Weaving the Patterns of Life
May 9th, 1965 @ 10:50 AM
WEAVING THE PATTERNS OF LIFE
Dr. W. A. Criswell
5-9-65 10:50 a.m.
Well, thank God for the great group who are here. And thank God for those not being able to come, who listen on television. And the sermon today is entitled, Weaving the Patterns of Life. Not as a text, in no wise as a text, but as a background, speaking of the youth of our Lord, the beloved physician Luke said that:
When He was taken to the temple, and then returned home, He went down with His parents, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them: but His mother kept all these sayings in her heart.
And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.
[Luke 2:51- 52]
And as the background only, and I am speaking of our Lord as a human being and not as deity, but as a child who grew up in a home and experienced all of the things that childhood experiences: learning, seeing, speaking, walking, talking, all of those things––for if He were not a human being, then He has no ultimate mediation for us [Romans 8:34, Hebrews 7:25]. For whoever represents us, must be somebody like us tried in all points as we are [Hebrews 4:15]. And the Lord was incarnate for that [Hebrews 2:14]. He emptied Himself of all of the prerogatives of deity [Philippians 2:6-7] that He might become a child as we were children, a youth as we were young, in adulthood as we became adults. So with that background that He grew up, the idea of the sermon is that our Savior reflected in His life the pattern of His home and of His mother’s teaching.
General Douglas MacArthur was a cadet as a young man in West Point. And if you have read the story of his life, you know that while he was a cadet at the military academy, there came a great trial in his life. And being so sensitive to honor, and beauty, and loyalty, it was a crisis. And in that day of soul warfare, his mother sent him a poem. And the poem is this:
Do you know that your soul is of my soul, such a part
That you seem to be fiber and core of my heart
None other can fain me, as you son can do
None other can please me, or praise me as you
Remember the world will be quick with its blame
If shadow or shame ever darken your name
Like mother, like son, is saying so true
The world will judge largely of mother by you
Be sure it will say, when its verdict you’ve won
She reaps as she sowed, this man is her son
[“To My Son”; Margaret Johnstone Graflin]
And in the story of Douglas MacArthur that I read, the biographer said that when he read that poem, there came into his heart that verdict of what he should do. And the young cadet faithfully did it; reflecting the training of the home, and the devoted love of his mother. And that you will find so largely in the life of our Lord.
Now I have chosen just a few instances out of many. Our Lord would have done this anyway because He was God. But I repeat, I am saying that as a child and as a human being, He reflects in these things. He reflects the habits of His life that He learned when He was a boy.
Now here is one that is typical. You look at how many times, and I’ll turn the page maybe three times, you look how many times our Lord will bow His head or lift up His eyes and give thanks to God before He breaks bread. Now look: “Then He took the five loaves and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, He blessed them, and brake, and gave to the disciples to set before the multitudes” [Luke 9:16]. Now again: “And He took the cup and gave thanks” [Matthew 26:27]. And again: “And He took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them” [1 Corinthians 11:23-24]. And again: “Likewise, the cup” [1 Corinthians 11:25]. Every instance, breaking bread after He had given thanks to God. And when He was raised from the dead, in the twenty-fourth and last chapter of Luke: “And it came to pass, as He sat at meat with them, He took bread and blessed it, and brake, and gave to them” [Luke 24:30]. Can’t you see in His is afterlife the habit that He had formed in the home when He was a little boy? They never broke bread, they never sat down to eat but that first they returned thanks to God. And the habit of the lad, established in His home, was reflected throughout all of the years of His afterlife.
Now again, Mark begins the story of our Lord. “And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, He went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed” [Mark 1:35]. And over and yet again, in the story of our Master, in a mountain, or in a solitary place, or by Himself alone, He withdrew from the crowd, and there talked to our Father in heaven. Don’t you think that was something He was familiar with as He grew up in childhood and in youth? And what He did as a boy, you find reflected in the pattern of all His afterlife.
Now just one more instance of it. “And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up: and as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day” [Luke 4:16]. He returned to Nazareth, where He had grown up as a child, and as His custom was, ever since He was a small boy, He had known no other thing than on the Sabbath day with His parents to attend the worship of God. And in the after years of His life, He continued that as a man what He had learned in childhood.
These things are so preciously built into the life of a child. We don’t get away from them. We don’t ever forget them. And as we grow older, what happened yesterday may make no impression upon us at all. But what happened a long time ago stays with us with increasing effectiveness, as long as we live. Why, I can remember things, Oh, how distinctly, that happened when I was a child; especially things of the heart and of the soul. And yet if you were to ask me a week ago, what happened at a certain hour, I might have difficulty bringing it to mind. Now that’s what I want to speak of this morning: weaving the pattern of life, the thing in the home, the habit of the home, the attitude of the home, all of these things that enter into the very woof and wharp of the child’s soul.
