A Gift for Christ
December 4th, 1966 @ 10:50 AM
A GIFT FOR CHRIST
Dr. W. A. Criswell
12-4-66 10:50 a.m.
On the radio and on television you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the morning message entitled A Gift for Christ. And if you would like to turn to the reading of the passage, it is in Matthew chapter 2; the First Gospel, chapter 2:
Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came magi from the East to Jerusalem,
Saying, Where is He that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen His star in the East, and are come to worship Him.
When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.
And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born.
And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judea: for thus it is written by the prophet Micah,
And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, art not the least among the cities of Judah: for out of thee shall come the Governor, who shall rule My people Israel.
Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, inquired of them diligently what time the star appeared.
And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young Child; and when ye have found Him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship Him also.
When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the East, went before them, until it came and stood over where the young Child was.
When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.
And when they were come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down, and worshiped Him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto Him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.
“And they presented unto Him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh” [Matthew 2:11]: and the title of the sermon, A Gift for Christ. From the beginning––and literally so––from the beginning, to bring a gift to our Lord has been almost an intuitive, instinctive response in the human heart. If you ever take time out to study the sacrificial system of the Old Testament, where did it begin and why, you will find this. The first primitive word translated sacrifice, sometimes translated offering, is the Hebrew word minchah, and it means literally, “a gift.” Now I’m going to read it.
And Eve bare Cain. And she again bare his brother Abel. And Abel was a keeper of the sheep, Cain was a tiller of the ground.
And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground a minchah—translated here—an offering to the Lord.
And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock. And the Lord had respect unto Abel and to his minchah, to his sacrifice:
But unto Cain and to his minchah He had no respect.
Now there you begin the story of the sacrifices that were offered up unto God. And the beginning, the word describes it as a gift, a minchah, an offering unto God. For the fruitful ground, for the increase of the flocks, those two first brothers had an intuitive thanksgiving to God, and they brought a sacrifice, a minchah, a gift to the Lord [Genesis 4:3-4].
And that intuitive response to the goodness of God is seen in the life of our Savior. In the entertainment of the Lord in the home of Lazarus, Mary, and Martha in Bethany, while they were breaking bread, out of the abundant gladness and gratitude of her soul, for one thing, raising her brother back to life, Mary took an alabaster box of precious ointment. It’s worth was a year’s wages. And she broke that alabaster box over the head of our Lord. And the perfume flowed down and filled the room. It was Judas, of course, who said, “Why such waste?” [John 12:1-8].
You know I’ve heard that all my life. Why the money spent on these stained-glass windows, what waste! Why the money spent on these beautiful carpets, what waste! Ah, it is a part of the abounding, overflowing gratitude we feel in our souls. This is for God, and it shall be our best and our finest. But that’s Judas. That’s Judas. Why this ointment wasted, as though a dedication to Jesus could ever be such, a response in gratitude to God.
Or in the life of Nicodemus; when they took the body of our Lord down from the cross, Nicodemus bought one hundred pounds of myrrh and aloes, spices. And when they wrapped the body of our Savior in that long winding sheet, Nicodemus took those spices and enfolded it in that long linen shroud, a last thing he could do for Jesus. And, of course, Joseph of Arimathea took his own new tomb and said, “and the Lord can have this.” And they laid the Master in the tomb carved out of the solid rock for Joseph, but now for Jesus [John 19:38-42].
So they gave unto Him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh” [Matthew 2:11]. First, the gold: typically, of course, typologically, that would represent their acceptance and their belief in His deity. Gold, the godhead; but I want to take it for a moment as the Lord provided for a poverty stricken family [Matthew 2:11]. If any of you have ever been to Palestine and to Nazareth, Nazareth, you have of course been taken to the place where the carpenter’s shop is supposed to have been and where the holy family’s supposed to have lived [Matthew 13:55; Mark 6:1-3].
And as you well know, they look like caves, and they are. And you can hardly conceive, we who live in the affluence of America; we can hardly conceive of one in such poverty. But I think whether that particular place they allocate is true or not, I think it is without doubt that they were poor, poor, poor. Now the Lord could see ahead, and He saw the bloody hand of Herod stretched out and the sword to destroy the babes in Bethlehem [Matthew 2:13-16]. In order to preserve the little family, there was a journey to make to Egypt, and that costs money [Matthew 2:13-15]. In the providence of God, when these magi opened their treasures, there was dedicated to the poor family: gold, a gift for God [Matthew 2:11].
Now, I would like to make a gift to the Lord. It would make my heart happy to do it. You don’t have to squeeze, and twist, and ding-dong, and pound, and importune. No, I want to do that: this is His birthday, and this is His nativity, and this is His Christmas. And giving gifts to one another, that doesn’t do it. There is in my heart and soul a desire, a wanting, to bring a gift to God. He has been so good to me. And He is blessed in a thousand ways. Even the valleys are blessings. He has a purpose in them all. Even the tears are blessings; they teach us what otherwise we could never know.
