The Difference 

The Difference
He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, just as his father Uzziah had done, but unlike him he did not enter the temple of the Lord.”       2 Ch. 27:2
    Jotham assumed the kingship at age twenty-five and he did what was right in God’s eyes, which was “just as his father Uzziah had done.” This may sound a bit surprising since the former king was disgraced for his misdeed and ended his life as a leper, isolated from his loved ones and subjects. Yet one misstep didn’t seem to take away the fact that Uzziah was essentially a good king who meant well in most things he had done as a ruler.
    Jotham was well aware of what had happened to his late father and became rather cautious so that he wouldn’t make the same mistake by entering into the temple of the Lord in an unworthy manner. Indeed, he had learned from his father’s blunder and was content to be what he was and to do what he was called to do. He was appointed to be a king, not a priest.
    Not a whole lot was written about him and he only reigned for sixteen years, which was relatively short. He died at age forty-one and he launched some building projects while he was governing and fought and won a war against the Ammonites. These things weren’t earth-shattering by any means compared to what some of his predecessors had accomplished, yet unlike his father before him, he at least didn’t commit any significant sin during his reign by which his life was defined. He died as Jotham, a good king of Judah, certainly not as Uzziah the leper.
    “But contentment with godliness is great gain,” Paul wrote to Timothy. Am I content being who and what I am? This is a dicey question for us to answer, isn’t it? The temptation that I have been bombarded with in life has always been discontentment and overreaching, and I have yet to come to final acceptance of who I am - a man of little determination and greatly prone to being temperamental and pessimistic, which is a perfect recipe for unhappiness and misery. How can anyone embrace such innate flaws with gratitude and thankfulness?
    King Jotham might not have been as ambitious and talented as his father, yet he seemed to operate his life within the confines of his limitation and didn’t attempt to overreach in any way; therefore he was considered a success, albeit on a much smaller scale. Indeed, what we should strive to master in life is godliness and contentment, and all others are mere trappings and superfluity, outwardly appealing yet essentially unnecessary.
    Come to think of it, the war I have been waging against myself my entire life may not be necessary after all. There are boundaries and limitations in life to which I must surrender and be subject.


Posted by Robert Sea Thursday, May 11, 2017 7:14:00 AM Categories: Devotional


“King Uzziah had leprosy until the day he died. He lived in a separate house   leprous, and banned from the temple of the Lord.”         2 Ch. 26:21
    Had the king visited the temple merely as a king and a worshipper of the Lord  as he used to do up to that point in his life, he would have been fine; yet he decided to assume the role of a priest, which became the greatest downfall in his life. Unfortunately, that visit became his last, and he would never step inside the holy temple ever again.
    Was it some sort of divine aspiration that Uzziah had when he decided to assume another role while he was paying homage to God? He might have considered it too mundane to worship the Lord just as a layman, and determined to experience something more exotic by being a priest. He might have been getting tired of approaching the Lord through a priest, a middleman of sorts, and decided to take things into his own hands. That was the way things went, and we know what transpired at the end. The whole thing backfired on him, and the king was kept from coming into the presence of God from then on.
    Was it essential for the king to become a leper to know that he was truly unclean? Perhaps it was a better route for Uzziah to gain a deeper knowledge of the Lord by contracting leprosy, stripping away all the trappings with which he had identified himself and becoming completely naked and transparent.
    In essence, could it be God’s mercy, not justice, that King Uzziah turned into a leper? I suppose, as far as gaining knowledge of both the Lord and the self was concerned, becoming a leper apparently was a better avenue than remaining as a king.
    Uzziah died as a leper, isolated from all his loved ones and void of any earthly glory and power, and there was no mention of him after he made his curtain call. He might have gone down in history as a failure and a grasper of priestly privilege, yet we will never know how he will be judged at the end. Having a passion to present incense before the Lord doesn’t seem to be all that unpardonable; it may even be commendable.
    Perhaps there is a little bit of Uzziah in me, causing me to feel sympathetic toward the demise of the king.


