Is There Any Word from the Lord?
January 12th, 1964 @ 10:50 AM
IS THERE ANY WORD FROM THE LORD?
Dr. W.A. Criswell
1-12-64 10:50 a.m.
On television and on radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the 11:00 o’clock morning message from a text which is also the title of the sermon: Is There Any Word from the Lord? This was the cry of the last king of Judah, Zedekiah, to the prophet Jeremiah, as we read the record in the thirty-seventh chapter of the prophecy of Jeremiah. Jeremiah 37:17:
Then Zedekiah the king sent, and took Jeremiah out: and the king asked him secretly in his house, and said, Is there any word from the Lord? And Jeremiah said, There is.
And it is that affirmation and avowal of the prophet that comprises the message at this morning hour; Is There Any Word from the Lord? Does God speak? Does God have anything to say? Where may I hear the voice of God? Through what media does God communicate to us? “Is there any word from the Lord?” And the prophet avowed, “There is” [Jeremiah 3:17]. It is the message of this morning hour, that same avowal. God speaks to us. The voice of God can be heard. God has a message for us. God speaks to us in many different ways.
One: first, God speaks to us in the world around us, the created universe in which we live. Every creation of God has a voice speaking God’s message, speaking God’s language. It was the psalmist who said in Psalm 19:
The heavens declare the glory of God; the firmament showeth His handiwork.
Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night showeth His glory. There is no voice and there is no language, where their voice is not heard.
In every language, in every tribe, in every nation, in every island, in every continent of the earth, God is speaking. In the daytime, in the nighttime, in the autumnal season, in the summertime, God speaks through His created world.
A haze on the far horizon,
The infinite tender sky,
The rich ripe tint of the cornfields,
And the wild geese sailing high,
And all over upland and lowland,
The charm of the goldenrod—
Some of us say that’s Autumn,
But some of us say that’s God.
A picket frozen on duty,
A mother starved for her brood,
Socrates drinking the hemlock,
And Jesus on the rood,
And millions who, humble and nameless,
The straight, hard pathway plod—
Some of us say that’s Consecration,
But some of us say that’s God.
[“Each in His Own Tongue,” William Herbert Carruth]
In the created world around us, “Day unto day uttereth speech, night unto night showeth knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard” [Psalm 19:2-3]. God speaks in the created world around us.
God speaks in history. God speaks in the judgment of war upon nations. When the Assyrian came down out of the north and carried away the northern ten tribes and threatened the destruction of Judah [1 Chronicles 5:26; 2 Kings 18:9-37], in those days the prophet Isaiah with a message from the Lord said, “These Assyrians, these are the rod of Mine anger, and the staff of Mine indignation” [Isaiah 10:5]. However it may have been, Assyria, the winged bull of Asshur, was blasphemous, and heathen, and vile, yet God used them, their armies, their merciless and ruthless hordes. God used them as the rod of His anger and as the staff of His indignation and destroyed the northern ten tribes of Israel [Isaiah 10:5; 1 Chronicles 5:26; 2 Kings 18:9-37].
The prophet Habakkuk stood midway between the destruction of the northern ten tribes and the captivity of Judah. And Habakkuk took that same query to God saying, “How is it, that though Judah has sinned, yet are they not as blasphemous and as vile as those bitter and hasty Chaldeans?” [Habakkuk 1:6, 13]. Habakkuk had prophesied himself the word of the Lord saying that Babylon should come, the Chaldeans should come, and waste Judah, and destroy Jerusalem, and plow up the temple. “How is it,” said Habakkuk to God, “that these who are more vile in sin than we come and waste and destroy us?” [Habakkuk 1:2-12]. And that same message came from the Lord, Habakkuk 1:12, “I have ordained them for judgment. I have established them for correction.”
War is a judgment of God upon a people and upon a nation. The twenty-third chapter of the Gospel of Matthew concludes with the lament of the Savior over Jerusalem. “Behold,” He said, “your house is left unto you desolate” [Matthew 23:38]. The following chapter is chapter 24; it is the great apocalyptic discourse of our Lord in which He describes the coming destruction of Jerusalem. Seventy AD and Titus and the Roman legions were a judgment of God upon sinning, and erring, and rejecting Judah [Matthew 24:1-51].
All war is a judgment of God. That’s why in the day in which we live any man who loves this country and who loves America, any man who is sensitive to the intervention of God in human history, any man trembles before the increasing paganism, and drunkenness, and debauchery, and desecration of America. God speaks in ruthless hordes and in merciless battle. It is the judgment of God in human history.
