In an interesting blog post on Pyromaniacs the February 10th post, author Dan Phillips tries to link the rebellion of King Uzziah and his punishment of leprosy with the “unfaithful” act of women who apparently are committing treachery against God by becoming pastors. Is this really true? Are women pastors committing treachery against God? First let’s look at Dan Phillip’s article to see how he equates women pastors with illegally burning incense on the altar. Taking the opposing view for effect he says:
Surely King Uzziah had every bit as much right to burn incense on the altar as… well, as women have to be pastors in our day!
No matter how wonderful it (women pastors) looks, treachery is still treachery.
Clothed in the finest of robes, treachery is still treachery.
The Word itself makes the opposite connection. It is the man (or woman) who wanders off from God’s commandments, after his own fancies and notions, who is arrogant (Psalm 119:21, 85). By contrast, the genuinely humble person is the one who trembles at God’s Word (Isaiah 66:2).
These are very serious charges. Yet he links a woman believing she has a call from God to be a pastor as going after her own “fancies and notions” and his accusations would make her “arrogant”. Not to consider these merely as little charges, he goes on to attach the issue of women pastors to Uzziah with “sheer hubris” and “unfaithfulness” that would bring a removal from the ability to participate in worship.
note that the text does not wink at this act, though Yahwistic kings were relatively rare and wonderful in Israel’s history. This is condemned as an act of sheer hubris, and as unfaithfulness. It led to Uzziah’s destruction, his ruin.
“Ruin”? We might think that the text was suggesting that Yahweh struck him dead — but He did not. Instead, Yahweh struck Uzziah with leprosy. Uzziah was ruined as far as participating in temple worship was concerned. So far from leading worship, Uzziah was banned from worship. His rebellious act of pride led to a shameful mark that humiliated and disciplined him.
The connection is clear. According to the association that Dan Phillips has drawn between Uziah and women pastors, he seems to propose that women pastors should tremble at God’s word that would allow them to be humiliated and disciplined and banned from worship for their arrogant and treacherous action against God. This is one of the strongest worded attacks against our sisters in Christ that I have ever read. The question should not be whether this arrogant call to humiliate women who serve as pastors is fair, but whether it is biblical. I believe that Dan Phillips’ use of scripture does not measure up when we test the proposed connection by the scriptures. Let’s have a look at the story within the complete context.
It is important to understand the example set by King Uzziah’s father from 2 Chronicles 25.
2 Chronicles 25:1 Amaziah was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned twenty-nine years in Jerusalem. And his mother’s name was Jehoaddan of Jerusalem.
2 Chronicles 25:2 He did right in the sight of the LORD, yet not with a whole heart.
King Amaziah of Judah did not follow the Lord with all of his heart. After he won a war with the Edomites, he bowed down before false gods and he burned incense to the gods of the sons of Seir.
2 Chronicles 25:14 Now after Amaziah came from slaughtering the Edomites, he brought the gods of the sons of Seir, set them up as his gods, bowed down before them and burned incense to them.
The true condition of his heart was revealed with Amaziah refused to listen to God’s prophet.
2 Chronicles 25:15 Then the anger of the LORD burned against Amaziah, and He sent him a prophet who said to him, “Why have you sought the gods of the people who have not delivered their own people from your hand?”
2 Chronicles 25:16 As he was talking with him, the king said to him, “Have we appointed you a royal counselor? Stop! Why should you be struck down?” Then the prophet stopped and said, “I know that God has planned to destroy you, because you have done this and have not listened to my counsel.”
When King Amaziah of Judah contacted King Joash of Israel, King Joash was quick to point out the arrogance of King Amaziah in his boasting.
2 Chronicles 25:19 “You said, ‘Behold, you have defeated Edom.’ And your heart has become proud in boasting…
It was God’s plan to destroy Amaziah because of his unfaithfulness and he not only lost the battle with Israel, but he experienced the removal of God’s protection.
2 Chronicles 25:21 So Joash king of Israel went up, and he and Amaziah king of Judah faced each other at Beth-shemesh, which belonged to Judah.
2 Chronicles 25:22 Judah was defeated by Israel, and they fled each to his tent.
2 Chronicles 25:27 From the time that Amaziah turned away from following the LORD they conspired against him in Jerusalem, and he fled to Lachish; but they sent after him to Lachish and killed him there.
