Our Best for God
November 6th, 1960 @ 8:15 AM
OUR BEST FOR GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
11-6-60 8:15 a.m.
On the radio you are sharing with us the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the early morning message entitled Our Best for God. As a background of the message that is brought, would you like to turn with me as I read a part of the twenty-second chapter of the Book of Leviticus. Leviticus 22, beginning at verse 17, and we shall read through verse 25; this I say is a background for the message that is brought. Leviticus 22:17,
And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,
Speak unto Aaron, and to his sons, and unto all the children of Israel, and say unto them, Whatsoever he be of the house of Israel, or of the strangers in Israel, that will offer his oblation for all his vows, and for all his freewill offerings, which they will offer unto the Lord for a burnt offering;
Ye shall offer at your own will a male without blemish, of the beeves, of the sheep, or of the goats.
But whatsoever hath a blemish, that shall ye not offer: for it shall not be acceptable for you.
And whosoever offereth a sacrifice of peace offerings unto the Lord to accomplish his vow, or a freewill offering in beeves or sheep, it shall be perfect to be accepted; there shall be no blemish therein.
Blind, or broken, or maimed, or having a wen—
that is an eye disease—
or scurvy, or scabbed, ye shall not offer these unto the Lord, nor make an offering by fire of them upon the altar unto the Lord.
Either a bullock or a lamb that hath any thing superfluous or lacking in his parts,
Now in our version, you have a falling out of a little negative, that either a—let me read it like it is, like it was written:
Either a bullock or a lamb that hath any thing superfluous or lacking in his parts . . . that mayest thou not offer for a freewill offering or for a vow, it shall not be accepted.
Ye shall not offer unto the Lord that which is bruised, or crushed, or broken, or cut; neither shall ye make any offering thereof in your land.
Neither from a stranger’s hand shall you take it or buy it, and then offer it before the Lord; because their blemish is in them, and blemishes be in them: they shall not be accepted for you.
Now that’s the background, and it is very plain, and it is very distinctly said. When you offer an offering unto God, you’re not to pick out the unwanted and the superfluous and the leftover, but you are to offer unto the God your Lord, you are to offer without blemish, without spot the finest in the flock or in the herd [Leviticus 22:19-25].
Now, the message will be built, and is an exposition of the middle part of the first chapter of Malachi. Turn now to the last book in the Old Testament. And we begin at verse 6 in the last book of the Old Testament, the first chapter. The Book of Malachi chapter 1, verse 6, and we shall read to the end of the chapter. Now remembering what God hath said in Leviticus 22, this is chapter 1 in Malachi and verse 6:
A son honoreth his father, and a servant his master: if then I be a Father, where is Mine honor? and if I be a Master, where is My reverence? saith the Lord of hosts unto you, O priests, that despise My name.
And yet ye say, Wherein have we despised Thy name?
Ye offer polluted sacrifices,
The word translated there “bread” is the Hebrew word for sacrifices in general, food in general.
Ye offer polluted sacrifices upon Mine altar: and ye say, Wherein have we polluted Thee? In that ye say, The altar—
you have it translated here “table”:
The altar of the Lord, the table of the Lord is contemptible.
And if ye offer the blind for sacrifices, is it not evil? and if ye offer the lame and sick, is it not evil? offer it now unto thy governor; will he be pleased with thee, or accept thy person? saith the Lord of hosts.
And now, I pray thee, beseech God that He will be gracious unto us: this hath been by your means: will He regard your persons? saith the Lord of hosts.
That’s a reference to the sacerdotal blessing in Numbers, “The Lord bless thee, and keep thee: The Lord make His face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: The Lord lift up His countenance upon thee, and give thee peace” [Numbers 6:24-26]. You expect that blessing from God, but you do not regard the Lord:
Who is there even among you that would shut the doors for nought? neither do you kindle fire on Mine altar for nought. I have no pleasure in you, saith the Lord of hosts, neither will I accept an offering at your hand.
A better way to translate that would be something like this: “O that there was even among you someone that would shut the doors, that ye not kindle fire on Mine altar in vanity [Malachi 1:10]. For from the rising,” now this is a great prophecy:
For from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same My name shall be great among the nations; and in every place oblation shall be offered unto My name, and a pure offering: for My name shall be great among the nations, saith the Lord of hosts.