Posted by Robert Sea Wednesday, May 10, 2017 7:30:00 AM Categories: Devotional


“Uzziah, who had a censer in his hand ready to burn incense, became angry.”      2 Ch. 26:19
    The king was not entitled to burn incense before the Lord even though he was the head of Judah. No matter how powerful and lofty his position was, there was some things that he wasn’t supposed to perform, particularly the sacred duties that were reserved for the priests.
    The boundary between the church and the state must be drawn clearly, and the king shouldn’t be allowed to interfere with the business of the church. Uzziah seemed to believe his power and authority was limitless, and he became angry when others, especially the Levites and the priests, deemed otherwise. The king took it as a challenge against his authority, and presented the incense despite severe opposition; therefore he suffered the dire consequence - he became a leper.
    One single act of offence and the king came down from the highest and sank to the lowest, and remained one to be scorned and belittled the rest of his life. Had he been content to be who and what he was, he would have remained a king until he died. This wasn’t the case nonetheless. His overreaching pride became the cause of his downfall.
    Why did Uzziah even consider it essential to cross the line separating the sacred and the secular, the human and the divine?
    Isn’t this the case with some of us who continue to climb upward until we reach the heavens in whatever area we have chosen to pursue? Even at the height of his royal enterprise, the king appeared to be reaching for more beyond what was permissible, thus crossing the clearly-drawn line separating the finite and the infinite.
    There are millions of things that I will never understand and an infinite number of mysteries I won’t be able to penetrate no matter how hard I try. I will forever remain human with all its frailties and limitations throughout eternity and I must accept the way things are with thankfulness and gratitude.
    Things could always be different and our circumstance could be far better than what it is, yet our present lot is the way things are and to embrace it with gratitude is an act of obedience; to grumble and complain about it is an act of overreaching, attempting to usurp God’s position in our lives.
    Indeed, things could be a lot better, but they could also be far worse than what they are. Life does not end in midstream and we have no option but to pack up and continue to move onward, trusting who and what we are has always been divinely intended.
    How easy it was for the king to turn into a leper, and it was caused by mere discontentment.    


Posted by Robert Sea Tuesday, May 9, 2017 7:38:00 AM Categories: Devotional


“But after Uzziah became powerful, his pride led to his downfall.”  2 Ch. 26:16
    Pride is a gross misperception of oneself and one of the main reasons people become prideful is they become delusional about their true identity. There is absolutely no reason to be arrogant if people know who they truly are, for by nature we are weak and limited and are subject to all sorts of infirmities.
    It’s isn’t really their own doing when people become conceited, for our self-image is mainly the result of the collective opinion people hold concerning us as persons. We become pumped when people start to pump us up and we begin to consider ourselves great after others deem us so. Uzziah might not have thought that he was great before he won a battle or two, but his self-perception altered gradually after people from far and wide came to pay him tribute and showered him with praise and honor. Under such circumstances, it was nearly impossible for him to remain humble.
    May the Lord save us from such temptation and keep us in a lowly position if pride becomes the byproduct of our worldly success and our spiritual advancement.
    “But after Uzziah became powerful, his pride led to his downfall.” Shouldn’t we be more vigilant in guarding ourselves from falling into temptation, causing us to view ourselves higher than we are supposed to and losing sight of who we truly are - the servants of our Lord Jesus?
    I have often found myself becoming envious of preachers who are well known and are in demand, which only indicates that I am harboring a sense of pride and would like very much to be viewed by others as someone worthy of respect. Indeed, I am not famous, yet I am earnestly desirous of becoming so. Deep inside, I am really an arrogant person.
    Knowing how precarious it is and where the path may eventually lead, we should intentionally and proactively keep ourselves from seeking fame and recognition, and remain as anonymous and unknown to the world as much as possible. Indeed, we all want to be greatly used by the Lord in the advancement of his kingdom on earth, yet knowing how weak and frail we are, we simply cannot take too much recognition, either from within or without the church. Those who crave earthly glory will be crushed by its weight which is far heavier than we can ever imagine.
    Between being unknown and humble and being famous and conceited, the choice between the two is rather simple and straightforward for us servants of God to make, isn’t it?   


