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The Fall of a Hero

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
October 9, 2023 12:01 am

The Fall of a Hero

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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October 9, 2023 12:01 am

Even the greatest of our heroes can fall, but our holy God sits enthroned forever in glory. Today, R.C. Sproul looks at the lessons we should learn from the tragic death of King Uzziah.

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R.C. Sproul

How much of your confidence, how much of your stability is invested in your earthly leaders and heroes?

What happens when your heroes fall? This was the question the people of Israel wrestled with, and it was in that crisis that Isaiah met the God and the King of Israel, who was altogether holy, who had no shadow of turning in him, no possibility of falling, no possibility of disappointing. Where do you place your hope? As Christians, we should answer, of course, in the Lord, but we can be tempted to look to other things, other powers, to money as our source of security. Anything less than the Lord, though, will fail us, will disappoint. You're listening to the Monday edition of Renewing Your Mind as we feature messages from R.C.

Sproul's classic and perhaps most well-known series, The Holiness of God. Kings, bosses, fathers, friends, they will let us down. Only God, who is altogether holy, as you heard R.C. Sproul describe in the preview of today's episode, cannot lie.

He doesn't change, and He will never let us down. And it is upon the backdrop of the fall of a hero that God chose to reveal Himself to the prophet Isaiah. Who was that hero? Well, here's Dr. Sproul from The Holiness of God. I was sitting in a table at the library of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary in the early sixties, working on a term paper. And if you've ever been to a seminary library or universal library, any kind of library, you know that there's one absolute rule for behavioral protocol in a library.

And that rule is silence. Well, here I was working on this paper, and everyone was in there being quiet. The only sounds that you could hear would be that of pages turning, when somebody walked into the middle of the room and spoke out loud with words that completely disrupted all of the study that was going on. In fact, instantly all of the work that was going on among the students in the library at that moment ceased because of the announcement. The person who walked in that day in November said out loud, the president has been shot. And we sat there in stunned disbelief, but only for a second until we moved out of our chairs, rushed out of the library, went over to the dean's office where there was a radio on the counter, and we were listening intently and heard the bulletin over the air that President Kennedy had died and had been pronounced dead at the hospital in Dallas. I think every person out there who was old enough to understand what was transpiring in that moment can remember to this moment where they were and what they were doing when they heard that announcement. I can even remember where I was and what I was doing when I heard the newscast that announced the death of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

I think I was only five years old. But the impression of the trauma of that moment that I witnessed with all of the adults around me as they responded to the newscast left that as an abiding memory and sensation in my head. People die every day, but presidents are not assassinated every day, and kings do not perish every day. When the leader of a nation dies, that experience is an experience of trauma for the entire nation. In the sixth chapter of the book of the prophet Isaiah, Isaiah gives to us a record of the circumstances of his sacred call to the office of profit. Each of us experiences moments of crisis in our lives that define the rest of our future.

They change the pathway of our steps. They divert us from our old course and set us on a new course from which we must never turn aside. In the Old Testament, perhaps nothing would be more traumatic for a man than to be called directly and immediately by God to be summoned to a holy office and vocation, to be anointed by the Holy Spirit and set apart for the role and the office of profit. From the moment Jeremiah or Amos or Ezekiel was called of God and endowed by His Spirit for that vocation, their lives were never the same, because to be a prophet was one of the most demanding and difficult vocations any human being could ever embark upon in the Old Testament. Because to speak for God demanded time after time that they spoke against their fellow men.

To stand with God has always meant the inevitability of cruel moments where we must stand against our friends, even against our families, as Jesus once remarked. And so a prophet in the Old Testament would never forget the crisis of being called to that office. Moses sought to reject it.

Jeremiah protested against this vocation. It's a uniform testimony of those who were selected for this thankless task in the Old Testament to seek to avoid it. But once the call and the summons was made, the die was cast, and there really was no option when God anointed a person in Israel to be a prophet.

There was no negotiation. That summons had to be obeyed. Now it was customary for the prophets in the Old Testament to recount to the nation the terms, the circumstances, the time of their consecration. Their chief credential to speak with God was the circumstances of their call. In the New Testament we see, for example, that one of the most debated points among the early Christian community was the authority of the Apostle Paul.

Why? Because Paul was not one of the original twelve disciples. And it was only from that select group that Jesus initially consecrated them as apostles. Only one person who was not among that group was ultimately selected to be included in the ranks of the apostle. Now understand that an apostle is the New Testament equivalent of the Old Testament prophet, and Paul was selected as the apostle to the Gentiles. And people challenged him. They said, this is the man who breathed out fire, who went around to the Christian community dragging people from their beds, casting them into prison, persecuting Christ and His church.

