What is presumption and why is it dangerous? I looked up the word from several sources and two definitions came up;

  • An idea that is taken to be true on the basis of probability

  • Behaviour perceived as arrogant, disrespectful and transgressing the limits of what is permitted or appropriate.

One definition that leapt at me was the one by Merriam Webster dictionary and it quotes; “willingness to do something without the right of permission to do it
God, having taken the children of Israel out of Egypt with a mighty hand, gave the people a specific instruction. They were to send spies to the land of Canaan to obtain intelligence on the land and its people. Moses gave the twelve men the following instructions;

“Go north through the Negev into the hill country. See what the land is like and find out whether the people living there are strong or weak, few or many. See what kind of land they live in, is it good or bad? Do their towns have walls or are they unprotected like camps? Is the soil fertile or poor? Are there many trees? Do your best to bring samples of the crops you see.” (Numbers 13: 17 – 20)

The men set out and explored the land as they were instructed. They also took samples of the crops and fruit they found in the land. How excited they must have been going while on this assignment, knowing everything would soon be theirs as God had promised!

After 40 days, the men returned. They gave their report about what they had seen and showed the leaders the fruits and crops that they brought with them. However, ten out of the twelve spies did not believe that the Israelites would be able to take the land. They were so focused on the giants they saw rather than the great God who had sent them. Only Joshua and Caleb exhibited confidence that Canaan was ripe for taking.

Bad news, they say, spreads fast. Soon the whole community heard about the report of the ten men and it was not long before the people revolted. They even plotted to stone Joshua and Caleb for daring to encourage them to go into a battle they knew they could not win.

What was wrong with the attitude of the ten spies? They were looking at their current military capabilities compared to the people they were to invade, it just did not line up. Surely, God would not have brought them out of Egypt only to have them killed in battle by a people so superior in military strength?

They forgot that the same God who sent them out was the same God who brought them out of Egypt with a mighty hand. They forgot the miracles of the plagues as well as God’s mighty hand that delivered them from the powerful forces of Pharaoh’s army at the red sea.

As a result of their rebellion, God punished the children of Israel.  The ten men who gave negative report of the expedition to Canaan, were struck dead with a disease. God decided then that none of the people who refused to believe in the report of Joshua and Caleb would step into the land he had promised them. They would all die in the desert.

When Moses told the people these things, what was their reaction? They regretted their actions, which was a good thing but their next step was a very wrong one. They decided to go ahead and take the land without being instructed to do so.  Moses warned them not to go ahead with their plan, telling them, “Why are you now disobeying the Lord’s orders to go back to the wilderness? It won’t work. Do not go up into the land now. You will only be crushed by your enemies because the Lord is not with you” (Numbers 14: 41 – 42)

Did they listen to Moses? No, they did not and as expected, they suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of their enemies.

What did they do wrong? They completely disregarded and were disrespectful of God’s commands. They ‘presumed’ that by going into battle as originally instructed by God, they could appease Him and would be assured of victory. What they did not realize was that God had already given them the land. They were not going to need military strength to take the land; they just simply needed to obey.

How does this apply to our own lives today? Do we take decisions or actions presuming that they are the right things to do? It is so easy to fall into the sin of presumption. No wonder David prayed, “Keep back they servant from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me” Psalm 19:13.

Presumptuous sins arise as a result of being careless in our relationship with God and also our relationship with the people around us. When we become careless, we walk the slippery slope of presumption. We do things not because God has told us to do it but because we think it is what God wants us to do. This is where many fine Christian ministers missed it.

Presumptuous sins can have disastrous repercussions on the believer. We will do well to be careful not to be ensnared by them. The only way to avoid them is to pay attention to what God is saying…and to do it. May the Lord help us.


Steve Popoola is the editor of Biblepraise Newsletter and the founder of the Biblepraise Fellowship Online at http://www.biblepraise.org. He lives in Kent, United Kingdom, where he works as an IT Professional. He currently serves as a Worship Leader as well as Home Group Leader in his local church and on occasion, speaks at invited events. He is the founder of the Biblepraise Fellowship Online Ministry and Moderator/Editor of the Biblepraise Newsletter. He can be reached through His email address, steve@biblepraise.org