Honoring God in the Home
May 8th, 1966 @ 8:15 AM
HONORING GOD IN THE HOME
Dr. W. A. Criswell
5-8-66 8:30 a.m.
On the radio you’re sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the message entitled Honoring God in the Home. In the twenty-fourth chapter of the Book of Genesis is recounted a story as preciously beautiful as any to be found in all the literature of the world. It is interesting. It is beautiful. It is meaningful. It is the story of the servant of Abraham, doubtless it was Eliezer, the story of the journey to the family and kins-people of Abraham at the head of the Mesopotamian Valley and seeking a wife for his son Isaac. And the story begins,
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 that ruled over all that he had, Put 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 the earth 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 would not be willing to follow me unto this land? Must I needs 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 which 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 sware to him.
Then this servant, Eliezer takes his camels, and servants, and gifts, and makes the long journey across the wastes and desert lands to the upper Mesopotamian Valley. And as he draws near to the land of the kindred of Abraham he prays a prayer and asks God to bless his mission.
And he said, O Lord God of my master Abraham, I pray Thee send me good speed this day and show kindness unto my master.
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 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 the same be she that thou hast appointed for thy servant Isaac; and thereby shall I know that thou hast shown kindness unto my master.
So he goes to the well of water and there comes out a beautiful girl who is the daughter of the son of Abraham’s brother. And she was fair to look upon, a beautiful virgin girl. And the servant ran to her and asked her that he might drink and she replied according to the sign that the servant had asked of God. "I will give thee drink and thy camels also." So this servant gave her beautiful gifts and asked where she lived. And she described herself and her home. And the servant thanked God for answered prayer and the kindness showed to his master’s house.
He is invited to the house and they visit together. And he recounts why he has come, and the prayer that he prayed at the well, and how God gave him the sign. So he asked if the girl Rebekah would be willing to follow him to Canaan and become the wife of his master’s son. And they acquiesced and the girl is willing to go. And they send her away with Eliezer the servant. And they come over the long journey to Canaan.
And it came to pass that in the even tide Isaac, the boy, the son for whom the wife is to be gave, went out to meditate in the field at the even tide. And he lifted up his eyes and behold he saw the caravan coming.
And Rebekah lifted up her eyes and when she saw Isaac she lighted off the camel.
For she had said to the servant, "What man is this who walketh in the field to meet us?"
And the servant said, "It is my master:" She took a veil and covered herself.
And the servant told Isaac all the things that were done.
And how God had prospered him in the way, and in answered prayer, and in the will of God Isaac was married to Rebekah. And they began their home in the mercy and goodness of God.
Could you ever have thought of a more preciously beautiful and meaningful story than that? And if you were looking through the Bible for a type, this is I suppose the most perfectly fitted and most beautifully presented type that I know of in the Word of God. Abraham, the father, a type of our Father in heaven; Isaac, the son, a type of our blessed Lord Jesus Christ; Eliezer, the type of the Holy Spirit, going forth into the world to bring, to choose out a bride for Isaac the son, the Holy Spirit in the world calling out the bride of Christ, the wife of our Lord, His people, His church.
But this morning we are not thinking so much in terms of a type of what the Holy Spirit is doing in the world now, gathering together a bride for our Lord, choosing out from the families of the earth somebody for Jesus, but we are thinking about the home and the family. And that includes us all. "God," the psalmist says, "places the solitary in families." And there’s no one of us but when we name a mother, a father, a home, but that there comes back to our minds and memories the associations of our childhood, and of our youth, and the blessings that God gave us through our dear parents.
Now I shall follow a little outline this morning. And the first one is this: honoring God in the home, honoring in the building of the home. So amazing is it to me that in the sovereign choice of God all of the important decisions we make, all of the really important decisions we make are made in youth time, all most in childhood. Ah that we might make them in age, out of our experience. But it is not so. All of the vital decisions we make in life are made when we are young.
Whether we are Christians or not; there is practically no older people who are ever won to God. Almost all of the Christians of the household of faith become so when they are young, when they are children. The decision whether we’re saved or lost is made when we’re young. The vocational life that we shall follow cannot be made in age for the life is passed. The decision is made when we are boys and girls, when we are teenagers and young people preparing in school, getting ready for a life’s work, what we shall do. The die is cast when we are young.
No less so is this all-important decision of building our house, of choosing our life’s companion. That decision is made when we are young and many times when we are very young. And how oh so significantly meaningful is it, the type, and the kind, and the way that decision is concluded!
During the last war, World War II, I was pastor in a little city beyond which and hard by there was a very large camp, an army camp. For the years of the war there were more than forty thousand soldiers constantly being trained in that camp. The 88th Division was activated there. The 42nd Rainbow Division of MacArthur was activated there. And one of the things, one of the pastoral ministries that has stayed in memory in my heart through the years is this: when the 88th Division – which was the first one – was activated in the camp, all of those young men were brought down out of New York, and out of Boston, and out of Philadelphia, and those cities up there in the north and east. They were a motley group; I never had seen such a group. And by the way, they became the bravest and fightingist outfit in the war.
