Honoring God in the Home
May 8th, 1966 @ 10:50 AM
HONORING GOD IN THE HOME
Dr. W. A. Criswell
5-8-66 10:50 a.m.
On the radio and on television you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. May I remind you ushers, you’ve got it in your heads it’s all right to come down the aisle while I’m starting to preach but not while the choir’s singing. Now that is a poor judgment of this message I’m about to deliver. Now you come down when the choir’s a-singing. Then you can let them talk to you.
I don’t know of a finer, more glorious, or sweeter, or happier day than this day. It always has been. It always will be. And the joy and delight of our souls is to honor our precious, and darling, and adorable, and sweet, and holy, and God-blessed mothers.
Now the background and mostly as an introduction, will be the story of Genesis twenty-four, the seeking of a wife for the son of Abraham for Isaac. And the title of the sermon is, all of you who are listening to the First Baptist Church in Dallas and to the pastor, the title of the sermon is Honoring God in the Home. Now the story starts off like this: "And Abraham was old and well stricken in age, and the Lord had blessed him in all things. And Abraham said unto his eldest servant of his house, Eliezer, that ruled over all that he had," he said to that servant,
Could I pray thee, thy hand under my thigh:
And I will make thee swear by the Lord, the God of heaven, and the God of this earth, that thou shalt not take a wife unto my son of the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell:
But thou shalt go unto my country, and to my kindred, and take a wife unto my son Isaac.
And the servant said unto him, peradventure the woman will not be willing to follow me unto this land: must I need bring thy son again unto the land from whence thou camest?
And Abraham said unto him, Beware that thou bring not my son thither again.
The Lord God of heaven which took me from my father’s house, and from the land of my kindred, and which spake unto me, and that swear unto me saying, Unto thy seed will I give this land; he shall send his angel before thee, and thou shalt take a wife unto my son from thence.
And if the woman will not be willing to follow thee, than thou shalt be clear from this my oath: only bring not my son thither again.
So the servant put his hand under the thigh of Abraham his master and swear to him.
So the servant departed with his camels and with all of the rich gifts he was prepared to bestow upon this unknown young woman of God’s sovereign choice. Well, making the trek across the desert and to the head of the Mesopotamian Valley, he came to the city of Abraham’s kindred. And as he drew nigh, he prayed a prayer; and he prayed:
O Lord God of my master Abraham, I pray Thee, send me good speed this day, and show kindness unto my master Abraham.
Behold, I stand here by the well of water, and the daughters of the men of the city come out to draw water:
And let it come to pass, let it be,
A whole lot of folks in this world wouldn’t even begin to think of praying like this but this servant Eliezer did. And many of God’s saints have so prayed and I do. This last week, I prayed God to give me a sign and He did it. He did it gloriously. He did it wondrously. In this evangelism and depth movement, I said, "Lord, if you will bless me if I share in that, in the department of evangelism in our Baptist General Convention. Lord give me a sign." I said, "Let one of these services be like a Pentecost."
The first part of that meeting, as I preached I gave appeal for people to re-consecrate themselves to God. And beginning Thursday night I pressed the appeal for people to come to take Jesus as Savior. God gave us a gracious harvest Thursday night, Friday night, Saturday night, Saturday afternoon. Caretaker said, "Not since this municipal auditorium has been built has there ever been crowds as I’ve seen coming through the rain." But that wasn’t my sign. My sign to God was that there be a visitation from heaven.
And Sunday night, Sunday night that invitation extended more than an hour. And there were far more than two hundred down there at the front. I listened Sunday night to one of the unusual sounds of life. By the scores people were quietly sobbing, weeping before the Lord. And as the choir softly sang the appeal and I pressed the invitation, I could hear the background of those tears, and sobs, and cries all over the front of that big municipal auditorium; a sign from heaven. And many people scoff at those things, belittle those things, call them superstitions. But it’s in the Book. It’s in the Bible. It’s here beautifully in the prayer of this servant of Abraham. I believe in it. Ask God. And when you don’t know where to go, ask the Lord for a sign. And I think God will speak from heaven. He did here:
And it came to pass, that the damsel to whom I shall say, Let down thy pitcher, I pray thee, that I may drink; and she shall say, Drink, and I will give thy camels drink also: let it be she, let it be she that thou hast appointed for thy servant Isaac; and thereby shall I know that thou hast shown kindness unto my master.
