“We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we might walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10)
“Let each one remain in the calling in which he was called.” (1 Corinthians 7:20)
In the Bible, we read that the first-born son of Jacob, named Reuben, lost the privilege of his birthright on account of having an illicit sexual relationship with his father’s concubine (Genesis 35:22). The question is, why did Reuben do such a thing? From what I understand about ancient practices, the decision for someone to openly defy another man (and especially his father) in this way was considered to be an overt display of trying to usurp his authority and take over his father’s position. It was a way of saying, “I do not accept your authority. I myself will be the authority.” Take, for example, the case of Absalom (the son of king David). In the Bible, we read that Absalom slept with his father’s concubines “before all Israel.” (2 Samuel 16:22). This was no doubt an attempt on Absalom’s part to say to the Israelites, “I will be king now. I am the one in charge.”
Usurping authority, then, means to try and take over another person’s authority. There are many examples of this in Scripture, and the Bible puts the whole thing about “grumbling” in the same category as trying to usurp authority, which is why grumbling was punished sometimes in the Old Testament with the actual destruction of that person, as when the earth “swallowed up” those who were grumbling against the God-given authority entrusted to Moses. God takes it very seriously — so seriously, in fact, that Rebeun lost the right of the first born son for doing what he did (the lineage of Jesus came through Judah, in fact, who was the fourth-born son, because Jacob’s firt born son (Reuben), second born son (Simeon), and third born son (Levi), all lost their “birth rights” on account of rebellious actions which they performed, ultimately, against God. For further details on this, you are encouraged to read for yourself the explicit (God-given) curses that were placed upon all three of them, by their own father, who spoke under the influence of the Holy Spirit, as detailed Genesis 49:3-7.) So the “blessing” of the first born was passed on to Judah, instead, who was the fourth born son. Yes, you can lose your rights! One may ask, however, why — if he was cursed — did Levi still become a great leader in Israel? Ah, that is grace!
This, then, being the case, let us then consider carefully what both Reuben’s and Absalom’s problems were, as well as those who challenged Moses’s authority and were “swallowed up” for it. I think their problem could be described as “a refusal to accept the individual responsibilities that God had given them in life.” In other words, they desired to be something or someone that they were not designed to be. For example, both Reuben and Absalom desired to usurp their father’s authority, and to take the place of their respective fathers. They were unwilling to “remain in that calling” into which they had been placed. Let this all be a lesson to us. We must not try to be “like another person” by trying to usurp their place of authority, like Reuben and Absalom did. Satan tried to do that, too, when he attempted to usurp God’s authority (that is his temptation to all of us: to try and be “like God” rather than be conformed to God’s character). We cannot be another person. We must be the ones that God has created us to be. That may not seem very glorious to some of us. We may want to escape our calls. But if we are in doubt in any way as to what God is saying to us, surely, He is saying, “Be a faithful fruit-bearing tree, and stay right where you have been planted!” Let us not go usurping authorities here and there, and trying to be people that we were never created by God to be.
If we have sinned in this area, there is forgiveness. It is easy to come to God, because he loves us and wants us to do well — only, in His individual calling for each and every one of our lives, not necessarily in that “calling” that we have thought was “God’s call” on our lives. Be careful!