Saturday, January 16, 2016

Heidelberg Catechism: Q9-11

9. Q. Is God, then, not unjust by requiring in His law what man cannot do?

A. No, for God so created man that he was able to do it. But man, at the instigation of the devil, in deliberate disobedience robbed himself and all his descendants of these gifts.

10. Q. Will God allow such disobedience and apostasy to go unpunished?

A. Certainly not. He is terribly displeased with our original sin as well as our actual sins.  Therefore He will punish them by a just judgment both now and eternally, as He has declared: Cursed be every one who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law, and do them (Galatians 3:10).

11. Q. But is God not also merciful?

A. God is indeed merciful, but He is also just. His justice requires that sin committed against the most high majesty of God also be punished with the most severe, that is, with everlasting, punishment of body and soul.

King Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 7:20-29:

Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins....

Notice the words "righteous man."  When we think of a righteous man, we think of someone who does right.  But here Solomon is saying that even the righteous--or those we call righteous--do no good and are continually sinning.  As confirmed by the Heidelberg Catechism, the last verse of this passage of Ecclesiastes says that man was created upright and could fulfill the law, but he can no longer.  

All this I have tested by wisdom. I said, “I will be wise,” but it was far from me. 

Now, Solomon is considered to the wisest of all in the Old Testament.  Indeed, he prays to the Lord to give him a heart of wisdom, and the Lord grants his request.  But, here he is saying that he tested wisdom and found it truly far from him.  Even when other men consider us wise, by the Lord's standards, we are still fools. 

That which has been is far off, and deep, very deep; who can find it out? I turned my heart to know and to search out and to seek wisdom and the scheme of things, and to know the wickedness of folly and the foolishness that is madness.

Solomon even went in the other direction, to test the limits of not only wisdom but of wickedness, folly, foolishness, and madness. What did he discover?

 And I find something more bitter than death: the woman whose heart is snares and nets, and whose hands are fetters. He who pleases God escapes her, but the sinner is taken by her. 

He discovered that of all the sins, sexual immorality was the one that brought down a wise man into the pit of despair. This applies particularly to our own day and age, where satisfying our sexual appetites is the norm.  Physical pleasure is the standard.  Because of the intense pleasure acquired, sex becomes more addictive than any drug.  Indeed, Solomon himself, as wise as he was, fell hard due to this very sin.  Let's look at 1 Kings 11:1-8:

Now King Solomon loved many foreign women, along with the daughter of Pharaoh: Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women, from the nations concerning which the Lord had said to the people of Israel, “You shall not enter into marriage with them, neither shall they with you, for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods.” Solomon clung to these in love. He had 700 wives, who were princesses, and 300 concubines. And his wives turned away his heart. For when Solomon was old his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not wholly true to the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father. For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. So Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and did not wholly follow the Lord, as David his father had done. Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, and for Molech the abomination of the Ammonites, on the mountain east of Jerusalem. And so he did for all his foreign wives, who made offerings and sacrificed to their gods. (1 Kings 11:1-8)

Let's connect this back to the most important verses in the passage of Ecclesiastes:

Behold, this is what I found, says the Preacher, while adding one thing to another to find the scheme of things—which my soul has sought repeatedly, but I have not found. One man among a thousand I found, but a woman among all these I have not found. See, this alone I found, that God made man upright, but they have sought out many schemes. 

The pleasures of women were Solomon's downfall.  Even though he was wise and wrote most of the great wisdom of the Old Testament, he still was led astray by his lusts and he made God very angry.  Now, the verse just above needs deeper study, because on the surface it seems to say that one in a thousand men can be found to be righteous, but absolutely no--zero--women can be.  I read a sermon that actually claimed that Solomon's wisdom is in error and that women are more righteous than men.  Neither of these scenarios is the case.  Remember the first verse we looked at in Ecclesiastes?  No one is righteous, no not one.  Not one in a thousand women, but not one in a thousand men either.  Then why does Solomon seem to say that one in a thousand men is righteous?  Because this is a prophecy of Christ.  To help us see with more clarity, let's look at a similar prophecy of Christ from Job 33: 23-28:

If there be for him an angel,
a mediator, one of the thousand,
to declare to man what is right for him,
and he is merciful to him, and says,

‘Deliver him from going down into the pit;
I have found a ransom;

let his flesh become fresh with youth;
let him return to the days of his youthful vigor’;
then man prays to God, and he accepts him;

he sees his face with a shout of joy,
and he restores to man his righteousness.
He sings before men and says:

‘I sinned and perverted what was right,
and it was not repaid to me.

He has redeemed my soul from going down into the pit,
and my life shall look upon the light.’

No, women are not righteous, but neither are men.  All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, all except Christ, born of a woman but male in gender, which is why Solomon places him among the men, within the round, symbolic number of one-thousand.  Solomon is not pitting men against women here but pointing to Christ as our only hope for salvation.

He is our only mediator and advocate.  He is our only truth.  He is our only deliverance.  He is our only ransom.  We are accepted only by Christ's prayers to the Father.  He is our only righteousness.  He is our grace and mercy.  Amen.