Acting Presumptuously

You’re not going to find it among the seven deadly sins. I’m not sure if I started brainstorming and did a brain-dump of all the types of transgression against God I could think of, that I’d even list this one. But it jumped off the page at me this morning as I was reading in Nehemiah.

Nehemiah 9 is a re-telling of the old, old story. Literally! The walls of the city have been built again and the word of God has been found again. And nothing less than national revival has swept over the land as the evidence of God’s good hand surrounds them, Jerusalem. And so, knowing God is with them, they humble themselves to listen again to what God has had to say to them.

Ezra the priest reads the word. Those able to teach go among the people and make clear the meaning. The Spirit moves mightily in their hearts and brings a great awakening.

And revival has a way of creating a pendulum of a emotion–swinging from tears of joy as they behold the wall around them, the evidence of God’s presence, to tears of sorrow as they consider again the ways that haunt them, the sins of their past which led to the city’s destruction in the first place..

And this goes on for over three weeks. And on the twenty-fourth day they gather again in humility to hear yet more from the Book of the Law. And for six hours the word of God is read. And for another six hours they make confession and worship the Lord. And the Levites call the people to remember again from whence they came.

And so, beginning with the God of creation, they retell the story of Abram’s calling, and of God’s covenant. They recount their rescue from Egypt and remind them of God’s provision in the desert. And they recall the sin that surfaced.

“But they and our fathers acted presumptuously and stiffened their neck and did not obey Your commandments. They refused to obey and were not mindful of the wonders that You performed among them, but they stiffened their neck and appointed a leader to return to their slavery in Egypt.”

(Nehemiah 9:16-17a ESV)

They acted presumptuously.

But God who is gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in love did not forsake them. Instead, in His great mercies, He sustained them in the wilderness for forty years, and then delivered them to the land of promise. He subdued the inhabitants and handed over the keys to their cities. And they “took possession of houses full of all good things, cisterns already hewn, vineyards, olive orchards and fruit trees in abundance. So they ate and were filled and became fat and delighted themselves in [God’s] great goodness” (9:25).

Fat and happy. Yet they rebelled. And, though God sought to call them back to Himself repeatedly,

“Yet they acted presumptuously and did not obey Your commandments, but sinned against Your rules, which if a person does them, he shall live by them, and turned a stubborn shoulder and stiffened their neck and would not obey.”

(Nehemiah 9:29b ESV)

Yet they acted presumptuously.

Can’t be too sure, because I’ve only spent a few minutes doing the word study, but it seems this is a sin unique to the people of God. For those outside covenant, the word is translated as simply acting arrogantly or acting proudly (Neh. 9:10). But for those who have known the good hand of God–who have been given ears to hear the promise . . . have seen His deliverance from bondage . . . have received His provision in the desert . . . have realized His presence in conquering their enemies . . . and have received of His abundance the good things in the land–for them, when the love of the gift turns their heart away from the Giver, it is acting presumptuously.

Having been blessed, it’s a pride causing amnesia, and they forget where the blessing has come from. An arrogance leading to self-sufficiency, and they think, “I’ve earned what I have, so I am more than capable of going it alone.” Delusions of grandeur bringing on blindness, the stuff on earth blocking out the treasures of heaven. Haughtiness resulting in transgression, as they divorce their prosperity from their Provider they become ready targets for idolatry.

Can’t really happen to those outside the kingdom of heaven. Those outside of Christ may be proud and arrogant, but only the child of God is susceptible to acting presumptuously.

Oh that I would beware of being presumptuous concerning God’s abundant provision. That, whether it is new life in Christ or lots of stuff in general, I would not forget that it is mine solely by God’s good hand.

Mine by His grace. To be stewarded for His glory.

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