Philistines, the Arabians and the Meunites. Even the Ammonites, another vicious people, brought tributes to him. His fame spread, all the way to the palace halls of Egypt.

He enhanced the city of Jerusalem, building towers, digging wells, planting crops and vineyards, providing ample food supply for livestock, too.

Not only that, he had a team of warriors -- 2,600 "mighty men of valor" -- who oversaw an army of 307,500, which ws outfitted with shields, spears, helmets, body armor, bows and slings to protect the country. Skilled men, too, invented devices that shot arrows and large stones from the tall towers of Jerusalem.

And ironically, this very strength of his was the king's downfall.

He began to believe that he'd done all of this himself. And with that belief, he felt entitled to bypass the laws established through Moses.

One day, he strode into the Temple and walked right up to the altar, a place that was reserved for the priests. He began to burn incense. Eighty priests surrounded him and begged him to stop, but he continued. After all -- he was the king, wasn't he? He'd done all of these things, hadn't he? Who were they -- or who was God for that matter -- to tell him he couldn't burn a little bit of incense at the altar?

He told them so. Angrily. He spat the words at them.

And suddenly, they backed away from him, their faces filled with horror.

"What is it?" he demanded.

"Leprosy!" one of them shouted. "You have leprosy! It's breaking out on your forehead!"

That was all it took. He knew he was doomed, not only to live a solitary life from that point forward, but also to never -- ever -- enter the Temple to worship again. Mosaic law viewed leprosy as a breach of God's holiness. It graphically symbolized defilement.

So the end of his life was spent not in his beautiful palace ... but in an isolated house. Control of the temple and the state now passed to his son, who exercised power on the king's behalf.

He died in disgrace.

And it was at this time in history when a regular guy encountered the true King -- a mysterious King on a throne. He was high and lifted up, in the very temple where the now-deceased king had made his fatal mistake.

Where had He come from? Who was He?

The guy, whose name was Isaiah, was soon to find out.

What does this have to do with going to church and finding joy in the act of worship? Tune in tomorrow for part 2 of the story ...


  1. Hi & thanks for friending me on Twitter :) I have to say, I wonder about the "mercy" of a god who has such a zero tolerance policy for disobedience. You & I are both mothers, so I'll use an analogy from parenting. When they are very young, they rely on us entirely & that is how they are kept safe. As they grow, it is healthy & important for them to begin to separate, to rely on their own understanding & their own strengths, to develop as people & adults.

    With this story, I see the opposite. I see a god who blesses a man as long as he is 100% obedient & dependent, but that as he begins to grow in independence, he is cursed with a painful, fatal disease (spread thru natural means & common at the time, fyi!) and left to die in disgrace. This does not sound like a loving, perfect father to me. All children disobey at times. Sometimes this needs correction & in other, rarer, times this is precisely what they need to do (ie, disobeying a stranger, or an adult or child who is mistreating them).

    God seems less interested in helping his "children" grow in maturity. Once they stop being children, he kills them. I know you disagree, so I'd love to hear your thoughts. :D

  2. Angie, thanks so much for leaving a comment here and for sharing these thoughts.

    This is a complex question, requiring a deep discussion, but I'll try to take a stab at it.

    Hopefully it won't be overly simplistic, and if it seems so, feel free to tell me.

    You'd have to understand that this was pre-Jesus time, i.e., the consequences for sin had not been paid by the ultimate sacrifice. As such, when you read the consequences for what Uzziah did, they do indeed seem extreme.

    There are a lot of cases throughout the Old Testament that even make me catch my breath and say to God, "Whoa! Did You really have to do that to make Your point?" I actually have prayed that to Him.

    What I have come to understand after years of studying the Bible, and especially the Old Testament, is that every case is so individual and unique. But for fun, let’s just look at this story by itself.

    Uzziah took a very bold and almost blasphemous move by going into that area of the Temple. It was reserved at the time ONLY for the priests who were sanctioned to give the offerings. His decision was one that surpassed arrogance. In effect, he was saying that he was so important, the rules didn’t apply to him.

    The leprosy prevented him from ever going into that Temple again – plus it separated him from his nation, permanently. This was the punishment for that particular sin.

    So let’s go back to your parent analogy. Yes, I totally agree with you that children move from states of dependence to independence. Having said that, let’s fast forward about 20 years. Your child is grown. And one day, he walks in and says, “I’m grown now. I don’t want anything to do with you anymore. I hate you. You punished me when I was a child. You’ve always tried to force your love on me. You never wanted what was best for me. You were only concerned with yourself. I never want to see you again.” And he walks out and as he’s slamming the door, he gives you the finger.

    OK, so let’s look at this with God and us. In effect, each and every one of us says this to God when we sin. Every time. Every single time we sin, it is that statement to Him.

    Before Jesus came, His only recourse was to punish those who rejected Him – very soundly and harshly – because the penalty for sin is death. Jesus was the solution to all of it, however. He submitted to the will of God the Father and allowed Himself to be tortured and hung on a tree in an excruciating death … so that we wouldn’t face that punishment. His willingness to do that wiped out the need for that punishment, forever.

    I know you don’t think God is loving. There are countless arguments as to why He is not. The one you laid out is just one example. I understand that there are many reasons not to believe in Him.

    But I can tell you – if He loved you enough to allow His son to take your place in death, so that you wouldn’t have to face that punishment – do you see why I would say He is a God of mercy?

    Yes, the story of Uzziah is sobering, breathtakingly so. It illustrates how very far all of us are from God in our sinful state. All of us deserve that death. But He loved us so much that He took it all on Himself, so we wouldn’t have to.

    Maybe you’ve heard this argument before, Angie. I can understand if you feel skeptical of it. If I didn’t know Him so well, if He wasn’t such a strong part of my everyday life, I would really agree with you! As it is, though, I know the side of Him that says, “Hey, come to Me, and I’ll take on all of your burdens and give you rest. You will have peace and joy all of your days, no matter what happens circumstantially to you. I will fill you with My Presence, and you will know Me as friend.”

    And all of that is possible due to Jesus.
    I hope I haven’t “preached” too much – this was a tough question (and a great one), and I wanted to try to do it justice.

    Feel free to continue to post here, or if you want to start a Googlewave chat or email me, you know how to find me!


  3. Heidi,

    I'm really liking this! I think many times we hear the stories, but don't "hear" the stories, and thus lose a lot of the meaning to them.

    (btw...the "holy, holy" bit....I never knew that!)