God Setteth the Solitary in Families
May 12th, 1963 @ 10:50 AM
GOD SETTETH THE SOLITARY IN FAMILIES
Dr. W. A. Criswell
Psalm 68:6, Psalm 107:41
5-12-63 10:50 a.m.
On the radio and on television you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. There was a time when I thought that the busy season of the ministries of our church was to be found in the springtime, at Easter. Then as the days passed and our church entered into the vast preparation and tremendous drive in behalf of our stewardship program, underwriting and undergirding our world mission appeal, our ministry as a denomination to the nation, and the support of this glorious incomparable lighthouse in the heart of this city that we call our beloved church, I began to think, "Well, the fall time program is as full, and as rich, and as blessed, and as significantly meaningful as the Easter time." Now as our church develops in its programming and in its many-faceted ministries, I have come to look upon the summertime as no less full and no less rich in its magnificent attempt to form the mind and life of Christ in the hearts and lives of our people, as much so as in the spring at Easter or in the fall in our stewardship commitments.
For example, as we come to this time of the year, we are preparing for two tremendous weeks of camp life for our children. The first week in June will find us conducting a camp for all of our teenagers, and the second week in June will find us conducting a camp for all of our juniors. And our people can share in those camps with illimitable, immeasurable, God-blessed profit. If you have a child or a youngster or a teenager, make it possible for them to attend the camp. Then of course the last weeks of July we have our Vacation Bible School. And no finer educational ministry or program or teaching pedagogical approach is to be found anywhere in the earth than in the magnificent Vacation Bible School of our First Baptist Church the last weeks in July.
Then of course, as the chaplain prayed for it in his prayer, then of course this year we are going to the Southern Methodist University coliseum, the last week in June, June 23-30, Sunday night through Sunday night, in a colossal appeal for souls in that vast arena. It will hold eight thousand people. And it is the responsibility, God given and God placed; it is the responsibility of this church to fill that great auditorium. We can do it, our friends, our neighbors, all of us. Buckner Fanning, pastor of the Trinity Church, the university church in San Antonio, will be our preacher. He’s one of our young men; he grew up in this city, he grew up in this church. And with our music, and our choirs, and our people, and our praying and intercession, and the things we shall do in preparation, giving God an opportunity to bless us, the things we shall do in preparation for that meeting, it ought to be, and under God shall be, and in heaven’s blessings will be one of the great spiritual tides of our lives. Now that’s the summertime week, that’s a vacation time week. Well, all of us are going to call off our vacations and be right here, or we will change them. We’ll go before that week, and we’ll go after that week; but that week, the last week in June, June 23-June 30, we shall be here with our city and our people in that great coliseum, in a revival meeting, preaching the gospel of the Son of God. We have called it The Coliseum Crusade for Christ and oh that we might give the Lord an opportunity to honor our testimony in those days of appeal.
Now this is a time and a season of the year when all over and everywhere programs are given to family life. The first Sunday in May is always Baby Day. And the second Sunday in May is always Mother’s Day. And between the two Sundays is home week, family week. And I do sometimes altogether different things this time of the year. Many times I don’t turn aside from my preaching through the Bible at all, I just go right on preaching through the Bible, both of these weeks. Sometimes I will take one Sunday, the first Sunday, Baby Day, and deliver an address in appropriate keeping with Baby Day; then sometimes I will take Mother’s Day and deliver an address on Mother’s Day. Then sometimes I’ll deliver special addresses on both Sundays, first and second.
Now today, this day, Mother’s Day, I have delivered an address at the eight-fifteen o’clock service on The Man and the Woman, which was an exegesis of the second chapter of the Book of Genesis. Now today, it is a text and a sermon on the text in Psalm 68: "God setteth the solitary in families," Psalm 68:6. And there is a like verse in Psalm 107:41: "God maketh him families like a flock." Now those are the two passages on which is built the message, dedicated to our families and to family life, this second Sunday in May. Psalm 68:6, "God setteth the solitary in families"; and Psalm 107:41, "God maketh him families like a flock."
Now it pleases God to do it this way. First of all – and I have four things that I hope I have opportunity to speak of – first, it pleases God for a couple to love one another. The Lord arranged it and the Lord made it that way. "God setteth the solitary in families, and God maketh him families like a flock." And that’s the way God does it. And it pleases God that it develops that way.
