The Danger of Presumption

Title: The Danger of Presumption

Bible Book: Numbers 15 : 30-31

Author: Franklin L. Kirksey

Subject: Persumption



The danger of presumption can hardly be overstated. For example, I recently read, “During the Battle of the Wilderness in the Civil War, Union general John Sedgwick was inspecting his troops. At one point he came to a parapet, over which he gazed out in the direction of the enemy. His officers suggested that this was unwise and perhaps he ought to duck while passing the parapet. ‘Nonsense,’ snapped the general. ‘They couldn’t hit an elephant at this dist—.’

A moment later Sedgwick fell to the ground, fatally wounded.”[1]

Dr. J. Vernon McGee (1904-1988) warns, “Presumption is as dangerous as unbelief.”[2] Presumption is "an attitude or belief dictated by probability" according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary.[3] Facts play little part in presumption, just probability and likelihood. Its first synonym is "assumption," followed by "arrogance," "boldness," "impertinence" and "imprudence." Presume, in its verb form, means "To assume or take beforehand; esp., to do or undertake without leave or authority previously obtained. To take or suppose to be true, or entitled to belief, without examination or proof, or on the strength of probability; to take for granted; to infer; to suppose. To suppose or assume something to be, or to be true, on grounds deemed valid, though not amounting to proof; to believe by anticipation; to infer; as, we may presume too far. To venture, go, or act, by an assumption of leave or authority not granted; to go beyond what is warranted by the circumstances of the case; to venture beyond license; to take liberties; -- often with on or upon before the ground of confidence.”[4] According to Webster's New World College Dictionary, the term presumptuously, a variant of presumptuous, means "too bold or forward; taking too much for granted; showing overconfidence, arrogance, or effrontery."[5]

We read in Numbers 14:36-45, “Now the men whom Moses sent to spy out the land, who returned and made all the congregation complain against him by bringing a bad report of the land, those very men who brought the evil report about the land, died by the plague before the Lord. But Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh remained alive, of the men who went to spy out the land. Then Moses told these words to all the children of Israel, and the people mourned greatly. And 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!’ And Moses 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. For the Amalekites and the Canaanites are there before you, and you shall fall by the sword; because you have turned away from the Lord, the Lord will not be with you.’ 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. Then the Amalekites and the Canaanites who dwelt in that mountain came down and attacked them, and drove them back as far as Hormah.”

Dr. J. Vernon McGee comments, “They had lost their opportunity. They would not go up into the land when God wanted them to go. Now they presume to go up. This is presumption. Faith is not presumption! They again want to go their way rather than God's way. There can be no victory when there is no submission to the will of God.”[6]

From our text in Numbers 15:30-31, we read the following warning, “‘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. Because he has despised the word of the Lord, and has broken His commandment, that person shall be completely cut off; his guilt shall be upon him.’”

Dr. J. Vernon McGee writes, “We have seen that the children of Moses had come to a point of decision at Kadesh-barnea. As you know, decisions are the difficult things for all of us in this life. This is especially true for the Christian. Many times we come to the crossroad and we are sure which way to go. But it was crystal clear to these people which way they should have gone. They faced the choice of entering the land by faith or turning back into the wilderness in unbelief. They made the wrong decision and turned in unbelief.

However, when they looked at the wilderness, they changed their mind and decided that the Promised Land with its walled cities and giants was not so bad as the wilderness; so they attempted to go into the land. This was not a decision of faith; it was a decision based on their experience of two years in the wilderness. They presumed to go into the land. Presumption is as dangerous as unbelief.

A businessman of my acquaintance had a responsible position, then was laid off from this position shortly after he had bought a new home and new furniture. His question to me was: ‘Why would God let this happen to me since He had led me to buy the house and furniture?’ I told him, ‘I remember that while you were looking for the new house, you mentioned that you were not sure of the leading of God at that time and you specifically mentioned that you didn't like the area, yet you bought the house. Now you are blaming God for all of it. Could it be that you moved by presumption rather than by faith?’ He said, ‘Well, I just thought God would bless me.’

My friend, we need to be extremely careful whether we are moving by faith or by presumption. Somewhere between these two is the will of God. It is important to spend time waiting upon the Lord to find out what is His will.”[7]

In a message titled “Why I Know the Bible is the Word of God”, Dr. Adrian Rogers (1931-2005) shares, “There used to be a time when preachers would stand in the pulpit and say, ‘The Bible saith.’ And, then they started to say, ‘The Church says.’ And, now they just sort of scratch their head and say, ‘Well, it seems to me.’ We're not interested in that. We want to know is there a word from God?”[8]

I. Beware of presumptuous words.

Beware of presumptuous words of false prophets (Deuteronomy 18:20).

In Deuteronomy 18:20 we read, “But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in My name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.’”

