God’s people have always struggled with presumptuousness. It has plagued them since Eden and shows no sign of slowing itself. Today it marks the nature of much of the religious world and even many within the Lord’s church. Some examples will assist our understanding of this terrible problem.
In Numbers 14, the children of Israel have heard the evil report of 10 of the spies who had viewed the land of Canaan. Their plan is to return to Egypt and the miserable conditions there rather than to allow God to work among them (14:4). They have begun to mourn and complain and have even begun to stone Moses and Aaron (14:10). The Lord has rebuked them sternly and told them they would wander in the wilderness for 40 years (14:34). Now they have now repented of their complaining (14:39). However, their repentance turned to presumptuousness for now they intend to march into the promised land like they should have done the day before (14:40). Â Despite warnings from Moses, they march into the teeth of the Amalekites and Canaanites presuming that God would be with them. How wrong they were! The Bible records that they were beaten back.
In 1 Samuel 4 the children of Israel went up to battle against the Philistines. They were beaten in battle with the loss of 4,000 men (4:2). They re-assembled and took with them the sacred ark of the covenant (4:3-5) and again headed into battle presuming that God would certainly protect the ark and bless their plans. He did not! Instead, 30,000 Israelite soldiers died and the ark itself was lost to the Philistines.
In Amos, the prophet rails against the wickedness of Judah, Israel and the surrounding nations. He tells the people of the north that their desire for the Day of the Lord is misplaced and will bring destruction – not deliverance (5:18). The people had presumed that God would surely protect and deliver them in spite of their wickedness. How terribly wrong they were!
In each case, God’s own people took his providence and protection for granted. Without asking they assumed that God would bless their efforts because they were, after all, his people. However the Lord was pleased to allow them to fail miserably. Certainly they failed, at least in part, because of their presumptuousness.
The sin of presumptuousness follows us today despite warning from Holy Writ. John warns that “whosoever goes ahead…” does not have God (2 John 9). That is, when one runs ahead of what God has authorized and promised, he separates himself from God. It is not ours to presume that God will accept worship that he never authorized. It is not ours to presume that God will ever protect or defend us when we live apart from his word.
We avoid such sin when we surrender to his control and fully submit to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. A man in submission never presumes anything. He seeks for truth and allows that truth to transform his life (Romans 12:2). Let us always be people of the book and never presumptuous.