And I have it in my soul to give a gift to God. How shall I do it? Where can I find Him? Where is the Lord today? For that, the Holy Bible has a very definite and plain and designated answered. Christ is incarnate in His people. So powerfully is that taught in the Word of God. Now, we shall not speak of it for this moment dispensationally, or theologically, but humanitarianly, philanthropically, altruistically.
When all of the Gentiles are gathered at the great judgment before the Lord Jesus,
He shall say to them on His right hand, Come, ye blessed of the Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the beginning of the earth, from the foundation of creation.
For I was naked, and ye clothed Me: and I was hungry, and ye fed Me:
and I was sick, and ye visited Me: and I was a stranger, and you ministered unto Me.
And these on the right hand shall say, Why, Master, I never saw Your face in the flesh, not in my life.
Why, Master, when did I ever see Thee naked and clothe Thee, or hungry and fed Thee,
or sick and in prison and visited Thee?
And the Lord shall say to them on His right hand, My dear people, insomuch as you did it unto one of the least of these My brethren, you did it unto Me.
[Matthew 25:32, 34-40]
He is identified with His people, and the poorer they are, and the more lost they are, the more is Christ found in their midst. I see that again in the story of the conversion of Saul of Tarsus. “Breathing out threatening and slaughter against the people of the Lord on the way to Damascus, the Lord met him in the way, and said to him. ‘Saul, Saul, why percecutest thou Me?’ And no wonder Saul said, “Why, who art Thou, Lord? I persecute Thee? Who art Thou, Lord?” [Acts 9:1, 3-5]
Christ is identified with His people! These belong to Him, and He is in and with them [Matthew 25:32, 34-40]. I see it again in the addendum that John wrote to his Gospel, in behalf and in honor of his old friend Simon Peter, who had been dead now for a generation. After leaving him in the Gospel so despicable, denying His Lord with an oath [John 18:15-18], John added another chapter. “And after they had eaten breakfast—in the gray mist of the early morn on the side of the sea—the Lord turned to His chief apostle Simon and said, ‘Simon lovest thou Me?’ And when Simon said, ‘Lord, You know everything; You know I love You,’ Jesus said, ‘Then shepherd My little ones. Take care of My sheep’” [John 21:15-17].
He is identified with His people. Therefore when I have it in my heart, this is something I want to do, you don’t need to ask me, nor plead, nor beg. It’s something I want to do. I want to give something to Jesus. My Lord, how shall I do it? It is simple. Are there poor in our midst? We have seven missions, and they don’t operate just at Thanksgiving or just at Christmas. It is a ministry all the year long. People aren’t hungry just one time a year, nor are they cold just when the first northern comes. I love the way our church ministers to its poor. We have seven missions, and when I bring gifts, clothing that I don’t need, staple groceries that I can share, bread for them as well as for me, I am giving it to Christ. When I help the poor at our Buckner Home and its benevolent program, I am giving to Jesus.
And of course, and above all now this precious week, I can bring an offering for the evangelization of the world. These two thousand two hundred missionaries, who are given a pittance in salary by the Board, they are deployed over the face of the earth. And I can give something to Jesus through them. God bless their witness and sanctify and hallow that dedication that sent them out to strange people, of strange speech, of strange dress and life, among whom they are rearing their children. God bless the missionaries. And when I give to Jesus, I give to them. And when I give to them, I give to Jesus.
And they brought unto Him gifts, gold; and they opened their treasures and gave unto Him gifts, frankincense [Matthew 2:11]. As far back as you’ll ever be able to read in this Bible, you will find that frankincense, that mysterious compound, by which in the temple they emblemized their prayers ascending unto God; you will find without fail that the sweet savor is a picture of and a type of the intercessions of God’s people rising upward [Matthew 8:3-4].
In the beautiful story that Luke begins in the first chapter of the Third Gospel [Luke 1:5], old Zacharias, aged priest in the eighth course of Abijah of the twenty-four; there were thousands of priests, and they were divided into twenty-four courses to minister there into the temple [1 Chronicles 23:4-5]. And once in a lifetime, by lot, a fortunate priest would have the opportunity at the hour of prayer to go into the Holy of Holies and there offer up that frankincense, that mysterious sweet savor [Leviticus 16:12-13], while the people prayed outside [Luke 1:10].
