In this series of bulletin articles, we’ve been examining the Westminster Larger Catechism, published in the 17th Century. Lately we’ve been looking at the first commandment of the ten commandments: ‘You shall have no other gods before me’ (Exodus 20:3). We saw the duties of the first commandment and then began to reflect on the sins forbidden by the commandment.
One of the sins the first commandment forbids is carnal security. What is that? A reliance upon human strength leading to a disregard of God’s strength and word.
The prophet Jeremiah warns against such carnal security: ‘This is what the LORD says: “Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the LORD. He will be like a bush in the wastelands; he will not see prosperity when it comes. He will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives. “But blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit”’ (Jeremiah 17:5-8).
There are many instances in the Scriptures where people trust in their own strength rather than the Lord’s and are condemned. When Israel was in trouble and was thinking of getting help from the Egyptians, God prophesied through Isaiah: ‘Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help, who rely on horses, who trust in the multitude of their chariots and in the great strength of their horsemen, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel, or seek help from the LORD. Yet he too is wise and can bring disaster; he does not take back his words. He will rise up against the house of the wicked, against those who help evildoers. But the Egyptians are men and not God; their horses are flesh and not spirit. When the LORD stretches out his hand, he who helps will stumble, he who is helped will fall; both will perish together’ (Isaiah 31:1-3).
So carnal security leads people to laugh at God’s warnings about judgement. Peter says: ‘…understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation”’ (2 Peter 3:3-4).
If we look at our lives closely, we easily see that we too struggle with carnal security. When we have a major work problem, who do we turn to first? Do we pray about it or roll up our sleeves and get to work solving it? When we have a serious illness, who do we turn to first? Our doctor or our God? Do we live as though there will be no judgement day?
If God is our God and there are no other gods before him, then God is our security, not human strength. We need to cry with the Psalmist: ‘Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God. They are brought to their knees and fall, but we rise up and stand firm. O LORD, save the king! Answer us when we call!’ (Psalm 20:7-9).
Have you repented of your trust in human strength and found forgiveness in Christ?