Bible reading for Dec 22.
2 Chronicles 26.
"He set himself to seek God in the days of Zechariah, who instructed him in the fear of God, and as long as he sought the LORD, God made him prosper." (26:5)
UZZIAH THE LEPER. This is the same king that is named Azariah in 2 Kings 15. Uzziah is a variant spelling, perhaps to distinguish him from the high priest with the same name (vv 17, 20). As you read Israel's history you will run into a number of names held in common by more than one individual. Already we have encountered three separate men named Joash. Also, two named Zechariah. Uzziah's mother was a Jerusalem native, and presumably an observant Jew. Uzziah has a very long reign of 52 years, and he ruled well, as long as he kept seeking the Lord (v 5). We also learn from the Chronicles' account that Uzziah was a farmer at heart: "he loved the soil" (v 10), and that he introduced catapults to Jerusalem's defense (v 15). The ministry of Isaiah the prophet begins during Uzziah's reign, or perhaps at his death (Isa 1:1; 6:1). What trips Uzziah up in the end was not idolatry or compromise, but his pride. He was faithful to the Lord but over time developed an inflated view of himself and thought he could offer incense to the Lord like the priests did. As a result he was afflicted with leprosy for the remainder of his life.
REFLECT. We've seen this with several kings -- beginning well and ending poorly. What we learn from them is that we should never presume upon past success. As believers in Christ we are given all good things in him (Rom 8:32). This includes the gift of perseverance (Jer 32:40). But this is never a mechanical or automatic process. God wills that we walk with him in personal fellowship and to seek from him all that he has promised. "As long as he sought the Lord" should remind us that the Lord wants us to seek and to keep seeking him, even though in Christ we have already found him. He does not give us all his gifts at once. The Christian life does not go forward on auto-pilot. Just like God has ordained how life develops in his creation, so there are spiritual principles of growth that we must observe in this life: "But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (2 Pet 3:18). Remember that you need the Lord, day by day, and over the long haul. Are you still seeking him?
"And they worshiped the dragon, for he had given his authority to the beast, and they worshiped the beast, saying, 'Who is like the beast, and who can fight against it?'" (13:4)
THE BEAST. This unholy trinity -- the dragon (ch 12), the beast, and the false prophet (ch 13) -- seek to deceive the whole earth and take visible (and political) control. Satan has long envied God and now imitates the holy Trinity by sending a substitute Christ-figure, the Beast, into the world, complete with a miraculous recovery from death. He will control the global economy in order to receive the worship of the entire world. The second beast is an imitation of the Holy Spirit, performing signs and giving life. These signs, especially the creation of life -- whether through biological means, or cloning, or artificial intelligence -- gives testimony to the power of the first beast. The image of beasts (see Daniel 4) symbolizes world rulers in their rapacious and violent nature. Thankfully, however, the evil that enters the universe in the early chapters of Genesis is resolved in the book of Revelation. Baptist pastor Clarence Larkin (1850-1924) drew the "trail of the serpent" through the Scriptures in some of his popular charts on prophecy (see above). Genesis and Revelation are bookends, as it were, to the history of redemption. The number 666, which is the reading in the earliest and best manuscripts, may be the mathematical sum of a person's name whose letters are converted to numerical values. (Many candidates down through history have been put forth!) Another possibility: since humans were created on day six, and three is the number associated with the Trinity, 666 is the number of man who seeks to raise himself to godhood (cf 2 Thess 2:3-4).