My study, as you know, is in the building across the street; we call it our activities building. That’s our chapel, our prayer meeting hall, our offices. And my study is on the second floor. Up above me are two floors of young people. When I was ready to come over here to this service, why, I don’t ride the elevator, I walk down and up the steps; that keeps the pastor young and vibrant, walking up and down the steps. When I go to the hospital, I don’t ride the elevator, I walk up and down the steps at the hospital. That keeps me vigorous and active and alive. Most preachers get older with the years. Well, there are exceptions to it, you know, and I want to be that one. I went to the walkway, to the stairway, and I looked up. I can see one floor up as I stand on the second floor, and there was one of the most courteous and chivalrous young men I ever saw in my life. I don’t know, there was something so dainty about this thing that it just impressed me. In his left hand extended like that, he was holding up like that the hand of a beautiful young girl, holding her hand like that; and he was walking down the steps with that beautiful girl, just so, just tripping from step, to step, to step, to step right on down. Oh, I like everything about that; there’s nothing about that I don’t like. I like that. That is the beginning of my text: "God setteth the solitary in families, and God maketh him families like a flock." God is pleased with that. The Song of Solomon says, "Love is strong as death; many waters cannot quench it, neither can the floods drown it" [Song of Solomon 8:7]. When a couple loving one another, loving one another in death, in life, in sorrow, in disappointment, in failure, living together, dying together, working together, sharing together, attempting together, facing all of the vicissitudes and fortunes and turns of life together, God is pleased with it.
You’ve heard me exegete that passage in the Book of Genesis and in Paul’s letter to Timothy, where he says, "Adam was not deceived; Eve was" [Genesis 3:6; 1 Timothy 2:14]. The devil hoodwinked her, he led her astray; Eve did not realize what she was doing. He didn’t fool Adam; he never led Adam astray, he never deceived Adam. Adam knew what he was doing. And what happened is a very plain and simple thing: when God made Eve out of his side – and I spoke this morning about that unusual translation of "a rib." Where a translator got that out of the blue of the sky I have no idea; everywhere else in the Bible that word is translated "side," the plain simple Hebrew word for "side," like the side of the ark, or the side of the house, or the side of the tabernacle – God took out of his side, and out of the side of Adam He created Eve and brought Eve to Adam. And when Adam looked upon her, he said, "This is now bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh. Therefore shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave unto his wife; and they two shall be one flesh" [Genesis 2:21-24]. Adam wasn’t deceived. When he saw what had happened, his heart and his life, his soul, his affection, everything that made Adam Adam was so bound up in devotion and affection with Eve, "bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh, heart of my heart, and life of my life, soul of my soul," he was so bound up with Eve that he chose to die with her. Magnificent thing. That’s the humanity that God created. That’s the image and the stamp of the flame of God in a man’s life ― Adam. And the Lord is pleased with that devotion.
There’s hardly anything that a couple that loves one another cannot settle. I believe I could make it a general statement: there’s not anything, there’s not anything that a devout couple that loves one another cannot settle. All things somehow are able to work out in a couple that loves one another. Jacob toiled seven years for Rachel, toiled seven years for Rachel. Then when he was given his wife – and I don’t propose to explain this; this is one of the funniest, most inexplicable of all of the things I’ve ever read in the Word of God – when he was given his wife, why, Laban gave him Leah. And when Jacob woke up the next morning, it wasn’t Rachel; it was Leah there by his side. Isn’t that the funniest thing that he didn’t recognize that, that he didn’t know that? I just don’t understand. There’s just some things I don’t understand about the Bible anyway. Well, that’s one of them; that’s one of them. He woke up the next morning and it wasn’t Rachel, it was Leah [Genesis 29:21-28]. Well, you know what the Bible says? It says that Jacob worked seven years longer for Rachel. And then it avows, "But to Jacob, it was as nothing for the great love whereby he loved her" [Genesis 29:18-20]. Isn’t that magnificent? Fourteen years, pour out the energy and work of his life, slaving for Laban. Well, when you love one another, I say, most any kind of a problem, any kind of a problem is as nothing. "It was as nothing in the sight of Jacob." So he loved her.