And while old aged Zacharias, who with Elizabeth his wife had no child [Luke 1:5-7], as God had visited Abraham and aged Sarah, –he a hundred years old, she ninety [Genesis 17:15-17]––as God had visited Abraham and said, “Thou shalt have a son, I promised it. And that son out of thy loins, flesh of thy flesh and bone of thy bone, shall be born” [Genesis 15:4]. Isn’t that an astonishing thing? The delays of God; two thousand years and we’re still looking for Jesus.
“Behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet …” [1 Corinthians 15:51-52]. When’s that going to be, Lord? Yea, in the last day scoffers shall come, saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers . . . everything continues as it was” [2 Peter 3:3-4]. The delays of the Lord, isn’t that an unusual thing?
God promised a son to Abraham, and Abraham now is a hundred years old and there’s no son born. Sarai is ninety years old and there is no son given [Genesis 17:15-17]; so with aged Zacharias the priest and Elizabeth his aged wife; and no child. And suddenly––and the people praying outside for the coming kingdom and the Lord Messiah [Luke 1:10]––and in this once in a lifetime, the lot fell upon Zacharias [Luke 1:8-9]. And he stands there, on one side of him the seven-branched lampstand, on the other side, the golden table of showbread, and in the center, standing just before the veil, is the golden altar of incense. And with the censor, he has taken coals from the brazen altar outside and borne it in. Placed the coals on the altar, and now the incense on the coals; and the fragrance rises upward to God, and suddenly, the smoke takes form, and to the right stands a glorious and celestial being from the courts of heaven. And he speaks, and he says, “Zacharias, my name is Gabriel” [Luke 1:11, 19].
Isn’t it astonishing that people will ask, “Will we be somebody in heaven? Will I be I? Will I have a name? Will I be sensitive, cognizant and sentient?” Why, my friend, as the Book says, “Now I see darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as God knows me” [1 Corinthians 13:12]. We shall not really know, nor really see until we are in glory. “My name is Gabriel” [Luke 1:19]. Somebody, Gabriel, “I come as a messenger from glory,” and Gabriel announced to the startled, and amazed, and struck-dumb Zacharias, that the time had come, the fullness of the days had arrived. And his child born in age, his child would be the harbinger of the great King [Luke 1:13-17].
At the time of the evening sacrifice, at the time of the burning of incense, while the people were outside praying [Luke 1:10]; the offering of prayer unto the Lord; if I had lots of time, I would expound on this passage of praying in that song and paean of exaltation and praise of old aged Zacharias. He says, “And thou, child, thou shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways; to give the knowledge of salvation unto His people by the remission of their sins, through the tender mercies of our Lord; whereby the Dayspring from on high hath visited us” [Luke 1:76-78].
I can’t help but turn aside here to say that’s one of the most beautiful words in the Greek language; the Dayspring—anatolē, anatolē [Luke 1:78]. I think it’d be a precious thing. Don’t you wish you had your life to live over again? You could have forty children. You could name them like things you could see here in the Bible. Well, if I had forty children, one of them I’d like to name anatolē, anatolē, anatolē; whereby the Dayspring, anatolē, anatolē, the dawn, the bursting of the light, “whereby the Dayspring from on high hath visited us, to give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace” [Luke 1:78-79].
The fragrant prayer under God, praying one hundred twenty-second Psalm and the sixth verse. “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee” [Psalm122:6]. As long as there is war, and division, and strife, and bloodshed in that city, there will never ever be peace in this earth. “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee.” In my first journey to Palestine we came from the Israeli side. We landed in Lydda. And then from Lydda, in the night, went by bus to Jerusalem and were entertained in St. Andrews Hospice, a little Presbyterian mission there on the Israeli side.
I went to bed, and the next morning when I awakened, I looked out of the window. And for the first time I saw across the valley in between, the Valley of Gehenna, and the valley in between I saw the walled city of Jerusalem there in the Jordan side. But oh the sight that greeted my eyes brought heartache to my soul. For out of the Joppa Gate that was just beyond me, there was a road, and here to my right, less than five miles away, is the little city of Bethlehem. And this is the Bethlehem road, out of the gate, down through the valley, and right in front of me and so down to the City of David. But, oh! As I looked upon it, all of it was in no man’s land, and the valley was cut, and the road was filled with dragon’s teeth—those pyramided castings of concrete to impede the advance of tanks. And the road was filled with barbed wire, and all through the night and the day, you could hear the cracking of rifles shooting back and forth. This is our world. “Pray, pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee” [Psalm 122:6].
O Lord, in this dark, dark world, filled with atomic explosions, and threatenings, and strife, and even now our country involved in an escalating war. Lord, will peace ever come? Not till the Prince of Peace comes [Isaiah 9:6]. “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee” [Psalm 122:6]. To give light to them that sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace [Luke 1:79]: frankincense, prayers offered up to our Lord [Matthew 2:11].