Jeremiah warns about the presumption of false prophets in Jeremiah 14:14-16, “And the Lord said to me, ‘The prophets prophesy lies in My name. I have not sent them, commanded them, nor spoken to them; they prophesy to you a false vision, divination, a worthless thing, and the deceit of their heart. Therefore thus says the Lord concerning the prophets who prophesy in My name, whom I did not send, and who say, ‘Sword and famine shall not be in this land’—‘By sword and famine those prophets shall be consumed! And the people to whom they prophesy shall be cast out in the streets of Jerusalem because of the famine and the sword; they will have no one to bury them—them nor their wives, their sons nor their daughters—for I will pour their wickedness on them.’”

There are false prophets in the Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses and a host of other cults and religious groups. Some might point out that some of these believe in Jesus. Although some groups claim to believe in Jesus, it is not the Jesus of the Bible.

Beware of presumptuous words of false teachers (2 Peter 2:10). In 2 Peter 2:10, we read about false teachers, “who walk according to the flesh in the lust of uncleanness and despise authority. They are presumptuous, self-willed. They are not afraid to speak evil of dignitaries.”

We must beware of the presumption of apostates like Korah. The term apostate comes from apostasia. Dr. Charles C. Ryrie explains, “Liddell and Scott give the meaning as follows: “defection, revolt, especially in religious sense, rebellion against God, apostasy… 2. departure, disappearance. 3. distinguishing… 4. distance.”[9] John writes in his first epistle, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us” (1 John 2:19). From Numbers 16:1-3 we read, “Now Korah the son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, with Dathan and Abiram the sons of Eliab, and On the son of Peleth, sons of Reuben, took men; and they rose up before Moses with some of the children of Israel, two hundred and fifty leaders of the congregation, representatives of the congregation, men of renown. They gathered together against Moses and Aaron, and said to them, ‘You take too much upon yourselves, for all the congregation is holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them. Why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the Lord?’”

Jude warns about the presumption of apostates, “Likewise also these dreamers defile the flesh, reject authority, and speak evil of dignitaries. Yet Michael the archangel, in contending with the devil, when he disputed about the body of Moses, dared not bring against him a reviling accusation, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you!’ But these speak evil of whatever they do not know; and whatever they know naturally, like brute beasts, in these things they corrupt themselves. Woe to them! For they have gone in the way of Cain, have run greedily in the error of Balaam for profit, and perished in the rebellion of Korah” (Jude 8-11). Jude warns us about apostates old and new, who attempt to undermine God-given power and authority. These apostates lack the restraint of Michael the archangel, revealing their presumption by contrast.

Dr. Arthur Walkington Pink (1886-1952) declares, “No presumption is worse than entertaining the idea that I am bound for Heaven while I live like a child of Hell.”[10]

Beware of words that subvert the Word of God. Our words should submit to the Word of God.

II. Beware of presumptuous works.

Beware of the presumption of a foul act. We read about Hiel from 1 Kings 16:34, “In his days Hiel of Bethel built Jericho. He laid its foundation with Abiram his firstborn, and with his youngest son Segub he set up its gates, according to the word of the Lord, which He had spoken through Joshua the son of Nun.” In Joshua 6:26 we read, “Then Joshua charged them at that time, saying, ‘Cursed be the man before the Lord who rises up and builds this city Jericho; he shall lay its foundation with his firstborn, and with his youngest he shall set up its gates.’”

Beware of the presumption of a forbidden act. We read about Uzziah in 2 Chronicles 26:16-21, “But when he was strong his heart was lifted up, to his destruction, for he transgressed against the Lord his God by entering the temple of the Lord to burn incense on the altar of incense. So Azariah the priest went in after him, and with him were eighty priests of the Lord—valiant men. And they withstood King Uzziah, and said to him, ‘It is not for you, Uzziah, to burn incense to the Lord, but for the priests, the sons of Aaron, who are consecrated to burn incense. Get out of the sanctuary, for you have trespassed! You shall have no honor from the Lord God.’ Then Uzziah became furious; and he had a censer in his hand to burn incense. And while he was angry with the priests, leprosy broke out on his forehead, before the priests in the house of the Lord, beside the incense altar. And Azariah the chief priest and all the priests looked at him, and there, on his forehead, he was leprous; so they thrust him out of that place. Indeed he also hurried to get out, because the Lord had struck him. King Uzziah was a leper until the day of his death. He dwelt in an isolated house, because he was a leper; for he was cut off from the house of the Lord. Then Jotham his son was over the king’s house, judging the people of the land.”

