But the person who sins defiantly, whether a native or foreigner, blasphemes the LORD. That person shall be cut off from his people.
I. THE GUILT OF PRESUMPTUOUS SINS. The transgressor sinneth "with a high hand" (Hebrews). It is not easy exactly to define sins of presumption or deliberate disobedience, for which there was no expiation by sacrifice. Some crimes involved capital punishment (Leviticus 20:1, 2, 10; Exodus 21:14; Deuteronomy 17:12), or were followed by fatal judgments by God (Leviticus 17:10; Leviticus 20:4-6). The impossibility of drawing up a complete schedule of willful, presumptuous sins suggests a caution. For their heinous guilt is described by the term "reproacheth the Lord," i.e., blasphemes God in word or act. A presumptuous sinner reproaches God in four ways. He acts as though
(1) his commands were harsh;
(2) his authority was of no account;
(3) his favour was to be little prized;
(4) his threats were to be still less feared (Deuteronomy 29:19, 20).
Such guilt is aggravated under the law of the gospel, inasmuch as God's commands, authority, favour, and threats are invested with greater weight and sanctity through the revelation of his will and his love in Jesus Christ (Hebrews 2:1-3).
II. THE DANGER OF PRESUMPTUOUS SINS.
1. Under the law there was no sacrifice to expiate for such sins, but fatal punishment at the hand of man or of God himself.
2. Under the gospel a sacrifice even for willful sin is provided. But as "the condemnation" is for unbelief, the neglect of the Saviour and his sacrifice is the most terrible, though a most common presumptuous sin, for which "there remaineth no more sacrifice" (Hebrews 10:26-29). There is a sin "unto death," which "shall not be forgiven," &c. (Matthew 12:32; 1 John 5:16).
3. The difficulty of exactly deciding, either under the law or the gospel, what sins are beyond the power of expiation, and expose us to be "cut off," adds to their danger. All sins are like poisons, fatal if remedies are not applied. But if some are certainly fatal, and we know not which, what need for faith in the Physician, and prayer that we may be kept from all sins so as to be guarded from presumptuous sins among them (Psalm 19:12-14). - P.
I. THAT THERE ARE DEGREES IN SIN. People sometimes say, as an excuse for their sin, that as they have gone wrong they might as wall suffer for much as for little. No! it is false. With every sin the man gets worse; sinfulness increases. Sins of ignorance through trifling may grow to be those of presumption.
I. WHAT PRESUMPTION INCLUDES. It signifies —
The soul that doeth aught presumptuously.I. THE DEFINITION. We take, first, the case of an individual who sins against the positive remonstrances of his conscience; and we say that he sins presumptuously. We have all, at one time or another, withstood the clearest and most decisive suggestions of conscience. We have all proved the power of inclination, when it has come up in a pleasing shape, to bear down a consciousness of what is right, whether by an invention of some ingenious subterfuge, or by some weapons of unblushing hardihood. We could give no better definition of conscience than that it is evidently the vicegerent of Deity. And what then is presumption? Where shall it be found, if we describe not as presumptuous the conduct of the man who walks one way whilst the voice of the internal monitor summons him to walk another? Let us advance to other instances. The guilt of a sin is in a great degree to be estimated by the strength of the temptation which solicits its performance. But if you take the generality of men, you will find they scarcely need any temptation at all to induce them to sin. They may be said to give the devil no trouble, but to strike their colours without firing a shot: a breath of air will make them swerve from allegiance. There must be presumption, and that too of an enormity not easily measured, in conduct which is marked on one side with such contempt of God that men will obey His despisers even without strong inducement; and on the other, such neglect of the soul, that they surrender it without requiring anything in exchange. Now let us glance at the third sort of presumptuous sins. If I wantonly expose myself to temptation, then, though I may afterwards struggle hard before I yield, I shall sin presumptuously. It were better to see Christians — especially young ones — so distrustful of themselves that they might pass for timid, than so overweening of their own strength as to thrust themselves into danger. Take a still more general case — where a man goes on sinning, calculating either that it will be time enough by and by to repent, or that God will prove at last too merciful to execute His threatenings — most assuredly that man sins presumptuously. If he reckon on uncovenanted mercies, what is this but presumption?