Why, every sentiment of that is right, and true, and God honoring, and precious.
So he makes his camels to kneel at the well of water and there comes out from the little city the daughter of the son of Abraham’s brother. And the damsel was very fair to look upon. I’m not saying that human judgment doesn’t also figure in these prayers we pray. When Eliezer was there looking at all those girls, why he chose the prettiest one in the city. And I think that’s all right too, don’t you? Don’t you think a boy ought to fall in love with a pretty girl as well as a good girl? And if she is rich, that wouldn’t hurt either would it? I tell you,oh that’s what happened here! There came out of the city a beautiful girl, a virgin girl. And the servant ran to meet her, that girl. And then his sign, "Let me drink, I pray thee of the water in thy pitcher." And she could have said, "Old man get away, get away," or "I’m in a hurry," or "I’ve got things to do. I haven’t got time for folks like you. I’ve got me a rock and roll party. I got me a jazzing it up situation. I tell you I’m on the road."
Oh she could have said lots of things! But in the fullness, and kindness, and sweetness of her heart
She said, "Drink my lord. And she hasted, let down her pitcher upon her head, and gave him to drink.
And when she had done giving him a drink, she said, and I will draw water for thy camels also, until they have done drinking.
[Genesis 24:18, 19]
And that’s lots of water because he had a whole caravan and that girl with one pitcher, drawing out of the well to that whole caravan. Why you liked her to start off with even before you know who she is, you like her. "And the man wondering at her held his peace to with whether the Lord had made his journey prosperous or not." So when they had done, he gave her gifts and said, "Whose daughter are you? Whose daughter are you? What family, what house?" And she introduced herself. She was the daughter of the son of Abraham’s brother, a Semite of the household of the faith.
And the man with infinite gratitude to God was invited to the house. And they broke bread together. And he recounted his mission, and the prayer that he’d prayed, and how the Lord had given him the sign from heaven. Then he asked that he might be sent on his way and if the girl would follow him to the land of Canaan. So they asked her, "Wilt thou go with this man?" And she said, "I will go. I will go." Oh, what a courageous girl! That was a long journey across the desert to be introduced to a man that she took by faith in God. "Whither thou goest, I will go; where thou lodgest, I will lodge. Thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God. And where thou diest, I will die and there will I be buried." [from Ruth 1:16, 17] Oh! These precious, and sweet, and holy things in God’s Book! So they sent away Rebekah their sister and her nurse, Abraham’s servant, and his men, and they crossed the desert back to Canaan. And as they neared the south country,
Isaac went out to meditate in the field at the eventide: and he lifted up his eyes, and saw, and behold that caravan coming.
And Rebekah lifted up her eyes, and saw the young man Isaac, and she lighted off from the camel
For the man had said, "This is my master’s son." And she covered herself with a veil
And Eliezer told Isaac the story, and presented her to the young man.
And they were married. And God blessed their home. And she became Isaac’s wife and he loved her.
Now if I were preaching as most of the times, the kind of a message I preach, this beautiful story is one of the most perfect typologies in the Word of God, a picture of a great truth yet to come. Abraham, the father, our Father in heaven; Isaac, the son, our Savior the Prince of Glory; and Eliezer, the Holy Spirit going out to seek a bride for Christ the Son; the church – you, a beautiful and perfect type. But we’re following this morning another simple and plain outline, and one that is no less true to the Word of God: honoring God in the home; first, honoring God in the building of the home.
