Who Is on the Lord’s Side?
May 20th, 1962 @ 7:30 PM
WHO IS ON THE LORD’S SIDE?
Dr. W. A. Criswell
Exodus 32: 26
5-20-62 7:30 p.m.
On the radio you are listening to the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas; and this is the pastor bringing the evening message entitled Who Is on the Lord’s Side? And as you listen on the radio, as with us here in this great congregation, turn in your Bible to the Book of Exodus, and we shall read the context and the text together. Exodus chapter 32, starting at verse 19, reading through verse 26. Exodus chapter 32, the second book in the Old Testament, the thirty-second chapter of that book, starting at verse 19 and reading through verse 26. And you will find the text in the last verse we shall read, in verse 26. Now let us all read it together:
And it came to pass, as soon as he came nigh unto the camp, that he saw the calf, and the dancing: and Moses’ anger waxed hot, and he cast the tables out of his hands, and brake them beneath the mount.
And he took the calf which they had made, and burnt it in the fire, and ground it to powder, and strawed it upon the water, and made the children of Israel drink of it.
And Moses said unto Aaron, What did this people unto thee, that thou hast brought so great a sin upon them?
And Aaron said, Let not the anger of my lord wax hot: thou knowest the people, that they are set on mischief.
For they said unto me, Make us gods, which shall go before us: for as for this man Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him.
And I said unto them, Whosoever hath any gold, let them break it off. So they gave it me: then I cast it into the fire, and there came out this calf.
And when Moses saw that the people were naked; (for Aaron had made them naked unto their shame among their enemies:)
Then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, Who is on the Lord’s side? let him come unto me. And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together unto him.
And the text is the topic and the title of the message: Exodus 32:26, "Who is on the Lord’s side? let him come unto me."
We have just been through a primary election; and we are now preparing for a runoff, and then for a general election in the fall. And as we have heard these men campaign, and listened to their speeches, and read their literature, we have often met one another and asked that same question, "On whose side are you?" And especially has that been true with this referendum regarding the legalizing of parimutuel betting on horses here in Texas. "On whose side are you?" That is one of the commonest questions that is asked in life as we face every decision and as the public decides in every matter of government, "On whose side are you?" And that same question, of course, is asked of God as a man faces the Lord who made him: "On whose side are you?" And could the Lord grant to us tonight that all of us could magnificently reply, "Yea, Lord; Thou knowest all things;Thou knowest that I love Thee" [John 21:17].
"Then Moses stood in the gate of the camp and said, Who is on the Lord’s side? let him come unto me." From the way that question is framed, from the way it is asked, I would take it for granted that there was no neutrality, no middle ground. A man is either for God, or the man is against Him. And there’s no equivocation, and there’s no in between. I would judge that from the question as it is read here in the Bible. And I would also know that is true from the Scriptures. The message of God is for a man to receive or to reject. And he is called upon by the Almighty to return an answer, one or the other. For God says there are but two camps: one is the Lord’s, and the other is Satan. And a man is either for holiness, or he is for sin. A man is either in league with devils, or he is a fellow heir with the angels of heaven. There is truth, and there is untruth. There is what is of veracity, and there is what is of falsehood. There is holiness, and there is sin. A man is either on the way to heaven with all of its glories, or a man is on the way to hell with all of its agonies. A man is either for God, or he is against Him. There are the robes of righteousness and the everlasting songs of adoring praise; or there is the blackness of midnight and the unending agonies of the damned. It is one or the other; and a man chooses for himself which it shall be.
There is no such a thing as a man saying, "But I refuse to make a choice." There is no such a thing as the synagogue of the undecided. There is no such a thing as an assembly of the equivocating. There is no such a thing as a purgatory of middle men in the unseen world. We are either for, or we are against. And all of life is like that. The man that is not pure is impure. The man that is not honest is dishonest. The man who is not chaste is unchaste. We’re either for God or we’re against Him. And our Lord said that: "He that is not with Me is against Me; and He that gathereth not with Me scattereth abroad" [Matthew 12:30]. A man cannot find his soul in between. And in this great decision he cannot be neutral; he’s on one side or the other.
