And in Jerusalem he made skillfully designed devices to shoot arrows and catapult large stones from the towers and corners. So his fame spread far and wide, for he was marvelously helped until he became powerful.
I. A VICTORIOUS CAREER. This, whether we have regard to:
1. The extension of his kingdom; he prevailed against the Edomites, the Philistines, the Arabians (vers. 2, 6-8). Or to:
2. The strengthening of his kingdom by military means - by building fortifications (vers. 9, 10), by ordering and equipping his army (vers. 11-13), by inventing or adopting the latest weapons of warfare (vers. 14, 15). Or to:
3. His attention to the national produce. It speaks very highly indeed for a monarch of that period that he dug wells, that he had much cattle, that he encouraged the vine-dressers, that he "loved husbandry. These are things which in that age of the world were too often disregarded and even despised by men in high places, especially by monarchs. But it was on such things as these that national prosperity very largely rested. Much of the power of a country comes from its wealth; and its wealth comes from the soil. No wise ruler will be indifferent to the question of the produce of the land. The king that "loves husbandry" is, other things being present, a king that loves his people, and rules for the happiness of their homes. It is probable that Judah never spent so contented and prosperous a half-century as during the long reign of Uzziah.
II. ITS EXPLANATION.
(1) It was partly due to the fact that he came under good human influence; that of his father in his better days, that of Zechariah all through that prophet's life; (perhaps) that of a godly mother.
(2) It was due in part to his own capacity and energy. Had he been a weak prince, giving way to base flatteries and to corrupt companionship, he could not have played the admirable part he did.
(3) It was due, chiefly and primarily, to the favour of Jehovah. "God made him to prosper" (ver. 5). From the Divine resources came intelligence, strength, sagacity, statesmanship. He might well have said, "Thou art the glory of my strength, and in thy favour has my horn been exalted." This is the explanation of every victorious career.
1. There goes toward it individual character and energy. Every man must "bear his own burden," and "have rejoicing in himself alone" (Galatians 6:4, 5). In some sense and to some degree we must all "fight the good fight" for ourselves, if we would gain the victory and win "the prize of our high calling."
2. There is included in it helpful influence from without; all kindly human help from the home and from the sanctuary, from the father and from the friend.
3. The all-decisive force is the power that works from above on our behalf. God must make us to prosper if we are to gain the victory in the great strife of life. From him must come the guidance and the guardianship, the inspiration and the control, without which we shall faint and fall. And this is to be secured by
(1) submission to the gracious sway, and
(2) living in the holy service of a Divine Saviour. - C.
I. UZZIAH'S PROSPERITY.
For he was marvellously helped till he was strong.
1. A time when we cannot help ourselves. Infancy.
2. A time of growth, when we can help ourselves. Youth, manhood.
3. When thus strong the supernatural help ceases.Not less provision made on that account. There is joy and co-operation with God. As an earthly father requires to be obeyed and served, beholds strength and disposition to co-operate, so the heavenly Father, etc. (G. Matheson.)
1. The particulars of his prosperity.(1) He prospered in war. He had an army of 307,500 men, over whom were 2,600 mighty and valorous captains. All were fully equipped for service. With these soldiers Uzziah fought against the Philistines, the Arabians that dwelt in Gur-baal, the Mehunims and the Amorites, and in each case he was victorious.(2) He prospered in building. He repaired and fortified the walls of Jerusalem, reared towers "a hundred and fifty cubits high" (Josephus), built walled towns in the desert, and made channels for the conveyance of water.(3) He prospered in agriculture. "He planted it with all sorts of plants, and sowed it with all sorts of seeds."(4) Uzziah's prosperity appears to have been general. He did not keep up a great military establishment at the expense of other departments. His name spread far abroad, and he was acknowledged to be an illustrious and a highly-favoured prince.
2. The author of his prosperity. This was God. (Uzziah signifies "strength from Jehovah.") "He was marvellously helped." God helped him against his enemies, and in all he undertook. It might have been otherwise. Instead of victory he might have experienced defeat. His building and agricultural schemes might have proved unsuccessful. It is always well to set the Lord at our right hand. We may plough and plant, but He only can cause the seed to germinate, and grow, and fructify. We may contrive and work, but He only can bless our endeavours.
3. The secret of Uzziah's prosperity. It is distinctly set forth in the fifth verse of this (26) chapter, "He sought God in the days of Zechariah, who had understanding in the visions of God: and so long as he sought the Lord God made him to prosper." What is there that God cannot do for a man who takes Him into his counsels? He can help him "marvellously." He can exalt valleys and level mountains, make crooked places straight and rough places plain. He can bring clients into the office and ready-money customers into the shop. He has the hearts of all men in His hands, and all the forces of the universe; and He can do whatsoever He will.
II. UZZIAH'S PRIDE.
1. His prosperity made him proud. "His heart was lifted up." A great change for the worse was wrought in him. Whether it was brought about suddenly or gradually we are not told. We assume that Uzziah did not become proud all at once. He who had formerly recognised God as the prime cause of his splendid achievements became wilfully blind, and we shall soon see what effect this had upon his conduct.
2. His pride led him into presumption. The tendency of pride is to make men giddy, and as the result their vision is beclouded, their judgment is perverted.(1) The occasion of his presumption. Josephus tells us that it was "a remarkable day, a general festival," and we are left to supply the rest.(2) The nature of his presumption. He usurped the office of the priest. There are hereditary moral diseases as well as those which are physical and mental. Uzziah's folly was in some respects a reproduction of the folly of which Amaziah his father had been guilty.
III. UZZIAH'S PUNISHMENT.
1. He was resisted in his attempt to do that which was unlawful; resisted by the proper guardians of the temple. Azariah, the high priest, seeing what he was about to do, went in after him, and with him fourscore priests of the Lord, who were valiant men. No time was lost (ver. 18).
2. He was smitten with leprosy. "The leprosy rose up in his forehead before the priests in the house of the Lord." There was the bright scaly spot which told its own terrible tale — the mark of God's disapprobation, and it was on his brow, where all could see it.
3. He was thrust out of the temple as unclean. It was not necessary, however, to use force; conscious that God had smitten him, he hurried out, self-condemned, probably shrieking out his woe, and cursing his folly.
4. He was separated from society (Leviticus 13:46).
5. He, being a leper, was buried alone. Josephus tells us that he "was buried by himself in his own garden." In all likelihood his resting-place was a field or garden adjoining the usual burial-place of the kings.Lessons:
1. God is the giver of prosperity.
2. Prosperous men are in danger of becoming proud.
3. Pride is often followed by presumption.
4. Presumption is sure of punishment.
(J. Baker Norton.)
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