There’s something rotten in Denmark

Rust Rot Decay

I’m hoping that the somewhat arcane title of this post will catch readers’ attention and they will read on.

The phrase There’s something rotten in Denmark comes from Hamlet: The story is “Hamlet.” Act I, Scene 4: Marcellus (an officer) says “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark,” having just seen the ghost of Hamlet’s father, the late king of Denmark. More on the phrase here.

I’ve had a couple of times in my life when something was outwardly fine but inwardly rotten.

  1. When I was in seminary school the roof in our garage had a rotten board. I was on the roof of the garage inspecting and when I walked over a certain area, the roof was spongy under my shoe.
  2. Again in seminary school, our chimney came lose from our house. I was up on the roof (a 2 story house) examining shingles when I walked over to the chimney and leaned on it. I expected it to be a solid resting place, but it moved … about 9″ away from the house … and I moved with itoh that was scary!
  3. Once I had a tooth just break in half …. oh that was painful.
  4. Once I had a cysts in my spinal canal (down at T-4 / T-5). That was painful too, until a surgeon removed them.
  5. A couple of weeks ago, Kathee noticed that we had problems in our master bedroom shower. A little piece of the surface of a tile just kind of popped off and became a chunk with dust on the floor. Closer examination showed rot in the nearby dry wall and in the wood trim. When the tile man began to remove 14 year old tile, he found a large piece of dry wall that had gotten moist and in time was rotten!

The cause in all of the above cases – rot of one kind or another: a rotten board, a rotten brick, a rotten tooth, a rotten spine, a rotten tile! I’ve had my share of rotten, rusty cars too!

I’ve been thinking about our being “under sin” (Romans 3:9) and the rottenness of one’s own life. Charles Hodge along with many other theologians called this “total depravity”:

Here’s Hodge:

This inherent corruption in which all men since the fall are born, is properly called original sin, (1.) Because it is truly of the nature of sin. (2.) Because it flows from our first parents as the origin of our race. (3.) Because it is the origin of all other sins; and (4.) Because it is in its nature distinguished from actual sins.

He continues quoting the Westminster Confession:

By this sin they (our first parents) fell from their original righteousness and communion with God, and so became dead in sin, and wholly defiled in all the faculties and parts of soul and body. They being the root of all mankind, the guilt of this sin was imputed, and the same death in sin and corrupted nature conveyed to all their posterity, descending from them by ordinary generation. From this original corruption, whereby we are utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite to all good, and wholly inclined to all evil, do proceed all actual transgressions. This corruption of nature, during this life, doth remain in those that are regenerated; and although it be through Christ pardoned and mortified, yet both itself, and all the motions thereof, are truly and properly sin

Again from Hodge:

By total depravity, is not meant that all men are equally wicked; nor that any man is as thoroughly corrupt as it is possible for a man to be; nor that men are destitute of all moral virtues. The Scriptures recognize the fact, which experience abundantly confirms, that men, to a greater or less degree, are honest in dealings, kind in their feelings, and beneficent in their conduct. Even the heathen, the Apostle teaches us, do by nature the things of the law. They are more or less under the dominion of conscience, which approves or disapproves their moral conduct. All this is perfectly consistent with the Scriptural doctrine of total depravity, which includes the entire absence of holiness; the want of due apprehensions of the divine perfections, and of our relation to God 234as our Creator, Preserver, Benefactor, Governor, and Redeemer. There is common to all men a total alienation of the soul from God so that no unrenewed man either understands or seeks after God; no such man ever makes God his portion, or God’s glory the end of his being. The apostasy from God is total or complete. All men worship and serve the creature rather than, and more than the Creator. They are all therefore declared in Scripture to be spiritually dead.

Kathee and I started reading Daniel this week and tonight we read chapters 5 and 6. Chapter 5 is famous for the phrase handwriting on the wall. Belshazzar was the proud King who ignored the life lesson of Nebuchadnezzar:

O king, the Most High God gave Nebuchadnezzar your father a kingdom and majesty, glory and honor. And because of the majesty that He gave him, all peoples, nations, and languages trembled and feared before him. Whomever he wished, he executed; whomever he wished, he kept alive; whomever he wished, he set up; and whomever he wished, he put down. But when his heart was lifted up, and his spirit was hardened in pride, he was deposed from his kingly throne, and they took his glory from him. Then he was driven from the sons of men, his heart was made like the beasts, and his dwelling was with the wild donkeys. They fed him with grass like oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, till he knew that the Most High God rules in the kingdom of men, and appoints over it whomever He chooses

Daniel’s critique of Belshazzar: “you his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, although you knew all this”. Belshazzar failed to know that “God … holds your breath in His hand and owns all your ways”.

Sin is the hidden rot that men blindly ignore. Many tragically fail to remember that “God holds [one’s] breath in His hand and owns all [one’s] ways!”.

The answer to rot of the wood, the tooth, the bone, the brick, the tile, the rust is to get to the bottom of it and tear it out! The answer to the rottenness of our sin is the shed blood of our Savior.

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. (Romans 5:8-9)

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