For those not familiar with Numbers 14, let me give you a quick summary; the Israelites had just been given a “bad report” about the land the Lord had promised to them; the land they had left Egypt for. This caused them to complain (repeatedly) against Moses, against Aaron and against God, which eventually led to the Lord drawing the line. Really. He drew the line. He was ready to disinherit them (vs. 12) until Moses begged for a pardon (vs. 19). However, He would refuse entry into the Promised Land. All who rejected God would never see the land (vs. 23) and they actually received a death sentence for their grumbling and complaining (vs. 26-36). They would miss the opportunity to prosper in the land because rather than listen to the two who offered the promise of victory – they accepted the negative words of the ten who voiced defeat.
But something happened when Moses revealed to them the cost of that decision…
They decided they would go regardless. Can you believe it? After hearing God’s message, they mourned the loss and then, “…they got up early the next morning and went to the top of the range of hills. ‘Let’s go,’ they said. ‘We realize that we have sinned, but now we are ready to enter the land the Lord has promised us’ (vs. 40, NLT). Well now. I thought this seemed a bit presumptuous and Moses confirmed he did as well when he said, “I spoke to you, but you would not listen. Instead you rebelled against the command of the Lord, and acted presumptuously and went up into the hill country” (Deuteronomy1:43, AMP). After all, they were warned. They had their chance and they blew it. But before I become too comfortable in the saddle of my high horse I am reminded presumptuous moments are common to all of us. No matter what our age.
Quick flashbacks raced through my mind to some of the battles I’ve encountered through the years as I’ve spent a good portion of my life with children. I’ve had plenty of opportunity to listen to the grumbles and complaints about the food I’ve set before the kids in my care. After awhile I would say, “If you don’t eat your food, you won’t get one of the cookies I have for you.” I recall one little boy who refused to eat, left the table and when I tossed his lunch he walked away as if he had won. That is until the other kids received their cookie and he went without. Consequences usually sting a bit. But he wouldn’t be deterred from having that cookie. Walking into the kitchen a while later, I found the same little boy—toes dug into the handle of the cabinet—shoving cookies into his mouth. He may as well have said, “I realize I was supposed to eat my lunch but now I’m ready to have that cookie I was promised, so I am taking it!” I bet we’ve all pulled a few of those stunts. I even recall a few instances as a teenager when warnings by my parents went unheeded, leading to consequences. However, with great determination I set out to do my own thing regardless of what they said (Sorry mom and dad.)
Discovering their plan to push forward, Moses warned them again saying, “‘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’” (vs.41-42). Verse 44 says, “But they presumed to go up to the mountaintop.” They went anyway. They were defeated.
Merriam-Webster defines presumptuous as, overstepping due bounds (as of propriety or courtesy) and taking liberties. Oh dear. I can see now that I too, have taken liberties and overstepped the boundaries God has set for me.
I have overstepped bounds when I’ve presumed to know what was best for others.
I’ve overstepped bounds when I’ve presumed my way is the only way.
I have presumed to understand the “bigger picture” when in reality I didn’t have a clue.
I have overstepped with God when I’ve presumed He needed to bend to me, rather than my bending to Him.
I’ve overstepped when I have presumed my cares were too small for Him.
I’ve taken liberties with His Word of Instruction.
I have taken liberties with the holiness of His Name.
I’ve taken liberties with the time He has given me.
I have overstepped boundaries with my complaining and ingratitude.
I know I’m not alone in this. I have seen what happens to families when a spouse oversteps boundaries with a co-worker. I’ve seen what happens when liberties are taken through unethical standards in business. We presume, overstep boundaries and take liberties within our families and with our friends. We also take liberties with God when we press forward to attain a goal, a marriage, a job, a choice, not of His choosing – but our own. But you know what happens when we go up the mountain without God? Our attempts become as futile as the Israelites were. He's not going to be there.
Changing my identity – one letter at a time – requires relinquishing my demands and presumptions as I learn to live in step with the Lord. I wait for His invitation and follow His instruction before I overstep any boundaries and take any liberties!
Be Willing to R-Relinquish