We often make excuses or allowances for our sin. We come up with many excuses to try to quiet our conscience. We may say, we were forced into that sin, or anyone would have done that because of the circumstances involved. Maybe we say, we could do nothing else, we were powerless or not strong enough to fight off the sin. We have been by God’s grace given a rich history of theology. But most, if not all of the time, when we know we should not do a particular thing; we do it anyway! In our desire to excuse our sin we rationalize that God is a merciful God. God’s mercy, we would say, will forgive or forget this particular sin. God will pardon us. Look at how many sins God forgives. He can forgive one more. Does God’s mercy rule over His justice? No. Think about what we do in this situation. We are calling on God’s attribute of being a merciful God to allow us to sin. When we try to justify ourselves before God this way, it is because we are acting defiantly against God. God told Israel sharply in Numbers chapter 15, that those that acted presumptuously would be cut off. In Numbers 15 verse 30, we read, “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 from among his people.” The people that acted with a high hand against God or presumptuously reproached the Lord would be cut off. This would happen whether he was an Israelite or a stranger in the land. To gain an extra significance of this passage read the whole chapter. God explains to Israel what was to be sacrificed to gain forgiveness from Him. But when He comes to presumptuous people, God stops. No more sacrifice or burnt offerings will God accept. For people who knowingly reproached the Lord, sacrifice was no longer an option. God says they shall be cut off from among His people. At the time God spake this to Israel, Israel was to keep all of the laws. But the sins most heinous, as we know, were ones committed against God’s moral law. Sins as blasphemy and Sabbath desecration were even punishable by death. In fact, directly following this verse Moses tells of a man that picked up sticks on the Sabbath and was consequently put to death.
Now there is a difference between “knowing that a sin is wrong and doing it” and “sinning presumptuously”. We should point out though that the attitude of the one, knowing but yet doing, leads to presumptuous sinning. We could also say this of people that have fallen into dead orthodoxy. Dead orthodoxy is very simply having the truth but not living it. Their lives are completely different from their beliefs. It cannot be said, “If you have the truth, the life will be there.” It is not automatic. Study the history of the Church for examples of this. Dear readers, sins done by a church that has fallen into dead orthodoxy having the truth, but not applying it and living it are far worse than sins done out of a lack of knowledge. A perfect example of this is the Pharisees, which you are probably familiar with, that lived in Jesus day. Jesus said about those Pharisees in Matthew 23:3, “All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.” They talked religiously but did not live it. It had never been applied to their hearts. If the truth is not applied it will lead to carelessness and wickedness in the church. Dead orthodoxy will then reign in a church and lead to presumptuous sinning.
In this verse in Numbers the word, presumptuously, implies that some sins are greater than others. Without Jesus we stand condemned by our original guilt as well as every sin that we commit. But in terms of this aspect, sin that is intentional, planned, and done boldly before Jesus are a particular evil. First, this verse in Numbers implies the intention of the sin. A sin intentionally done for the sake of the sin, not for the result of it. Adultery not because of the unlawful desire but done because God says in the seventh commandment “thou shalt not”. The intention of looking at a particular action, seeing it is wrong, and therefore doing it; is intentional sin in its worst purposeful design. Second, planned sin is that which is set forth as a goal of opposition to God. Planned sin is thereby saying what the heart thinks about God and His promises. Thirdly, sin that is done boldly. Boldly refers not so much to the sin and what sin it is, but to the attitude of the person committing the sin. How terrible it is that we can develop such an attitude that we sin comfortably. It no longer pains us but we enjoy it.
We commit sins so terrible that we must pray for mercy and forgiveness from God that we may not be found guilty in His eyes. But should presumptuous sinning be a concern for us? If we look at King David, we would see that it was for him. When he was yet a young man he was instructed and may have read this passage in Numbers. It must have frightened him. He must have thought, this is something I must never do. I must never reproach God in this manner. I never want to be cut off from God. With this on his mind, David prayed as recorded in Psalm 19:13a “Keep back thy servant from presumptuous sins; Let them never have dominion over me.” If a “man after God’s own heart” prayed this, dear reader, what must our prayer be? Do not say, “not me, not me. Dead orthodoxy will not befall us. We have the truth.” (When we have to print articles as “White men can’t Jump”, it is time to stop and examine where the church is headed.) If we install false hopes in our children so they are deceived about what the Christian life is, woe be to us. God help us that we may never do this.