Same thing about the story of Ruth and Boaz: she was an alien, she was a pagan, she was a heathen, she was a Moabitess, but that was no problem to Boaz, so great was the love wherewith he loved her [Ruth 4:9-13]. Same thing about Elkanah and Hannah; in her sorrow and grief that God had shut up her womb, she had no child. Elkanah said to Hannah, "Hannah, why do you weep and grieve? Am I not better to thee than ten sons?" [1 Samuel 1:2, 8]. It pleases God when the couple loves one another; and there’s no problem you can’t solve together.
All right, a second avowal: "God setteth the solitary in families [Psalm 68:6], God maketh him families like a flock" [Psalm 107:41]. It pleases God when a child is wanted; God is delighted and pleased. "This really is bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh," and both of them can say that. It pleases God when a child is desired, when it is wanted, when it is prayed for and asked of heaven. You will not find a more beautiful or a sweeter name in all the Word of God than the name that Elkanah and Hannah gave to their little baby boy. The Book says, "And they called his name Samuel, ‘Asked of God’" [1 Samuel 1:20], asked of God. "This is the child the Lord gave me" [1 Samuel 1:27], said Hannah, when she brought him and dedicated him at the house of the Lord. Oh, how sweet and precious, no matter what else beside, when the child is wanted.
I’ve been trying to rethink this story that I heard a long time ago, and I can’t quite get it straight in my mind. But I tell you, the thought of it has stayed with me from the day that I first heard it. There was a family so poor, so very poor, that they couldn’t support all the children. And it was finally suggested and decided upon that they would give one of the children away. So that night the father and the mother, in their poverty and in their want, were to decide which one of the children that they were to give away. So the story went something like this: they go to the eldest, and there their eldest is asleep, he’s their son, and as they look upon his face, so still and sweet, asleep, they say to one another, "Oh, we could not give up him; he is our firstborn. This is our first child. We could not give up our firstborn. No." So they go to the second child, and they look into her sweet face, and he says to his wife, "No, wife, no, we won’t give her up; she looks exactly like her mother, and I couldn’t, I couldn’t give her up. She looks exactly like her mother. We couldn’t give her up." So they go to the third child, and they look into the face of the third child. And this time the mother speaks up and says, "Oh, dear, we could not give up this little boy. We could not give him up. He looks exactly like his daddy, and I could not give him up. We could not give up this little boy." So they go through all the family and finally to the baby. And they look on the sweet little baby, "No, no, no, this is our baby. This is our smallest child; this is our youngest. We could not give up our baby. He’s just a baby." Well, the story is, as well as I can remember it, the story is that they decided they would stay together and starve together. Now I say it’s the sentiment of that that stayed in my heart, whether I can remember the detail of the story or not. That’s great. And it pleases God. All of them are precious, all of them are wanted, all of them are dear.
You know I began preaching, I was seventeen years old when I started out, and a seventeen-year-old boy has a whole lot to learn. He’s got a lot to learn and especially in the ministry. Well, I was the pastor of a little country church. And every preacher ought to be pastor of a country church. I was pastor of a little country church, and there’s a large family there, godly family, large family. And one of the little boys died; his name was Robert, little fellow died, little blonde-headed boy. And the mother grieved, and she grieved, and she grieved. And one day – and the Lord forgive me for these things; you have to learn, you have to learn, you have to live to learn. You can’t put in a boy’s head all the things that he ought to know, you can’t put in a minister’s life all the things he ought to realize; he has to learn them. Well, this is what I did, and I’m ashamed of it; but this is what I did. I said to her, "Dear mother, I cannot understand your grief. Why mother, look at these children," and I pointed to a house full of them, "Look at these children, look at these children, there’s a house full of them, and out in the yard," they were everywhere. I said, "Why is it you grieve, and grieve, and grieve, and grieve over little Robert, when you have all of these children beside?" I’ll never in this earth forget the startled and amazed and hurt look in her eyes as she said to me, "Why pastor, why pastor, pastor, if I had forty children and one of them died, it would hurt me as much as if I just had the one and lost it." Well, I thought that was a strange thing. But oh, in the experience of life, as I was growing along, I can understand that. If you had ten children, you love every one of them as though you had one. If you had twelve children,families are like that, God made it that way, and it pleases God for the child to be loved, to be wanted. "God setteth the solitary in families [Psalm 68:6], God maketh him families like a flock" [Psalm 107:41].
