#Ecclesiastes | #Schidler_N_Kuyper | #Viret

Crumbs from the reading table is a post about gleanings from my recent readings—from books to articles. Every gleaning will be long enough to spark some thoughts but short enough to finish during a bathroom break.

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Excursions in Ecclesiastes

The following excerpt is from my series on Ecclesiastes:

The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem.

Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher,

    vanity of vanities! All is vanity.

What does man gain by all the toil

    at which he toils under the sun?

 

  • Ecclesiastes 1:1-3

What is Ecclesiastes’ meaning for the productive Christian?

First, no matter how valuable your job is or how desirable your time is, it will be rendered useless if it is not ethically in line with Christ and His Kingdom.

Second, ethics alone will not allow us to get from underneath the curse of God. We need the curse removed from us. We have only one option for this relief: the death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ. If we want communities to have fruitful work inherited by future generations, we must teach the Gospel.

Third, the truth of the two applications above is for society. Power religion (both in religious groups and governments), which looks to coerce creation, man, and everything else, will collapse under the curse of God. The curse, or the burden of God, in both individual and society, can only be lifted by Christ.

Every man an apprentice

And His God instructs him of the way, He teaches him.

 

  • Isaiah 28:26

Klaas Schilder, in Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh, writes on this passage,

Isaiah’s thoughts focused on a resting point in the remark that the farmer is a student of God. In a beautiful development of details, the prophet shows us in a parable how, in the three elements of plowing, sowing, and later harvesting, the man is each time revealing himself in every distinct occupation as a student of God, of the God who created everything, and who created each particular object in the complete universe according to its nature. This same God did not only perpetuate each created thing in its existence, but also, especially in actuality, perpetuated that unique nature of each of the creatures. Exactly in the fact that He preserved the unique nature of each created thing, He made it possible for the world to continue. Otherwise it would have dissolved and perished.

His point is that God created reality with permanent and true meaning and applications. Not only reality as a whole but of every aspect of creation. In this sense, the farmer is the student of God. Through experience and formal education (school or parents), the farmer learns the purpose and function of soil, seed, produce, and tools. In His one trade, he knows many skills, each with its disciplines (plowing, sowing, tending, harvesting).

Apprenticeship under God bridges the past (meaning and function of created things since the beginning) and the future (new applications of creational reality). In Wisdom & Wonder, Kuyper refers to this aspect of science as exegeting the mind of God revealed in creation.

First, the full and rich clarity of God’s thoughts existed in God from eternity. Second, in the creation God has revealed, embedded, and embodied a rich fullness of his thoughts. And third, God created in human beings, as his image-bearers, the capacity to understand, to grasp, to reflect, and to arrange within a totality these thoughts expressed in the creation.

From the points highlighted above by Schilder and Kuyper, consider the following:

  • Every man in every trade is an apprentice of God. Think about the meaning and function of God’s creation you wield and yield in your vocation or calling.
  • Reflect on what individual tasks you do every day. What do you use? How can you ease the curse within your work (thorns and thistles) by acquiring or developing better tools and procedures?

Law in the life of faith

In Pierre Viret’s concise catechism, which I do recommend highly, his section on God’s Law brings simple clarity to which we often convolute and muddle. After showing that no good work saves man, nor could any amount of them, he goes on to write,

Q:        You do not think then that faith abolishes good works?

 

A:     Not only does it not abolish them, but, to the contrary, there is nothing that could better establish them, though we must not seek the salvation of men by them.

Redeemed life

He then quotes five Scriptures as proofs for this answer. First, Ephesians 2:1-10. This text clarifies our fallen state—children of wrath driven by lust, how we are saved—by grace, and to what end we are brought by salvation—good works. These good works are also the good works of Christ, that is, obedience to God’s Law.

Regulative Principle of Doctrine and the Temple’s Significance

The Holy of Holies set forth this idea of the fallen-redeemed-obedient progression. As priests move through purification rituals and sacrifice on the altar, it ends with the sprinkling of blood on the Ark of the Covenant. The ark contained a copy of the Ten Commandments. Herein lies the priority of living in covenant with God. Redemption is the means to an end—God’s Law. To sit at the throne of God (Ark as footstool) is to come face-to-face with God’s Law and live obediently. The temple starts with our sin and ends with the requirement of our obedience to God.

The primary principle of the temple wasn’t worship. Today’s and the early church’s worship is more like what happened in Jewish homes and during the festival of booths (music, Jew and Gentile fellowshipping, the teaching of God’s Word). The Temple is a paradigm of salvation (purified for obedience). The Temple is God’s palace—His Law is proclaimed from His throne, which is why all men were required to come three times a year for the reading of God’s Word.

The temple system does not present a Regulative Principle of Worship but a Regulative Principle of Doctrine. It proclaimed redemption by atonement and obedience to God’s Law. We still have the Temple regulations with us today—both man-made law and man-made doctrine are condemnable.

A basic of the faith

Second, Luke 17:10. Just as salvation is by grace, so obedience is obligated. It doesn’t make God owe us anything, nor is it going above and beyond the requirements of faith. God’s Law reveals our moral duty.

God’s kingdom ain’t a halfway house

Third, Deuteronomy 27:26. To affirm salvation, but not the law, is voluntarily living as cursed. Of course, this doesn’t mean unsaved because curses were promised to God’s elect people for disobedience. The paradigm of godly living isn’t saved or cursed but cursed or blessed. To be a Christian and live as cursed (disobedient to God’s Law) is false testimony—9th Commandment violation.

All of grace

The fourth and fifth texts are 1 Peter 1:3-7 and Romans 3:22-27. Both emphasize that grace and peace characterize the Christian life, and this life is entered only by gifted righteousness from God. If your theological paradigm struggles with grace and peace being a bedfellows with law, the problem is you. It’s not a contention of Scripture.

Until next time…

Read more. Think more. Apply it.