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THEY PRESUMED TO GO UP

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Morning, March 4, 2012

“But they presumed to go up” (Numbers 14:44).


The Hebrew word translated “presumed” means “to swell, be elated, be lifted up” (Strong). The Israelites were swelled up with pride and self confidence. They thought they could go into Canaan after God told them not to do it. Dr. John Gill (1697-1771) said, “In a bold, audacious, and presumptuous manner; they attempted to go up to the top of the hill, notwithstanding the [protests] of Moses against it...confident of their own strength [they] ventured on this rash enterprise” (John Gill, D.D., An Exposition of the Old Testament, The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1989 reprint, volume I, p. 774; note on Numbers 14:44).

“But they presumed to go up unto the hill top: nevertheless the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and Moses, departed not out of the camp. Then the Amalekites came down, and the Canaanites which dwelt in that hill, and smote them, and discomfited them, even unto Hormah” (Numbers 14:44-45).

Ah! What blindness and folly they displayed! First, they refused to go up to Canaan. Second, they were told not to go up. Third, after God had told them not to go up they presumed to go up – with bold confidence in their own strength. This was the sad case of the Israelites at Kadesh Barnea, at the border of Canaan, where they were supposed to go in and dwell in that promised land.

Let that be a lesson to every person here who thinks he can be saved whenever he pleases, who thinks “I will wait now, and come to Jesus later.” Ah! What folly! What madness! Learn of the blind insanity of your thoughts from the Israelites at Kadesh Barnea! Remember that “these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition” (I Corinthians 10:11).

I. First, they were told to go up at once.

The Israelites now came to the very edge of the promised land. God told Moses to send twelve spies into the land. They found that it was a good land, full of grapes and pomegranates, flowing with milk and honey. The spies brought back fruit and showed it to all the people.

Caleb was a man of faith, who had God’s Spirit, and followed the Lord (Numbers 14:24). Caleb said,

“Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it” (Numbers 13:30).

But, unlike Caleb and Joshua, the other ten spies said, “We be not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we” (Numbers 13:31).

Now the land of Canaan is a type of salvation, a picture of resting in Christ. Hebrews 4:2 says,

“Unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it” (Hebrews 4:2).

The gospel was preached to them in types. Canaan was a type of rest in Christ. Jesus said, “Come unto me...and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). The gospel invitation was preached to them by Caleb, “Let us go up at once, and possess it” (Numbers 13:30). Let us go to Christ at once! Let us rest in Him at once!

Yet the people of Israel rejected the gospel, and refused to go in to Canaan. What a picture is this of those who refuse to rest in Christ by faith! The people rejected the call to come in to the land of rest. They were afraid of what would happen to them if they entered the land. They said,

“The land, through which we have gone to search it, is a land that eateth up the inhabitants thereof; and all the people that we saw in it are men of a great stature” (Numbers 13:32).

Do you see how they are like some of you? You are so afraid of what will happen to you if you rest in Christ. You say, as they did, “It is a land that eateth up the inhabitants thereof.” You think, “If I come to Jesus I will lose something good. My life will be eaten up.” They said, “We saw the giants, the sons of Anak” (Numbers 13:33). What giants do you see that make you afraid of entering into Christ’s rest? What fears keep you from coming to Jesus? Mark your fears! Name them to yourself! Be honest enough to tell yourself why you are afraid to come to Jesus. Fear sends more people to Hell than any sin they may commit! Revelation 21:8 lists eight sins that send people to “the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone” (Revelation 21:8). Can you guess what the number one sin is? Fearfulness! Fearfulness is at the top of the list of soul-damning sins! “But the fearful...shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death” (Revelation 21:8). If you know what you are afraid of, you will know why you don’t come to Christ!

I remember taking a small boy up to see an elephant. The elephant put out its trunk to get a treat. I told the boy to put a treat in its trunk. I said, “It won’t hurt you.” But he screamed at the top of his lungs in fear, and pulled back his hand so rigidly that it was impossible for me to get him to experience the soft touch of the friendly elephant’s nose. He missed an unusual experience out of needless fear! Now it is no great loss if one doesn’t touch an elephant. But it is a terrible loss if you fear coming to Jesus! You say, “What if I make a mistake?” I tell you that you cannot make a mistake if you come to Jesus Christ Himself! After you come to Him, you will say, “Why, He was there all the time! Why, I should have gone to Him long ago!”

“Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able...”
       (Numbers 13:30).

When God calls us to come, we are well able to do so. Go up at once to Jesus by simple faith! Go up at once! Go up at once! The entrance to the promised land was at the top of a hill. Go up at once! Go up at once to Jesus by faith! But no, they refused to go up. They were afraid to go up.

II. Second, they were given up by God.

When the people refused go to into the land, God said to Moses,

“Because all those men which have seen my glory, and my miracles, which I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and have tempted me now these ten times, and have not hearkened to my voice; Surely they shall not see the land which I sware unto their fathers, neither shall any of them that provoked me see it” (Numbers 14:22-23).

You see, this was not the first time they rebelled against God. They had now rebelled against Him ten times! They tempted God ten times after they left Egypt. Ten times they murmured in unbelief! And now God said “they shall not see the land which I sware unto their fathers, neither shall any of them that provoked me see it” (Numbers 14:23)..

Spurgeon said, “...for forty years they provoked the Lord. The incident before us relates to that great and terrible provocation in which the longsuffering of God came to [an end]. They sent spies into Canaan, and when they were informed by ten false-hearted men that the giants were in the land, and that the inhabitants of it dwelt in walled cities which they could not capture, they then began to accuse the Lord according to their former manner, denying his power to fulfill his ancient covenant, and give them the land that flowed with milk and honey. This time the Lord lifted his hand and swore that they should not enter into his rest. Let us be warned by this fact, that there is a limit to the longsuffering of God, and especially when it is tried by distrust. He may bear with unbelief for a time, and, blessed be his name, for a long time, for he remembers that we are dust; but when it come to wilful perseverance in unbelief the Lord will not for ever be thus provoked. It behoves us to listen to the words of Paul, ‘Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it’” (C. H. Spurgeon, “Mistrust of God Deplored and Denounced,” The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, volume 25, pp. 565-566; comments on Numbers 14:11). God said,

“Because all those men which have seen my glory, and my miracles, which I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and have tempted me now these ten times, and have not hearkened to my voice; Surely they shall not see the land which I sware unto their fathers, neither shall any of them that provoked me see it” (Numbers 14:22-23).

“Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition...” (I Corinthians 10:11).

“And to whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief” (Hebrews 3:18-19).

They could not enter in because of unbelief! That is all that keeps you from entering in to Christ – unbelief. And there will come a day, and an hour, when God will say to you, as He did to them, “I sware in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest” (Hebrews 3:11). As Spurgeon said, “This time the Lord lifted up his hand and swore that they should not enter into his rest. Let us be warned by this fact, that there is a limit to the longsuffering of God...the Lord will not for ever be thus provoked” (Spurgeon, ibid.). The Apostle said, “he limiteth a certain day, saying in David, To day, after so long a time; as it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts” (Hebrews 4:7). “He limiteth a certain day.” Dr. John Brown (1784-1858) said, “The Holy Spirit...fixes on a particular period during which men may enter the rest of God” (John Brown, Ph.D., Hebrews, The Banner of Truth Trust, 1994 reprint, p. 207; comment on Hebrews 4:7).

God fixes a certain day. When that day comes it is too late for you to come to Jesus! On a certain day, at a certain hour, God said, “I sware in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest” (Hebrews 3:11). I do not know when that day will come for you, but it will come for you, as it did for them. God’s patience will be worn out on that day – and, on that day, you will be turned over to a reprobate mind, and you will never be enabled to enter in to rest in Christ. “He limiteth a certain day”! “He limiteth a certain day”! Oh, it may be today, if you refuse to come to Christ, that God will say once and for all, “They shall not enter into my rest” (Hebrews 3:11).

