It’s a sobering reality that presumptuous sins are a danger to us all because pride still lurks within us. Meekness and allowing God to guide us to be vigilant are our defence against the sins of rebellion that are abhorrent to Him.
Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins; Let them not have dominion over me. Then I shall be blameless, And I shall be innocent of great transgression. (Psalm 19:13)
I was reminded of one meaning of the word ‘meek’ in biblical terms as I read this passage. It has always made sense to me – more sense, at any rate, than the negative modern connotation of ‘one with no backbone’ or a weak individual. Meek was used to describe horses as ‘broken in to the bridle,’ i.e. a horse trained to work under the guidance and leading of its rider. It in no way implied a breaking or stripping of the animal’s inherent nature and ability. Rather, it defined a willingness to work faithfully as part of a team, with the rider holding the reins. As I mulled over this I realised that meekness was an essential element of the psalmist’s prayer. Today’s verse reflects an acceptance that willingness to be led and guided by God – to be kept back – is what keeps us from presumptuous sins.
What are presumptuous sins?
These could be defined as those sins that presume upon the grace and mercy of God, those which take these for granted and so abuse them. What’s really important here is that we take hold of how serious these are. It’s absolutely true that sin is sin, and that there are no degrees of sin. The atonement in Christ is also complete. But Numbers 15:30 presents us with a sobering perspective. But the person who does anything presumptuously, whether he is native-born or a stranger, that one brings reproach on the Lord, and he shall be cut off from among his people. In context, for better understanding, we need remember that God provided detailed sacrifices for the atonement of every sin. Every sin, that is, except this one. In the seemingly endless list of atonements provided, God made no allowance for presumptuous sins.
This is one of those moments where the grace of God in Christ is suddenly of so much more value. But we must remember that God never changes. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. His attitude towards presumptuous sins remains exactly the same. When we see that these sins had only one possible consequence – being cut off – we begin to understand both God’s hatred of this sin and the full measure of His grace. It’s a sobering thought, because we who have the full measure of grace under the new covenant also have greater accountability. We have a greater responsibility to understand that presumptuous sins represent total rebellion against God. This is why Hates them. They assume that His grace and mercy will automatically cover their rebellion. They the antithesis of meekness, a challenge to God’s sovereignty and His grace.
Presumptuous sins are committed wilfully.
The implication here is that the sinner knows full well what God both commands and desires. They are aware of what is right and wrong, yet persist despite this knowledge. Presumptuous sins put the will of self above the will of God. There is a huge difference between committing a sin unknowingly and committing it knowingly. He will readily forgive the former, because it is not wilful rebellion against the will of God. We all exercise free will – a gift from God – in making choices. Sin is always a matter of choice. If those choices are made in ignorance, they are still sin but do not contain the element of wilful rebellion. When we make a conscious choice to sin, knowing full well that it is sin, we do this assuming that God’s forgiveness will be readily available to us irrespective of our attitude going in.
Wilful is the opposite of meek. It is a rejection of the ‘bridle’ and the guiding of God. A conscious choice to disobey is very different to an unwitting choice to disobey. The moment we know what the right choice is, we place ourselves in rebellion when we persist in exercising our free will to the contrary. This is the very heart of presumptuous sins – it is those things which raise themselves up against the knowledge and will of God. He’ll respect our free will and our right to exercise it, because He gave it freely. But we, in turn, must expect the consequences. While the grace of the new covenant means we will not be cut off, there are spiritual consequences to our choices which we can and must explore once we’ve examined the full nature of the sins God hates.
Deliberation is part of presumptuous sins.
All of us make hasty and impulsive decisions. We find ourselves under pressure and make an instant choice we later regret. While the nature of the sin is identical, spontaneous decisions are not presumptuous sins. The reason is because they lack deliberation. They are spur-of-the-moment, prompted by situations and pressures, and we respond in our human frailty without thinking it through. The other aspect of this is that once we have a moment to reflect, we usually easily see the transgression for what it is and take steps to remedy it. When we commit the same sin with deliberation, however, it takes on an entirely different identity and relevance. To understand this, we must understand deliberation and the role it plays in defining the nature of our sin and the motives behind it. The issue of motivation is critical because it in turn defines our attitude to God.