But ye have profaned it, in that ye say, The table of the Lord is polluted; and the fruit thereof, even his meat, is contemptible, the sacrifices are meaningless.
Ye said also, Behold, what a weariness is it! and ye have snuffed at it, saith the Lord of hosts; and ye brought that which was torn, and the lame, and the sick: thus ye brought an offering: should I accept this of your hand? saith the Lord.
Cursed be that deceiver, which hath in his flock a male, and voweth, and sacrificeth unto the Lord a corrupt thing: for I am a great King, saith the Lord of hosts, and My name is dreadful among the nations
Now just to read the passage is to know the sermon itself, for God says it so plainly, so pertinently, so pointedly. And the message that it bears to our hearts hardly needs to be expatiated upon; it just says it, and immediately all of us see it and realize it. The Lord here has a sixfold indictment against His people.
First: in that first verse that we read, Malachi 1:6, God says they do not honor, nor do they reverentially fear the great King of heaven. The second indictment: they offer upon God’s altar sacrifices that are not worthy [Malachi 1:7]. [Third – they claim God’s altar is contemptible, 1:7]. And then the next: the sacrifices that they bring are not only unworthy, but they are diseased, and sick, and maimed, and cut, and bruised, the leftovers [Malachi 1:8]. Then His fifth indictment: “They say, what a weariness all of this thing of worshipping God is” [Malachi 1:13]. They looked upon it in terms of mechanics and duty; but there was no pleasure in it for them, no joy, no gladness: “Behold, what a weariness it is” [Malachi 1:13]. And then His last indictment: having received blessings from God, and having promised to the Lord that if God would bless them they would remember the Lord, yet after God blessed them, straightway they forgot the Lord, and forgot their vow to be good and return to the Lord a portion of what God had given them [Malachi 3:8-10].
Now those things which the Lord says to those people are things that God would say to us today. The Lord says, “You offer these things unto the governor, the viceroy of Artaxerxes, you come before your governor with an offering, and it’s the diseased, and the crippled, and the maimed, it’s the leftovers, it’s the unwanted, you keep all of the best and all of the good for yourself, and then you offer unto the governor what is left, and what is sick, and what is maimed, and what is crippled, and see if the governor is delighted” [Malachi 1:8]. Then God says, “Am I not a great King, saith the Lord of hosts, and is My name not dreadful among the nations? [Malachi 1:14]. If even the contemptible viceroy of Artaxerxes is insulted and shamed by the offering of the crippled and the maimed and the leftovers, then how do you think, saith the Lord of hosts, that I, the great King [Malachi 1:14], that I feel when My servants and My people offer unto Me the crippled, and the maimed, and the cut, and the leftovers?” [Malachi 1:8]. Oh, it’s one of the most eloquent passages in the Bible, and it smites us all in our hearts. For how many times have we kept the good and the best and the unblemished for ourselves and have offered unto God the leftovers and the unwanted?
The first great principle by which God’s people ought to govern their lives is this: what I do for God ought to cost me something, always, always [2 Samuel 24:24]. I don’t think a man can serve God rightfully and nobly and purely and not feel it.
You wouldn’t remember—you wouldn’t have any cause to—years ago I preached a sermon in this pulpit entitled Heartfelt Religion. And in that book that was published by Zondervan entitled These Issues We Must Face; that is the first sermon in the book, Heartfelt Religion. Religion to us ought to come at a price and at a cost. I think one of the most moving, pertinent, blessed of all of the stories to be found in the Bible is found in the life of David. David had a tendency to fall into one crisis after another. And in this crisis in his life, he offended the great King of heaven by turning aside from trust in God, and seeking to exalt his kingdom in his own strength, by his own right hand. So turning aside from trusting in the Lord, David thought to vault his power and his strength in human arms, in human welfare, in human soldiery; so he sent Joab and the captains of the host to number Israel, to see of what he might boast, what he might do in the strength of man. So Joab remonstrating against the order, Joab numbered Israel [2 Samuel 24:1-7]. Nine months and twenty days he went throughout the land numbering the men of war: eight hundred thousand in Israel who could bear arms, and five hundred thousand in Judah, men of war [2 Samuel 24:8-9]. After he had done it, the prophet Gad was sent to David, saying:
Thou hast done an evil thing in the sight of God. You have turned aside from the humble faith and trust in Me, and you have given yourself now to the strength of mankind, and to looking to human endeavor, human genius, for the building up of your kingdom. Now, says the Lord, choose thee [of one of] three things: first, shall God send seven years of famine in the land; second, or shall God send upon you enemies before whose fierce and terrible face thou shalt flee for three months; or third, shall God send a pestilence to waste the people in the land for three days? Now choose of those three, that I may give answer unto the Lord God that sent me.