Posted by Robert Sea Monday, May 1, 2017 7:11:00 AM Categories: Devotional

The Soil 

The Soil
“He had people working his fields and vineyards in the hills and in the fertile lands, for he loved the soil.”            2 Ch. 26:10
    Could it be even possible that King Uzziah was a farmer at heart, for he “loved the soil” and “had much livestock in the foothills and in the plain.” One thing was for certain, however, the king didn’t do the farming or shepherding by himself; he assigned his people to perform the task for him. To the king, farming was an ideal, not a reality. It may be rather romantic looking at farming from afar, but when the reality becomes a down-to-earth kind of thing, it instantly loses its luster. This might have been the case with King Uzziah. He was merely looking at an ideal, and paid no attention to the toil and sorrow of actual farming.
    Uzziah was like all monarchs before and after him from east to west. When they assume this lofty position they intend either to expand the territory of the kingdom by starting a war or two, or to launch a gigantic building project that requires enormous manpower and immense financial resources. I don’t think the welfare of the commoners in the nation concern them that much at all, for most of them only care about their own legacy and lose sight of the need of people to be sheltered and fed.
    What were the things Uzziah actually did after he assumed the kingship? Well, it goes without saying that he fought a war or two, enslaved the ones who were defeated, and also built a few towers to defend the city and to demonstrate his power. After all these had been accomplished, he started to think about the soil and how wonderful it would be if he could get down to his knees and kiss the dirt.
    If only the king had known what it was like to support a family by working the soil and raising the cows! Had he known all these, he wouldn’t have done a lot of things that he did governing the nation.
    Indeed, there is nothing romantic about farming and grazing cattle, for I have experienced both as a little boy and found them rather dreary and wearisome. Surely it was neither fun nor romantic when I was told in my preteen years to get down on all fours in the rice paddies, looking for weeds as I crawled forward, inch by inch in  steamy, muddy water. How could a little boy learn to love the soil under such conditions? No wonder I found it ironic when I came across the line that says: “He had people working his fields and vineyards in the hills and in the fertile lands, for he loved the soil.”
    Come to think of it, the king might have loved the cattle and the soil more than the people whom he had been charged by the Lord to shepherd.          


Posted by Robert Sea Friday, April 28, 2017 7:21:00 AM Categories: Devotional


“As long as he sought the Lord, God gave him success.”      2 Ch. 26:5
    “As long as he sought the Lord, God gave him success.” I suppose by the term “success” it simply meant that all things went well with the king and the nation as long as he sought the Lord and, because of his devotion to God, King Uzziah was blessed in every way.
     It was truly a great bargain, wasn’t it? Why in the world wouldn’t Uzziah have done that had he realized such was the key to receiving the Almighty’s blessing? The king had to be rather foolish not to do just that.
    Yet things weren’t all that clear cut actually. Uzziah, like all earthly rulers before and after him, was probably a mixed bag of both good and evil. Many rulers might have the intention to do good, but often succumb to the temptation of doing the opposite, and quite a few of them might start out their kingship splendidly well yet, for one reason or another, they end their reigns miserably bad. What makes the great difference in the process? The Lord only knows.
    Even the career of the man after God’s own heart was greatly soiled by the great sins he committed while he wasn’t on guard. While things seemed to be going well and he could finally relax, for the nation was on track to becoming peaceful and prosperous, he was dealt with a big blow that altered the course of his life. Even though he was experiencing all kinds of adversities before then, his life was nonetheless considered a success, for he seemed to be guarding his relationship with the Lord diligently and had been rather vigilant in walking with the Lord and observing the law.
    Whether people are successful or not in life should always be determined by how they walk with the Lord. Other factors, such as fame and wealth, employed by most in measuring one’s success, are superfluous at best. One’s success in life must be measured by an eternal standard, not be a temporal one; by the perception of God, not by the viewpoint of men.
    How do we then read this particular statement? Is it God’s promise that he will cause us to become successful as long as we diligently seek him? This may not be the case, for the ones who seek and love the Lord with all their strength will not be so concerned about worldly successes, and will by no means use an earthly standard to measure whether they are blessed by the Almighty or not.
    Whether we are successful or not by worldly standards, seeking the Lord is itself the greatest reward of all.      