First of all, having God in the circle of the family, having God in the home––Oh, how meaningful, and how significant, and how impressive––you don’t ever forget it. And a child never ultimately gets away from it––God in the home; a place for our Lord. I don’t know how a home is when God is shut out. What do they do in the hour of need, when sorrow comes, and tears, and bereavement, and God is shut out? What do you do? Oh, the sadness and the despair; what a difference God makes in the home.
One of the sweetest stories in the Bible is the story of Elisha and the Shunammite woman. Elisha lived on Mount Carmel, but as he ministered to Israel, he passed often by the little village of Shunem. And the Scriptures say that in that village was a great woman, a great woman [2 Kings 4:8]:
And she said to her husband, I see this holy man of God passing by.
Let us build for him on the wall a little chamber, secluded, where he can be quiet and rest. And let us put in the room a bed, and a table, and a stool, and a lamp; and it shall be that when he passes by he will turn in thither
[2 Kings 4:9, 10]
They did that; they built a prophet’s chamber on the wall of the house, on the second floor of the house.
And it came to pass, when Elisha came by, he turned in thither and rested there.
And upon a day when Elisha was there in the house, resting, he said to Gehazi his servant, Call this Shunammite. And she stood before him.
And he asked her, You have been so kind to us with all this kindness, what shall be done for thee? Shall I speak of thee to the king, or to the captain of the host? And she replied, No, no. I am content to dwell among my own people.
[2 Kings 4:11-13]
What a marvelous thing. You know a social climber especially on the part of a mother, is to me so subject to discussion. How wonderful to see and the Bible calls her a “great woman” [2 Kings 4:8]. How wonderful to see her with no social ambitions at all, content to be in the home and a servant, a maiden of God. So Elisha, not knowing what to do, Gehazi said to him, “My master, they have such a nice home but they have no children” [2 Kings 4:14]. So Elisha said to her, ‘According to the time of life, God will place in your arms a little son. And according to the prophecy of the man of God, a little child was placed in her arms” [2 Kings 4:16-17].
And the little fellow grew up, and he was out with his father in the field, and the little fellow became ill. “Oh, my head, my head,” he cried. And like most fathers, the father said to one of the servants, “Take him to his mother” [2 Kings 4:18-19]. And the servant took the little boy to his mother, and she held him in her arms on her lap until he died [2 Kings 4: 20]. Then what? Then what? Without God, there’s not anything else. The story ends there. Dig a hole in the ground, and cover the little body with clods, and walk away, and face the night, and the dark, and the despair. For without God, there’s nothing else to be said. There’s no song to be sung. There’s no poem to be read. There’s no Scripture. There’s not anything without God, nothing but despair, the end. Not so when God is in the home.
She took the little boy, so still and so silent; she took the little form and went up to the prophet’s chamber. And she laid the body of the little lad on the prophet’s bed, and made her way to Mount Carmel [2 Kings 4:21, 25]. And when she saw the prophet she fell down at his feet [2 Kings 4:27] and said, “The little lad that God gave me” [2 King s 4:28]. And Elisha said, “Let us make haste.” And he went with the Shunammite woman to the home and up to the prophet’s chamber, shut the door. He put his mouth on the mouth of the lad, put his warm body against the cold silent form of the lad, and he breathed the breath of life into the lad [2 Kings 4:32-35]. That to me is a symbol, and a sign, and a token, and a promise. And Elisha breathed his own breath and his own life into the still silent form of the little boy and he was raised up. And the prophet gave him back to the arms of his mother [2 Kings 4:36].
Without God the cemetery is the consummation of life. Without God the grave is the great and final end toward which all life moves. This is it. But with God, stay my brother, stay my sister. With God there’s another chapter. There’s another stanza. There’s another verse. There’s another word. There’s something yet; God hath prepared some better thing for us [1 Corinthians 2:9]. And the Holy Spirit of God shall breathe into our souls the breath of life, and we shall live again [Romans 8:11]. In the home that knows God, and there’s not any heart without its sorrow, and there’s not any home without its shadow, and there’s not any family without its bereavement, there’s not any life without its tears; and when God is in the home, how sweet and how precious, and everything that comes has a part under God in our lives, everything. Tears, yes; smiles and laughter, yes; joy and happiness, yes; sorrow and despair, yes; when God is in the home, all the things that come have a part. Dark things, light things, bright things, happy things, sorrowful things, tearful things; all of them have a part.
My life is but a weaving
Between my Lord and me;
I cannot see the pattern
But He worketh steadily.