[2 Samuel 24:11-13].
And David replied, “I am in a great strait. Seven years of famine, O God, three months to be pursued by my enemies, or three days of terrible pestilence to waste the people.” And David said, “I wot not what to say, and I know not what to choose. Just let us fall into the arms of God, and not into the arms of men” [2 Samuel 24:14]. So the Lord sent three days of pestilence. And they died, and they fell, and they perished, seventy thousand in Israel [2 Samuel 24:15]. And the angel of destruction stood over Jerusalem with a sword bared in his hand to destroy the city of the great king [2 Samuel 24:16]. And when David looked upon him standing there to destroy God’s people, David cried unto the Lord, and said, “O God, I have sinned; but what have these poor sheep done? Let Thy hand be against me, and against my father’s house. I am the one that has sinned” [2 Samuel 24:17].
And Gad, the prophet of the Lord, was sent to the king with a message: “Arise, go up to the threshing floor of Araunah,” that’s Mt. Moriah, where Abraham offered up his son Isaac [Genesis 22:1-2, 9-12], “Arise, go up to the threshing floor of Araunah, and there build an altar unto God, that the plague may be stayed” [2 Samuel 24:18]. And the king arose and with his servants made his way up to Mt. Moriah, to the threshing floor of Araunah [2 Samuel 24:19]. And when Araunah the Jebusite—a man that belonged to the original inhabitants of Jerusalem and a good man—when he saw the king coming with his servants, he bowed with his face to the ground. And the king said, “I have come to buy of thee the threshing floor, and here to build an altar unto the Lord God, that the plague may be stayed” [2 Samuel 24:20-21]. Araunah said, “Not so, my Lord. But the threshing floor shall be thine as a gift. And the oxen here shall be thine as a gift. And the threshing instruments made out of wood, they shall be thine as a gift.” That was a gracious thing on the part of Araunah to do, “Take it, it costs nothing to you. Take it, and offer it unto God: wood for the fire, oxen for the sacrifice, and the floor, the top of Mt. Moriah, for the place. Take it, it costs nothing to you” [2 Samuel 24:22-23].
How many times have we heard in Dr. Fowler’s prayer that wonderful answer of the man after God’s own heart [1 Samuel 13:14, 16:12-13; Acts 13:22], “Nay, nay; but I will buy it of thee; for I will not offer unto the Lord God that which doth cost me nothing” [2 Samuel 24:24]. And David weighed out to Araunah the Jebusite fifty shekels of silver, and bought the threshing floor. And there built the altar, there offered the sacrifice unto God, and the plague was stayed [2 Samuel 24:24-25].
The nobility of the man after God’s own heart commends itself without any word of explanation or of exhortation. “Neither will I offer unto the Lord my God that which doth cost me nothing. The unwanted, the superfluous, what is left over, what is not needed, nay, nay, but what I bring to God will be at a cost and at a sacrifice. We need it for other things; we shall devote it to God. We could use it in a thousand other places; no, we shall offer it unto the Lord. This is my finest and my best: this shall be dedicated unto God” [2 Samuel 24:24].
The Lord does something for people who remember that our Lord is a great King [Malachi 1:14], and that He delights to favor His servants and to bless them for good. I debate in my mind whether to speak of these things. I did one time, a long, long time ago. But just taking a leaf out of my own life; when I was a small, small, small boy, living in a little town, in which I was born, in Oklahoma, a very small boy, I was given by my father a nickel to take to Sunday school. And a nickel then was a big sum of money; and to me, of course, living in that poor home and in that poor family, it was an unusual gift. Going to Sunday school with a nickel in my hand, one of the little neighbor boys caught step with me; we were going to Sunday school together. And he had also a nickel in his hand. He said to me, “What are you going to do with your nickel?”
