2 Chronicles 26:3, 15-16 “Uzziah was sixteen years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem fifty-two years…His fame spread far and wide, for he was greatly helped until he became powerful. But after Uzziah became powerful, his pride led to his downfall.”
Uzziah had a great life, a great job, and he was good at it. As king, he strengthened his country’s defenses and beat their enemies when he went to war. He loved the land, so he dug wells, and promoted farming and livestock, and turned his country into an agricultural force.
As time passed, however, being the king was less of a calling for Uzziah, more of a way to stroke his ego. He used it to feed his sinful pride.
When sinful pride makes us full of ourselves, the problem never stops with sinful pride. Uzziah stopped being content with his calling. “He was unfaithful to the Lord his God, and entered the temple of the Lord to burn incense on the altar of incense. Azariah the priest with eighty other courageous priests of the Lord followed him in. They confronted him and said, ‘It is not right for you, Uzziah, to burn incense to the Lord. That is for the priests, the descendants of Aaron, who have been consecrated to burn incense. Leave the sanctuary, for you have been unfaithful; and you will not be honored by the Lord.’”
Not just anyone could serve as an Old Testament priest. You had to be a direct descendant of the very first high priest, Moses’ brother Aaron. Uzziah did not come from the right family or right tribe to be a priest. He was dabbling in things for which he had no calling.
As long as he had the skills, though, and he did it right, did it really matter? It mattered to the Lord. It still matters that we learn to be content with our callings.
I had a friend who wanted to be in politics. But you don’t just walk into the capitol and start attending sessions of Congress. You have to be elected. Today my friend works for an elected politician. It’s as close as he is going to come, it appears, and he can serve God faithfully if he is content with his calling.
The New Testament makes being male a qualification for certain church leadership positions. So Paul writes in 1 Corinthians chapter 14 and 1 Timothy chapters 2 and 3. We can question God’s wisdom in setting such limits. But God calls us to be content with our callings, even though that may mean limits on what we can do.
Somewhat ironically, since Jesus has come, God now claims us all as his priests. Our own bodies are the temples in which we serve. Peter writes, “You (you Christians, all of you) are a chosen people, a royal priesthood.” That’s not priests in the sense of professional clergy. But since Jesus is the Great High Priest for all time, and by his blood on the cross he has removed every sin that stood between us and God, we can bring our prayers and sacrifices to God directly. We offer our bodies to him as living sacrifices in thanksgiving for the gift of salvation. Our callings–father, mother, son, daughter, citizen, student, employer or employee–are the sacrifice of love that come from our spiritual priesthood.
Uzziah wanted to try a different calling. Now God was going to give him one. But it wasn’t the calling for which he was looking. “Uzziah, who had a censor in his hand to burn incense, became angry. While he was raging at the priests in their presence before the incense altar in the Lord’s temple, leprosy broke out on his forehead…King Uzziah had leprosy until the day he died. He lived in a separate house–leprous, and excluded from the temple of the Lord. Jotham his son had charge of the palace and governed the people of the land.”
You know about leprosy. It was incurable. Lepers had to live apart from other people so that the disease would not spread. Leprosy meant that Uzziah could not serve as king anymore. His son Jotham took over the government. Leprosy made it very clear that Uzziah couldn’t be a priest. He couldn’t even go to the temple. He had to live by himself in his separate house. God had changed Uzziah’s calling. He lived the rest of his life as sick man, a patient, with his disease.
Was that nothing more than a punishment because Uzziah made God so mad? Actually, God struck Uzziah with leprosy because he loved him. If the Lord had let him continue with his pride, it would take him away from God. But we read about Uzziah the leper, “Uzziah rested with his fathers and was buried with them in a field for burial that belonged to the kings, for people said, ‘He had leprosy.’” Since he wasn’t actually buried next to the other kings, we don’t understand “he rested with his fathers” as a reference to a royal burial. His soul rested with his believing ancestors in heaven. In a strange twist, God used leprosy to help save Uzziah’s soul.
There are things about your callings that aren’t always fun. There are things about them that aren’t ever fun. The unpleasant parts of your calling probably aren’t as extreme as having leprosy. But they all serve to humble us. They expose our weaknesses. Sometimes they uncover our sin. They remind us that we must depend on God, and they drive us back to the cross where Jesus is always waiting with forgiveness and love.
What you and I need is rarely an escape to a different calling. What we need is to be content with our calling, because even when they humble us, God is using them to keep us close to him.