Presumption not only causes misunderstanding and false starts, it can be deadly. If I presume my car brakes work correctly and they do not, or if I presume I turned off the stove when I left the house and did not, or if I presume that I know what a person is thinking and do not . . . countless examples come to mind.
In Numbers 14, God chastens His people for refusing His command to go into the land He promised them. He also tells them that because of their “infidelity” they will wander for forty years until all of them die (except Joshua and Caleb), and only their children will be able to enter.
They mourned, of course. They had their chance and their fear of the so-called “giants” in the land kept them from moving ahead and taking what God promised them.
I can relate to that. I’ve had opportunities that fear stopped me from taking. My parents wanted me to take a commercial art course after graduation. I didn’t take that opportunity and have regretted it ever since. Requiring to slay the “giants” of liberal teaching stopped me in the middle of a master’s degree. Fear of losing good relationships has kept me from a bold witness about Jesus toward some people. Sure, there are many other opportunities God gave me where I faced my fears and obeyed, but I still mourn over those I missed.
The Israelites’ missed it, but their next move looked good. “They rose early in the morning and went up to the top of the mountain, saying, ‘Here we are, and we will go up to the place which the Lord has promised, for we have sinned!’”
They were sorry, admitted their sin, and approached God saying they were willing to obey Him now. Repentance and obedience seems far better than just letting it go. However, Moses told them that was not what God wanted. He said, “Now why do you transgress the command of the Lord? For this will not succeed. Do not go up, lest you be defeated by your enemies, for the Lord is not among you . . . you shall fall by the sword; because you have turned away from the Lord, the Lord will not be with you.”
Delayed obedience was not God’s idea. The next verse says, “But they presumed to go up to the mountaintop. Nevertheless, neither the ark of the covenant of the Lord nor Moses departed from the camp.” And the “giants” quickly attacked and defeated them.
I’ve also presumed that a failure to obey can be corrected by repentance and delayed obedience. It seems this is what God wants, but I’m learning something. Whatever the action He first required is not the issue in His mind as much as my attitude toward His commands. If I disobey Him, then think I can obey an hour later, or a day later, or whenever later, I’m still being disobedient and running my own life.
He is a God of the now, the moment, and my Commander-in-Chief. He wants me totally in tune with His will and His commands right now. If I presume today is the same as yesterday, and do not check with Him to find out what He wants now, I’ve not learned anything from my disobedience.
Presumption means loss and defeat and, in this example from Numbers, it was deadly. Of course God wants repentance, but that repentance means turning away from making my own decisions, listening to what He says, then obeying Him from the heart. Most of all, it means a total commitment to the unique privilege of being led.