Posted by Robert Sea Thursday, April 27, 2017 7:37:00 AM Categories: Devotional


“But stay at home! Why ask for trouble and cause your own downfall and that of Judah also?”             2 Ch. 25:19
    Being the king over the nation of Judah, Amaziah’s decision to engage in a battle against the northern kingdom of Israel was no longer a personal thing, for it involved an entire nation. The troops would have to be mobilized and the entire nation would have to buckle up for the impending war. Indeed, most parents and wives of the country would have to fortify their hearts against the brokenness of losing their loved ones.
    King Amaziah was addicted to war and he was dragging the entire nation down with him. A sinful act is never personal and every action has at least two people or more involved during the process. No one can emerge from it unscathed
    “Think of your elderly parents before you start to do anything dangerous,” I said to my son jokingly, who was going to vacation on the island of Hawaii. I guess he didn’t really take my words to heart since he went on to do scuba diving and open door helicopter sightseeing, both which I consider rather unsafe. Mind you what he did wasn’t something sinful by any means, yet the logic applied just the same. Had something happened in the process, more people surely were going to be influenced adversely and many hearts would be torn.
    Surely the thought of consulting with my parents never entered my mind before I took off on a camping trip when I almost drowned in a river. In fact, my parents had no earthly idea that I came just inches away from death. The tragedy didn’t happen and all was forgotten and forgiven, but the repercussions would have been rather long-lasting had it actually occurred. I was young and foolish and had absolutely no regard for my parents most of time when I was pondering about doing anything reckless or sinful.
    “But stay at home! Why ask for trouble and cause your own downfall and that of Judah also?” Jehoash’s response to Amaziah’s challenge seemed to be ringing so true, considering how catastrophic the war would have been for the people of Judah. The king brought the entire nation down with him by entering into the war and his personal decision turned into a corporate one.
    Indeed, no man is an island and no decision is purely individualistic. Even the smallest item we litter has to be picked up by someone else, and every idle word we utter may turn into a flying dagger, stabbing or polluting the ones who happen to hear.
    Knowing that our words and deeds may be far more impactful than we have ever realized, shouldn’t we always do a double take and take a second glance before we speak or act? 


Posted by Robert Sea Wednesday, April 26, 2017 7:20:00 AM Categories: Devotional


“You say to yourself that you have defeated Edom, and now you are arrogant and proud.”           2 Ch. 25:19
    Amaziah had tested the sweetness of victory and he seemed to be anxious to repeat the experience again, for the euphoria of winning and blood-shedding was just so irresistible. There is no retiring from competing in the arena and once a warrior has his first taste of blood, the craving for it will never cease. Like all other sinful pleasures, slaughtering is also extremely addictive.
    What was the reason behind Amaziah’s provoking of the king from the north, who wasn’t at all interested in engaging in a conflict with Judah? I am sure there were political and economic factors behind it, yet starting a war to resolve those issues wasn’t an absolute necessity. They could have been pretexts which the king employed to satisfy his insatiable craving for victory and blood.
    How could this be possible? We may wonder. This isn’t that difficult to comprehend, for all we need to do is take a look at the high rating of violent sport programs on television to know people inner yearning for violence. In his “Confession” St. Augustine wrote how his friend claimed to be able to resist the seduction of violence by going to a gladiator fight in the theater, yet he was hooked instantly when he saw the first drop of blood spewing out from the fighter. Like a lot of Romans, he became addicted to the game, for it seemed to give him an illicit and perverted pleasure.
    Pride and arrogance might not have been the main issue Amaziah was dealing with, for he had become addicted to the cruelest form of game humans have been playing for thousands of years, and there is no sign of stopping in sight. How can anyone with a sound mind appreciate the romantic sentiment Alan Seeger expressed in his letters to his mother before he joined the French in the “Great War?” Indeed, war rewarded him with a heroic death and what he left behind was a poem “I Have a Rendezvous with Death,” which seems to treat the awful subject rather light-heartedly.
    I was once a soldier, but the reality of being one was entirely different from what I had expected before I was drafted, for I used to envision myself standing alone with a rifle on my shoulder and a lighted cigarette in my mouth, looking with unnamed longing at the battlefield covered with hoary blossoms of swaying reeds in the wind, expanding endlessly until it reached the horizon where the brown earth met the gray sky. I guess the muddy trenches with the stench of sweat and blood wasn’t something Alan Seeger had ever imagined when he was sitting in the corner coffee shop or a pub, talking to his friends about the romanticism of war.
    “War is hell” uttered a famous general, and never has a statement rung so horrid and true. What frightens me more than anything is that we can become addicted to it. This seemed to be the case with Amaziah when he challenged Jehoash, the king of Israel, for no particular reason: “Come, let’s face each other in battle.”   