They landed in Africa. They landed in Sicily. They landed on the beaches of Italy, and Anzio, and worked up from the south, as Churchill called, the soft underbelly of Europe. And practically all of those boys were killed in the war, practically all of them. The 88th Division, in the years of that war were all of them practically slain. But the thing that stayed in my memory as a pastor was: these boys came down out of Philadelphia, and out of Boston, and out of New York; way up there. And in those days, I could not tell you the number of marriage ceremonies that I performed and they were with unlettered and untaught Indian girls who lived over there on the eastern side of Oklahoma. And as I performed those ceremonies, a boy with a Jewish background, a boy with a Catholic background, a boy with no background far away in an eastern seaboard city, and an untaught unlettered girl of the country, and of the wilderness, and of the Cookson Hills, and marrying upon a brief and a casual acquaintance, it was a trial to my soul.
I would not have performed any of those ceremonies if I had known how to refuse, but I had no reason, I had no cause. But I felt in my heart, "God is not in this; this is not a matter of prayer. This is not a result of the searching of the mind of God. This is a fleeting passion; this is a momentary introduction."
And as I followed the result of those wartime marriages – – Oh! The numbers of them, not only in that instance but in so many others, filled with tears, and heartache, and separation, and divorce – – it just pointed up to me how vital it is that prayer and seeking of the mind of God, as we have read in this twenty-fourth chapter of Genesis, lie back of the building of a home. There is no decision that a young man or a young woman faces that is fraught with greater significance than the choosing of a life’s companion. And I don’t know of a sadness like the sadness of choosing wrong. I do not know of a gladness like the gladness of choosing right. Bring to it God’s sovereign elective grace and purpose, "Is this God’s will for my life?" Make it a matter of prayer, honoring God in the building of a home. It is truly the very fabric of our nation. We are built upon those prayerful choices.
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
Though a people falter in the dark and nations grope
With God Himself back of those little homes, we still have hope
["So Long As There are Homes"; Grace Noll Crowell]
It is the fabric, the foundation of the life and destiny of our nation.
Now I speak of honoring God in the character of the home; in the building of the home; in the kind of a home. I speak first then of its social life. It is very rarely, most rare, that a man, or a child, or a youth, or a woman goes wrong in the work life, very rare, most rare. When we are at a task, one man shoveling gravel, another man is working at the counter. Someone else is in the business world flying his task. It is not often it is very rare that we go wrong in our business life and in our work life. Where we lose God is in our social life and where children are led astray is in their social life. And as automation increases and as our country becomes more affluent, we will increasingly find our social life consuming no small part of all of the interests of the home. And that is the reason why more, and more, and more our church ought to seek to involve our families in friendship circles in the household of faith. I would think that practically all drinking begins in a social circle, practically all of it. I would think that practically all of the sins that plow up families and groups start in social circles. I would think that practically all of the disinterestedness of the things of God start in the social circle.
It is therefore so all important that we honor God in the social life of the home. The friends we choose, the places we go, the habits we learn, all of the interests we follow, in the home that they be godly and Christ honoring. And that would mean in the devotional life in the home there ought never ever to be a family that would break bread without first saying grace at the table. All of our family groups bowing their heads and praying before they eat. Hogs don’t do that, I know. Dogs don’t do that, I know. Beasts don’t do that, I know. And infidels don’t do that, I know. But we, without exception, there ought to be no home in this church, not one, but that bows before God and thanks the Lord for the bounties that God hath bestowed upon us, saying grace.
And in every family there ought to be a time when we read the Scripture, read God’s Word and pray. To do it at the breakfast hour is fine and an evening hour is fine. But some time during the day to open God’s Book, and to read, and let God speak to us, and of course the infinite, infinite significance of training our children. That’s why I have written that little book. All of our children ought to be meticulously trained and taught what does God say for our lives, and what is the meaning of this message of Jesus for our souls. And the child ought to be taught as the passage we read, "The child reared in the nurture and admonition of the Lord all his days," know no other thing than to be brought up in the faith, honoring God in the home.
And the Lord’s Day is a day kept sacred for Jesus. Driving to church this morning, I saw a man and his little children around. He was outside in some old clothes. He was washing his car; no evidence whatsoever of preparing the children to go to church. Oh, in those things is the very disillusion of the character of our people and of our nation! Sunday ought to be a great day in every home. We have our finest clothes to put on. We all dress up and we all come to church. You don’t have a car? Then come on a bus. If you can’t get on a bus then walk. It is worth it. However the effort, get up. Get the children ready. Come to church. Never send the child. Bring the child. Make it an institution in the family, honoring God in the character of the home. Now I must hasten.
