Get Your Honor From the Lord

October 24, 2021

Pastor John Hering

2 Chronicles 26:16-23

2 Chronicles 26:16-23

16 But when he had grown powerful, the pride in his heart led to his destruction. He was unfaithful to the Lord his God. He entered the temple of the Lord to burn incense on the altar of incense.

17 Azariah the priest went in after him. He was followed by eighty priests of the Lord, brave men. 18 They confronted King Uzziah and said to him, “It is not right for you, Uzziah, to burn incense to the Lord. That is for the priests, the sons of Aaron, who are consecrated to burn incense. Get out of the sanctuary, because you have been unfaithful. This action will not result in any praise for you from the Lord God.”

19 Uzziah became angry. He had a censer for burning incense in his hand. When he became angry with the priests, leprosy broke out on his forehead in the presence of the priests, beside the altar of incense in the House of the Lord. 20 When Azariah, the head priest, and all the other priests looked at him, they immediately realized he had leprosy on his forehead. They rushed him out of there. He himself also was in a hurry to leave because the Lord had struck him.

21 King Uzziah remained a leper until the day of his death. He lived in a quarantined house because he was a leper. He was excluded from the House of the Lord. Jotham his son was in charge of the palace of the king and administered justice for the people of the land.

22 The rest of the acts of Uzziah, from first to last, were recorded by Isaiah son of Amoz, the prophet.

23 Uzziah rested with his fathers and was buried with his fathers in the burial field that belonged to the kings, because they said, “He is a leper.” His son Jotham ruled as king in his place.

Go to your kitchen and take a glass from the cabinet.  My guess is that the glass doesn’t really mean all that much to you.  You probably bought it at Walmart or Target, right?  Now imagine this.  Last year you had taken a few lumps of clay over to your friend, the potter, and asked him to make you some beautiful cups.  The potter divided up the clay into ½ lbs. pieces and kneaded each one to get rid of the air pockets.  He took each piece into his crafty little hands and set them on his wheel and began to create perfect cups.  As you watch him work you are amazed at the beauty each cup has.  To the clay it didn’t make any difference how they got their shape, but in the hands of the potter each piece of clay received its form and function.  The potter’s plan is the clay’s pride.

This picture of the potter and the clay helps us understand something about human relationships.  Like clay, when a person realizes how blessed they are by another, then that person is all too eager to submit to the friend’s plan. Just like the clay, because your friend has your best interest in mind, whatever his plan, his will, his desire doesn’t really matter and the clay never says, “No.”  Even when the clay goes into the fires of the kiln it knows when it’s all over he will be a beautiful, well-seasoned and honored cup.

It is easy to see why this picture of the potter and the clay is a popular picture used in Scripture of our relationship between God and us. You are blessed to be in God’s hands, honored to serve his purpose, eager to do what pleases God.  Our relationship with God is obvious—he is the Potter and we are the clay.  It is God’s will that matters and by his grace, it is our joy to carry it out.  During this season when we remember the Last Judgment, we also want to be reminded that rebelling against God’s will end in tragedy. Today is the account of King Uzziah.

King Uzziah started ruling the Children of Israel when he was 16 years old.  He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, like everything that his father Amaziah had done. He continued to seek God throughout the days of Zechariah, who trained him in the fear of God. As long as he sought the Lord, God made him prosper (2 Chron 26:4).  However, we hear what happened to him in today’s Word of God.  It breaks our heart when we hear of the disaster that took place in King Uzziah’s heart.  The clay no longer wanted what the potter wanted.  Picture again that beautifully created cup in the cupboard, so unhappy with his design.  It flexes its muscles and pushes against the perfect curves, trying to bend and reshape itself to serve its own purpose.  It rattles and shakes itself on the shelf and suddenly, tragically, it falls and breaks into a thousand tiny pieces.

God forbid that such a thing would happen to any of us, or any of our family members we love so dearly.  2 Chronicles sounds the alarm and calls for self-examination to be sure you

Get Your Honor From The Lord

For Sinful Ambition Makes An Idol of Yourself

There are places where you can gain some real honor.  In education you can make the “President’s Honor Role.”  That probably means you have a 3.5 grade average or better.  In sports you can make the “All Conference Honor Role” which means you probably are a good athlete.  But, where do we get honor from God?  Well, look right there above our altar and you see a piece of wood that has been carved to remind us of a flesh and blood Jesus that was nailed to his cross to die.  And how is that a picture of receiving great honor from God?  Jesus, the second person of the Trinity, came to earth and was born from Mary in order to take on human flesh and blood just like you.  That means the Potter loved you so much that he became the clay in order to save cracked pots like you and me.  That is not honor you sought out, earned or deserved, but is a gift given to you by God’s grace for Jesus’ sake who redeemed you.  Let me tell you why…..