God speaks in the preservation of His faithful remnant. Though Judah was delivered to the sword, and the city to flame, and the temple to destruction [Psalm 79:1-4], yet God had said hundreds and hundreds of years before, “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come” [Genesis 49:10]. And though God delivered to judgment and to battle and to war Judah in the Babylonian captivity, the one described here in Jeremiah [Jeremiah 39:1-10, 52:4-30], yet did God preserve a remnant [Isaiah 10:21-23]. It is the care of God in human history.
I think of a like thing with regard to our beloved country of America. In the days when religion and religious life sank into apparent hopeless, miasmic morass, the Lord said to the North American continent, the Puritan, and the Pilgrim, and the Quaker, and the Baptist to found here on this land and in this continent a new and a glorious nation for His church to thrive where it could be a missionary to all of the families and peoples of the earth. Why didn’t the Spanish conquistador come up? He went south seeking gold. But the people and the families who built North America were devout religious families, seeking churches, and schools, and homes for their children, and God used that faithful remnant to be the light of His glory in modern history.
But I repeat: whose soul does not tremble to see America turn aside from those high and holy commitments born in us through those forefathers who came and carved this nation out of a wilderness? Whose heart does not tremble when he sees America turning away and forgetting the great Lord God who blessed us and favors us? God speaks in history, in judgment. Oh, my soul, lest we forget, lest we forget! [Deuteronomy 8:11].
God speaks in the human conscience. In the second chapter of the Book of Romans and verse 15, Paul says that all men, pagan, heathen, all men made in the image of God; that all men “have the law written on their hearts, and their consciences bear witness to the law of God written on their hearts” [Romans 2:15]. And there is no family, no tribe, no primitive people so low and degraded but that the image of God is in their souls; and their consciences, however warped, and calloused, and depraved, yet bear witness to what is righteous unto God.
Charles Darwin, as you know, made a trip around the world, and so much of his time was spent on the western side of South America in those islands and on the mainland making observations that he later incorporated in his book, The Origin of Species. At the bottom of the South American continent, at the very tip of the South American continent, there is a land called Tierra del Fuego, and when Charles Darwin visited the Tierra del Fuegans, he said, “These people are without moral sensibility and capability. These people are animals. They are so low. They are so degraded. They are not human beings.”
When the Christian churches of England heard about the depravity of the Tierra del Fuegans and Charles Darwin’s observation that they were beyond the pale of having human souls and human sensibilities, there were missionaries who gave their lives, who made their way down to the tip end of South America, who preached the gospel of the grace of the Son of God to the lowest most primitive people Charles Darwin had ever found in the earth. And there broke out great revival. The people turned to the Savior. They built churches. They brought up their children in the love and admonition of the Lord. The great imprint of the image of God in a man’s life is his conscience, his sensitivity to right and wrong that separates him from an animal.
Just recently C. S. Lewis died; an incomparable exponent of the Christian faith in England. He wrote a little book among many others. He wrote a little book entitled The Case for Christianity, and the thesis of that little book is this: the evidence, the evidence of the presence of God in the earth is found in the moral consciousness of the human species, everywhere, everywhere. He may have it warped, and he may have it calloused, but inside of every man that is ever born or shall be born, there is that imprint of the divine image of God, the conscience that speaks to him of what is right and what is wrong.
God speaks to us, fourth: through His holy and precious Word. God speaks to us through the Bible, the Scriptures that a man can hold in his hand. When I hold that Bible in my hand, I hold the Word of God. When I read this Bible, I read the Word of God. When I love this Bible, I love the Word of God. When I listen to the words of this Book, I am listening to the voice of God.
How eloquently does the author of the Hebrews begin his first brilliant chapter:
God, God, who at sundry times and in divers manners hath in times past spoken to the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days—
not unusually He speaks to us as living in the last days—
hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son, whom He hath made heir of all things, by whom He created the world:
Who is the glory of His presence, and the express image of His person.”
God in days past spoke unto our fathers by the prophets, and I hold in my hand the Old Testament where the prophets spake and delivered the message of God. Now “God hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son” [Hebrews 1:2] and I hold in my hand the words and the inspired messages of the Son of God.
When I listen to the voice of Jesus, I am listening to the voice of God [John 17:14]. The life of Jesus is the life of God [1 John 5:11]. The works of Jesus are the works of God [John 9:4]. The presence of Jesus is the presence of God [Matthew 1:23]. The death of Jesus is the atonement of God [John 3:16; 1 John 2:2]. The resurrection of our Lord [Matthew 28:5-7] is the triumph and victory of God [Acts 2:24]. And the intercession of Jesus [Hebrews 7:25], is the mediation of the love and grace of God. And the return of our blessed Lord [Acts 1:10-11] is the parousia, the presence of our living God [Matthew 1:23; Acts 1:11]. When I listen to the voice of these Holy Scriptures, I listen to the voice of God [Isaiah 40:8; 2 Timothy 3:16-17].