How can we trust Him? And so on several occasions in the book of Acts and in Paul's own testimony in his epistles, the circumstances of his call are repeated. They're the credentials of the apostle. So we have this tradition throughout the Old Testament and in the New Testament that a person who is placed in that position and given that awesome responsibility to speak the veritable Word of God, that they have the credential of a sacred call. And the sixth chapter of Isaiah is Isaiah's record of his call to the office of prophet.

And he tells us of a trauma that he experienced with that call that would sustain him for the rest of his life. And he says at the beginning of that chapter that it was in the year that King Uzziah died. So the setting for Isaiah's consecration in Israel, and some have said that Isaiah, if we can measure in such terms, was the greatest prophet in the Old Testament. He was the one who consorted with kings, who was sought out as a counselor in diplomatic questions. He was a statesman as well as a prophet. And it's significant that his call took place not only in a moment of his own personal crisis, but it took place at a time when the whole nation was experiencing tremendous crisis. It was the year that King Uzziah died.

Think of it. The announcement that came to Israel. The king is dead. Well, if you read your Old Testament history, you know that that's not an unusual announcement. Some kings only lasted a couple of weeks.

They turned over so rapidly in the northern kingdom particularly. So often the list of kings that children are sometimes forced to memorize in Sunday school of both the north and the south reads like a rogue's gallery of villains. So many of the kings of Israel were corrupt and ungodly and led the whole nation into compromising the terms of their covenant agreement with God. But in the scope of Jewish history, there stands out four or five kings that were different. Just a handful of kings that were blessed of God and whose reigns were marked by a certain righteousness and godliness. The greatest of all, of course, was David. He was their greatest warrior, their greatest administrator, their greatest poet, their greatest king, the king who became the model for the Messiah who was to come. We think about Hezekiah who also was noteworthy in his righteousness and godliness. We think of other kings in the Old Testament that were good kings.

But even though very little space is given to Uzziah, he has to be included certainly in the top five kings of Israel. Now when that king died, it left a vacuum, it left a void, it left a sense of uncertainty and fear among the people of Israel who will lead us. They didn't just glibly say, the king is dead, long live the king.

Now why? Well, when John Kennedy died, the suddenness of it, the disappointment of the loss of Camelot, cast a pall of gloom across the United States. When Roosevelt died, we experienced the death of a leader who had reigned, so to speak, for longer than any other president before or since. Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected to four terms as the president of the United States. He was the president who led us through the Depression and through most of the conflict of World War II.

Beloved by many in America, hated by many in America. But still, his reign was for less than 15 years. Uzziah came to the throne in Jerusalem when he was 16 years old, and he reigned over the nation, beloved, for 52 years. Imagine, 52 years with the same monarch, with the same ruler, a child would be born in Israel, and Uzziah was king.

The child would go through Bar Mitzvah at age 13, Uzziah is king. The child would go and get married, and the king was Uzziah. The married person would now have children, and while their children were growing up, the king was Uzziah. There were people who were born, had families, had children, had grandchildren, and died, and then during that whole period, the same person was king in the nation.

Do you realize the stability that that gave to the people? Let's see what the Scriptures tell us about the nature of the reign of King Uzziah. In 2 Chronicles, we read this, that Uzziah was 16 years old.

This is chapter 26 of 2 Chronicles. When he became king, he reigned 52 years in Jerusalem. His mother's name was Jecaliah of Jerusalem, and he did what was right in the sight of the Lord. According to all his father Amaziah had done, he sought God in the days of Zechariah, who had understanding in the visions of God. And as long as he sought the Lord, God made him prosper. How few kings there were in Israel of which it could be said they sought God. But it is said of Uzziah, and because he sought God, and for as long as he sought after God, God poured out his blessing upon Uzziah, upon his house, and upon the whole nation.

Now quickly, I'll summarize what else 2 Chronicles says about him. That he went and made war against the Philistines, broke down the walls of Gath, the walls of Ashtod, the walls and the cities around the Philistines. God helped him against the Philistines. His fame spread as far as the entrance of Egypt. He built towers in Jerusalem. He built fortresses in Jerusalem. He dug wells for the nation. He had much livestock, both in the lowlands and in the plains.

