Temptation of Jesus, Part 2: The Pride of Life

Sledge Hammer was a parody that showed the ultimate in presumptuousness

13 Look, my eye has seen it all;
    my ear has heard and understood it.
Just as you know, I also know;
    I’m not inferior to you.
But I want to speak to the Almighty;
    I would gladly present my case to God.

18 Look, I have laid out my case;
    I know that I’m innocent.

~Job 13:1-3,18 (CEB)

Can you and I take things for granted? Can we act presumptuously by thinking that we can do things carelessly simply because we tell ourselves we are doing God’s will?

You could think that going to the Feast or going to Sabbath day services would mean God’s protection at all times. That flies in the face of history, doesn’t it? How many people literally died because they were doing God’s will?

The idea that trying to do God’s will meant all will go right in life was dashed quite some time ago when I was going to the Feast in Pennsylvania and one of the wheels on my car decided it was time to come off while going 75 mph. It was reinforced this year when I paid out over $200 to have a plastic tube epoxied on a rollover valve so my check engine light would not bother me during the Feast, and I was literally rear-ended two days later causing the light to come back on. All I could do at that point was to pray why couldn’t I just go to the Feast and not worry about a silly check engine light.

Now, what is the lesson? Should I not have my car serviced before going to the Feast? Taking my Jeep to Tuscon without knowing the exact cause for the check engine light would have been a huge gamble, and I might add quite presumptuous. However, taking precautions does not mean I can assume all will be well. Going to the Feast or to weekly Sabbath services does not mean we can take things for granted. It can be car troubles along the way, or it can be potential exposure to the coronavirus. Do you pray for safety going to and from work, school or services? Do you pray that COVID-19 will not impact you and your family’s lives? Do you pray that you and your loved ones will have the strength and power to deal with obstacles and trials as they come about? Brethren, I submit we need to take reasonable precautions against things, but we also need to ask God to fill in the gaps.

God will not stop everything that can go wrong, even if you are trying to do the right thing. To think otherwise is presumptuousness.

Presumption is similar to assuming, but it contains an element of arrogance. To merely assume may be based upon past experience, a promise or outright evidence-based faith. We assume based upon God’s promises that He will forgive us of our sins. However, we can “pre-assume” without seeking out the facts, that is be presumptuous, and believe that our sins are so small that God will overlook them without any cost whatsoever, or we can presume that God will act a certain way because we are somehow special, righteous, virtuous, or whatever.

Without a doubt, presumptuousness is a sin.

30 ‘But the person who does anything[a]presumptuously, whether he is native-born or a stranger, that one [b]brings reproach on the Lord, and he shall be [c]cut off from among his people.

~Nu 15:30 (NKJV)

Many translations have “willfully” in place of “presumptuously”. However, Strong’s also lists “exalted” and “uplifted”, which implies arrogance. Doesn’t it start with neglect? Doesn’t it start with taking things for granted? Doesn’t it start with overconfidence in one’s own abilities? David was God’s anointed, and he probably figured that God would overlook a few indiscretions when he committed adultery and murder, but God was highly displeased with his actions. One of the 7 churches in Revelation have a severe case of complacency. Is it presuming that they were righteous because of their blessings that caused this?

Job and his three friends were presumptuous. They thought they had God all figured out. They all believed that if you did X, then God had to provide you with Y. Job believed that since he was righteous, God was required to bless him at all times. Job’s three friends believed that since Job was suffering, he must have sinned. They even go the extra mile and accuse Job of being wicked as though they were speaking for God. Zophar the Naamathite even categorizes Job as wicked:

18 He [the wicked, implying that Job is part of that group] will restore that for which he labored,
And will not swallow it down;
From the proceeds of business
He will get no enjoyment.
19 For he has [a]oppressed and forsaken the poor,
He has violently seized a house which he did not build.

~Job 20:18-19

To paraphrase a more modern expression, Job was presumed guilty before being proven innocent, and the result was slanderous statements against Job. However, Job made some pretty presumptuous statements as well, as he is chastised for speaking without knowledge towards the end of the story. This is the real danger in having a wrong viewpoint. We can act presumptuously or worse. Mainstream Christianity presumes many things and distorts the very character of God, and they cannot even see it.

God does allow bad things to happen, but he also wants us to learn from them. One of those lessons, I firmly believe, is to not take Him, His promises or His mercy for granted.

Satan tried to get Jesus to commit the sin of presumptuousness when he tempted Jesus in the wilderness, and in particular by taking God’s word for granted.

Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written:

‘He shall give His angels charge over you,’

and,

‘In their hands they shall bear you up,
Lest you dash your foot against a stone.’ ”

Jesus said to him, “It is written again, ‘You shall not [a]tempt the Lord your God.’ ”

~Mt 4:5-7

This appears to be an appeal to the pride of life. Once again, Satan tries to provoke Jesus with “If You are the Son of God….” Why does he repeat this for every temptation? Because Jesus had just been baptized, saw something like a dove come down from heaven and heard a voice that declared He was the Son of God. Satan repeats it in a deliberate attempt to crack the assurance that Jesus is the Son of God. Not only that, but if He truly is the Son of God, Satan is arguing, He should do something so miraculous, so stupendous, that no potential follower could deny it. IOW, Jesus should, by his argument, presume upon God’s promise.

In reality, Satan was trying to score double points by getting Jesus to take His own life, and to do so presumptuously. Even if angels did come down and bear Jesus up, the sin of presumption would still be there.

Jesus turned away the temptation of turning stones into bread by quoting Scripture. So, for this temptation, Satan tries to turn the tables by quoting Scripture as well. This shows that Satan knows the Bible as well as anyone else, and it shows he is a master of lifting key verses out of context to make them say what they do not.

However, Satan leaves out a key phrase in Ps 91, which any modern translation should make evident in Matthew 4 by the use of quote marks. The devil takes the beginning and ending of this passage, inserts “and” in the middle, and he presents it as the actual quote. Compare what Satan said to the actual passage:

11 For He shall give His angels charge over you,
To keep you in all your ways.
12 In their hands they shall [a]bear you up,
Lest you [b]dash your foot against a stone.

~Ps 91:11-12

By choosing to jump, Jesus would have been following His own will, not following in His Father’s ways. It would have been an attempt to bolster Himself and not following God’s blueprint for what was to occur. Jesus would have been acting presumptuously.

Now, didn’t the Father back up Jesus’ ministry with many miracles? Jesus healed, Jesus drove out demons, and Jesus raised people from the dead. However, He did this with the Father’s blessing. Read the account of Lazarus being raised from the dead when you get the chance, and you will see Jesus praying out loud to the Father, rather than following His own will. Jesus, even in this case, performed the miracle in the manner, time and place that the Father determined.

It is far too easy prior to the Feast to take things for granted. It is also easy after the high of the Feast to slip back into the mode of the daily routine and take things for granted. With Thanksgiving coming upon us soon, perhaps now would be a good time to deeply think about what we should be thankful for, and we should include those things that we can take for granted in a country that has been undeservedly and richly blessed in its short history. An attitude of humility and gratitude is the antidote to quite a few sinful attitudes, including the attitude of presumptuousness.

Oh, and the check engine light about which I asked God to spare me during the Feast? On the 2nd day of the Feast, running around in 100 degree heat, I got some gas, and when I heard it click off, I noticed there was some wetness on the ground, which indicated something was going on with the rollover valve. When I started the Jeep, I clenched my teeth, and I immediately noticed that there was no check engine light. On the day I left, in the cool 78 degrees of the morning, the check engine light came back on.

Don’t presume God will take care of everything for you, but do humbly submit your petitions to Him.

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