Beware of the presumption of a foolish act. We read about Uzzah in 2 Samuel 6:3-8, “So they set the ark of God on a new cart, and brought it out of the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill; and Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, drove the new cart. And they brought it out of the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill, accompanying the ark of God; and Ahio went before the ark. Then David and all the house of Israel played music before the Lord on all kinds of instruments of fir wood, on harps, on stringed instruments, on tambourines, on sistrums, and on cymbals. And when they came to Nachon’s threshing floor, Uzzah put out his hand to the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen stumbled. Then the anger of the Lord was aroused against Uzzah, and God struck him there for his error; and he died there by the ark of God. And David became angry because of the Lord’s outbreak against Uzzah; and he called the name of the place Perez Uzzah to this day.”

The ark of God was not a toy box as those in Beth Shemesh learned to their peril. We see the presumption of those of Beth Shemesh in 1 Samuel 6:19, where we read, “Then He struck the men of Beth Shemesh, because they had looked into the ark of the Lord. He struck fifty thousand and seventy men of the people, and the people lamented because the Lord had struck the people with a great slaughter.”

Beware of works that subtract the will of God. Our works should submit to the will of God.

III. Beware of presumptuous worship.

Beware of faithless worship. We read in Genesis 4:1-7, “Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, and said, ‘I have acquired a man from the Lord.’ Then she bore again, this time his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. And in the process of time it came to pass that Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the Lord. Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. And the Lord respected Abel and his offering, but He did not respect Cain and his offering. And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell. So the Lord said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.’”

We read in Hebrews 11:4, “By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks.”

Beware of false worship. From Genesis 11:1-9 we read, “Now the whole earth had one language and one speech. And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar, and they dwelt there. Then they said to one another, ‘Come, let us make bricks and bake them thoroughly.’ They had brick for stone, and they had asphalt for mortar. And they said, ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.’ But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. And the Lord said, ‘Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them. Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.’ So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they ceased building the city. Therefore its name is called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth; and from there the Lord scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth.”

Some Bible teachers erroneously teach that the Tower of Babel was a parable and not an historical event. In fact, some so-called scholars question the historicity of the first eleven chapters of the Book of Genesis. Let me assure you the first eleven chapters of the first book in the Bible are historically accurate.

Dr. F. W. (Frank William) Boreham (1879-1959), was a prolific author and Baptist pastor best known in New Zealand, Australia and England , who was probably the last student interviewed by Charles Haddon Spurgeon for entry into his Pastor’s College. Dr. Boreham concludes, “The Tower of Babel, therefore, was a Tower of Blunders. Every brick was a blunder. These early builders were wrong in their motive, wrong in their method, wrong in their materials—wrong in everything!”[11]

The desire for unity is a normal thing. However, when men seek a unity without God it is wrong. Many today attempt to have to achieve unity through a belief in a “Unitarian god”. We read in 1 John 2:20-23, “But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things. I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and that no lie is of the truth. Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son. Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either; he who acknowledges the Son has the Father also.” Let me assure you that those who reject God of the Bible are not true Christian believers. God clearly reveals Himself as God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

Beware of faulty worship. From John 4:20-24 we read about the woman at the well who said, “Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” This account reminds us that some worshippers worship in ignorance and not the arrogance of presumption. Rev. Joseph Samuel Exell (1849-1909) shares in The Biblical Illustrator, “With every sin the man gets worse; sinfulness increases. Sins of ignorance through trifling may grow to be those of presumption.”[12]

We read in Proverbs 14:12, “There is a way that seems right to a man, / But its end is the way of death.” Later, we read in Isaiah 55:6-9, “Seek the Lord while He may be found, / Call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, / And the unrighteous man his thoughts; / Let him return to the Lord, / And He will have mercy on him; / And to our God, / For He will abundantly pardon. ‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, / Nor are your ways My ways,’ says the Lord. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, / So are My ways higher than your ways, / And My thoughts than your thoughts.”

Mrs. Jessie B. Pounds (1861-1921) writes, “I must needs go home by the way of the cross, There’s no other way but this; / I shall ne’er get sight of the gates of light, / If the way of the cross I miss. I must needs go on in the blood sprinkled way, / The path that the Savior trod, / If I ever climb to the heights sublime, / Where the soul is at home with God. Then I bid farewell to the way of the world, / To walk in it never more; / For the Lord says, ‘Come,’ and I seek my home, / Where He waits at the open door.”[13]

Beware of worship that subdues the ways of God. Our worship should submit to the ways of God.

Also related to the issue of worship we consider exorcism and excommunication. We read about the presumption of exorcism in Acts 19:11-20, “Now God worked unusual miracles by the hands of Paul, so that even handkerchiefs or aprons were brought from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out of them. Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists took it upon themselves to call the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, ‘We exorcise you by the Jesus whom Paul preaches.’ Also there were seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, who did so. And the evil spirit answered and said, ‘Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?’ Then the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, overpowered them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. This became known both to all Jews and Greeks dwelling in Ephesus; and fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified. And many who had believed came confessing and telling their deeds. Also, many of those who had practiced magic brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted up the value of them, and it totaled fifty thousand pieces of silver. So the word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed.”