I cannot understand the sovereign and elective choice of God but He has so made it that every major decision that we ever confront is decided in the youth time, sometimes in the childhood time, and almost always in the teenage time of our lives, every decision. Don’t you wish you could take the experience of age and put it in the hearts and minds of your children? Oh, don’t you so? But God never intended it. He never chose that it be that way. These decisions we make, so vital are made when we’re so inexperienced and so young.
Practically all of our people will decide for or against Jesus in the youth time of life, in the childhood time of life. Whether we’re saved or not, whether we love God or not is the decision that we make in childhood and in youth. The vocation we follow in life is almost always made in youth time. If it were made in old age it would be without significance. But it’s in the youth time of life that the young man, the young woman largely decides "what shall I do, and which way shall I go?" And that same determinative situation arises in the marriage and the building of a home. It’s in the youth time of life that those decisions, so all important, are made. Oh, that we would bring to that decision the prayerful intercession for God’s direction and help!
One of the experiences that lingers in my mind in the days of the war, outside of the little city where I pastored, a very large army camp was built. The 88th Division was activated there, the 42nd Rainbow Division, Macarthur’s division, was activated there. And when the 88th Division was assembled and trained, all of the young men were taken out of the slum sections of Brooklyn, and Boston, and Philadelphia, those cities up there. And in paying tribute to them, they were welded into the fightingist division in the war. Practically every one of those young men was killed in the war, practically every one of them. That division fought all through the war in the European theatre.
Well anyway, in those days I could not tell you the number of weddings that I performed. With those boys from the background of those cities in the north and east; Jewish background, Catholic background, infidel background – marrying those unlearned, unlettered, poor Indian girls that lived up and down the eastern line of Oklahoma in those Cookson Hills – I had no other choice. I had no reason to refrain; it was just something that I did in sadness. And in my experience as I followed what I could through the days of those war marriages, they were sometimes flippantly entered into. They were sometimes entered into for the passing moment, sometimes entered to with a prearranged decision in the boy’s mind that "I will get away and I’ll never come back," and "I don’t intend to see her again."
And some of that goes on all the time, marrying and building a home in a fit, in a moment; sometimes drunk, and many times swept away by ephemera. Oh, the sorrow that enters into those contracts, and compacts, and covenants! No lad and no lassie ought ever to marry outside of the expressed will of God. Ask God about it, take it to the Lord. Make it a matter of prayer. The building of these homes is the very foundation of the church. It is the foundation of the nation. It is at the very heart center of all that we know in life for good or evil.
So long as there are homes to which men turn at close of day
So long as there are homes where children are and women stay
Although a nation falter in the dark and people grope
With God Himself behind those little homes, we have sure hope
["So Long As There are Homes"; Grace Noll Crowell]
Young man, before you marry – sweet precious girl, before you marry – ask God, honor God in the building of your home. Don’t marry and don’t choose a life’s companion outside of the will of God. Ask God about it, take it to Him and marry in the sovereign mercy, and goodness, and choice, and will of God. And if this is not the boy God would have for you, if this is not the girl God would have for you, the Lord will say. He will speak as definitely as you hear me speak now. And if you hesitate, ask God for a sign; honoring God in the building of the home.
Now, my second discussion: honoring God in the character of the home, the kind of a home, first in its social life. Long time ago, I learned this as a truism: it is not in work and business that we are led astray. Rarely, rarely will a man ever go astray in his business and when he does, it is so rare it’ll make a headline in a paper. Here’s a bank employee and he went astray in the banking business. Or here is an insurance executive and he went astray in his insurance business. There they are in the court for embezzlement or stock transactions that are not legitimate. They always make the headlines they are so rare.
But you don’t make a headline when you go astray in the social world. And the reason for it is it is so common and it is so seen that if it made a headline your paper would have five hundred pages in it every day. We don’t go astray in our business life but we go astray in our social life. That’s where the boy learns to drink. That’s where the girl is introduced to all kinds of compromising situations. And that’s where the fabric of character and of life disintegrates in the social world. And that is why the family circle ought to invest itself in the things of God.