Now we must hasten. I have a third thing to say about it: it pleases God, it pleases God when the life values, appraised in the home, are true and worthy and noble as unto the Lord. What do you mean by that, preacher? I mean a very simple thing, very simple thing. God help us all – don’t think I stand up here preaching to you as though some of us were removed from these sermons; brother, we’re all in it, we’re all in it, the preacher, the choir, the congregation, all of us, we all need the reminder, we all need the word, we all need the help that God can give us in these services to encourage one another – this is what I mean by that: a right appraisal of the true values of life in the home, in the home. It doesn’t please God when the aim and the ideal of a home is money, money, money, or social climbing, social life, getting along, getting up, recognized. It doesn’t please God when the great drive in the home is for fame, or success, or fortune, or entertainment, worldliness, social acceptance. A thousand things that we can name, they don’t please God; those things don’t honor the Lord. Well, what pleases God? The great, holy, heavenly virtues, old time, these are the things that please God. And the Lord is delighted when the home in its ambition, and in its love, and in its conversation, and in its energy, and in its life reaches out together to those worthy and noble virtues and ideals.
I’m not saying that we ought not to try to pay our bills, make money and pay our bills. I’m not saying we ought not to be ambitious to try to be somebody, and I’m not saying that for a man to seek success in his life and work, and for the family to be acceptable in the community, I don’t mean those things; those things are fine. I’m just saying that the great ideals and visions of the home ought not to be worldly, down here. You know, man we making money aren’t we? Boy, we’re succeeding aren’t we? We’re being socially recognized aren’t we? We’ve been put down in the register. That’s what I’m talking about; those things are nothing. They’re nothing compared to the great holy noble virtues that God would be pleased with in the building of a home and a family.
Let me illustrate it with something that made an impression upon me too. I read this much; it was short, I don’t know how the end of it, but I’m going to tell you how I think the story ended. I read in one of these magazines, there was a young man, a teenager, who was brought before a federal judge for sentencing. And the judge turned to the boy and said, "Stand up for sentencing." And the boy stood before the bar to be sentenced by the barrister. And the judge looked at the boy and he said, "Son, I knew your father. He was a great and an honorable man. He was one of the greatest lawyers in the nation. He was an authority on property." And then with a sweep of his hand, he referred to a shelf of books in the courtroom, and he said, "Your father was the author of these volumes, authorities on law and property. And you, son," said the judge, "have brought disgrace and shame on his honorable name." And the boy looked up at the judge, and said, "Yes sir, yes sir." And the judge said, "Why couldn’t you have been like your father?" And the boy humbly replied, "Sir, I never knew what my father was like." The judge says, "What do you mean by that?" And the boy humbly replied, "Sir, just that: I never knew what my father was like because I never knew him. When I would come into the study, the library at home, my father would say, ‘Run along, son, run along, son. I’m writing these books on property.’ He never had time for me; I never knew him. I don’t know what my father was like."
The story ended there. I don’t know anything that follows it, but I’d like to guess. I would guess that when the court sentenced that boy that day, he did it with a heavy heart. All of us, almost, there are exceptions, but all of us, almost, are like that father. We are busy, and we’ve got things to do, and we have assignments, and we have responsibilities, and God help us when we nearly bow down underneath the things that are placed upon us. But I’m just avowing, I’m just saying, according to the Word of the Lord, I’m just saying, it pleases God when the ideals and the visions of the home are not in this world. Here’s a child received as from God, and to nurture and to train and to guide and to take time for, pleases the Lord.
Now a layman has his business, and a layman has his joys;
But he also has the rearing and the training of his little girls and boys.
[Edgar A. Guest]
Now before that clock moves beyond twelve, may I say, the ideal, the vision that in my humble opinion will bless a boy and bless a girl and guide them into the noblest visions and ambitions that we could ever form in their little hearts and their little minds; it’s flowing toward God and His church and His people, and all the things that are represented by the mind and the life and the devotion of Christ. What nobler, finer thing could one conceive of, could one discover, than to hold up before family and home the mind and the heart and the life that was in Christ Jesus our Lord? Lift Him up, lift Him up, in every way that a father or mother could know, lift Him up, and let Him be the great goal and ideal toward which the little life flows; molding its mind, shaping its desires, guiding its little footsteps. What greater thing? He’s a blessed child that grows up in a home where Sunday is Sunday.
