In Second Chronicles 26 we read of a king by the name of Uzziah. Uzziah had the second longest reign of any Israelite king at 52 years. He was also one of the few good kings of Judah, following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather in doing what was right in the sight of God (2 Chr. 26:4). This king was a powerful king because God had been with him. He built up the defenses and army of Judah and recognition of his name spread around the world because of the power God had granted him (Vs. 15).
However, when Uzziah’s power was at its greatest we read these words: “But 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. But Azariah the priest went in after him, with eighty priests of the LORD who were men of valor, and they withstood King Uzziah and said to 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.’ Then Uzziah was angry. Now he had a censer in his hand to burn incense, and when he became angry with the priests, leprosy broke out on his forehead in the presence of the priests in the house of the LORD, by the altar of incense” (2 Chr. 26:16-19 ESV).
Uzziah began to think too much of his own power. He believed that because God had given him power in some things, he now had the ability to do anything. This attitude was his downfall and he lived the rest of his life with leprosy (26:21). Notice that the problem with Uzziah’s attempt to offer incense was not that he did not know what he was doing, was not intelligent enough to do the job, or that God thought him a lesser individual than the priests. The problem was he did not have the authority to perform this action in the house of God: only the priests were given that responsibility (Vs. 18; Exo. 30:7-8).
The attitude of Uzziah is seen in many people today as well. Though there are many corners of the religious world where women have been given leadership roles in the worship service or the congregation (female preachers, elders, deacons, prayer leaders, etc.), the Lord has given those responsibilities to men (1 Tim. 2:12-3:13). It does not mean God thinks less of women, that he considers them stupid or ignorant, or that he believes them unable to do the job; but just as in the case of Uzziah, God has given that responsibility to others and to try to take such power where God has not given it “will bring you no honor from the Lord God.”
Likewise a man may be a good man, well respected in the community, and a good steward yet still is unqualified to be an elder. It does not in any way mean God does not consider him a good and righteous man. However, if he persists in striving to take upon him a role God does not allow, he puts in jeopardy that righteousness to obtain a role that is not his.
We need to learn the lesson of Uzziah. First and foremost, we need to study God’s Word rationally and diligently to see what roles God has established for each individual: for everyone has a set of responsibilities. Then we must ensure that we do not overstep our boundaries and take upon ourselves roles that God has not authorized, lest we become an outcast from God and the church as Uzziah was from his people (Vs. 21).