Sometimes He weaveth sorrow,
And I, in selfish pride,
Forget He sees the upper,
And I the underside.
Not ‘till the loom is idle
And the shuttles cease to fly,
Will God unfold the canvas
And explain the reason why.
The dark threads are as needful
In the Master’s skillful hands
As the silver and the golden
In the pattern He has planned.
[“The Weaver,” Benjamin Malachi Franklin]
Weaving the pattern of life, reflected in all the after years of that child, when God is in the home, whether it’s dark or light, whether it be tears or smiles, all things work together for good in the life of that family and in the life of that child who loves God [Romans 8:28].
Now may I have the rest of the time to speak of the training and the teaching of the child in the home? Now I’m told that this isn’t true, that the parable is not reflecting what happens actually in nature. But it impressed me just the same when I read it. I read a parable about the baby sharks teaching the baby crabs how to walk forward and not backward. For the parable was built on the assumption that all the baby crabs walked backward, and not frontward. I’m told that’s not true, that they can walk either way. I don’t know. But anyway, the parable said that the baby crabs walked backward and the baby sharks were teaching them to walk frontward.
And the parable said that no matter how well the work was done, baby sharks teaching the baby crabs to walk that way––no matter how well the work was done, and at the end of the day all the baby crabs were walking that way–– that the next morning they had to teach them all over again because the baby crabs the next morning were all walking that way. And the parable said the baby sharks were having a hard time understanding why until they went home with the baby crabs and found out that all the fathers crabs and all the mothers crabs were walking backward, walking backward. That is a parable that they tell me may not be true to life, that the baby crabs walk both ways.
But here’s one that is true. In the ninth chapter of the Book of Judges, there is a parable, and you listen to it:
The trees went forth upon a time to anoint a king over them: and they said to the olive tree, Come, and you reign over us.
And the olive tree said, Shall I leave my fatness? No.
Then the trees of the forest said to the fig, You come, and reign over us.
And the fig tree said, No, for should I forsake my sweetness?
Then the trees said unto the vine, You come, and reign over us. And the vine said, Shall I leave my fruit of the vine? No.
Then the trees said to the bramble, You come, and reign over us.
And the bramble said, I will. Anoint me king over you, and come and put your trust in my shadow.
Oh, what a parable!
The president of the trustees of our Buckner Home one time said, and I listened to him say it, “The streets of our city confer no degrees, they bestow no diplomas, but they educate with terrible precision.” Don’t you ever persuade yourself that that little boy and that little girl will not be minutely educated. It’s just whether it is we, maybe we who love God, and love Jesus, and love the souls of the children; or whether it is they, the scum, and the filth, and the blasphemy of the earth.
How infinitely better, Oh how infinitely better for the home and family, for the father and mother, for the church and the Sunday school teacher and all of the organizations of this dear congregation, how infinitely better for us to take the child and be responsible under God for him. You’re not going to learn these things you ought to know out there, covered in filth, shaded in dirt. You’re not going to learn them out there. You’re going to learn the things that every child ought to know, here in this home, and here in this congregation. We’re going to learn how to say the name of Jesus. And we’re going to learn how to bow our heads in prayer. And we’re going to learn how to read God’s Word. And we’re going to learn how to devote ourselves in worship, in holiness, and in reverence to the Lord.
Why, once in a while somebody will say to me, “You know these children, they just so disturb, so disturb.” One reason I’m glad we have the eight-fifteen service, we sort of expect our children at that service, and when they move around, and move around, why, the people are kind of accustomed to it. But O Lord! When people come to me and say things like that I just, I just say, “Oh, but listen, but listen, what is a little moving around, what is a little moving around, a child that can’t stay still? What is a little moving around, or little drawing if they are very young?” What is that compared with the habit formed in their souls, a part of their very lives of going to God’s church, and calling on the name of the Lord, and listening to the preacher?
And it will surprise you how much they learn that you don’t know they’re learning. Surprise you how much they will find out that you don’t know they’re finding out. Surprise you how many things to which they will respond one day that you never dreamed you were laying the foundation for today.
“Oh,” said the olive tree, “I haven’t got time.”
“Oh,” said the fig tree, “I haven’t got time.”
“Oh,” said the vine, “I haven’t got time.”
“Oh,” said the bramble, “I’ve got lots of time.”
Said the forage, “I have lots of time. I’ll reign over you.”
That’s right. The world has lots of time. But God’s people don’t have time. Well, that’s why we’re preaching today, just to remind us, just to remind us these are our inheritances from God, these children. And to train them, and to teach them, and to bring them up in the love and nurture of the Lord is our finest, highest, holiest assignment from heaven [Ephesians 6:4].