God speaks to us, number five: through His spirit inspired preacher and pastor and witness. When the Lord went away He said:
It is expedient for you that I go: for if I go not away, the great witness, the Paraclete, the Comforter, the Testifier, the Encourager, the Inspirer will not come; but if I go, I will send Him unto you.
And when He, who is the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all things true and holy. He will take of Mine; He will take of Mine and show it unto thee. He will not speak of Himself, but what He hears shall He speak, and He will show you things to come.”
[John 16:7, 13, 14]
And at Pentecost—and at Pentecost, the Holy Spirit was poured out upon us in this world [Acts 2:1-4]. Any man, anywhere, can have as much of the inspired presence of the Holy Spirit of God as his heart will yield to take. God, in our day and in our dispensation and in our age, does not give the Holy Spirit by measure [John 3:34]. However much a man by faith can take of God, so God will bless and come into the soul and heart and life of that man; you, you, you.
And when God’s true servant, a true minister of Jesus, a true shepherd of the flock, when God’s true servant stands up with the Book in his hand and declares unto the people the Word of God, the Holy Spirit stands by his side and in his heart, and the Holy Spirit opens the hearts of the people to listen. And when the preacher says, “Yea, verily did God say,” the Holy Spirit in the heart says, “Yes, verily God did say.” One of the great comforts of my soul is this: anytime, anywhere, anyplace to any man that I witness and testify to the truth of God, the Holy Spirit in that man’s heart bears testimony and affirmation of the same.
When I got through preaching at the 8:15 o’clock hour, one of the men in our church had a couple, and he said, “I brought this couple to see you. They want to be saved. They want to find the Lord.” So I opened the Book, and I read to them out of God’s Word. Then I said, “I want to kneel between you,” and we all three knelt, and the fourth, the friend in our church. And I prayed for the wife, and I extended my hand: “If today you’ll give your heart to Jesus, will you take my hand?” and she took my hand. Then I prayed a prayer of thanksgiving. Then I turned to him: “If today you’ll give your heart in trust and faith to Jesus, will you take my hand?” He took my hand and I prayed a prayer of thanksgiving, and as I prayed, the tears, the tears fell on the rug down here at the front.
Why should he cry? Why should he be moved? All I did was read to him out of the Word of God. All I did was to kneel by his side and ask God to save him. Why should he cry? The Spirit of the Lord speaks to a man’s soul and a man’s life, and unless you callous yourself, and unless you stop your ears, and unless you harden your heart, God will speak to you. He will break your heart. Oh, what the Lord says! What God affirms when we bear testimony to His saving grace. God speaks to us in the Spirit filled man who delivers us God’s message.
Sixth: God speaks to us in the providences of life. What happens to you happens in the purposive, elective, sovereign will of God. There is man here this morning. He’s a pastor and he knows heavy-hearted trial and burden. And he and his brother came to see me last week, and the pastor said to me, “I have seen the title of your sermon Sunday morning, Is There Any Word from the Lord? I’m going to be there Sunday morning. I’ll be listening to you preach, and oh, preacher, say something for my soul. Preach to me. If there’s a word from God, what is it? What is it? What does God say to me?”
God says that He speaks to us for good in the providences of life. You, what happens to you is in the purposive grace and goodness of God. The providences of life bring to us God’s voice. A baby born into the home; God speaks in the birth of a child. There’s not a man that lives who, when he holds in his hands his newborn child, there’s not a man that lives but looking into the face of that little innocent babe doesn’t have a tug in his soul. “By God’s grace, I must be a better man. I must walk before this child in the uprightness of the Lord.” God speaks in the providences of life, in the birth of a child.
God speaks in the providences of life in the day of death and dissolution and indescribable sorrow and separation. I one time heard of a man enmeshed in the world, busy making a fortune; go to church nominally, but his heart out there in the world creating a fortune. And in those days of his tremendous success, his little boy died.
After the death of the little fellow, that businessman night after night go into his library, take his Bible, and as he read in the Word of God, underscore, and underscore, and underscore, and underscore. And his wife, upon a day, just wondering what her husband was underscoring, took his Bible and looked at it, and turned through the pages, and learned that wherever, wherever in the Word of God, God had something to say about heaven, that businessman, turned heaven-minded, underscored it. Why he turned heaven-minded: the providences of life had cheapened the worthlessness of the tinsel and tinfoil and glitter of the rewards of this world and had lifted his heart heavenward. God speaks to us in the providences of life; death.
