In our Old Testament reading today we are introduced to three kings of the southern kingdom. I think that the main thing they have in common is that all three are a perfect illustration of the dangers of self-confidence after a period of obedience to God and blessing.
In chapter 24, Joash was a great king as long as his mentor was guiding him in the right direction, but when he was on his own he gave into the pressure of the wealthy landowners and decided to implement a more tolerant, ecumenical government. It would seem that God wasn’t pleased, because his kingdom seems to have come to a quick end (we aren’t given dates, but it’s narrated as if it happened very quickly). We then read about Joash’s son Amaziah in chapter 25, who seems to have gotten off on the right track, but after a great victory against their neighbors in Edom, he also goes awry. His overconfidence inspired him to provoke a war against their northern neighbors and brothers, which he lost. I presume that his loss of prestige and eventual assassination was a result of this humiliation. Then in chapter 26 Amaziah’s son Uzziah similarly starts out well, reforming and strengthening the country, but then desires to elevate his position as king into more of a “divine ruler” model, like so many of his contemporaries in other kingdoms could boast of. Again, God is not pleased, and immediately inflicts a humiliating disease on him.
So self-confidence played out in three very different arenas: first, political; second, military; third, religious. In each one, the respective king thought he knew the political game or the military situation or the broader religious context better than God’s appointed messengers did. In each situation, the respective king paid for it. We often discount the advice of men of God, thinking we know the immediate situation better, but God does work through people to show us the path. If we’re in a period of success and even are consciously stepping out in obedience to God, it is always smart to stop, listen carefully to those God has used in the past to guide us, and be willing to change paths if necessary. It’s a blow to my pride to change direction based on advice from others, but I have to be willing to do it. I can see the results in my life of being over self-confident and unapproachable, and I can see the results of being humble and asking for advice. Humility always is the better choice.