King Uzziah started out on the right foot. Even his name [Uzziah] means “the Lord is my help.”  King Uzziah was a great piece of pottery for the Lord.  With the Lord’s blessing he rebuilt cities, conquered his enemies, extended the boundaries of the nation to the point similar to King David from 300 years earlier. He was rocking it!  What king doesn’t want his reign marked by national security and economic prosperity, right?!  He governed God’s people God’s way—just the kind of clay king you’d want to have!  But, then it happened.  King Uzziah did what the person sitting next to you did.  He stopped serving the Lord and started serving himself.  16 But when he had grown powerful, the pride in his heart led to his destruction. He was unfaithful to the Lord his God. He entered the temple of the Lord to burn incense on the altar of incense.”  On a scale of 1 to 10 how bad of a sin would you call this?  You probably weren’t ready to call 911 when you heard what he grabbed the incense burner, but the priests went “Code Red!”  Really, would you get all upset of President Biden came into church and lit one of our candles?  17 Azariah the priest went in after him. He was followed by eighty priests of the Lord, brave men. 18 They confronted King Uzziah and said to him, “It is not right for you, Uzziah, to burn incense to the Lord. That is for the priests, the sons of Aaron, who are consecrated to burn incense. Get out of the sanctuary, because you have been unfaithful. This action will not result in any praise for you from the Lord God.  Offering incense was an honor of grace God gave to the priests alone.  Uzziah was in trouble for stealing the honor God had given to the priests for himself.  That day the only thing Uzziah worshiped was himself.  He made an idol of his own fame and fortune.  He was seeking the honor and praise from the people and not from God.  His Sinful Ambition Was Making an Idol of Himself.

The sinful actions of Uzziah had their ripple affect.  Uzziah became angry. He had a censer for burning incense in his hand. When he became angry with the priests, leprosy broke out on his forehead in the presence of the priests, beside the altar of incense in the House of the Lord. 20 When Azariah, the head priest, and all the other priests looked at him, they immediately realized he had leprosy on his forehead. They rushed him out of there. He himself also was in a hurry to leave because the Lord had struck him.He enraged the priests as he sought honor for himself.  But, God stopped the self-inflected sinful pride with the blessing of God-inflicted leprosy—a disease that brought anything but honor to those infected.

I’m sure you’ve gotten angry at someone.  But, why?  I’m afraid our anger is all too often like that of Uzziah.  Students get angry at teachers who take the class “way too seriously” and think they are determined to ruin your GPA!  Why?  Because sinful ambition makes an idol of yourself—your grades, your resume, and your better job someday!   Do you get upset at the co-worker whose poor efforts or mistakes get in the way of your success?  Are you thinking of ways to help him improve his job, or ways to get him out of the way?  Sinful ambition makes an idol of yourself—your career, your success and your fulfillment.  Do you get upset with your spouse when your marriage isn’t picture perfect because they aren’t living up to your expectations?  Or are you thinking of ways to help in their weaknesses or just getting angry and making an idol of yourself and thinking of ways you can serve yourself, please yourself and break your marriage commitment.  Sinful ambition makes an idol of yourself.

It is time for us to repent for seeking to honor ourselves and forgetting that it is the honor from God that gives any clay pots like us any lasting value.  It is time for us to stop trying to make an idol of ourselves and remember that

God’s Clay Pots Seek Honor in Christ

King Uzziah was blessed to have faithful priests of the Lord working in the temple.  They were men who truly loved their king.  How can we tell?  Listen: 21 King Uzziah remained a leper until the day of his death. He lived in a quarantined house because he was a leper. He was excluded from the House of the Lord. Jotham his son was in charge of the palace of the king and administered justice for the people of the land.  22 The rest of the acts of Uzziah, from first to last, were recorded by Isaiah son of Amoz, the prophet.  23 Uzziah rested with his fathers and was buried with his fathers in the burial field that belonged to the kings, because they said, “He is a leper.” His son Jotham ruled as king in his place.  The priests approached their king from love and God brought the disease of leprosy into his life from love.  It sounds strange to get a skin disease that would cut the king off from his family and the rest of society.  He lost the throne, lost the palace, lost temple worship, lost his fame [except to be known as a leper the last 10 years of his life] and lost human relationships.  Why?  Why would God allow this terrible event to happen to an incense burning king?  Oh, there’s so much more at stake!