Now the third one: “And they opened up their treasures and offered unto Him gifts: gold, and frankincense, and myrrh” [Matthew 2:11]. Myrrh, as you who have studied this precious word so well know, this is a picture and a type of the sacrifice of life, the pouring out of life unto death. In the nineteenth chapter of the Gospel of John—John describing the descent from the cross—and they came and among them came also Nicodemus, who at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pound weight; myrrh. And they embalmed the body of our Lord with myrrh [John 19:39-40]. It is a picture; it is a sign of the offering, the sacrifice, the pouring out, the giving of life to God unto death.
Oh, there are so many things God has done for us! He has given us the sun to shine, and He has given us the fruitful seasons, and the trees, and the hills, and life, and breath. How much God has done for us! But nothing that God hath ever done had with it the tears and the cost as when He gave His only Son [John 3:16]; when God Himself came down in human form [Hebrews 10:5-16] and died for the remission [Matthew 26:27-28], the atonement [Romans 5:11], the expiation [2 Corinthians 5:21], the taking away, the washing away of our sins [Revelation 1:5]. This is incomparably God’s most precious gift; our salvation [Acts 4:12] in the love, and tears, and sobs, and cries, and death, and sacrifice of our Lord: myrrh, the offering of life unto death [Matthew 27:26-50].
I must close, but may I take this little leaf out of my own journeys and share it with you? When I was in Hong Kong, I said to my host, “Very much, do I ask and hope that I may be taken to Happy Valley, the cemetery, Happy Valley.” So they took me to the cemetery, the little vale there, the little valley. And I said, “Now if you do not mind, let me be by myself just a little while.” So I walked in that little valley, looking at the graves of the missionaries, until I found one that I was seeking for. It was the grave of the first woman missionary to China. She was a Baptist preacher’s daughter and married to a Baptist missionary. Her father was a pastor in Virginia, and coming back home one summer from boarding school she was converted in a camp revival meeting. And after reading the life of Ann Hasseltine Judson, she gave her life to be a missionary. She was married before she was eighteen years of age to Lewis Shuck.
And she and her husband were appointed by the Triennial Convention, in the day when all the Baptist of America were in one group, before the division of North and South, and when that division came, the Shucks became missionaries of the South. She was appointed with her husband by the Triennial Convention, and five days after their marriage, a great throng of godly Christian Baptist people gathered on a pier in Boston and saw them board ship, and with the great sails gather the wind and sail away. It was for the lifetime. In those days when the missionary went out, the missionary never proposed or thought to come back home. It was until the last breath.
They landed after a year’s journey in 1836 in Macao, which is a Portuguese colony just beyond Canton. And there she began her sweet labors and ministries among those benighted and heathen Chinese people. Her first act of mercy; she saw a funeral procession and followed it, and there when that man was buried, the little boy was left at the grave, crying disconsolately. The child had no place to turn. And she asked some who were standing around if she could have the little boy. Why yes, why yes, what a fortune, yes! So she took the little Chinese boy for her own. A little later she found a Chinese girl sold from one to the other. She bought the child for ten dollars.
Thus continued her ministries, and in 1844 they were sent to Hong Kong, and there she continued her witness for Jesus, and because of the trials and the hardships, and without medical help, she suddenly grew ill and died. So I sought out that girl’s grave and sat down, and after reviewing these things in my mind, I wrote the wording on her gravestone. And this is what I copied from her headstone.
Henrietta, first American female missionary to China,
daughter of the Reverend Addison Hall of Virginia,
USA. Consort of—married to—the Reverend J. Lewis Shuck,
missionary to China, from the American Baptist Board of Missions.
She was born Oct. 28 in 1817, married eighth of September 1835,
arrived in China September 1836. In the prime of life, in the midst of her labors, and in the meridian of her usefulness, suddenly but peacefully, she died in Hong Kong, November 27, 1844, age 27 years.
And underneath were written these words: “Hallowed and blessed is the memory of the good.”
Age twenty-seven years: ah, ah, myrrh, and they gave unto Him gifts; gold, frankincense, and myrrh; myrrh, the pouring out, the sacrifice of life until death [Matthew 2:11]. O Lord, God be good to us and place in our souls that loving devotion, that illimitable and prayerful commitment by which God can use us to be a blessing in the earth.
And while we sing our hymn of appeal, somebody you, give himself to Jesus today. A family you, coming into the fellowship of the church, however God shall press the appeal to your heart, make it this morning, make it now. “Here I am, pastor, and here I come. I give you my hand. I give my heart to God. Here’s my wife and children. All of us are coming today.” Or just a couple you, however in any way God shall press the appeal to your heart, make it now, come today. Come now, on the first note of the first stanza, come, while we stand and while we sing.