Posted by Robert Sea Tuesday, April 25, 2017 7:07:00 AM Categories: Devotional

False Gods 

False Gods
“…he brought back the gods of the people of Seir. He set them up as his own gods, bowed down to them and burned sacrifices to them.”     2 Ch. 25:14
    The whole thing was just so irrational yet, being a little child, I dared not question what the adults in my family were doing, for they seemed so sincere and devout when they practiced their religion by either bowing down to the idols or praying to them with burning incense sticks in their hands. Many times I was taught to do the same, and I always did it rather unwillingly. The practice of idolatry in my family only invoked in me a sense of dread and foreignness. I had never felt that I was a part of what my grandparents were doing. I have never seriously entertained this thought before, but the practice of idolatry might have contributed to my yearning to leave the village as soon as I possibly could, which I eventually did at the age of fourteen. The smell of burning incense sticks and paper money seemed to be so suffocating, which might have kept the village people from thinking clearly concerning their worship. “Everybody is doing it” would always have been the response if people were to ask them the reason behind their devotion to idols.
    Surely King Amaziah didn’t fare any better compared to the villagers as far as their worship was concerned. He had just defeated the Edomites soundly, which was a clear indication the idols those pagans worshipped had failed to protect them from destruction during the battle against the Israelites. Yet much to our amazement, the king did the unthinkable by ushering the idols taken from the defeated enemies into the holy temple to be worshipped. Surely that wouldn’t have been something a person of sound mind would have done.
    “…he brought back the gods of the people of Seir. He set them up as his own gods, bowed down to them and burned sacrifices to them.”
    Even though tens of thousands of Edomites had been slaughtered, strangely the idols whom the pagans worshipped were spared. Why did the king do such an irrational thing by bowing down to the gods of his enemies, gods that had been totally exposed and proven ineffective and were unable to protect their worshippers? One thing is for sure, though, those idols were false gods who were imposters and vanities at best.
    Satan is the father of lies and he chooses his battleground very wisely. By reasoning with people concerning idolatry he would be fighting a losing battle, for such a practice is the most irrational of all. How can the created, namely idols, save their human creators in any form or fashion? Nothing is more outlandish for people than creating something and endowing it with higher power in order to help them in time of danger or need!


Posted by Robert Sea Friday, April 21, 2017 7:15:00 AM Categories: Devotional


“The army of Judah also captured ten thousand men alive, took them to the top of a cliff and threw them down so that all were dashed to pieces.”    2 Ch. 25:12
    Ten thousand Edomites had been slaughtered during the war and another ten were captured. Was there quarter given to these people? Not so at all. They were taken to a cliff and thrown down and all of them “were dashed to pieces.” Doesn’t it make you tremble with fear when you come across such words in this historical narrative? It is told so matter-of-factly and no further comment is given, as if it was saying “no comment needed.”
    Ten thousand lives were cut off in the blink of an eye and the victors seemed to be rejoicing over the slaughter. Why shouldn’t they? They were the ones who lived another day to tell the story, for they were the victors, and it could easily have been them who were pushed off the cliff had they lost the war. The goal of this particular war against the Edomites, just like any other war, was to annihilate the enemies, and whether it was just or not didn’t seem to be their concern. All enemies are nameless and faceless, and the primary goal is to take their lives before they take yours. As simple as that.
    I became spellbound by its brutality and irrationality when I was watching a documentary of “The Great War,” and I still had great difficulty figuring out the reason behind the conflict at the end. War is one of those mysteries in life that remains to be explicated.  The answer to it will never be uncovered unless we bring original sin into the equation of the discussion. Sin causes humans to become bloodthirsty and drives them to slaughter one another for no particular reason. Why did Cain murder his brother Abel? Many have tried in vain to come up with a good reason behind the first murder in human history, for there was no reason. Cain killed merely for the sake of killing, and the motive given behind the cruelty was just an excuse.
    Death is the antithesis of life and hatred is the opposite of love. Sin causes us to become allies of the prince of darkness and to murder seems to be the natural extension of the alliance. God is love and there is no need for him to find a reason to love and Satan doesn’t need a cause to hate and to kill. Indeed, war is such a faceless, nameless, and reasonless act that totally escapes any sound reasoning and rationality.
    Does the Lord even take sides at all in any war? He seemed to take the side of his chosen people more often than not, which may appear to be unfair.  Yet, unless he did so, the Israelites would have long been annihilated and the line of salvation through “the Lion of Judah” severed.
    Indeed, the war our Lord Jesus waged against Satan in which his own blood was shed was the war to end all wars, and peace will reign when he is finally enthroned in people’s hearts.      


Posted by Robert Sea Thursday, April 20, 2017 7:17:00 AM Categories: Devotional
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