There are consequences for sins and having leprosy was most certainly a sign of God’s anger.  But, it was the perfect treatment for King Uzziah.  God wasn’t just killing skin cells on his face, but putting to death the pockets of unbelief in his heart.   God loved him so much that he used his threats and punishments in order for King Uzziah to realize his sin and need for a Savior.  How God loved him! 

You know what it’s like for people when the pridefully continue in their rebellion against God’s will—living and wallowing in their lie.  St Paul was inspired to write about the condition of those who cling to their sinful lives to the Romans, 22 Although they claim to be wise, they have become fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human, or like birds, four-footed animals, and crawling things. 24 So, as they followed the sinful desires of their hearts, God handed them over to the impurity of degrading their own bodies among themselves. 25 Such people have traded the truth about God for the lie, worshipping and serving the creation rather than the Creator, who is worthy of praise forever. Amen. (Ron 1:22ff).  God would not allow King Uzziah to continue living in his rebellious state.  It is only the grace of God that preserved the faithful priests to be useful to their sick……brother!?!  It is only the grace of God that he sent Uzziah off with only leprosy instead of striking him dead on the spot.  God granted Uzziah 10 years of grace suffer, think about, and to repent and celebrate the honor God would graciously give him through the Promise of the Messiah.  His honor would come from the Christ.  Our hope and prayer is that Uzziah died trusting in the promised Messiah so that he rested with his fathers as a repentant and forgiven child of God.

Dear friends, this is what Jesus did in the gospel today.  The disciples wanted honor and praise from their positions of power. “James and John, the sons of Zebedee, approached him and said, Teacher, we wish that you would do for us whatever we ask (Mark 10:35). You know what all Jesus would do for them.  He took on human flesh and blood to live a perfect life for them.  He refused to showboat his glory as God.  Jesus would allow himself to be arrested, suffer and die as he battled the devil and experienced the wrath of hell while hanging on the cross.  Yet, what does Jesus say?  What do you want me to do for you? (:36).  Then after they exposed their selfish ambitions and self-glory Jesus points them to real honor and glory from God. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.  The Kingdom of God is turned up-side-down.  We Get Our Honor From God by Seeking the Honor God has Graciously Given to Us in Christ.  It is Christ who humbled himself to be our Savior.  It is Jesus Christ, true God and true Man, who willingly placed himself as clay into the hand of the Potter to save the world!

You know I’m an optimist.  I can well imagine that Uzziah rejoiced over his leprosy just as much as his service to God as the king.  He would proclaim that his good days at king were due to God’s strength and honor.  And after realizing that his suffering from leprosy was from God as a way to shake him from his self-seeking glory, to seek glory from the Promised Messiah.  Imagine!  His leprosy could proclaim the Lord’s mercy!  He could boast in his weakness because that leprous clay jar proclaimed the greatness of the Potter’s love to see to it that he would go to heaven.

We have all been made into some amazing clay pots in the hands of our gracious Lord.  We also have dreams and goals to reach as we live out our lives in this world.  Yes, you will no doubt receive honor for achieving various level so education, work and relationships.  But, today God shows us the most praiseworthy and honorable life we could ever imagine—the attitude and actions that reflect the work of the Potter.  When the Potter shapes you with prosperity—keep your eyes on the Potter with gratitude.  When he shapes you with troubles or pain—it is honor from God to serve in contentment and perseverance.  When he shapes you with challenging co-workers, spouse or relationships—it is honor from God love and seek peace at all times. The Potter’s Plan is the Clay Jar’s Pride!  Let your honor always be from the Lord avoiding sinful ambition that makes an idol of yourself, and aggressively seeking honor in Christ that lasts an eternity.  You have been shaped by the Lord to be his very own son and daughter of the King.  Now, may your lives always reflect the honor God has given you in Christ.  Amen.

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