Flying in the bright sunlight above the clouds which completely obscured the ground below, we were leaving Winnipeg, Manitoba behind at the rate of about one mile every seven seconds, or approximately at the rate of nine miles a minute, and were approaching the Vancouver, British Columbia airport.
Shortly after leaving our cruising altitude of 33,000 feet, and as we began to descend through that thick mass of clouds, the calm and reassuring voice of the captain of our sleek four-motored jet informed us that Vancouver was completely overcast with a ceiling of 12,000 feet. This meant that we would not see the ground until we had come below 12,000 feet above sea level.
Knowing the terrain, which we could not see but over which we were flying, one’s mind begins to take account of the facts. To the left and over the border in the State of Washington is Mt. Baker which lifts its snowy cap 10,788 feet upward towards the sky. Before us and to the right are Canadian mountains which do not reach the height of Mt. Baker, but come within a thousand feet of this altitude. And the fact that neither we nor the crew up front can see them does not take them away.
No one seems concerned, however. We should clear these peaks with 1,000 feet to spare and be below that mass of cloud before the mountains appear to the natural eye. And yet, what are 1,000 feet at the speed of 5,280 feet every seven seconds? Would the captain see the peak in time, having only a second or two to react and lift our 550 ton plane to a safer level? There is no evidence of concern aboard. The one continues to read his magazine. Another catches a few winks of sleep. Rather than anxiety there is a noticeable boredom now that there is nothing to see but fog, and nothing to hear but the steady whine of the engines. After a safe landing a few minutes later, the flight is marked down as being without incident.
But is not the folly of the unbeliever manifest so clearly in all this quiet confidence?
All that confidence was placed not simply in man but in that which frail man has made. The almighty and all-wise God was ruled out of the picture. The natural man will not put his trust in Him. He would prefer to put it in the man at the controls, in the little “box” of radar, in the man-made compass and altimeter. By these man can pierce the clouds to “see” what lies ahead. He can know his course and elevation. “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.” And so he puts his trust in the thing which he made himself. He entrusts his life to that which he needs to repair and to that for which he constantly finds ways of improvement. He depends and leans heavily on that which depends upon the very man that made it. Truly it is the fool that saith in his heart, There is no God.
We are reminded of the Word of God in Isaiah 44:9-20. Only we deal today with a sophisticated and educated fool. We deal with a “cultured” and “civilized” fool. Man has come a long way from his literal idolatry of image worship. He has disproved many a myth and gotten rid of many superstitions. But the modern fool as well as the ancient fool says in his heart that there is no God. But listen to what God has to say of this fool: “They that make a graven image are all of them vanity; and their delectable things shall not profit; and they are their own witnesses; they see not nor know; that they may be ashamed. Who hath formed a god, or molten a graven image that is profitable for nothing? Behold, all his fellows shall be ashamed: and the workmen, they are of men: let them all be gathered together, let them stand up; yet they shall fear, and they shall be ashamed together. The smith with the tongs both worketh in the coals, and fashioneth it with hammers, and worketh it with strength of his arms: yea he is hungry, and his strength faileth: he drinketh no water, and is faint. The carpenter stretcheth out his rule; he marketh it out with a line; he fitteth it with planes, and he marketh it out with the compass, and maketh it after the figure of a man, according to the beauty of a man; that it may remain in the house. He heweth him down cedars, and taketh the cypress and the oak, which he strengtheneth for himself among the trees of the forest; he planteth an ash, and the rain doth nourish it. Then shall it be for man to burn: for he will take thereof and warm himself; yea, he kindleth it, and baketh bread; yea he maketh a god, and worshippeth it; he maketh it a graven image, and falleth down thereto. He burneth part thereof in the fire; with part thereof he eateth flesh; he roasteth roast, and is satisfied: yea he warmeth himself and saith, Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire. And the residue thereof he maketh a god, even his graven image: he falleth down unto it, and worshippeth it, and prayeth unto it, and saith, Deliver me; for thou art my god. They have not known nor understood: for he hath shut their eyes, that they cannot see; and their hearts, that they cannot understand. And none considereth in his heart, neither is there knowledge nor understanding to say, I have burned part of it in the fire; yea also I have baked bread upon the coals thereof; I have roasted flesh, and eaten it; and shall I make the residue thereof an abomination? shall I fall down to the stock of a tree? He feedeth on ashes: a deceived heart hath turned him aside, that he cannot deliver his soul, nor say, Is there not a lie in my right hand?”
How true today as then!
The instruction of the Heidelberg Catechism, in regard to the first commandment of the decalogue, is that our god is that which we serve, worship and wherein we put our trust. The fool saith in his heart, “I will put my trust in that which I have made myself. I will trust in that which I have power to burn and use to bake my bread and roast my meat. I will trust that which I have created myself. My god is and must be a god which I can control. My god is made of that which I can throw away, and when it is convenient for me, I will throw away my god as well and make me a new one.” That he also does. He has a god for health and another for wealth, a god for food and a god for shelter from the storms. In ancient days and still in many “uncivilized” tribes the sun and moon, the clouds and the river, the beasts and the trees are all gods, each with his own work and each to be sought for a particular gift and favor.