And I said, “My father gave it to me to give to Sunday school. I’m going to take it to Sunday school and give it to Sunday school.”
And the little boy, my friend, said, “You know what I’m going to do with my nickel? I’m going to buy an ice cream cone with my nickel.” And he said to me, “Why don’t you buy an ice cream cone with your nickel?”
Well, I said, “My father gave me the nickel to give to the Sunday school.”
“Why,” said the little boy, “that doesn’t matter, you just don’t give it. And keep it, and buy an ice cream cone with it.” Well, now that’s a very commendable thing to a boy that loves ice cream; never did get to eat any ice cream—and a very tempting thing. So I studied about it a little while.
Well, I said, “What would I tell my father if I took the nickel and bought an ice cream cone with it and didn’t give it to Sunday school?”
“Why,” he said, “your father would never know. He never would know. He’d think you gave it to Sunday school.”
“Well,” I said to him, “what if my father asked me about whether I gave my nickel to the Sunday school or not?”
And the little boy said, “Why, you tell him that you did. He won’t know the difference. You tell him you gave it to Sunday school if he asks you, and then you keep it and buy an ice cream cone with it.” He had an answer for everything. He had it worked out. And I want you to know that was one of the biggest wars I ever fought in my life. I look back over that now, and I can hardly believe that such a civil war should have been precipitated in a boy’s heart over so small a thing as that.
I had a hard time, I tell you, deciding. But as I got near God’s house, got near God’s place, and went in that Sunday school class, I decided firmly, finally, everlastingly, I would not lie to my father, I wouldn’t do it. He gave me that nickel for God; and that nickel didn’t belong to me, it belonged to the Lord. And when time came to take up the collection in the Sunday school, I dropped in my nickel. That bought for me more of what it takes for a boy to grow up straight and right than most any other thing that I ever did in my life. These intangibles that God puts in a man’s soul and in a man’s life are the real treasures of heaven.
I don’t avow, I don’t say, that if a man will bring to God the best of his life, that God will make him therein and thereupon a millionaire, that he’ll have hundreds of thousands of dollars to check on in the bank; that he’ll have extensive real estate and properties and live in affluence. My impression is that affluence destroys more than it blesses families and homes and mankind. I don’t say that God will pour into our lives millionaires, monies, vast properties; I don’t say that. I do say that if a man will bring his best to God, God will pour into his heart treasures that are far more wonderful and more blessed, heavenly treasures, godly treasures, heavenly favors, godly favors.
These are the real possessions in life: not the gold and the silver in my hand [Matthew 6:19-21], but the living presence of the Lord in my heart [Ephesians 3:17]. When these are offered unto God, God exchanges them from the coin of the realm into the coin of heaven; and the Lord blesses us immeasurably, aboundingly, overflowingly. Not the blind, and the sick, and the maimed, and the crippled, and the diseased, and the unwanted, and the leftovers [Malachi 1:8, 13], but a sacrifice [2 Samuel 24:24]—the best we have, at a cost. “For,” He says, “I am a great King, saith the Lord, and My name is dreadful among the nations” [Malachi 1:14].
O Lord, who am I to come into Thy presence, I who am but dust and ashes? [Genesis 18:27; Psalm 8:4; Hebrews 4:16]. Who am I to speak unto Thee and to ask benediction and blessings at Thy gracious hands? Lord, who am I to walk into Thy presence?
But we are bidden to come. And out of the overflowing, abounding gratitude of our souls, “Here Lord is a gift. Here Lord is an offering. Here Lord have I brought for Thee.” And when it is unwrapped, or when it is uncovered, and when God looks upon it, it is our best. “This is a part of my very life. This is a part of my toil and sweat and tears, and the earnings. Here Lord is a gift for Thee.” And when the Lord looks upon it, and adds us up, God in heaven grant that His heart may be glad and His Spirit may be cheered at the love and the devotion of God’s people; our best for Him, our best [Malachi 1:6].
We are going to sing our song of appeal and while we sing it, somebody this morning, give the highest gift of all to Jesus; give himself, you come. A family this morning, putting your life and fortune and lot and day and destiny in the fellowship of our church, you come. God has to make this appeal. If the Lord bids you, come, come. On the first note of the first stanza, come. As the Spirit shall lead and as God shall say the word, come. While we stand and while we sing.