Honoring God in the remembrance of the home; and that’s easy to do if you had a Christian father and a Christian mother. Back yonder in the story of New England there was a great man by the name of Increase Mather. He was pastor of the Second Church in Boston for sixty years. He was the president of Harvard while he was pastor of the church for seventeen years, a noble, great, divine, Increase Mather. He wrote a little book entitled "The Duty of Parents to Pray for their Children", "The Duty of Parents to Pray for their Children". Now Increase Mather had a son by the name of Cotton Mather; and Cotton Mather was a noble and worthy boy and son.
And when he became of age he was associated with his father as the assistant pastor of that Second Church in Boston. And in the passage of time, after Cotton Mather had read his father’s little book, "The Duty of Parents to Pray for their Children," Cotton Mather the son wrote a book entitled, a little book entitled "The Duty of Children Who Have Been Prayed For by their Parents". And how those repercussions are in every life when the parent prays for the child, always, always there is the remembrance on the part of the child of the prayerful intercession of father and mother. The remembrance of it never dies.
In a community where I was pastor there was a doctor. And everybody said such bad things about the doctor, such bad things. But being pastor in the community I came to know him real well, quite well. And you know what I found out about him? Every Monday morning he sat down and wrote a long letter to his mother. And through the years of her life he took care of her and loved her. And you know what I said in my heart? "These people say so many harsh things about the doctor, but I believe that on the inside of him he is a good man. For he couldn’t be very bad, and love his mother so, and write to her so faithfully, and take care of her so tenderly." Honoring God in the remembrance of the home.
And how many of us are blessed in those remembrances of our precious family? When I went to the Pacific Garden Mission in Chicago, on one side was written John 3:16, written out, "God so loved the world," written out. And on the other side was a question: "When did you last write to mother?" Well I thought, "Now isn’t that an unusual thing? The Holy Word of God on this side, John 3:16, and then on this side, ‘When did you last write to mother?’"
Well, I began turning that over in my mind, just looking at that God’s Word and looking at that question over here. And you know I just decided, whoever founded this Pacific Garden Mission in Chicago knew how to find a way into the heart of many a flotsam and jetsam derelict; a drunken, stumbling, simple, prodigal son or man coming into that mission, and there was the love of God, and here was the remembrance of mother. And if he had a godly mother I don’t know of anything the mission could have done to bring back sweeter memories and more meaningful appeals than that question, "When did you write last to your mother?"
And in preparing this message, I found a poem that an old man had written:
I think that I shall never see this side of God’s eternity
A scene as lovely as the one which met my gaze when day’s was done
In childhood years of long ago my mother sang so sweet and low
Her face with love is all aglow; she turns the pages of God’s Word
Her tender heart is deeply stirred, she kneels, she prays
Oh! What a prayer, I linger listening on the stair
God bless my boy, I hear my name and there within my heart
A flame begins to burn, ’tis burning yet; that hour I never shall forget
Though mother dear no longer kneels and prays for me
This night there steals a ray of warmth into my heart
And now like her, from cares apart, I pray her prayers still follow me
A torch and by its gleam I see my home across the crystal sea
[title and author unknown]
We don’t forget the remembrance of home and if it was a godly home, oh what an anchor to the soul!
In the days of that last world war – – and those boys were like children to me, like children, some of them unshaven, just little boys to me, seventeen years of age, eighteen years of age, taken out of home, put in that army camp – – in the European theatre one of those boys was wounded, evacuated to a base hospital in England. And because of his wounds was dying. And the lad in his delirium began to cry for his mother, "Mother, Mother, Mother." And the nurse of course was helpless. And out of the blue of the sky there walked in a woman in that base hospital, went to the bed of the lad and said, "Here I am, Son, your mother." And the boy replied, "Oh! Mother, Mother, I knew you would come. Oh! Mother, Mother." And the boy died.
The nurse in astonishment turned to the woman and said, "This is nothing short of miraculous that the boy should be crying for you, and at this moment, and from America you should be here. It is miraculous." And the woman replied, "Oh, nurse, I am not his real mother! I was walking down the hallway and I heard the boy cry, and I just came in and told him that for the comfort of his soul." And added, "and I thought that his mother back home in America would understand."
You know, I think she was right. Somewhere in America there was a mother who understood. Now that is a human life. We never get away, never. It is infolded in the very convolutions of our brain. It is built into the very warp and woof of our beings these things of childhood and home. And in the hour of trial, how many a life is anchored, and strengthened, and blessed by the remembrance of a godly home? Honoring God in the remembrance of home.
Oh, give your life to Jesus! Give your children to Jesus. Give your family to Jesus. Give yourself to Jesus. Do it and God will honor it from glory.
We must sing our song and while we sing it, somebody you, a family you, a child you, a youth, while we sing this song, on the first note of the first stanza come. We have just a moment to remain. In the balcony round, on this lower floor, come. Down one of these stairwells, into the aisles, down here to the front, "Here I am pastor." And when we stand up in a moment, stand up coming. And God bless you and the decision you make for our precious Savior this Mother’s Day morning, while we stand and while we sing.