THE PRESUMPTUOUS SOUL
"But the soul that doeth ought presumptuously, whether he be born in the land, or a stranger the same reproacheth the Lord ; and that soul shall be cut off from among the people." Numbers, chapter 15, verse 30.
FROM the moment that the Hebrews crossed the Red Sea their steps were directed to Sinai to receive the law. They were greatly blessed in their redemption out of Egypt: and they now needed to know the mind and will of God as it concerned them in the common round of life. The commandments were given to them not to expose them to condemnation, but to indicate the sure way of life. Not the corrupt will of one's own: heart, but the simple obedience to the known will of God is the one way to liberty and joy.
This, of course, is true for the believer in our own day. In the mysteries of the blood of Christ we find sin forgiven, our hearts cleansed and purified, the judgment lifted from the conscience, the love of sin broken and the power of sin overcome. All this we are to know in our redemption. Henceforward the Christian is committed to a definite attitude to sin. His knowledge and experience may be limited, his insight blurred, his old nature deceptive, so that unwittingly he falls into sin. If this be so he is to seek God's face in confession and so to receive afresh the cleansing he needs. He has been mastered and deceived, he has been convicted of his sin, he has freely acknowledged the transgression and asked for pardon, and God is merciful. At the same time, while grace superabounds wherever sin abounds, the believer is not to treat the matter lightly; for sin is a serious matter even when committed in ignorance.
The fact of sin, however, becomes more serious when the person concerned, sins presumptuously! No particular sin is indicated in the text, but it is described as one done with " a high hand." In this case the person is aware that what he proposes to do is sin. If he does not know it to be sin, he knows that it is forbidden of God. He may be arguing in his own mind as he seeks to justify himself, but he knows beyond the shadow of a doubt that whatever it is in thought, word or deed, it is forbidden of God. With knowledge, forethought, pride and arrogance he thus defies the Lord: he has sinned presumptuously. He may not intend to be presumptuous, he may so present the issue to himself as to find sufficient justification for what he is doing, but all that is deception. Here in the text the issue is presented realistically with a clarity unmistakable. If to the knowledge of the person concerned the thing is wrong in the sight of God, then no circumstance, no argument can justify it, and it is a presumptuous act which in no circumstances whatsoever will God overlook. Every one of us therefore ought to give this matter our prayerful consideration if that is possible.
As this presumptuous soul is presented in the text we learn that sin has a threefold effect. A presumptuous sin affects our relationship to God, it also affects our relationship with other believers, and it affects our whole personality in its prospective capacity for the world to come. May God save anyone of us from being a presumptuous soul!
(1) PRESUMPTUOUS SIN AFFECTS OUR RELATIONSHIP TO GOD
The sinner reproacheth the Lord." He defies the Lord. He sins with "a high hand." There is arrogance in his sin. Matthew Henry writes: " The language of presumptuous sin is, Eternal truth is not to be believed, the Lord of all is not fit to be obeyed, and almighty power not fit either to be feared or trusted. Infinite wisdom is derided as folly and evil is welcomed as the source of good." Such truths if seriously considered will cause us alarm; for we know only too well with what presumption we have sinned. If this be the effect upon Him Who gave His Beloved Son for our redemption, it is probable that every one of us ought to be cast down before the Lord in utter shame.
But indeed this is one of the first results of all sin, and particularly of presumptuous sin that sin produces greater arrogance. It is recorded of Nero that he wept when he was asked to sign the death warrant of a common criminal in Rome, and yet he lived to be responsible for the death of his mother and his wife. It was only a matter of time. Once sin is condoned, we sin with increasing impunity until there is no limit in the heart. Of course if judgment followed speedily on sin, we should all be made aware of its serious nature. In actual fact every sin begins to work its eternal judgment from the moment of its commission, and part of the penalty is that the sinner does not perceive its working. We might the more readily appreciate the position if we understood that the immediate and growing effect of presumptuous sin is the imperilling of all our relations with God. Hence the presumptuous sinner cares nothing that he no longer desires to pray. He once thought it was a black day in which he never read his Bible, but that does not worry him now. Indeed he finds in his heart a growing indifference to everything about God and, so far as he is concerned, God has ceased to exist as a Spiritual Reality.
