Sound Doctrine 101 – Ecclesiastes 11:9-12:7

 

Just about a year ago I preached from the first half of chapter 12. The title of the message was “Our Long Home” – referring to the grave – death. And then this morning I referred to this scripture again. So avoid too much reiteration, I’m going to simply add those verses to our text from chapter 11. I won’t be preaching from them next week.

I am calling this message “Sound Doctrine 101” – which brings it pretty close to our theme this morning. In the college catalogue, the first course in most series is numbered “101.” “English 101” is the freshman English Course; and “Biology 101” is pretty elementary. In fact, the “101” series may even be remedial these days, because so many enter college without a good foundational education in much of anything. Did I tell you about the email I received about a sign supposedly over a Wal-mart express line? At most stores there are check-out lines called “Express lanes” where the number of goods purchased is supposed to be limited. At this particular store, the sign was illustrated with three hands and the fingers extended. Below the illustration were the words, “Fifteen is this many.” That would be “Wal-mart Shopping 101” for the mostly illiterate people of these United States.

Here in this text, Solomon thinks about some pretty simple, but foundational segments of Biblical theology. These things are a part of “the milk of the word” to which Paul refers later on. These are easily seen and learned by young people and thinking children. These are essential truths which adults need to learn – if they haven’t already. But my emphasis is not on the age of the student. Rather it is on the lesson to be learned. There are at least five things argued against in this text: Fatalism, Atheism, Irresponsibility, Soul-lessness and Despair.

First, there is the monster of ATHEISM.

As I have said there are few genuine intellectual atheists, but the world is filled with the practical variety. Millions of Americans live as though there is no God; they are “de facto” atheists – even though they don’t have any rational arguments to prove their false ideas. Sometimes they say they believe in God; they believe that Bible is from God – and believe that they will some day stand before God. But to worship God, listen to His word and obey His commands are things that never enter their minds. The way they live screams out, “Stay away from me God, I don’t want you interfering with my life.” They aren’t really atheists, because they do want to have a god they themselves want to be deified. But for all practical purposes they are atheists.

Solomon, like every other writer in the Word of God, simply assumes the existence and sovereignty of God. Nowhere does the Bible try to prove that God exists. It assumes that we are all intelligent enough to look about us and reach that conclusion on our own. But ARE we that intelligent? George Bernard Shaw was a popular writer of my parents generation. By some accounts the man was a genius. But he was a man who placed trust in his own reason, rejecting faith in God. Shortly before he died in 1950 he wrote: “The science to which I have pinned my faith is bankrupt. Its counsels, which should have established the millennium, have led directly to the suicide of Europe. I believed in them once. In their name I helped to destroy the faith of millions. Now they look at me and witness the great tragedy of an atheist who has lost his faith.” The reason that Shaw lost his atheistic faith, is due in part to a hollow echo reverberating in his heart. And the closer he came to the day of his death, the louder that empty echo sounded. There is a voice which cries out in all of us: “Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth.”

Solomon says, “Young man, give the Creator His proper place in your heart.” And that means – humbly submit your heart and soul to the Lord Jesus Christ. “For by Him were all things created, that are in heaven and that are in earth, visible and invisible; whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him.”

The second thing that this scripture attacks is the doctrine of FATALISM.

As ridiculous as it is, there is a lot more of this disease in our world than what you might imagine. Every horoscope numbskull believes in one kind of fatalism. The billions of Chinese and their faith in the zodiac with its twelve kinds of animals, is given to fatalism. Fatalism is a major tenant of Islam; it is a part of Hinduism and their reincarnation system. And most of the New Age, humanistic Hinduism, carries this same germ of pestilence. Opposing this is the idea that each of us have complete control over our fate and future. But true Bible doctrine lays somewhere in between.

Notice that Solomon tells his young listeners that they help to build the world in which they live. Perhaps I should say that they do build the world in which they live. “Remove (those things which cause) sorrow from thy heart, and put away evil from thy flesh: for childhood and youth are vanity.” “Rejoice, O young man, in (the blessings) of thy youth.” The man who burglarizes his neighbor’s house, has to take responsibility for spending a few years in jail. Rarely is a drug-addict, forced into his life-changing addiction – it is his choice, joint by joint. Many homosexuals these days say that they can’t help it, but that they were born slightly twisted. A generation ago, the experts were saying that same sort of thing about the common drunk. Mr. and Miss Sodomite, by the grace of God you can chose to leave your sin, if you really want to.