The dictionary defines deliberation as: long and careful consideration or discussion; slow and careful movement or thought. What emerges here is that we are invested in deliberation. It’s a process of thought that involves us on a conscious and intimate level. We engage in it by an act of will. That’s the relevance behind deliberation, which is a form of the word deliberate. We don’t act on a fleeting thought or impulse. We consider it carefully, apply logic, reasoning, and the full measure of our cognitive abilities. Deliberation is an entirely fleshly or natural process. It excludes spiritual wisdom and the will and Word of God. Presumptuous sins always entail deliberation, removing any excuse of lack of accountability. They cannot be justified by reason of pressure or impulse or haste. Deliberation is the thorough examination of the issue which precedes the decision to defy God anyway.
Presumptuous sins are committed by design.
This is the logical outworking of the process of deliberation. Having made the decision, self then proceeds to enact it. Again, this is not an impulsive action. The choice is implemented by active design – planned, plotted, and acted on. Presumptuous sins are always conscious sins that are committed knowingly, after deliberation, and in full knowledge of what is involved. By design implies actively seeking after or, in modern terms, making it happen. It is never left to chance. There is never even the possibility that it may not happen. It’s also a ‘one way or another’ kind of attitude. We seldom make the decision and rush off to fulfil it. There is a measure of planning that is as deliberate as the deliberation that precedes it. This is the evidence that it is a conscious and knowing act of rebellion against the known will of God.
The law in most nations recognises the difference between impulsive and emotional responses and deliberate acts. The matter of taking another life is a perfect example. There is allowance under law for ‘acts of passion’ as opposed to deliberate, planned murder. While both carry consequences and justice requires that these be met, the approach to them is different. In the truth that there is nothing new in this world, we can see divine justice, with its allowance of mercy, mirrored in this distinction. Presumptuous sins committed consciously and by design set themselves apart by their nature of deliberate rebellion. This is the nature of knowing that they are wrong, knowing all the consequences, and yet persisting in enacting that which has been carefully deliberated. It is the manifestation of self in rebellion rather than in meekness. There is no respect for the will, guidance, or desires of God.
Pride and presumptuous sins.
The root of all presumptuous sins is pride. Lucifer himself revealed this when his pride initiated a conscious, deliberate rebellion against God. The particular nature of pride manifested in these sins is that of being ‘untouchable’ or exempt from the consequences. This is the ultimate presumption or misuse of the grace and mercy of God available through the cross. In essence, pride expects that the sin will be covered in the atonement. It misuses the promises of God and defies God to break His Word. This is self at its worst. Abusing the gift of free will, challenging the sovereignty of God, and then daring Him to withhold forgiveness. It makes an entire mockery of the brutal beauty of the cross and the blood God Himself shed on our behalf. Little wonder, then, that God has an abhorrence for this kind of sin.
The big problem with this kind of pride is that it’s based on deliberation. The mind has examined the issue and decided the action is justified by whatever arguments fit. The inference is that self knows better than God. It questions His will and wisdom and diminishes His holiness. Pride sets self in the place of God, an error Satan made with lasting consequences for the entire human race. We catch a glimpse of the magnitude of this pride when we see that it assumes – or presumes – that it is somehow exempt when everyone else, the devil included, is not. What is really sobering is that today’s verse highlights the awful truth that all of us are prey to this terrible reality. The psalmist’s prayer should be ours, because it is only meekness before God that can protect us from the pride that lives in all of us.
Our defence against presumptuous sins.
While forgiveness may remain available, presumptuous sins separate us from God who will never share His glory with another. When self rules in defiance, God will step back. When we return in real repentance, we can be assured of forgiveness. But prevention is always better than cure. God Himself is our only defence, and meekness our doorway to the protection He provides. The first step is to acknowledge that we are as vulnerable to this as anyone and that only the grace of God can keep us safe. Pride will take every opportunity available to seize the reins and determine its own course. Daily surrender to the sovereign will of God and humble obedience is the attitude God desires and which He will honour. When we acknowledge our weakness and pray like the psalmist, we can be sure He will keep us blameless and innocent.
Thank You, Lord, for the wonderful grace and mercy of the cross. Thank You that we can come to You, trusting in Your faithful love to guide and protect us and keep us from presumptuous sins. Remind us daily that we can be our own worst enemy, and teach us the value of meekness and obedience to Your perfect will.