I have given you exactly what happened “unto them for ensamples” (I Corinthians 10:11). They had refused to believe God. Ten times they had provoked Him to His face. But on the day that they refused go to into Canaan – on that very day – God said, “Surely they shall not see the land” (Numbers 14:23). That very day God gave them up. “He limiteth a certain day.” What if that day is now? What if you refuse to come and rest in Jesus today? Ah, my friend, this may well be the day that God limited, that God fixed. This may be the very day that God gives up on you and gives you “over to a reprobate mind” (Romans 1:28).

There’s a line that is drawn by rejecting our Lord,
   Where the call of His Spirit is lost,
And you hurry along with the pleasure-mad throng;
   Have you counted, have you counted the cost?
Have you counted the cost, if your soul should be lost,
   Though you gain the whole world for your own?
Even now it may be that the line you have crossed,
   Have you counted, have you counted the cost?
(“Have You Counted the Cost?” by A. J. Hodge, 1923).

“There’s a line that is drawn by rejecting our Lord, where the call of His Spirit is lost.” That takes us back to our text in Numbers 14:44,

“But they presumed to go up.”

They had refused to go up to Canaan. They were given up by God. And that leads us to the last point.

III. Third, they presumed to go up anyway.

“But they presumed to go up” (Numbers 14:44).

Moses said to those rebels that it was too late for them to go up now. Moses said,

“Go not up, for the Lord is not among you; that ye be not smitten before your enemies” (Numbers 14:42).

Go not up! It is too late now! Yet they would not listen.

“But they presumed to go up” (Numbers 14:44).

The Hebrew word translated “presumed” means “to swell, to be lifted up.” Those Israelites were now swelled up with pride and self confidence. Such are man’s emotions! First they were afraid to go up. But now they were swelled up. “In a bold, audacious, and presumptuous manner, they attempted to go up...” (Dr. John Gill, ibid.).

But it was too late! God was no longer with them.

“Then the Amalekites came down, and the Canaanites which dwelt in that hill, and smote them, and discomfited them [beat them down], even unto Hormah” (Numbers 14:45).

How they remind me of poor Samson!

“He awoke out of his sleep, and said, I will go out as at other times before, and shake myself. And he wist [knew] not that the Lord was departed from him” (Judges 16:20).

Samson had sinned away the grace of God. He rose up as at other times, and thought he was all right, but he knew not that the Lord had departed from him. And the Philistines took him and put out his eyes, and made him a slave! And that is exactly what happened to these presumptuous Israelites!

“They presumed go to go up,”

but the Lord was no longer with them!

Do not think that you can go up to Jesus Christ at any time! Do not think that you can be saved on another day! How do you know that God will give you another day? How do you know that you will be enabled by God to come to Jesus next week, or tomorrow, or even tonight? “He limiteth a certain day” (Hebrews 4:7). “Wherefore...To day if ye will hear his voice, Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness” (Hebrews 3:7-8).

Jesus died on the Cross to pay the penalty for your sin. Jesus shed His Blood to cleanse you from all sin. He is alive now, up in Heaven, at the right hand of God. Come to Him. Go up to Him by faith! He will save you from your sins. Come to Him today – for you have no assurance of another day. “To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts.” “I Am Coming, Lord.” Sing it!

I hear Thy welcome voice
   That calls me, Lord, to Thee,
For cleansing in Thy precious blood
   That flowed on Calvary.
I am coming, Lord!
   Coming now to Thee!
Wash me, cleanse me in the blood
   That flowed on Calvary.
(“I Am Coming, Lord” by Lewis Hartsough, 1828-1919).

(END OF SERMON)
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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Hebrews 3:18-4:7.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Have You Counted the Cost?” (by A. J. Hodge, 1923).


THE OUTLINE OF

THEY PRESUMED TO GO UP

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

“But they presumed to go up” (Numbers 14:44).

(Numbers 14:44-45; I Corinthians 10:11)

I.   First, they were told to go up at once, Numbers 14:24; 13:30, 31;
Hebrews 4:2; Matthew 11:28; Numbers 13:32, 33;
Revelation 21:8.

II.  Second, they were given up by God, Numbers 14:32-33;
I Corinthians 10:11; Hebrews 3:18-19, 11; 4:7; Romans 1:28.

III. Third, they presumed to go up anyway, Numbers 14:42, 45;
Judges 16:20; Hebrews 4:7; 3:7-8.