The Review and Herald


August 14, 1900

The Sin of Presumption


In his dealings with the human race, God bears long with the impenitent. He uses his appointed agencies to call men to allegiance, and offers them his full pardon if they will repent. But because God is long-suffering, men presume on his mercy. “Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.” The patience and long-suffering of God, which should soften and subdue the soul, has an altogether different influence upon the careless and sinful. It leads them to cast off restraint, and strengthens them in resistance. They think that the God who has borne so much from them will not heed their perversity. If we lived in a dispensation of immediate retribution, offenses against God would not occur so often. But though delayed, the punishment is none the less certain. There are limits even to the forbearance of God. The boundary of his long-suffering may be reached, and then he will surely punish. And when he does take up the case of the presumptuous sinner, he will not cease till he has made a full end. RH August 14, 1900, par. 1

Very few realize the sinfulness of sin; they flatter themselves that God is too good to punish the offender. But the cases of Miriam, Aaron, David, and many others show that it is not a safe thing to sin against God in deed, in word, or even in thought. God is a being of infinite love and compassion, but he also declares himself to be a “consuming fire, even a jealous God.” RH August 14, 1900, par. 2

By sad experience Miriam and Aaron learned that God will not regard with favor those who presume upon his goodness, especially those whom he places in positions of responsibility. The Lord deals with this sin as a grievous matter; for he is always grieved when presumptuous souls dare to speak against his appointed agencies in order to gratify their own unsanctified impulses. Aaron and Miriam thought that Moses had made a mistake in taking for his wife an Ethiopian woman, and they were betrayed into feelings of envy and jealousy. They entertained against him feelings that were wholly uncalled for. Moses was carrying a heavy burden of responsibility, and the Lord had appointed Miriam and Aaron to help him. But instead of doing this, they made his burdens more grievous to bear. “Hath the Lord indeed spoken only by Moses?” they said. “Hath he not spoken also by us?” RH August 14, 1900, par. 3

“And the Lord heard it.” God was present when the offenders thought him far away, and he answered Aaron and Miriam as if they had arrayed themselves against him. “And the Lord spake suddenly unto Moses, and unto Aaron, and unto Miriam, Come out ye three unto the tabernacle of the congregation. And they three came out. And the Lord came down in the pillar of the cloud, and stood in the door of the tabernacle, and called Aaron and Miriam: and they both came forth. And he said, Hear now my words: If there be a prophet among you, I the Lord will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream. My servant Moses is not so, who is faithful in all mine house. With him will I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches; and the similitude of the Lord shall he behold. Wherefore then were ye not afraid to speak against my servant Moses? And the anger of the Lord was kindled against them; and he departed. And the cloud departed from off the tabernacle; and, behold, Miriam became leprous, white as snow: and Aaron looked upon Miriam, and, behold, she was leprous.” RH August 14, 1900, par. 4

Then, with all deference, Aaron spoke to his brother, saying, “Alas, my lord, I beseech thee, lay not the sin upon us, wherein we have done foolishly, and wherein we have sinned.... And Moses cried unto the Lord, saying, Heal her now, O God, I beseech thee.” And the Lord heard him. The same Saviour who hundreds of years later said to the leper, “I will, be thou clean,” removed the stroke. But Miriam had been the instigator in this evil work. Her sin was grievous in the sight of God, and he commanded that she be kept out of the camp seven days. God had demonstrated the truth by his Spirit before Aaron and Miriam. He had given them reasoning powers, and had implanted in their hearts the element of faith; but because their wishes had been crossed, they took the side of the enemy. And God signally punished them for their murmurings and complainings. RH August 14, 1900, par. 5

The case of Uzziah the king reveals how God will punish the sin of presumption. The inspired record states of this king: “Sixteen years old was Uzziah when he began to reign, and he reigned fifty and two years in Jerusalem.... And he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his father Amaziah did. And he sought God in the days of Zechariah, who had understanding in the visions of God: and as long as he sought the Lord, God made him to prosper.... But when he was strong, his heart was lifted up to his destruction: for he transgressed against the Lord his God, and went into the temple of the Lord to burn incense upon the altar of incense. And Azariah the priest went in after him, and with him fourscore priests of the Lord, that were valiant men: and they withstood Uzziah the king, and said unto him, It appertaineth not unto thee, Uzziah, to burn incense unto the Lord, but to the priests the sons of Aaron, that are consecrated to burn incense: go out of the sanctuary; for thou hast trespassed; neither shall it be for thine honor from the Lord God.” RH August 14, 1900, par. 6

Uzziah was filled with wrath, that he, the king, should be dictated to by the priests, and while “he was wroth with the priests, the leprosy even rose up in his forehead before the priests in the house of the Lord.... And Azariah the chief priest, and all the priests, looked upon him, and, behold, he was leprous in his forehead, and they thrust him out from thence; yea, himself hasted also to go out, because the Lord had smitten him. And Uzziah the king was a leper unto the day of his death.” RH August 14, 1900, par. 7

The Lord has ordained men to certain positions in his church, and he would not have them step out of the places to which he has appointed them. When the Lord gives them a measure of success, they are not to become lifted up, and think themselves qualified to do a work for which they are not fitted, and to which God has not called them. RH August 14, 1900, par. 8

In Noah's day God saw his holy law broken and trampled underfoot by a race of evil-doers. He bore patiently with their rebellion; but in the place of being softened by the patience of God, his goodness and long-suffering, the inhabitants of the old world were encouraged to still further resistance. At last the patience of God was exhausted, and he declared that he would punish men for their iniquity. “And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them from the earth.... And, behold, I, even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh, wherein is the breath of life, from under heaven; and everything that is in the earth shall die.” RH August 14, 1900, par. 9

When the earth was repeopled, men again lost the fear of God out of their hearts. Satan worked to array them against God. Thus he was seeking to gain full possession of the earth. He misinterpreted the character of God, and charged him with the very attributes that he himself possessed, while he concealed his own character from them. He professed to be their best friend, one who was working so that God's arbitrary power should not bring them into abject slavery. Through fallen man he renewed his hostilities to God, and triumphed in the very face of Heaven. RH August 14, 1900, par. 10

Through successive generations iniquity has increased, until we are nearing the time when God shall say, The cup of their iniquity is full. In David's day the contempt placed upon the law of God led him to exclaim, “It is time for thee, Lord, to work: for they have made void thy law.” The disrespect shown to the law did not lessen its value in the sight of the psalmist. Instead, he saw all the more need of standing in its defense; and as he saw it trampled under unholy feet, he exclaimed: “Therefore I love thy commandments above gold; yea, above fine gold.” In this age men have gone to great lengths in arrogance and in blasphemous denunciation of God's law. They have accepted a false sabbath in the place of the day that God sanctified and gave to man as a memorial of creation. Their disobedience is great, and well may the prayer go forth from unfeigned lips, “It is time for thee, Lord, to work: for they have made void thy law.” The boundary line will soon be reached. The crisis will soon come, and then God will interfere. When mercy's limits are passed, God will work, and show that he is God. The Judge of all the earth will vindicate his honor, and punish the rebellious inhabitants of the earth. RH August 14, 1900, par. 11