When I was in India, the thing that I missed most in India above everything else was they didn’t have a Sunday. Sunday was just like Monday, that was just like Wednesday, and that was just like Saturday, and then Sunday was just like them all again. You cannot imagine the culture and the type of civilization without a Sunday, without a Lord’s Day. Oh, isn’t it fine to have a family where the Lord’s Day is God’s Day? "I was in the Spirit, I was in the Spirit, I was in the Spirit," says John, "on the Lord’s Day" [Revelation 1:10]. That’s not out there on a fishing boat, I wasn’t out there on a hunting spree, I wasn’t out there . . . I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day; Sunday. Why, you never forget it, never in the earth forget it, a family going to church. And my father would go to the men’s Bible class, taught by Mr. Pennick the undertaker; oh that made an impression upon me. Oh, the sobriety of that man; he never smiled in his life, he never did. It would have ruined his profession in those days had he smiled; and the sobriety and the solemnity of that man teaching my father there, it made an impression on me. And then my mother would go to the TEL class, and then I was there in the card class and the junior class; oh, those things, never knew any other thing. Sunday to me was Sunday. I had shoes I wore just on Sunday. I had clothes I wore just on Sunday. We always took a bath Saturday night, too. We never failed. All of us bathe Saturday night, get real clean and nice, you know; and go to church on Sunday. Sunday was the big day, the great day. And it ought to be always that, Sunday. Little child growing up, that’s God’s Day. This is the Lord’s house, and this is God’s will for my life.
Before we go off the air, I want to show you how children are amenable to that. There came to my study two little boys. They’d made appointment, and so they were ushered into my study. And I stood up and met them. One was a little freckled-face, red-headed guy, and the other looked like little Lord Fauntleroy. One of them was Presbyterian; one of them was a Methodist. And they said, "Now over here in our Oak Cliff school, they have given us assignments. We were to go to a representative doctor in town and interview him, and go to a representative lawyer in the town, and a representative banker in the town, and a representative minister in the town. And we have chosen you to interview as our representative minister."
Oh, I was so complimented! "Sit down, young men, sit down. Sit down. Sit down. Sit down. Now what can we talk about?" Well, each one of them had him a pad, just so, and a pencil just so, and they put the pad on their knee and their pencil there, and they had questions, you know, all made out. Well, they asked me the first question, and I did the best I knew how. And they asked me the second question and I answered that. And so they all got through. Well, I supposed when they got through, why, they would leave. I want you to know, as they talked to me and as they talked to me, they got interested, they got interested. Now one of those little boys said to me, he said, "Sir, if you don’t mind, now, just on our own," they used that expression, "just on our own, could we talk to you some more?" I said, "Sure, fellows, sure. What you want to talk to me about?" You know what they wanted to talk to me about? First, they talked to me about my conversion; when I was saved, and how I felt when I was converted. Then they wanted to talk to me about my call to the ministry; when and how and how did I feel. And then they wanted to know how it had been since, because I did that when I was a boy, just their age. Talking to me about those things, they talked to me a long time. And when finally they stood up to leave, that red-headed freckled-face boy turned to me and gave me his hand, and he said, "Sir, I want you to know that this has been the greatest day of my life." What’s the greatest day in that boy’s life? Out in some ball game, or out in some park, or on some expedition, or on some camping trip or something, no sir, that boy turned around to me after we talked about the things that had happened to me as a minister, when I gave my heart to Jesus as a boy, and when I was called to preach and how I felt, the boy said to me, "Sir, I want you to know, this has been the greatest day of my life."
What I’m trying to say is they’re made that way. God did that. You have to wrest a boy, you have to twist him to get him into crime. You got to fill his head full of all kinds of vile things to make a juvenile delinquent out of him. You set before the life of a youngster these things of Christ Jesus, and he’ll find a repercussion for every one of them in his heart. There’ll be a chord in his soul that vibrates at the hand and the touch of God. The Lord made that. That’s what pleases the Lord: when they’re brought up in the love and nurture and admonition of Christ Jesus [Ephesians 6:4].
Oh, I don’t know where the time goes. We’ve got to quit. While we sing our song of appeal, somebody you, give his heart to the Lord; somebody you, put your life in the fellowship of his church, what a glorious time, what a marvelous day to do it, today. This day, this hour, "Preacher, tonight, today, I take the Lord as my Savior, and here I come. Or, "This is my family, and all of us are coming." Or a couple you, on the first note of this first stanza, while we sing our appeal, would you make it now? Would you make it now, while we stand and while we sing?