I think the most classic illustration of that that you could find in the Scriptures or in all literature is Pontius Pilate. Seeking to get rid of the Lord Jesus, sent Him to Herod Antipas, for He came out of Galilee; there He is on is hands again [Luke 23:6-7]. Scourge Him and beat him, in order to liberate him having chastened him; there He is on his hands again. Asking a choice between Barabbas and Jesus; choosing Barabbas, there He is on his hands again. And finally, in desperation Pontius Pilate cried, "Then what shall I do with Jesus which is called Christ? [Matthew 27:22]. This will I do," said Pilate, "I’ll not condemn Him, I’ll not uphold Him, I’ll not crucify Him, I’ll not liberate Him, I’ll wash my hands of Him." And Pilate called for a bowl of water, and for a towel; and in the basin of the bowl of water he washed his hands, and dried them with a towel, and said before the public, "I am innocent of the blood of this just Man [Matthew 27:24]. I will have nothing to do with Him. I remain neutral! I will not decide." For the two thousand years since then, in the creed which is repeated in practically all the churches of Christendom, there is this expression: "crucified under Pontius Pilate." Any of you’ve ever been in Lucerne, Switzerland, just beyond Lucerne is Mt. Pilatus, Mt. Pilate, his body, when he committed suicide, was thrown into that Lucerne lake in Switzerland. And the tradition and the myth and the legend is, that the peasant as he walks by that lake, in the twilight of the night, above the mists of the bosom of that small sea, there rises Pilate from the bottom of its waters, washing his hands, washing his hands, washing his hands. There is no such a thing as an in between, as an equivocator. There’s no such a thing as a man who will refuse to decide. If I do not decide for Him, I decide against Him. "Who is on the Lord’s side? let him come unto Me" [Exodus 32:26].
This is a tremendous call to a tremendous consecration. It is first of all a call from idolatry – such a thing, such a thing. This, God’s people, delivered out of Egypt, blood bought, blood redeemed, under the gracious hands of the Almighty, being guided to a land that flowed with milk and honey, with every gracious remembrance of God and every favorable providence of heaven, the Lord above them [Exodus 13:21-22] like a mother over her children, like a father protecting his family, like a great provider seeking after and providing for his own; thus God is good to this people. Then, then, in this moment, in this hour, they build to themselves a golden calf, and bow down to worship it [Exodus 32: 4, 8]. And when you see such a thing as that, you could say to those who kneel before graven images, and you say to those who bow before statues and idols, "Why, this is abject unadulterated heathenism! Why do you bow down before a golden calf, you who’ve known the Lord?"
And the answer of the Israelite is the answer of the modern day idolater: "Sir, we are not worshiping a golden calf, nor are we calling deity this ox; but we are worshiping Jehovah under the image of the golden calf. We know the Lord God Jehovah is in heaven, and this is the Lord God that brought us out of the land of Egypt, but you don’t understand. These are aesthetic accompaniments to help us in our devotion! And when we see them we have emotions of reverence, and we have emotions of devotion, and we have emotions of worship, and it helps us to understand the goodness of God to worship Him aesthetically under the image of a golden calf. For you see, that calf represents to us strength, the strength of Almighty God. And you see that calf represents to us the ox that plows the fields, that brings our harvest, that feeds our hungry mouths. And when we look at that ox, it helps us to remember God in His strength and in His might and in His power and in His providing for us who have needs in this life. And then the aesthetic accompaniment of the worship is beautiful indeed. Why, you just go into one of those idol temples, and immediately you feel holy and sanctified and lifted up. It’s a way of helping us. It is an aid to help us to worship God. And the music that accompanies it, and the genuflection, and all the other beautiful trappings of art, these things help us on to God!"