When King Amaziah died, his teenage son Uzziah, who was only 16 years old, was crowned as King in his father’s place. He was at a very tender age having his role as king modeled by his father.
2 Chronicles 26:1 And all the people of Judah took Uzziah, who was sixteen years old, and made him king in the place of his father Amaziah.
Just as his father did, King Uzziah did right in God’s sight in the beginning.
2 Chronicles 26:4 He did right in the sight of the LORD according to all that his father Amaziah had done.
2 Chronicles 26:5 He continued to seek God in the days of Zechariah, who had understanding through the vision of God; and as long as he sought the LORD, God prospered him.
King Uzziah became extremely powerful with “great power” and an elite army.
2 Chronicles 26:11 Moreover, Uzziah had an army ready for battle, which entered combat by divisions according to the number of their muster, prepared by Jeiel the scribe and Maaseiah the official, under the direction of Hananiah, one of the king’s officers.
2 Chronicles 26:12 The total number of the heads of the households, of valiant warriors, was 2,600.
2 Chronicles 26:13 Under their direction was an elite army of 307,500, who could wage war with great power, to help the king against the enemy.
When he experienced “great power” he became proud and his faithfulness to God was corrupted.
2 Chronicles 26:16 But when he became strong, his heart was so proud that he acted corruptly, and he was unfaithful to the LORD his God, for he entered the temple of the LORD to burn incense on the altar of incense.
With his “great power” that he possessed, it still wasn’t enough. Uzziah sought for ultimate prideful power by deciding to burn incense to God just as his Father had pridefully burned incense to false gods. He made his arrogant plan known and 81 priests followed him into the temple to stop his actions.
2 Chronicles 26:17 Then Azariah the priest entered after him and with him eighty priests of the LORD, valiant men.
2 Chronicles 26:18 They opposed Uzziah the king 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 been unfaithful and will have no honor from the LORD God.”
Why was Uzziah unfit to offer incense to God? It was because God had set up special rules and regulations that would ensure that obedience to the holy requirements of the temple rituals and sacrifices would be strictly followed. The priests were selected from one lineage and it was their full time job to serve God in the way that he had set up. These men had been consecrated and set apart to keep the temple, its sacrifices and offerings holy. By daring to think that an ordinary man, even though a powerful king, could present himself worthy to offer the incense before God, Uzziah dishonored God and his pride made him ripe for a fall. Uzziah refused to listen to the warnings that he was not part of those who had been by chosen by God by their lineage and who were required to strictly follow the rules to keep themselves without stain before God. As he arrogantly took the censer and prepared to burn the incense as an unconsecrated man coming before God, God judged him.
2 Chronicles 26:19 But Uzziah, with a censer in his hand for burning incense, was enraged; and while he was enraged with the priests, the leprosy broke out on his forehead before the priests in the house of the LORD, beside the altar of incense.
2 Chronicles 26:20 Azariah the chief priest and all the priests looked at him, and behold, he was leprous on his forehead; and they hurried him out of there, and he himself also hastened to get out because the LORD had smitten him.
2 Chronicles 26:21 King Uzziah was a leper to the day of his death; and he lived in a separate house, being a leper, for he was cut off from the house of the LORD. And Jotham his son was over the king’s house judging the people of the land.
Uzziah’s judgement started with the finger of God against his forehead. His shame would be there for all to see.
Uzziah’s crime was not to invade the priest’s office, but to invade God’s holiness. His offense was not against the priests but against God Himself. The story of Uzziah shows the temptation that ultimate power brings. One who wields great earthly power may allow that power go to one’s head. One who possesses such power may become so prideful that they forget that it is God who is to be feared.
The application of this historical event has nothing to do with women pastors. In fact it has a greater application to those who wield power in the church and who use such power to assume that they can dictate to God whom he will use. The distribution of God’s gifts is not in the hands of men.
Ephesians 4:11 And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers,
Ephesians 4:12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ;
Ephesians 4:13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.
God holds the distribution of his gifts in his own hand. Those who hold back God from distributing his gifts to women may well have taken the censor in their own sinful human hands. Throughout the years men have held great power, but God has not given them the power to be the distributor of his gifts to the church. They are not consecrated to offer this incense and wielding a power that God did not give them may well be considered to be an act of powerful men pursuing unfaithfulness and without the fear of God.