Today we read about the reign of different kings in Israel and Judah (expected from the name of the book). We’ll focus on one king today: Azariah, also known as Uzziah.
Uzziah did “what was pleasing in the LORD’s sight” (v.3), but he did not destroy the “pagan shrines”(v.4). These pagan places of worship are called “high places” in other translations like the ESV because they were often on a mountain or hilltop.
Uzziah followed the one true God personally, but he didn’t lead the people of Judah to follow Him. It says in the next verse (v.5) that the Lord “struck the king with leprosy” possibly as a punishment for disobedience in destroying the high places. Uzziah and the people of Israel were breaking the words of Deuteronomy 6:4-6:
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.” (ESV, emphasis added)
If the people of Judah were to love the Lord with all their heart and soul and might, then there must be no worship of any other god. The LORD is a “jealous God” (Exodus 34:14), meaning that He will not tolerate the worship of anyone or anything else. Uzziah failed to love the Lord with all his heart and soul and might, disobeying the greatest commandment. Sure, he did “what was pleasing in the LORD’s sight,” but he was a man who practiced partial obedience. However, partial obedience is really just disobedience. Uzziah should have done “what he was told, when he was told, with the right heart attitude.” Obedience is the natural outflow of a love for God.
Love for God is a command as we see above. How can love be commanded? Near the end of Uzziah’s life, we see the prophet Isaiah receiving a vision from the Lord that I think answers that question. Isaiah sees the Lord sitting on His throne with seraphim (mighty angels) surrounding Him calling to one another, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” (Isaiah 6:3, ESV).
Isaiah understands the holiness of God and then realizes his sinfulness and the sinfulness of the people of Judah. He says, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips;” (Isaiah 6:5, ESV), but God was faithful to cleanse Isaiah of his messy sinfulness. “…your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for” (Isaiah 6:7, ESV). It is the same for those who are believers in Jesus Christ. We believe that Jesus died on the cross for our sins, taking our place, and paying the debt that we owed to God. We were lost and people of unclean lips, but through Jesus, our “guilt is taken away” and our “sin atoned for.”
God can command us in Scripture to love him because of who He is (holy) and what He has done for us (cleansed us from all unrighteousness, cf. 1 John 1:9).
Do you love God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your might? (I often find I don’t. Take a serious look at yourself today.)
In what ways do you practice partial obedience?
By: Lucas Taylor — West Campus Pastoral Ministry Apprentice