And so they bow down and worship before an image. Under the semblance of a golden ox, they praise Jehovah God. "Just give us a little heathenish Egyptian music, give us a little heathen Egyptian image, give us a little heathen Egyptian carved statues, and we will find a beautiful and effective worship."
Look at it. Look at it. Just be honest enough to look at it. For I am not only saying a thing that God says – "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image,neither shalt thou bow down thyself before it" [Exodus 20:4-5] – I’m not saying just what God says, nor am I repeating the second commandment of the Lord God; I want you to look at it! And this is accompaniment, and this is a development that never fails. In that same thirty-second chapter of the Book of Exodus, in that sixth verse, "And they rose up early on the morrow, and offered burnt offerings unto that golden calf; and the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play!" [Exodus 32:6]. Wherever you find aesthetic idolatrous worship, there will you also find drunkenness, and gambling, and worldliness; the two go together. "None of that straight-laced religion for us, that worships God in spirit and in truth. None of that hard, unattractive religion for us that calls upon an unseen God, the likeness of whom could not be made by any image or statue in this earth, but give us an aesthetic religion. Give us idols, give us images, give us accouterments, give us helps and aids to remind us of the virtues of the saints, and the mightiness of God, and we will worship beautifully and abjectly."
And when you do it, then the people rise and go out and have the most godless and worldly parties that mind could imagine. Drunk, with all the stuff that goes with the consumption of liquor, and gambling, gambling on every side, worldliness; the two go together. There is no such thing as a spiritual religion that makes an image of the object of its affection and devotion. That is the order of an Almighty God. And when you see it in the earth, you can understand why the choice and the interdiction and the commandment of the Lord God.
"And the people made themselves naked" [Exodus 32:25]. When you get drunk, you’re likely to do anything. You’re a menace to society on the highway; you’re a menace to your family; you’re a menace to the religion of God. You bring aspersion, and turpitude, and shadow, and dishonor, and shame on the name of God! And drinking and that religion go together! When a family drinks, sowing seeds of the dragon to be reaped in a society that loses its mind and its moral equilibrium, and finally in debauchery and death disintegrates its own destiny and its own civilization. God’s religion is spiritual; and the true religion of Christ is spiritual. Isn’t it a remarkable thing, if we were to have some image of Christ, that there’s no syllable how He looked? No man in this earth has any conception of the countenance and the stature and the face of Jesus Christ. "Yea," said Paul, "though we have known Him after the flesh, yet now we know Him no more" [2 Corinthians 5:16]. For Christ is our Lord and our God, and God is Spirit. And they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth [John 4:24]. "Who is on the Lord’s side? let him come unto me [Exodus 32:26], let him stand by me, out of Egyptian idolatry, come and worship God in spirit and in truth, in the soul and in the heart, in a great commitment of life and devotion to our living and unseen Lord."
This is a call to come out of Egyptian society. "Who is on the Lord’s side? let him come unto me." They’d learned a lot in the land of Egypt, in the darkness of that land. And we learn a lot who live in a great city. There is a bid on every side and on every hand for those, and especially among us, these who are gifted: "Come, come, come." And time and again will you see a devout Christian family stifle its conscience, turn aside from Christian friends, forsake the house of prayer, and they become social climbers, giving themselves to the stupidity of an empty, worldly ceremonialism – losing their witness, losing their prayer life, losing their devotion to God, in an empty, cheap, sham of a social crust, climbers, climbers, seeking the plaudits and seeking the acclaim of these whose standards are altogether of the world. "Who is on the Lord’s side? let him come unto me" [Exodus 32:26].
I cannot describe the loss I feel in my soul as I see devout women who belong to the churches of Christ, day after day after day after day, hour upon hour upon hour upon hour, wasting their lives in these clubs, playing, playing, playing at those tables, endlessly playing. Oh, the children that need love, and the families that need visiting, and the poor that need ministering to, and the lost that need saved, and the youngsters that need teaching; and with their gifts, and with their love, and with all of the endowments God hath bestowed upon them, think what they could do for Christ and for His work in the earth! But wasting, wasting, wasting God’s substance, God’s gifts, God’s talents. "Come, come, come, who is on the Lord’s side? let him come unto me."