Now may I conclude? Going back to the thought of the sermon, weaving the patterns of life; briefly could I take two of those men in the Old Testament? Moses, heir to the throne, “learned,” the Bible says, “in all of the arts and sciences and wisdom of the Egyptians, and forty years of age, forty years of age” [Acts 7:22]. And upon a day, passing by he saw the servitude and the misery of his brethren [Exodus 2:11-12]. And he renounced the throne of Egypt, the greatest empire of his day. He renounced the throne of Egypt to suffer affliction with the people of God [Hebrews 11:24-27]. Why it’s an astonishing thing! It’s an unbelievable thing. You can’t imagine such a thing. A man, renounce the throne of the greatest empire of his day to suffer affliction with the people of God [Hebrews 11:25]. Where did that come from? You know. When he was a little boy the teacher of the lad was his mother [Exodus 2:1-10]. And his mother taught the boy the name of Jehovah and taught the lad that he belonged to the chosen family of God. And when he saw his people in slavery, in servitude, and in suffering, he cast his life and his lot with the people of God [Exodus 2:11-12, Hebrews 11:24-27]..
I want to take another one. Manoah and his wife were godly parents. If I had time I’d show that to you; godly parents. And the Lord gave them a lad named Samson [Judges 13:24]. And when the fellow grew up, he was stronger and finer, more athletic, more handsome than anybody in the whole world; a marvelous specimen of manhood. Then the things that after followed, so characteristic, so many times of gifted people, Hollywood people, Broadway people, marvelous people, Oh, how many times. Finally, they put out his eyes, and they bound him; and he did grind at the prison mill [Judges 16:21]––this son of one of the finest homes, one of the most spiritual families in the Bible, Manoah and his wife. And in his blindness, after they had made sport of Jehovah, and made sport of his people, and made sport of him, in his blindness after they were tired of him and through with him; in his blindness they put him by a pillar [Judges 16:25] while they went on with their worship of Dagon, and their drinking debaucheries and orgies [Judges 14-16].
And while blind Samson stood there he said to the little lad that led him by the hand, he said, “Son, would you put one of my hands on one of the pillars on which this temple rests? And would you put the other hand on the other pillar on which the temple rests?” [Judges 16:26] And the little boy took one of Samson’s hands and put it on one of the pillars, and his other hand and put it on the other pillar. And Samson bowed his head and prayed. Where did he learn that? And said, “O Lord God!” where did he learn that? And Samson bowed his head and prayed, “O Lord God, remember me just this once, I pray Thee, and strengthen me just this once, I pray Thee” [Judges 16:28]. And the boy who had gotten away from his teachings, and who had gotten away from his father and mother, and who had gotten away from all of the habits of his boyhood, that boy, grown now a man blinded and in fetters, prays, “O Lord God, remember me just this once, and strengthen me just this once” [Judges 16:28]. Would you have the faith to do that? Would you? And he bowed himself with all of his might, and by faith Samson–doesn’t it say that? In the eleventh chapter of the Book of Hebrews, “And by faith Samson” [Hebrews 11:32-33], bowed his shoulders, with all of his might [Judges 16:29-30].
You see, the Book says, “You train up a child in the way he should go.” Doesn’t say, “And he will never depart from it.” Doesn’t say, “And he will never fall into error.” Doesn’t say, “And he’ll never be prodigal or indifferent,” doesn’t say that. The Book says, “Train up a child in the way he should go; and when he is older, he will not depart from it” [Proverbs 22:6]. Weaving the patterns of life, they become a part of the very fiber of the soul. They are a part of the very being itself. And that is our holy, heavenly assignment when the child is born in the home [Proverbs 22:6].
O Lord, I thank Thee for my Christian father, for my Christian mother, for my Christian home. And I pray God shall bless our homes, with all of their tears, and sorrows, and bereavement, and sometimes the presence of death. God bless us all. And may we find in heart, in house, in home, in life, in habit, in attitude, in all that we do, may we find a large place where you live for God––where I live for God; a large place for God.
And if today, in this solemn and holy moment, you’d like to give yourself to the Lord [Romans 10:8-13], come and stand by me. A family you, you’d like to come and put your life in our dear church [Hebrews 10:24-25]; you come, you come, a couple you, one somebody you, however the Lord shall say the word, and make the appeal, and open the door, come and stand by me. “Pastor, I give you my hand, I give my heart to God” [Ephesians 2:8]. Or, “Pastor, today we’re coming into the fellowship of the church, here I am. Here I am.” Two of you, one of you, many of you; there’s time and to spare, make it now. Come now, while we stand and while we sing.