Presuming Upon God's Grace

Part of my Scripture reading and study yesterday, was 1 Samuel 4.

Verses 3 and 4a, in particular, piqued my interest.

And when the people came to the camp, the elders of Israel said, 'Why has the LORD defeated us today before the Philistines? Let us bring the ark of the covenant of the LORD here from Shiloh, that it may come among us and save us from the power of our enemies.' So the people sent to Shiloh and brought from there the ark of the covenant of the LORD of hosts, who is enthroned on the the cherubim.

The first thing I noticed and found interesting, was that though the Israelites didn't know why the LORD allowed their defeat, they rightly discerned that this was done by the sovereign hand of God.

The second thing I noticed, was that admitting they didn't know why God allowed their defeat, they never prayed to seek His counsel. Rather, they arrogantly behaved like the pagans they were at war with, by treating the ark of God with contempt—using it as some sort of tenebrous talisman for their own glory.

In this hasty and foolish act, the Israelites presumed upon God's grace, just as King David in 1 Chronicles 13 (with his repentance recorded in 1 Chronicles 15), as well as the Israelites in Jeremiah's time (Jeremiah 7:1-15 and 23:16-32). Besides these two references, there are other incidences throughout the Pentateuch where God’s kind and merciful admonitions for such sins are recorded (i.e., Exodus 14:20-45).

First I thought,

How could the elders of God's people be so obviously foolish? How could they so quickly forget about God’s righteous statutes, precepts, and commandments and the destructive ramifications of what would happen if they ignored and disobeyed God's prescribed way of pursuing holiness. Why didn’t they simply learn the lessons patiently and compassionately taught by God, from the people that came before them?

Then I thought,

How often do I do this—know that all things happen to me by God's sovereign hand, yet, rather than seek His counsel and direction, I try to "fix" it myself by what I think pleases God, rather than prayerfully search His Word, and faithfully trust the Holy Spirit to grant me the wisdom I need for my current situation (Prov 12:12, 14:8; 1 Cor 2:10-13; Js 1:5-8)?

The answer sadly is, I do this more often than I care to recount. And I suppose this would be the sobering answer for many saints in our day. For, how often do we presume upon our wonderful God and Father’s grace by saying, “Well, I’m a Christian, and think this is okay, so…” or “Well, _____ is a Christian so what they’re teaching, promoting, recommending, doing, etc., is okay.” When did this tragedy happen? When did we, as holy children of the LORD of hosts, decide that us being Christians, that is, who we are, is what makes something right by God? Is it not God alone and who He is that decrees what is good and right, and what is evil and wrong?

By these hasty and careless acts, we presume upon God’s grace—thinking that our, or other’s alliance with Christ makes whatever we say or do, right or wrong. Rather than testing all things (e.g., our thoughts, our desires, our anything ) with God’s Word, as we are commanded, we deceive ourselves by thinking that our approval, our “peace” about something, means its automatically acceptable to the Almighty. And I’m not saying God doesn’t give us His peace in both pleasant and pale situations. What I’m saying is that too often when we or others say we’re going forward with something because we have “peace” about it, what we mean is that we feel good about getting something we desire. Which in effect, is not God’s peace we’re experiencing, but the peace with our own sinful nature and with Satan.

That’s chilling.

Therefore, I fervently pray, that the Holy Spirit will rebuke me when my thoughts wander to what simply seems good to me. I resolve, every day (because every day I am tempted to stay away from God’s Word and prayer) to seek His face through the only means by which He has provided me in this life—His Word (Jn 1:1; Heb 1:1-3). Furthermore, I resolve to pray whatever and however the Holy Spirit leads in accordance with God’s Word, rather than pray with prideful vanity (my own desires), presuming they are God’s desires (like King David did with the ark).

One of the resources I use to help me stay the course, is Tabletalk Magazine, an outreach of Ligonier Ministries. This is an excerpt from yesterday’s study that’s still nourishing my soul today, “But they lost the ark and the fight because the Lord does not guarantee His blessed presence to disobedient people (1 Sam. 4:1-11; see Deut. 28:15, 25).” Amen. The few Scriptures I referenced in this article is sufficient evidence that this statement is wholly good and wholly true, because it accords with God’s Word.

Below is my prayerful response (based on Psalm 121) to God, for His patience and kindness in teaching, or rather, re-teaching me this lesson: to never presume upon His grace.

“I will lift up my eyes to the hills.
     From where does my help come?
My help comes from the LORD,
     who made heaven and earth.

He will not let my foot be moved;
     He who keeps me will not slumber.
Behold, He who keeps the saints in Christ
     will neither slumber nor sleep.

The LORD is my Keeper;
     the LORD is my shade on my right hand.
The sun shall not strike me by day,
     nor the moon by night.

The LORD will keep me from evil;
     He will keep my life.
The LORD will keep
     my going out and my coming in
from this time forth and forevermore.”

If you're like me—tempted to resolve difficult, disconcerting, painful issues on your own, and/or finding others who just happen to agree with you, then I urge you to please repent with me. Please consider praying the same prayer and cry for help from our Father. Then let us wait…wait…and wait upon our faithful, gracious, wise God and Father, to act on our behalf (1 Pet 2:19-23).

When we presume upon God’s grace, we give evidence that we’re submitted to our sin and Satan, rather than to God Almighty.