It is a call of great personal, fearless devotion. Come. "And Moses stood in the midst of the camp and said, Who is on the Lord’s side? let him come unto me." I wish you could see that thing in Hebrew. Even in the King James Version you can see that it has a lot of words in italics there; that is, they’re not in the Hebrew. The Hebrew of that question is sharp and incisive: mi, who; l’yahweh, "for God, to God, for God," and that third verse, elaw, "to me"; "Who to God? To me. Who for God? To me." That’s the question in Hebrew, sharp and incisive. "Who for God? To me." You see, Moses in all of that vast camp given to worldliness, and to idolatry, to shame, and to sin, to nakedness, and to orgiastic debacle; Moses alone stands in the midst of the camp. Well, that’s an amazing thing! That’s an astonishing and startling thing! Where are, where are those seventy elders? Why don’t they stand by him? What’s become of them? Not a word, not a single presence. Where are the patriarchal heads of those tribes? Where are they? Where is his brother? His own brother is lying. "Where’d this golden calf come from?" says Moses. And Aaron, his own brother, says, "They brought me gold, I put it into the furnace, and out of itself came that golden calf" [Exodus 32:24]. Such a thing, such a thing; Moses stands alone in the camp, calling for God.
Isn’t that correct for a man who’s talked to God face to face? [Exodus 33:11]. How could a man like that ever fear the face of a man? This Moses has been in the sublime presence of the Almighty. How is it then, when he comes down among infinitesimal and worldly men who liken the glory of God into the similitude of an ox that eats grass, why shouldn’t he be innately and naturally superior? And he is. He stands there alone, calling for God. He is God’s representative: mi, "who," l’yahweh, "for Jehovah," elaw, "to me, to me." Same kind of a thing as when a couple marries: they stand in the presence of a minister of Christ, and there make an avowal unto God and to one another. Moses here is sort of, you’d say, calling out a church; in the presence of a representative of God, to make an avowal to heaven and to one another, "Let him come and stand by me" [Exodus 32:26].
Oh, what a call, what a call! It thrills your heart just to look upon it, to see it, and to read it. And the response of those who heard and who yielded to the importunity of Moses the man of God: "And Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, Who is on the Lord’s side? let him come unto me. And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together unto him" [Exodus 32:26]. Sir, it is a thrilling sight to see any man, any day, anywhere stand up publicly for God. It’s a great sight to see a youth, to see a child, to see a family step out for God. And it was a great sight there at the gate of the camp, when Moses called, and the sons of Levi came forward. "Write us down," they said, "in the roll of champions; we are on God’s side."
And that’s the appeal that our Lord Christ would make to your heart tonight. If He were here visibly, and if He were asking that question in this pulpit, instead of His representative, if the Lord God Himself were here, what would you say? What would you say? "Who is on My side? let him come unto Me. Let him stand by Me." What would you say? "O Lord, You don’t understand; I haven’t made up my mind." And you halt, and you halt, and you halt, and you halt, until finally you go through all of life a cripple, halting, halting, halting, halting between two opinions. "I’m not for the Lord, I’m not against the Lord; I’m undecided, I haven’t made up my mind." And the days pass, and the years go by; and what you might have done for God falls to the ground. And then it’s too late, and you go beyond those great opportunities that are lost today and forever. Oh, when you don’t decide for, you decide against. For all the doors of opportunity you shut when you say "no" to the call of God. If He were here and calling for you, what would you say?
"O Lord, but You don’t understand. There are things I’m fearful of. There are friends that I, I don’t know what I’d do. And there are practices that I don’t know what I would do. And there are engagements, and there are promises, and there are things in the business world, and there are things in the circle of friends. These things, O Lord, I’m afraid, I’m afraid.