II. BUT WHEREIN, YOU WILL NOW ASK, LIES THE PECULIAR GUILT AND DANGER OF PRESUMPTUOUS SINS? Why should David pray so earnestly to be kept from them? Why should our text be so emphatic in its condemnation? We will just take in succession several cases of presumptuous sins, and endeavour to answer the question in each. If, in the first place, it be sinning presumptuously to sin against conscience and conviction, there must be special guilt when a man does a thing in spite of the warnings of the delegate of God; he strips himself of every excuse of ignorance or inadvertence; and hence a special guilt. But conscience also will grow less sensitive, in proportion as it be less heeded. If, again, it be sinning presumptuously to sin on slight temptation, surely there must be peculiar guilt, inasmuch as there must be a readiness, nay, even an eagerness, to fail in spiritual matters. He is indeed guilty who is flung in wrestling with a giant, forasmuch as God is ready to give strength in proportion to the opponent; but what shall we say of him who is flung in wrestling with a dwarf? Then is there not peculiar danger and peculiar guilt in sinning on slight temptation, inasmuch as a man grows confirmed in habits of sin? For the moment sin becomes habitual, the breaking loose from it becomes miraculous. If you take our third class of presumptuous sins — sins, the result of temptation that we have ourselves sought, or at least not avoided, who sees not the guilt, who perceives not the danger? Christ would not throw Himself from the pinnacle of the temple, because it was unlawful to tempt the Lord. Yet we do that from which the Mediator indignantly recoiled, when we enter into scenes, or mingle with companies which we know likely to minister incentives to passions, or oppose hindrances to piety. Such is the guilt: and the danger is that of growing familiar with vice after having been vanquished by it. Mixed with the world, let the world once seduce you, and the world will appear to you not half so formidable as before, and not half so pernicious. Thus sinning presumptuously, through presumptuously exposing yourselves, you will be more and more inclined to continue the exposure, and the presumption, as it were, will propagate itself; and your danger will be that of growing apathy: issuing, at last, in total apostacy. Again, there is one other class. If I continue sinning in the vain hope that there will be time hereafter for repentance, or because I calculate that God will be too merciful to punish, I incur a special guilt, inasmuch as I trifle with the Almighty, or mock the Almighty; and I run a special risk as I deal with possibilities as though they were certainties, or stake on a minute chance the results of a long hereafter. So that, surveying successively the several descriptions of presumptuous sins, we bring out in each case the same result; and we are forced to pronounce that he who sins presumptuously — whether the presumption consist in withstanding conscience, or in yielding to slight temptation, or in seeking peril, or in reckoning on future repentance or future mercy — he who sins presumptuously, deserves, and may expect to have it said of him, "The soul that reproacheth the Lord, shall be out off from among His people."
(H. Melvill, B. D.)
1. Boldness in evil. Sinning without fear. Hardihood, recklessness.
3. Irreverence towards God. All profanity. As in the case of Pharaoh, "Who is the Lord?" &c.
4. Confidence of escape from the threatenings of God. Not dreading nor caring for consequences, &c.
II. THE CHIEF CAUSES OF PRESUMPTION.
1. Spiritual ignorance. Ignorance of self and God. It is the offspring of darkness.
2. Recklessness and inconsideration.
3. Confirmed unbelief, giving no credit to the Word.
4. Hardness of heart. This is both a cause and a result.
III. THE TERRIBLE RESULTS OF PRESUMPTUOUSNESS.
1. God, defied, will vindicate His authority. He cannot let it pass. His majesty and law concerned, &c.
2. Threatening despised, He will terribly execute. Not one jot fail. There may be delay, longsuffering, but the execution of vengeance is certain.
3. Mercy despised will involve in fearful retribution. Hear God (Proverbs 1:24; Psalm 2:4, &c.). The instances of this, how numerous. The old world, Pharaoh, Sodom, &c., nations of Canaan, Jerusalem (see Luke 19:41-44).Application —
1. How needful is consideration.
2. Repentance, how imperative.
3. To seek mercy. The gospel publishes it in Christ, and offers it to every sinner.
(J. Burns, D. D.)
II. THAT WHILE ALL SINS ARE DANGEROUS, SOME ARE DEADLY. The text shows that all sin is dangerous by the fact that an atonement had to be made for sins of ignorance; none could be forgiven without. While ignorance may excuse, nothing can justify any sin.
1. That God is merciful. He sent His Son to die that He might put away sin, and restore us unto Himself.
2. That there is a limit to His mercy. What cost Him so much He will let no one despise.
(R. South, D. D.)— 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 had 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.
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