I spoke to a group of young people last week who had come down the aisle. And I said to them, "You know all the world – and it’s a deception of the devil – – all the world seeks to persuade you that if you become a Christian and give your life to God you bid goodbye to happiness, and to joy, and to gladness, and a good time. That the only good time is out there with the devil and the only good time is getting drunk. And the only good time is in a world off-colored and off-key. That is a lie of the first order. You don’t have to have a dark brown headache the next morning in order to have a good time the night before. A good time is a good time."
Why, there’s nobody in the earth that has a finer, fuller, more glorious experience than a dedicated Christian boy or girl. They don’t get drunk, they don’t have to. Drinking is a sign that we are filled with ennui boredom, and we don’t know any way out. We can’t even start conversation except over a bottle and we can’t even laugh and enter into the joys of being together without social drinking; it’s a sign of the poverty of character.
Just, you don’t have to cuss. When people use curse words, it’s an eloquent sign that their vocabulary is poverty-stricken and they don’t know how to say anything. Therefore in their ignorance and in their inability of expression they use curse words. But no fine, educated, cultured man would curse. Not unless he’s an evil man. All of these things are refuges of people who are bankrupt in their souls.
But if the fullness and the abundant life of God lives in you, you don’t need to drink, and you don’t need to curse, and there are none of those things that are happy to you and acceptable to you. They are just not needed. I may have a sore, but it is a matter of health to have it. Not by choice do I live by it or drink from it. I want to lift my life out of it into the sunlight and glory of God. That is the home and the social life of the home; ought to have about it the ring of sterling Christian character.
And it ought to have a devotional life. No Christian family ought ever to eat, ever, ever, ever, without thanking God. Now dogs don’t do that. I understand. I understand. Pigs don’t do that and hogs don’t do that. I understand. And beasts don’t do that. I understand. But God’s people do, do that. And without exception, every home in this church, without exception, ought to bow before God and thank the Lord saying grace as we call it at the meal before breaking bread. And one time during the day, we ought to read God’s Bible out loud together. Do it before the breakfast prayer. Do it in the even but sometime during the day read God’s Book and then pray. And then in the home, honoring God in the character of the home, Sunday ought to be a great day, a marvelous day; one that is dedicated and consecrated to God.
Coming down to church this morning I passed a neighbor. There his little children around dirty, and unwashed, and undressed, and there he was in some old clothes working in the yard and washing his car, and on, and on, and on. Oh, that’s not our people! We’re not like that, for Sunday to us is a dress-up day, Sunday is a worship day. Sunday is a praise day, Sunday is a hallelujah day. That’s when we wash, and when we dress in our finest best, and when we come to church.
When I was a boy growing up, I had "Sunday clothes." And did you know I pretty well fall in that pattern to this very day out of habit? These shoes I wear for a long time, until I get me another pair. Whenever that is if ever, but these shoes I wear I wear just on Sundays. You know that? Just on Sundays; these are my preaching shoes. Yeah, these are my praying shoes. These are my "go to church" shoes. I used to have that pretty much with my suits. But I have so many funerals and situations that arise of a like nature until I don’t have a suit just to preach in but I pretty well used to when I was a youngster and I like it that way. I think people ought to dress up and go to church. And I think that children ought to be dressed up and brought to church. Church is a great day, honoring God in the character of the home.
Now we must hasten because mostly my message is this: honoring God in the remembrance of the home. How is it when you think back and there’s nobody ever but that remembers those experiences in childhood, and the decisions in childhood, and all of the framework that surrounded our growing up; the remembrance of home.
One of the great divines of America in the New England days was named Increase Mather. He was the pastor of the Second Church in Boston sixty years, and seventeen of those years he was also the president of Harvard College; one of the great divines, one of the great ministers of all time. Well Increase Mather, pastoring that church sixty years, Increase Mather wrote a little book and he entitled it "The Duty of Parents to Pray for Their Children". Now among his children, his eldest was Cotton Mather who was a magnificent preacher and scholar also. And Cotton Mather all his life was associated with his father as assistant pastor. So as Cotton Mather the son grew up he read what his father had written, "The Duty of Parent’s to Pray for Their Children". So Cotton Mather wrote a little book, and he entitled it, "The Duty of Children for Whom His Parent’s Have Prayed". And that is just so typical of all of us as we think of father and of mother.