Is it really any different today?
The fool always looks to the creature and denies the Creator. The fear of the Lord is not before his eyes. He stands in awe of the creature and has a deep respect for the powers in creation. But the Creator, Whose works are all these, the fool does not see. Rather than to look to God for safety and protection, he will put his trust in the creature of his own fashioning. And as a fool he is often and ultimately put to shame. Another man-made instrument may cause his delicate electronic equipment to function improperly. It is for that reason that portable FM and sometimes even AM transistor radios may not be used on a plane while in flight. Another man-made god throws the first man-made and more important god into confusion! What folly, even to talk that way! A god cast into confusion? Surely that is no god. But this does not stop the fool from worshipping, serving and having confidence in it.
But remember that the fool says this in his heart.
With his mind and tongue he may say something quite different. He may speak of a kind Providence. He may advocate having some kind of religion. He may tell you to go to the church of your choice on Sunday. He may sing, “God Bless America.” He may ask you to swear in the name of God that you speak the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. He may agree with you that all creation shows that there is a God. And, remember, The Fool of all Fools and instructor of them all is Satan. And he knows that there is one God. With him it is not an intellectual denial of God’s existence. With him it is not ignorant. Nor is it with the fool that says in his heart that there is no God. His heart says this while his mind knows better.
Why else does he curse and swear and call God to damn and to witness the truth of his words? Is it not an amazing fact that the fool uses God’s name more often in a day than the believer? Indeed, he does not use it aright, but he uses it. It would almost seem as though God is in all his thoughts, for often in well nigh every sentence he makes mention of God. How true, that not that which enters the mouth of man defiles him, but that which cometh out of the mouth! he will not put his trust in God. He will not serve Him and walk in His commandments. He will not worship God. But he will in his wickedness call upon God to be served, to seek a curse upon his enemies and to emphasize his words because he is a liar and needs God’s name to induce men to believe his words of folly. What an indictment upon the so-called atheist! For it has always been our contention that there is no practical atheist. One may be such in theory, and yet he throws his theory to the winds every time he opens his mouth. Why make such frequent use of the name of One Who does not exist? That simply does not make sense. Why fight against belief in One Who does not exist? That is sheer folly. It truly is the fool that saith in his heart that there is no God.
But, as we began to say, it is a matter of the heart. It is a spiritual, ethical matter so that Satan who knows that there is a God and knows this God personally still denies Him because he CANNOT want Him to be God! That is the crux of the matter! Satan and his brood, the devil and all his spiritual offspring cannot love God, cannot want Him to be God and certainly cannot want Him to be God alone!
Is that not the very essence of the lie whereby all sin entered this world? Did Satan not strive and succeed to rob man of his fear of the Lord? Adam stood in an holy awe and reverence before God. He adored Him. The essence of all his thoughts were: How great Thou Art, how good and glorious! And so my soul desires it to be! By means of the lie Satan whittled away at that glorious and true picture of the living God wherewith Adam was created. He turned man’s worship away from God. He turned him from being a servant of the Most High into an enemy and rebel. He succeeded in getting man to trust in his own abilities to become God’s equal. Man had a god besides and in place of Jehovah. Man was his own god, and his trust was fixed upon the creature—of all things a piece of fruit—to lift him above the plane where God had created him. How ridiculous that a piece of fruit can make the creature Jehovah’s equal! Man, made by God from the dust of the ground, plus a small piece of fruit that grew on a tree created by God equals the God Who made these? Do we weary you when we say again, “the FOOL saith in his heart, There is no God?” Have you ever heard of such folly?
Indeed, but it is spiritual, ethical folly and not mere intellectual folly. You can show him the folly of believing that a man and a small part of a tree equals God. You can convince him that there must be a God. But you cannot make him want that truth. You cannot induce him to put his trust in that God, to worship Him and to serve Him. No, he will continue to put his trust in the things which he had made himself and which owe their existence to frail, foolish man. He will feel calm and serene even in the face of the forces of God’s wrath until the moment of his death. He will still expect man to rid this world of the curse. He will put his trust in antibiotics, in blood banks and oxygen tents, in the hands of skilled surgeons and in the minds of men who are unable to prevent their own death. He will run to the dying to be kept from his own death. He will take hold of the hands of the blind in order to be led in his own blindness. He will find wisdom in the sayings and words of the fool. For the natural man is a born fool because he is a born unbeliever.
The fear of the Lord is not a gift which his parents can hand down unto him. He is conceived and born in folly. His heart is not right with God from its first beat. And so the fool continues to rush on to his destruction in the conceited and foolish notion that he is escaping the curse and really getting somewhere. Faster than the fastest jet he rushes to destruction. And not only is he calm about it because of his folly and trust in men and things, but he even enjoys the fast ride. It thrills him, for he cannot love God. The carnal mind is enmity against God, is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can it be.
In His fear we put our trust in Him, worship and serve Him and have the peace that passeth understanding and calmly await the day of Christ and our full redemption.