He had farmers and vine dressers in the mountains in Carmel, for he loved the soil. And moreover, Uzziah had an army of fighting men who went out to war by companies according to the number on their rule, and so on. And when he was strong, the Scripture says, his heart was lifted up to his own destruction, for he transgressed against the Lord his God by entering the temple of the Lord to burn incense on the altar of incense. It's like a Shakespearean tragedy where the great hero's single blemish causes his downfall and darkens the luster of his career with abiding shame. Fifty-two years he is king, and for almost every one of those years, he righteously and diligently pursued God. His policies reflected righteousness. But he became intoxicated with his own power, with his own status, to such a point that he made a decision to his own and to the nation's everlasting destruction. He wasn't satisfied with being the king. He wanted to be a priest as well, and so he walked in to that sacred place where even the king was not allowed to tread, and he took it upon himself to offer the incense prayers there. Now when the priests saw this, they rebuked him, and we read again that Azariah the priest went in after him, and with him eighty priests, valiant men, and they withstood king Uzziah, and said, 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, get out of the sanctuary.

Can you imagine that? The ministers of the sanctuary walk up to the king, and they say, King, you are not allowed here. You are violating the law of God.

Only those who are of the tribe of Levi, only the sons of Aaron who have been set apart and anointed by God for this task are allowed to perform it. You get out of here, for you shall have no honor from the Lord God. And then Uzziah became furious, and he had a censer in his hand to burn incense, and while he was angry with the priests, leprosy broke out on his forehead before the priests in the house of the Lord and beside the incense altar. And so they thrust him out of that place.

Indeed, he hurried to get out because the Lord had struck him, and King Uzziah was a leper until the day of his death, and he dwelt in an isolated house. What a tragic end to a glorious monarchy. But as tragic and as shameful and as disgraceful as the king's behavior was at the end of his life, when he died, there was still this massive sense of mourning throughout the land and a sense that if this king could fall so miserably, who can we trust?

Who can we rely upon? Who will be our king that we can trust absolutely and totally? And it's in that context with that question that Isaiah sees God on the throne. The earthly king was dead, but the king of kings was alive, was well, and was now calling Isaiah to be his prophet. As we think of the practical implications for what we've learned today, I want to ask this question, how much of your confidence, how much of your security, how much of your stability is invested in your earthly leaders and heroes? What happens when your heroes fall? What happens when your leaders sin?

Is there anyone we can trust absolutely? This was the question the people of Israel wrestled with when good King Uzziah fell. There was a huge vacuum of leadership in the nation, and it was in that crisis that Isaiah met the God and the king of Israel, who was altogether holy, who had no shadow of turning in him, no possibility of falling, no possibility of disappointing. He is still on his throne. In today's turbulent times, we need to be reminded, over and over again, that God is still on his throne.

You're listening to Renewing Your Mind, and that was R.C. Sproul from his classic series, The Holiness of God. I often have the privilege of hearing from you and the ways the Lord has used the teaching of R.C. Sproul and the ministry of Ligonier in your life.

Time and time again, what comes up? The series and the book, The Holiness of God. This week, in addition to getting lifetime digital access to the extended edition of The Holiness of God series, we'll also send you the special hardcover 25th anniversary edition of his book, The Holiness of God.

To request these two resources, give your gift at renewingyourmind.org or by calling us at 800-435-4343. When we released the 25th anniversary edition of this book, Dr. Sproul wrote a note in the front, and here is what he said. I can hardly believe it's been 25 years since my book, The Holiness of God, was first published. As many of you know, I've published many books during my teaching career, but none of them seems to have had as great an impact on people's lives as this one has. I hear from people almost daily that their thinking about God has been changed because of this work. The study of that concept is what changed my understanding of the things of God, and it has so informed Ligonier's mission that we define our purpose as to proclaim the holiness of God in all of its fullness to as many people as we possibly can. I'm delighted to be able to send this 25th anniversary book along to those of you who have been so important in supporting the mission of Ligonier. Your financial support over the years has made it possible for this ministry to spread this message of the holiness of God not only in America, but around the world. The Holiness of God has been printed in multiple languages and has had a tremendous impact, particularly in Latin America. I want to thank you for helping us carry out this mission, and I ask you to pray that future generations will be touched by this book and this ministry for many years to come. That was Dr. Sproul's note in the front of the 25th anniversary edition of The Holiness of God.

Secure your copy by visiting renewingyourmind.org today. The context for Isaiah's call to be a prophet has been set. But next, Isaiah gets a glimpse into the inner chambers of heaven itself.

Tomorrow, R.C. Sproul will help us understand Isaiah's incredible vision here on Renewing Your Mind. New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-10-25 01:33:31 / 2023-10-25 01:41:35 / 8

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