God speaks to us in the troubles of life. These things are under the surveillance of God. Nothing happens by accident. There is a purposive grace, an elective sovereignty for good, in what happens to us. Our lives, “Our times are in His hand who sayeth, ‘A whole I planned . . .’” [from “Grow Old with Me,” Robert Browning].
There came a mother in the city of Dallas to me one day with her son sixteen, seventeen years old. His name had appeared in one of these heavy headlines in the daily papers, in a serious and grievous trouble, and I said to the mother, “Why have you brought the boy to me?”
She answered, “Last night, last night my boy came and fell down at my chair and said, ‘Oh Mother, I need God. I need God. Where can I find God?’” She said, “I didn’t know what to tell him. I hadn’t been to church since I was a small girl, and I went next door to my neighbor, and I said to my neighbor, ‘My boy’s on his face in my room asking where he can find God. You come and tell him.’ And my neighbor replied, ‘I do not know what to tell him. I don’t know what to say. But every Lord’s day I listen to Brother Criswell on the radio. Take him to the pastor down at the First Church.’” And she said, “I brought the boy to you that you might tell him how to find God.”
I never had such a listening ear in my life. I never had such an attentive spirit in my life. Just a few days, a few weeks before, that teenage boy was wild, and corrupt, and violent, and vicious, and criminal, and faced a heavy, heavy sentence, but today, but today sitting there with many tears, asking how can a boy find God. God speaks to us in the providences of life.
The most beautiful, the most precious of all of the invitations to be found in the Word of God, to me, is Revelation 3:20. If you followed through the sermons, I sought to preach on the Revelation, this Revelation 3:20; this is the appeal of Christ to the Laodicean church.
The Lord’s on the outside, outside. He is not inside any longer. The heart’s too busy; no time for Jesus. The church is too worldly; no room for Jesus. The families are too engrossed; no place for Jesus. He is on the outside. He is on the outside. What is that verse in Revelation 3:20 to the Laodicean church? Listen to it: “Behold, behold, I stand at the door, and knock.” What are the next words? “If any man hear My voice. Behold, behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear My voice… I will come in,” come into his heart, come into his house, come into his home, come into his church, “I will come in, sup with him, he with Me [Revelation 3:20]—we will break bread together, we will talk together, we will look at these things together. I will explain their spiritual meaning. I will teach you the sovereign purposes of God for good. I will give you strength for weakness. I will give you courage for cowardice. I will give you joy for sorrow. I will give you health for illness. And if it is not in the physical frame, it will be in the inner man. I will explain to you the purposes of God in your life.”
Do you believe God does things like that? That God has a purpose for you, for me, each one of us? And do you think that Jesus would come into a man’s heart and explain to him the purposes of God in his life? I avow and affirm that He will.
Here is a man who is embittered by what has happened to him, and he wants to fight against the providences of life, and he wants to curse God and die, and his whole spirit is one of violent antagonism. But you let the Lord come into his heart, and he’ll be like old Job. “O Lord, You gave, You take away; blessed be the name of the Lord” [Job 1:21]. Or sitting in an ash heap, covered with boils [Job 2:7-9]: “The Lord, though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” [Job 13:15]. Oh, the revolution, the sublime experience that comes to a man who will let God say to him that the providences that overwhelm us in life, God means them for our good! [Genesis 50:20].
The tears that fall, it does us good to cry. The heart that’s broken has a purpose in the purposive grace of God. And the sorrows we know and the tragedies through which we live, these all have a place in the divine plan of God, and God speaks to us through them. O Lord, that I may have a golden ear to listen as God speaks. “Is there any word from the Lord? There is” [Jeremiah 37:17].
The world around me talks to me about God. What I read in history and in these present newspapers cry the words of God. The conscience on the inside of me speaks of the voice of God. The Holy Scriptures I can hold in my hand are the Words of God. And any Spirit filled preacher standing in his pulpit or by personal testimony is delivering the goodness, and the grace, and the invitation of God. And the providences that overwhelm us in life are the providences, the good remembrances of God. Lord, let me hear. Let me hear. Let me hear.
In this holy and blessed hour, while we sing our hymn of appeal, if you’d like to come this morning and give your heart in trust to Jesus [Ephesians 2:8], if you’d like to put your life in the fellowship of the church, if you’d just like to come and kneel and we’d pray together; however God shall lay the invitation upon your heart, make it now, make it today. “Preacher, I give you my hand. Today, I give my heart to God.” However the Spirit of Jesus shall say the word, shall press the appeal, come. Come, while we stand and while we sing.