Gospel Gazette Online
Volume 20 Number 7 July 2018
Page 14

The Sin of Presumption

Sunny David

Sunny DavidKing David, in Psalm 19:13, prayed to God, saying, “Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me…” To sin presumptuously against God means to defy or to refuse to obey God, and thus to show disrespect to God’s authority. The sin of presumption is one of the deadliest sins. Those who were found sinning presumptuously against God in Old Testament time were certainly and promptly punished (Numbers 15:30-31), as the following examples show.

In 1 Samuel 15, we read about Saul, the first king of Israel. God, through His prophet Samuel, had commanded Saul to go to Amalek and to utterly destroy all and everything of the Amalekites because of their hostility toward Israel when the new nation was coming out of Egypt. Saul gathered his army and went to Amalek to do what God had commanded him to do. When he was coming back from Amalek, Samuel met him on the way. On seeing Samuel, Saul proudly said to him, “Blessed are you of the Lord! I have performed the commandment of the Lord.” But Samuel said to him, “What then is this bleating of the sheep in my ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?” To that Saul replied, “They [that is, the people who had accompanied him] have brought them from the Amalekites, for the people spared the best of the sheep and the oxen, to sacrifice to the Lord your God; and the rest we have utterly destroyed.” Saul’s reasoning was, since he had brought with him all those things, which should have been destroyed along with all other things, to offer to God, therefore, he should be commended and not rebuked. Notice too, that he blamed the people for failing to obey God completely! However, Samuel told Saul, “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, He also has rejected you from being king.” Saul had despised the Word of the Lord. He didn’t do exactly what he was asked to do. He had, therefore, presumptuously sinned against God.

Another example is of Nadab and Abihu, two sons of Aaron, who were priests in God’s Tabernacle, according to the Old Testament order. The record says, “Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it, put incense on it, and offered profane fire before the Lord, which He had not commanded them. So fire went out from the Lord and devoured them, and they died before the Lord” (Leviticus 10:1-2). According to Leviticus 16:12, the fire that was to be offered must have been from the altar. Evidently, both Nadab and Abihu had offered a fire from another source, and not the one from the altar that was specified. As priests of God, both Nadab and Abihu knew from where the fire was to be taken. Yet, in this instance, they didn’t take God seriously. They reasoned, a fire is a fire, no matter from where it was taken. However, it did matter to God. To Him it was a profane fire, because He had not commanded that. Like Saul, Nadab and Abihu too had sinned presumptuously, and like Saul, they too were punished for their sin.

Yet again, we read about another man named Uzzah in 2 Samuel. On impulse, he presumptuously sinned, and Uzzah was also punished with death. He, with another man, in this instance, was driving a cart on which the holy Ark of God was set. The record says, “And when they came to Nachon’s threshing floor, Uzzah put out his hand to the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen stumbled. Then the anger of the Lord was aroused against Uzzah, and God struck him for his error; and he died there by the ark of God” (2 Samuel 6:6-7). What was Uzzah’s error? In Numbers 4:15, we read, God had earlier commanded, “They shall not touch any holy thing, lest they die.” Since the oxen stumbled and Uzzah thought the ark would fall, he tried to save the Ark from falling. However, as soon as he touched the Ark, God punished him with death. From human reasoning, Uzzah was right, and you or I would have done the same thing, if we were in his place. Yet, God does not think as man does. He requires from man exactly the same as what He has asked him to do (Isaiah 55:8-9).

Man often tries to make changes in what God has said. Man thinks making a little change here or there in what God has said, if it seems good and reasonable, makes no difference. In fact, man thinks that some changes would improve on what God has said. This is exactly how many think about using musical instruments with spiritual songs in the worship of God today, even though the Scripture says, “Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:19). To sing is God’s command. The melody or music should be made in the heart and not with an instrument of music that man has made. Yet, man doesn’t seem to learn that God means exactly what He has said. Man thinks that playing musical instruments while singing spiritual songs makes singing sound better and lovelier. Therefore, many presume that there is nothing wrong in using them. The point is not what man thinks, feels or likes, but the point is, has God commanded or authorized it? When man offers his worship to God in the manner He has not specified, he does that presumptuously, against the will of God.

Many more examples from the Bible could be given to show the destructive nature of the prevalent sin of presumption; however, one more, that of King Uzziah, may be cited. Then, it will adequately suffice to illustrate the point. Uzziah was the king of Judah. The Bible says that he did what was right in the sight of the Lord, and as long as he walked with the Lord, God made him prosper in various ways. As a result, he became very powerful. We read:

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. So Azariah the priest went after him, and with him were eighty priests of the Lord—valiant men. 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 Lord God." Then, Uzziah became furious, and he had a censer in his hand to burn incense. And while he was angry with the priests, leprosy broke out on his forehead, before the priests in the house of the Lord, beside the incense altar. And Azariah, the chief priest and all the priests looked at him, and there on his forehead, he was leprous; so they thrust him out of that place. Indeed he also hurried to get out, because the Lord had struck him. King Uzziah was a leper until the day of his death. (2 Chronicles 26:16-21)

All along, Uzziah knew that it was the task of the priests alone to burn incense in the Temple on the altar of incense. However, pride had lifted up his heart, and he became haughty and arrogant even to the point where he did not care what the Lord had said. More than eighty priests were not able to convince him that he was doing wrong, because he had made up his mind to do what he wanted to do. “Convince a man against his will,” as the saying goes, “he is of the same opinion still.” No matter how many times one may be told of what the Scriptures say, it will have no effect on the individual who has already made up his or her mind to do and to practice what he or she thinks is right. For example, Christ said, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mark 16:16), but millions who claim to believe in Christ refuse to be baptized to be saved, because they are convinced that one is saved by faith alone. Yet, the Bible teaches the opposite (James 2:24).

From all of these cited Bible narratives, we need to learn that God means what He says, and He says what He means. Man cannot improve on God’s commandments. Romans 15:4 says, “For whatever things were written before were written for our learning…” Today, God is not punishing people instantly, as He did in the Old Testament time when He dealt with people directly and personally, but He has revealed His will for us today in the written form of His New Testament of the Bible. Therein one reads that God has appointed a day on which He will judge all people through Christ (Acts 17:31; Matthew 7:21-23), and Hebrews 10:31 teaches, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”

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