2 Chronicles 26:16-21 New King James Version (NKJV)
16 But when he was strong his heart was lifted up, to his destruction, for he transgressed against the LORD his God by entering the temple of the LORD to burn incense on the altar of incense.
17 So Azariah the priest went in after him, and with him were eighty priests of the LORD—valiant men. 18 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. Get out of the sanctuary, for you have trespassed! You shall have no honor from the LORD God.”
19 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, beside the incense altar. 20 And Azariah the chief priest and all the priests looked at him, and there, on his forehead, he was leprous; so they thrust him out of that place. Indeed he also hurried to get out, because the LORD had struck him.
21 King Uzziah was a leper until the day of his death. He dwelt in an isolated house, because he was a leper; for he was cut off from the house of the LORD. Then Jotham his son was over the king’s house, judging the people of the land.
King Uzziah became King of the Southern Kingdom of Judah at the age of 16. Like so many of the Kings of Judah, he started well, doing what was right in the sight of the LORD. (v4) This guy had it all, wealth, fame, power, might. He strengthened the walls of Jerusalem, adding towers and catapults and ballista while fighting and destroying the Philistines, the Arabs, and many more. His name was famous even in Egypt. All this fame and power came from the LORD, but he eventually forgot that and thought that HE was the one who is mighty.
By forgetting that all he had was from the LORD he made a grave sin: the sin of pride. The only ones allowed to enter the Holy of Holies in the Temple were the Priests. Anointed descendants of the brother of Moses, Aaron, the first High Priest. God had been very clear on the rules of the Temple.
Uzziah thought, “I’m the King and look at how powerful I am, so I’M going to burn the incense, not some random priest.” So he strolls right in and tries to light the incense. The priests protested and tried to stop him, but God took care of it. He struck Uzziah with leprosy.
The interesting part is that Uzziah was trying to worship Him, but he was punished. He forgot his place. Remember, God didn’t want the Jews to have a king for this exact reason. Because the King of the nation would forget his place, and think himself mighty. This was a heart issue, Uzziah didn’t enter the place of worship with a broken and contrite heart, but a strong and prideful one. He focused on “I am great” and not the “Great I AM.”
Matthew 27:50-51 New King James Version (NKJV)
50 And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit.
51 Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split,
The Veil Has Been Torn
Uzziah wasn’t allowed to approach certain places of worship because it was there that God’s presence physically dwelt. (His presence, not His being) This area was cordoned off by a veil. When Jesus died on the Cross, that veil split from the top down. (remember, both these events take place in Jerusalem, though many hundreds of years apart) Being split from the top to the bottom is key here. During an earthquake, things split from the bottom up. The veil was torn by a supernatural force, indicating God’s presence leaving the temple and going into the world.
When Jesus ascended into Heaven forty days later, He said He would send us a Helper. (John 14:15-16) Ten days later, the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples. (Acts 2) This same Holy Spirit descends upon every Christian when they are saved. God doesn’t dwell in a secluded room in a temple, now. He dwells in us. Worship isn’t prescribed in a specific manner, where only the ordained of a certain lineage can enter His presence.
In Matthew 18:20, Jesus says,
For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.”
We don’t have to go through rituals and responses and have priests, or even pastors with us to worship Him because He is always with us. He dwells in us.
Live today like He is in you. Remember that we can worship Him ourselves. Not because we are worthy, but because we acknowledge His power, not our own.