The exceeding sinfulness of sin is a phrase without meaning, confession a miserable self- depreciation unworthy of a virile individual, and repentance a deplorable process of misery from which he is happily delivered. The presumptuous sinner does not know that all this is closely related to the withdrawal of a Holy God from an arrogant sinner, and this very carelessness and indifference means that God has been reproached to his eternal peril. Such a person is seldom aroused in conscience, and if he be, he would find it exceedingly difficult to humble himself in repentance before God. The arrogance and pride wherewith God has been reproached and blasphemed will harden his heart against God and his plight as a presumptuous sinner before the God he has defied, is reflected in the deadness and hopelessness of his own heart. Of course, he may continue in religious exercises, but no truth of God shines into the heart, no word inspires, no truth warms his feelings for God; his relationship with God is dead. He is always satisfied that this condition is normal; he is largely incapable of realising that God is withdrawing from him! Let none of us be deceived: "God is not mocked."
(2) PRESUMPTUOUS SIN AFFECTS OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD'S PEOPLE
When we talk of revival we visualise a season of Divine visitation when God's people shall have a zeal for Him with marked spiritual elation and sinners are most marvellously converted. I need hardly say that in some respects we could all say that this is our sincere desire. Actually the only matter that withstands any fellowship from entering into revival blessing is the love of sin within the fellowship. We cannot believe for a moment that God would not revive us; therefore the way to revival is the way that deals with our sin. In the Scriptures excommunication and sometimes death followed the presumptuous sin of an Israelite. Achan is probably the outstanding example in the Old Testament. His covetousness imperilled the hosts of Israel, and when at last he was found out and exposed, the penalty was stoning to death. When Ananias and Sapphira deceived Peter or endeavoured to do so, death ensued as it seemed, by an act of God and fear came upon all the believers as well it might.
If you read the minutes of the church meetings of Rye Lane of a century ago you will find that sometimes the Church disciplined an offender. Today excommunication is seldom pronounced upon a Christian by the fellowship to which he belongs. Why that is so may be a condemnation of the standards of Christian conduct in our churches. As with our relationship with the Lord, so it is with His people. The Christian who has sinned presumptuously, with a high hand, defying the will of God with arrogance and pride, is not likely to be concerned overmuch with God's people. His association with the redeemed of the Lord will become exceedingly strained, casual, unimportant and lifeless, so that whether he be or not be on the Roll of the Church could hardly have less significance for him. In that attitude he almost looks down upon his fellow Christians, and he may withdraw from them. He does not know, however, that as surely as God has withdrawn from him, God is now excommunicating him from his people. The presumptuous sinner who flings off all relationships with God's people as if they were a company of narrow bigots and rejoices in his sin does not know that he has been cut off from God's people!
His action towards the Lord's people is in fact excommunication of heaven. Any Christian should be concerned when the means of grace mean little to him. By this he may know that in truth he is forsaking the fellowship of the redeemed unto life for the company of the unredeemed unto death. Yet how different it all looks to the presumptuous sinner! Presumptuous sin is Related to Eternal Destiny Our text concludes; "his iniquity shall be upon him." Exactly what that means we cannot perhaps tell. Particular Baptists believe in the final perseverance of the saints, but only final perseverance will vindicate their position in grace. The man who is saved must know in his own spirit the tokens of grace which are a love for the Lord in Whom he utterly trusts and a hatred of all sin that brought the Lord to the Cross. Those two emotions continually increase in the experience of the elect, they perish in those who sin presumptuously. This much is certain.
Within the realm of time presumptuous sin must come to an end if iniquity is ever to be removed. The word "iniquity" means perversity, something that has within it the sense of relentless corruption. When God declared "the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full," He means iniquity has a corrupting action which must persist until it brings the Amorites to ripeness for judgment. Something of that is intended here. Let the presumptuous soul dismiss God from the life and withdraw from His people, then iniquity, perverseness and corruption will work in that soul to its eternal end and plight in the wrath of God. Well might the psalmist exclaim; "Renew a right spirit within me." When pride, the high hand, govern our actions toward God, we should discern our condition while grace still works on our behalf. That which takes us away from God is not a superior intellectualism, but a presumption .
Humility, submission, obedience become the child of God, and alone fit us for the highest fellowship with Him and His people And if there be a presumptuous sinner this may indeed be a moment of grace when such an one will perceive the trend of the life. It commenced with a high-handed action in which we defied God and has so continued until all the sweetness of divine relationship has been destroyed. It is working likewise between us and the fellowship and the means of grace may be significantly less important today than they were. Simple indeed are the signs, but overwhelming the thing signified; for it means that our perversity is working the corruption of our innermost being, destroying every faculty by which grace can avail on our behalf, the destruction of the power to be humble, contrite, obedient. A trend which has but one inescapable end; the complete atrophy of every spiritual desire and the merging of the soul in despair in the ultimate wrath and judgment of God. Blessed indeed are we if this matter rests as a burden upon the soul and brings us in humility to the feet of our Lord.
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