Summary: As we’ve begun well, we need to be sure we end equally well.
Beginning and Ending
May 28, 2005
The wise Solomon declared that the end of a matter is better than the beginning (Eccl.7.8). We might agree, we might disagree. Solomon’s statements are general statements expressing what he considered to be true, or are about the way things are seen to be generally true. I know that it can be exciting to begin something- a project, around the house, for instance- but it’s wonderful when it’s finished well. On the other hand, sometimes, when something drags on, the beginning seems to have been the best part; this is true, too, when something doesn’t turn out as hoped for, at the beginning. However, when it comes to judgment of something, it is the end that matters- it is the fruit that tells.
Let’s look at a story that illustrates this, and brings some lessons for our consideration.
2 Chron. 26- in the midst of the good king/bad king saga of the ancient nation of Judah, we come to a second good king in a row- a rarity, when you look at the history. Let’s read the story, to verse 21.
What do we see in this story? We see a king who reigned a long time- a little longer than our current Queen, at this point. We see a king who came to the throne young. We see a king who did some things right- v.4, 5. In these verses, though, we get an idea that things might not continue as they were at the beginning. There is the use of the phrase “as long as” which seems to give an idea that something else might be coming.
What else do we learn about Uzziah? What are some of the other points to note about him?
- war against Philistines
- built towns in conquered territory (v.6)
- received tribute from conquered lands
- built defenses of Jerusalem
- built defenses in isolated areas
- dug cisterns to provide for animals
- he loved the soil (v.10)
- had a well-trained army
- invented armaments
We see that he was ‘greatly helped until he became powerful’- v.15. Oh, oh, I sense something else coming, don’t you?
v.16- pride got in the way, and he became unfaithful to God. He became arrogant and self-confident about his relationship with God and his position- he felt invincible and did what the king was not to do, in the sacrificing in the temple. Ministers who understood their place, role, and responsibility confronted him.
We see the king angry because he was told he was wrong, and he raged, feeling that he could set the rules, essentially. However, God was stronger, wasn’t he?
v. 20, 21- he had to live with leprosy for the rest of his life- we’re not sure how long this was- the record is not clear on that.
What is the big lesson? The very clear lesson is that the end was not as good as the beginning, and the story is clear about this. Yes, the beginning was terrific, but, in the end, Uzziah lived an isolated life and wasn’t buried where a king ought to have been buried, but was buried ‘near’ that area because of his affliction. And why did his affliction come? It came because of his attitude- because of his pride. What we see is that as long as he sought God, he was given success, but after he had success, he began to discount God and thought he was the originator or activity. And the consequences, for him, were catastrophic. To be a leper in ancient Judah was, even as king, to be separate and excluded.
Let’s think about ourselves. The Bible is full of lessons for us- we’re told this, if you’ll remember, in 2 Ti.3.16, 17- please turn there and let’s confirm this matter.
Let’s go back to the story and think about our journey. We, like Uzziah, began well, in most cases. We began with great devotion to the great God who lives (but doesn’t live, as we understand that word). If we look back, we knew our task, and it involved preaching the gospel. We did that, in a support function, as Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong preached, and traveled with the gospel message, and as the Plain Truth became the largest circulation Christian magazine of its time, reaching to millions around the world each month. We supported that effort through our prayers and tithes- we knew about areas of the world that no one else did, because of understanding needs for prayer there. We gave generously in order to enable reaching one more person.
In addition, we understood the need to feed the flock. As God brought people to himself and churches were established, as here, ministers were entrusted with feeding those, weekly and annually, in all the celebrations. We had good relationships with one another, within the church, knowing that these were God’s people, as people of the church are, and we warmly welcomed those who were new with us. We cared about people. Again, we prayed for one another; we prayed for our leaders. We entertained one another, with meals, and had socials of an incredible variety, in the church context.