Jesus warns His false followers in Matthew 7:21-23, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’”

We read about the presumption of excommunication in 3 John 9-11, “I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to have the preeminence among them, does not receive us. Therefore, if I come, I will call to mind his deeds which he does, prating against us with malicious words. And not content with that, he himself does not receive the brethren, and forbids those who wish to, putting them out of the church. Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. He who does good is of God, but he who does evil has not seen God.”

Jesus warned His true followers in John 16:1-4a, “These things I have spoken to you, that you should not be made to stumble. They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service. And these things they will do to you because they have not known the Father nor Me. But these things I have told you, that when the time comes, you may remember that I told you of them.”


Dr. John Phillips (1927- 2010) explains, “Saul showed early promise. His beginnings couldn't have been better. He had wise and godly counsel from Samuel, and his initial victories over Israel's foes were glorious. His two sins which cost him the kingdom were presumption (1 Samuel 13:5-15) and incomplete obedience (1 Samuel 15:1-23).”[14]

We read in 1 Samuel 17:28, “Now Eliab his oldest brother heard when he spoke to the men; and Eliab’s anger was aroused against David, and he said, ‘Why did you come down here? And with whom have you left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know your pride and the insolence of your heart, for you have come down to see the battle.’” His oldest brother, Eliab, accuses David of pride and presumption. Later David prays, “Who can understand his errors? Cleanse me from secret faults. 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. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart / Be acceptable in Your sight, / O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer” (Psalm 19:12-14). That is the prayer of a man after God’s own heart!

Rev. Daniel Cawdray (1588-1664) illustrates the perils of presumption. He writes, “Like as if an arrant thief should reason thus with himself, ‘I will spend my days in robbing and stealing; I fear neither arraignment nor execution: for at the very time when I am to be hung, if I do but call upon the judge, I know I shall have my pardon.’ Such is the practice of careless men in the matter of their salvation; for a man may die with a ‘Lord have mercy’ in his mouth, and yet perish eternally.”[15]

Rev. Joseph Samuel Exell shares, “A young man who had inherited an estate from an uncle was exhorted to seek Christ, and said that he would do so as soon as he paid off the debts which encumbered the estate. ‘Young man,’ said the pastor, ‘beware: you may never see that day: whilst you are gaining the world you may lose your soul.’ The young heir said, ‘I’ll run the risk.’ He went into the woods and was engaged in felling a tree, when a falling limb caused his instant death within a few hours of his bold presumption.”[16]

Beware of the danger of presumption.

[1]Today in the Word, August 30, 1993 (Chicago, IL: Moody) available accessed 22 February 2012

[2]J. Vernon McGee, “Numbers 15:1,” Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee WORDsearch Corp.

[3]Merriam-Webster Dictionary, “presumption” [online dictionary]; available from: accessed on 22 February 2012

[4]Think, “presume” [online dictionary]; available from: accessed on 22 February 2012

[5]Webster's New World College Dictionary “presumptuously” [online dictionary]; available from: accessed on 22 February 2012

[6]J. Vernon McGee, “Numbers 14:39-45,” Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee WORDsearch Corp.

[7]J. Vernon McGee, “Numbers 15:1,” Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee WORDsearch Corp.

[8]Adrian P. Rogers, “Why I Know the Bible is the Word of God,” Sermon Notes, (2 Timothy 3:12)

[9]Charles C. Ryrie, “Apostasy in the Church”, Bibliotheca Sacra, Vol. BSAC 121:481, (January 1964) available from: accessed: 22 February 2012

[10]Arthur Walkington Pink, An Exposition of Hebrews, Database © 2005 WORDsearch Corp.

[11]F. W. Boreham, The Drums of Dawn (New York: The Abingdon Press, 1933), p. 170

[12]The Biblical Illustrator, ed. Joseph S. Exell, Numbers (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, n. d.), p. 170

[13]Jessie B. Pounds, “The Way of the Cross Leads Home” (1906)

[14]John Phillips, Exploring the Scriptures: An Overview of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Academic & Professional, 2001), p. 58, Database © 2009 WORDsearch Corp.

[15]Elon Foster, 6000 Sermon Illustrations: An Omnibus of Classic Sermon Illustrations (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1992), p. 523

[16]The Biblical Illustrator, ed. Joseph S. Exell, Numbers (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, n. d.), p. 170

By Dr. Franklin L. Kirksey, pastor First Baptist Church of Spanish Fort 30775 Jay Drive Spanish Fort, Alabama 36527

Author of Sound Biblical Preaching: Giving the Bible a Voice Available on and / [email protected] / (251) 626-6210

© March 11,, 2012 All Rights Reserved

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