You know in the community where I pastored one time there was a doctor. And the people had so many harsh things to say about him, bad things to say about him. But being the pastor of the church and he the doctor in the community I came to know him well. And you know I found out that every Monday morning he wrote a long letter to his mother. And I found out that he was taking care of his mother, and tenderly did so, and faithfully did so until she died. You know, whenever I’d hear the people say harsh things about that physician I always thought in my heart, "I don’t believe he’s as bad as you think he is. I don’t believe a boy could be very bad who loved his mother and wrote to her every Monday a long letter, and who took care of her faithfully and tenderly all the days of his life. I don’t believe he’d be very bad." Honoring God in the remembrance of the home.
When I went to the Pacific Garden Mission in Chicago long time ago, I saw on the left side of the front, on the left side of the pulpit, I saw John 3:16 written out. And then to the right side, on the other side, was, "When did you last write to mother?" Well I stood there and looked at that wall, the pulpit in the center, and John 3:16 on that side, and that question on the other side. And I thought, "Well what an unusual thing. What an amazing thing, here John 3:16, the Word of God how we’re saved and over here, ‘When did you last write to mother?’" And I just thought, "Well I wonder why such an unusual situation." And then as I stood there and thought it through, why it is most evident, most reasonable. Here’s the love of God there in John 3:16 and here’s the love of mother. And mother’s remembrance is godly, godly. When did you last write to your mother? And many a prodigal boy, the flotsam, and jetsam, and the dereliction of humanity come into that Pacific Garden Mission and think about mother back home; my mother and all that she represents in God.
Talking about these days of the war, one of the things that impresses me about any kind of a war are these unshaven lads who fight it and maybe because I’m older, but they look like children to me; children. In this last trip I made to San Francisco speaking out there, I had the feeling that I had during the World War. The airport was filled with soldiers and the airplane on which I was riding was filled with soldiers. And I look at those boys in the airport and I look at them on the plane. They look like children to me; children, just boys, boys seventeen years of age, eighteen years of age, just our boys.
Anyway, this lad was wounded in the European theatre and was evacuated to a base hospital in England, dying. And in his delirium the lad was calling for mother, "Oh, Mother, Mother, Mother, Mother!" and the nurse helpless. Then in the door and to the bedside came a woman. And she bent over and said, "Son, your mother is here. I have come." And the boy replied, "Oh, Mother, I knew you would come! I knew you would come." And the lad died. And the nurse standing there in overwhelming amazement said, "Why, this is a miracle! This is nothing short of miraculous that this boy should be calling for you and here you are from America. It is a miracle of God that you’re here." And the woman replied, "Oh, dear nurse, I’m not his real mother! I was walking down the hallway and I heard the lad calling for his mother. And I went to his bedside and I thought in my heart that back there in America his mother would understand." I think she’s right. Back in America somewhere would have been a mother who understood.
Mother, the remembrance of mother – – does it call to mind the church, and the Bible, and the prayers of home, and the presence and blessing of God, and all the sweet things of the Lord Jesus? Honoring God in the remembrance of home. I could wish for any boy and any girl this highest and holiest of all heritages, that the child be brought up in the circle of a Christian home. The Lord grant it in your life. The Lord grant it a blessing for us all.
Now Leroy, we sing our song of appeal. And while we sing it you, give your heart to Jesus, come and stand by me. A family you putting your life in the church, "This is my wife. These are our children. All of us are coming today." Make it this morning. A youth, a couple, a family you, on the first note of this first stanza come. In the great balcony round, down one of these stairways, into the aisle, down here to the front, "Here I am pastor and here I come. I make it now. I want to come. I decide for Christ and here I stand." Do it. Do it now. Make it now while we stand and while we sing.