Oh, the Lord would say, "Put them all on one side, put them all, every business associate, every friend you have, put it all together, anything, all things, all people, everybody that’d stand between you and God; put them on one side of the balance. And on the other side, put the eternity of the eternities; what it means to be saved, what it means to see God’s face when we die, what it means to have God with us in this life, put it in the scale and weigh it out, and see if God’s presence and God’s promises and God’s goodness is not worth ten thousand times ten thousand more than all of the things you could place over here against Him."
I one time saw a worldly Christian give her heart to Jesus. And when she went back to tell her friends, she wrote to me, saying, "I have lost them, every one. There’s not a single friend I had in the world with whom I drank, and with whom I danced, and with whom I gambled, there’s not a single one of them that is my friend any longer. They all have passed me by. When they have their parties, I’m no longer invited. When they meet in their groups, I’m no longer wanted." But she said, "I have found in the church and in the communion of Christ, I have found a host of new friends." And then that last sentence in her letter: "And my new friends are better than my old friends." God’s people are a thousand times better to cultivate as friends than people out there in the world. If a man drags you down, let him go. Don’t be dragged down with him. If a man is given to drink, and to worldliness, and to carousal, and to compromise, and to Egyptian darkness, walk in the light of the glory of the Son of God. "Who is on the Lord’s side? let him come, let him come unto me."
O, the Lord grant it; for the decision you make is for an eternity. It may be a simple commitment, it may be a simple thing to do, to walk down one of those stairways, to walk down this aisle and give your hand to the preacher, it may be a simple thing to do, but it colors every other decision you’ll ever make in your life. When you give your heart to God, from then on, from then on, it’s a new world, it’s a new life, it’s a new way, it’s a new commitment, it’s a new hope, it’s a new promise, it’s a new song, it’s a new gladness, it’s a new glory. It is. For the man who gives his heart to God, in his soul, he loves truth in rags more than he loves falsehood in silks and in satins. The man that loves God and gives his heart to God is a man who’d rather have the things of righteousness and goodness, though it’s in the fire and in the mire, than to worship at the shrine of sin, even when it rides in high places. The man whose heart is given to God is a man who in his home, and in his heart, and in his life, and in his soul, and in his business has somebody with him: a great Counselor and Savior, who whispers in our hearts, who says things in our souls, who gives us songs in the night, who comforts us in the valley of the shadow of death, who walks with us through the pilgrimage of this life, who gives us a thousand things better than the world ever knows, who bestows upon us the gladdest, happiest life that heart could ever know, and who stands at the end of the way to welcome us into an upper, a greater, a brighter, and a more glorious world that is yet to come. All of this for those who decide for Christ. "Who is on the Lord’s side? let him come unto me."
And that’s our appeal to you who listen on the radio. Are you in the bedroom? Kneel by the side of the bed, and give your heart to Christ. Are you in the living room? Kneel by the side of the chair, and give your heart to Jesus. Are you driving along on the highway? Pull to the side of the road, bow your head over the steering wheel, give your heart to God.
Are you here tonight? In this great congregation tonight, is there a family? "We, tonight, we decide for Jesus; and here we come, and here we stand." Is there a youth? Is there a youngster? Is there a couple? Is there somebody you whom God calls tonight? "Here I come, preacher, and here I am; I decide for Christ.
I have decided to follow Jesus,
No turning back, no turning back.
Should no one follow me,
I still will follow.
The world behind me, the cross before me,
I have decided to follow Jesus.
["I Have Decided to Follow Jesus"; attr. Sadhu Sundar Singh]
And this is my commitment to Him and to God’s people in the earth; here I am, and here I come." While we sing this song of appeal, make it now. Make it tonight. "Preacher, I give you my hand; I give my heart to God. Here’s my family, pastor, all of us are coming tonight. As the Spirit of Him who died for our sins, was buried, was raised from the dead, was ascended to heaven and is coming again, in the Spirit of our living Lord, preacher, here I come, I make it now," while we stand and while we sing.