And turning that idea around, we can learn to rejoice in whatever position and condition we are in – even in the confining atmosphere of our constricted lives. We can let our hearts cheer us with simple pleasures, such as good friends, a hearty laugh, or a good book. Despair and pessimism are so out of place in the life of a young person. As a rule their lives are without the real weights of life – which are being carried by their parents. They don’t have to worry about mortgages and loan payments, whether there will be enough food or if their body parts are failing. As Solomon says, their teeth aren’t falling out – they can choose to keep their “grinders,” if they want. Solomon says, the evil days have not yet come your way so enjoy what you have. But…. keep in mind that what you have is yours by the grace of God.

We have a great deal to say about whether we enjoy or abhor this hour in which we live – and the next as well. We can determine to make something good out of our circumstances; or we can cave-in to despair. With so much less stress, the young man should have much more vitality than his parents. Cast aside that fatalistic attitude and those sad eyes.

But please realize that life is far more than our earthly 70, 80 or 90 years.

“Some day the silver cord WILL break and we no more as now shall sing.” Some day the alabaster box and the delicate pitcher shall be broken. Some day the dust that we call our bodies shall return to the earth as it once was. But then the soul shall return to the Lord who gave it.

It was in 1985 that the luxury liner Titanic was located at the bottom of the North Atlantic. And the old ship was found to be in pretty good condition, considering the circumstances. That led to discussions about whether or not its two halves ought to be resurrected and rejoined. Robert Ballard was a part of the expedition that located the ship. He said, “I see nothing to gain by raising this ship. 1,513 people died that night, but those souls have been located, and they’re fine where they are.” God may have temporarily left their bodies at the bottom of the ocean, but everyone of those souls were summoned into eternity. Death is not a period which ends an earthly sentence; it is only a comma – the story goes on.

“Oh,” says that pseudo-intellectual, sophomoric young man, “I don’t believe in the existence of the soul.” It was some East German scientists who studied 200 terminally ill patients and said, “We have found proof of the soul.” In each case, the bodies of those that died lost 1/3,000th of an ounce of weight at the moment of death. Dr. Becker Mertens of Dresden declared, “The inescapable conclusion is that we have now confirmed the existence of the human soul and determined its weight.” The scientists took into account every conceivable factor in that small weight loss, including the air expelled from the lungs. And the machine that they used to weigh the bodies had a margin of error of less than 1/100,000 of an ounce.

Well, that is all fine and good, but I have more convincing proof than that: As I pointed out this morning, the Bible describes the souls of men, without their bodies, standing before God. God’s Word, which has yet to be disproved, declares the immortality of the soul. Solomon might have said, “It is appointed unto men once to die, and after that, judgment.”

And that is the last chapter in our elemental Sound Doctrine – #101 – Course – JUDGMENT.

Despite all the denial that we hear today, we are all responsible for our own actions. 70 years ago, the trials of the World War II Nazi leaders began in Nuremberg, Germany. Those trials were very important for both good and bad. Negatively, it expanded the jurisdiction of international law over sovereign nations. It extended the idea of “world government..” But one of the good things to come out of the Nuremberg trials was the definition of “personal responsibility.” Most of the men charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity, defended themselves by saying, “But I was just following orders from my superiors.” That orders were given was not disputed, but the judges concluded that despite those commands, every man had the moral responsibility to say “this is reprehensible, I will not obey.” Some of those Nazi’s were executed, because they were found responsible for their own actions.

“Know thou (young man) that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment.” For every time you cursed God or man under your breath, you shall give an account before Jehovah. Every act of rebellion, and every time that you stomped your foot in selfish petulance. Every time some idol came between your heart and your Creator. Every moment of pride, envy, greed, covetousness and self-pity – all shall be judged by the Lord. So “walk in the ways of thine heart and in the sight of thine eyes,” but do so remembering the coming judgment.

Years ago a wicked Scottish lawyer rented a horse, but through the his negligence the animal was killed. The owner of horse demanded on being paid full replacement value with some compensation for it’s loss. The lawyer agreed that he was liable, but that he was short of cash. Would a promissory note be acceptable? The ignorant owner agreed to the note, but found that the liar had made it payable on the day of Judgment. Eventually the creditor took the matter to court, and a judge looked at the note. “The promissory note is perfectly good, sir, and is not due until the day of judgment. But I am the judge of this case, and I declare that today is that day. Pay the man for the horse.”

Every horse will be charged to our account by the Judge who ruleth heaven and earth. Today may not be the day of final judgment, but it could be the day when the debt is settled. Today marks another day in each of our preliminary trials. What-is-more, we are all as guilty as sin – of sin. We need a Saviour, a lawyer unlike any that this world has ever seen. The Creator Whom Solomon mentions is also the Redeemer, the Son of God. Not only should we remember our Creator; but we must also surrender to Him.