Recently, I have been thinking about the threefold office of Jesus: prophet, priest, king. We readily accept that He is qualified to occupy all three offices but did you know that the Mosaic Law actually strictly separates these offices? Prophets could be kings, as David was. Priests could be prophets, as Samuel was. But kings could not be priests and priests could not be kings. There will forever be only one Person who has the credentials to unite these three offices: Jesus. He is the ultimate Prophet (Deuteronomy 18:15-22), the interceding Priest (Hebrews 4:14-16) and the eternal King (Revelation 19:16).
Let us take a moment to understand why God declared that nobody should occupy the office of priest and king simultaneously. The Scriptures were very clear that the kings were never to interfere with the spiritual ministry of the priests and under no circumstance was the king to be united with the priesthood. The reason for this is simple: the potential for corruption of power. To control a nation spiritually and politically vested too much power in a single (and corruptible) human being.
Despite God’s clear revelation in relation to this issue, two Israelite kings attempted to join the offices of priest and king and they were judged severely because of it. The first was Saul. When they were at war with the Philistines, Saul wanted to sacrifice to God in order to encourage his troops. However, to do so, he needed Samuel – Israel’s prophet-priest. Samuel asked him to wait seven days. 1 Samuel 10:8: You shall go down before me to Gilgal and surely I will come down to you to offer burnt offerings and make sacrifices of peace offerings. Seven days you shall wait, till I come to you and show you what you should do. Well, Saul grew desperate and impatient. Plus, his army was deserting him and those that did remain were paralysed with fear. 1 Samuel 13:8: Then he waited seven days, according to the time set by Samuel. But Samuel did not come to Gilgal; and the people were scattered from him.
Saul was being tested. Would he wait as commanded? Or would he lose patience and act? Out of fear and panic, Saul disobeyed Samuel and he disobeyed God. 1 Samuel 13:9-11 records his rebellion: So Saul said, “Bring a burnt offering and peace offerings here to me.” And he offered the burnt offering. Now it happened, as soon as he had finished presenting the burnt offering, that Samuel came; and Saul went out to meet him, that he might greet him. And Samuel said, “What have you done?” It is of interest to note that Samuel appeared as soon as he had made the offerings. It is a lesson that many have failed to learn. The last moments of waiting are usually the most difficult and they powerfully tempt us to take matters into our own hands. Saul’s transgression cost him his kingdom and later his sanity.
About 260 years later, 16-year-old Uzziah became king. The Scriptures reflect a promising beginning to his reign. 2 Chronicles 26:3-6 reads: Uzziah was sixteen years old when he became king, and he reigned fifty-two years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Jecholiah of Jerusalem. And he did what was right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that 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. However, he fell into a trap that affects many rulers – pride. 2 Chronicles 26:16: 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.
Uzziah had a wonderful beginning but a tragic end, all because he allowed pride into his life. The priests tried to stop him in his rebellion but it was no use – he was determined to combine the office of priest and king. 2 Chronicles 26:17-18 records the exchange: So Azariah the priest went in after him, and with him were eighty priests of the LORD – valiant men. 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.”
Uzziah had a moment of madness but it led to a lifetime of pain. Pride is a dangerous sin. It can destroy families and relationships, it can ruin ministries, split churches and estrange you from God. In the case of Uzziah, as the passage continues, we see that the Lord struck him with leprosy. Even so, the Lord dealt with him mercifully because the law actually demanded death. Numbers 18:7: Therefore you and your sons with you shall attend to your priesthood for everything at the altar and behind the veil; and you shall serve. I give your priesthood to you as a gift for service, but the outsider who comes near shall be put to death.
Uzziah’s example teaches us to be on guard against pride but also to pray that the Lord will help us to end well, particularly as we are now in the closing days of the church age. A good beginning is no guarantee of a successful end and the sin of unholy ambition has ruined more than one servant of the Lord as both the Scriptures and history books testify. Both examples also remind us that when absolute power is sought by corruptible men, sin will often manifest. But how marvelous it will be in the Millennial Kingdom when Jesus the Messiah, the incorruptible Prophet, Priest and King rules. Maranatha!