Joseph: Family Appeal Special
March 20th, 1966
A FAMILY APPEAL SPECIAL
Dr. W. A. Criswell
3-20-66 8:15 a.m.
The purpose of this service is very evident: in the springtime we have a harvest time with our Sunday school and our church and our people. We have sown, we have cultivated, we have taught, we have prayed, and the time comes for the reaping. God reaps in His harvest fields. How many times is the imagery of sowing and reaping used in the Word of God!
When I make the appeal, the appeal is first for our children, our boys and girls. First, to give your heart to Jesus, "I want to be saved; I want to be a Christian. I want to give my heart to Jesus. I want Him to come into my soul." That is the first appeal to the boys and girls, "I want to receive Jesus as my Savior." "For as many as received Him, to them gave He the right, the prerogative, the power, the privilege to become the children of God, even to them that trust in His name" [John 1:12]. "I want to take the Lord as my Savior."
The second appeal to our children: "I have been saved, I have trusted the Lord as my Savior, I want to join the church; I want to be baptized." Now, we are not, and you know our church and you know the pastor well enough to know that we are not, going to be like cattlemen, and herd; we do not do that ever. You come to me, and we will talk about it, about your being baptized, about your joining the church. That does not mean in your coming that you will be received into the church at this hour; some of them maybe, possibly, yes; others, maybe, possibly, no. But you come to me; "I have been saved, I have been converted, I have trusted Jesus as my Savior. Now I want to be baptized, I want to be a member of the church." So that’s the appeal to our children first, to be a Christian, "I want to take the Lord as my Savior"; or, "I’ve been saved, I want to be baptized, I want to join the church."
Now the other appeal is to our parents. The reason, of course, of having us here in this great auditorium is to make possible a convocation of our children with their fathers and mothers. And in the message this morning, the address is to the parents; it’s to the fathers and the mothers. The children will follow; you don’t have to ding-dong with children. You don’t have to beat things into them. You don’t need to say anything. When you lead the way, oh, they learn so rapidly! They see it so clearly. There is not anything particularly that parents need to say. When you walk in front of them, they learn a language before they were able even to spell it or to write it. They are quick to see. So the message is not to the child, the Holy Spirit will do that; the message is to our parents.
Now the story is in Genesis. If you want to turn to it in your Bible, the passage that I’m going to read is in chapter 44, verses 30 through 34. And the story is this: the passage I’m going to read is Genesis 44:30-34. The envious and jealous brothers of Joseph sold the lad into Egypt [Genesis 37:26-28]. And while Joseph is in Egypt, the Lord exalts him. And when he is thirty years of age [Genesis 41:46], having been a slave, and having been in prison, when he’s thirty years of age he is made prime minister of the country; he’s the administrative ruler of the nation [Genesis 41:41-44]. And because the Spirit of God is in him, God speaks to him through visions and through dreams. And in one of those visions God made known to Joseph, who made known the revelation to Pharaoh, that there were to be seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine [Genesis 41:16-36].
So Joseph was made an administrator of the nation and gathered together food in the seven plenteous years [Genesis 41:46-]. Then when the seven years of famine and drought began, God’s Book says the drought was over the face of the whole earth [Genesis 41:54-56]; and that meant Canaan. And in Canaan, in the land of Canaan, in the Holy Land, lived Israel, lived Jacob and his sons. There were eleven sons and the twelfth one they thought was dead, Joseph who is now exalted to the throne of Egypt. The famine was so severe until Israel said to his sons, "I hear there is bread to eat in Egypt; go down and bring us bread, lest we die of starvation" [Genesis 42:1-2]. So, those ten brethren – Benjamin the youngest is left at home [Genesis 42:3-4]. Rachel had two children. Rachel was the wife that Jacob, Israel, loved. She had two children [Genesis 35:24]: one was Joseph, whom Israel thought was dead, torn by wild beasts [Genesis 37:31-33]; the other was little Benjamin who was born when Rachel died [Genesis 35:16-19]. He sends those ten brethren down to Egypt to buy bread. And Joseph recognizes them; these are the brethren who sold him into slavery [Genesis 42:1-8].
The story follows: each man’s money is placed in his sack [Genesis 42:25-26], and when they come home they are amazed, they are surprised not only because each man’s money is in his sack [Genesis 42:35], but that man Joseph, whom they do not know, "that man," Joseph, "said we were not to return unless we brought our younger brother with us" [Genesis 42:16-20]. And Israel says, "No, he can never leave, for his brother wild beasts have torn; and if anything happened to this lad, my head would go down to the grave in sorrow" [Genesis 42:38]. But the famine is severe, it continues. And the day comes when they face starvation again. And Israel says to his sons, "Go back into Egypt and bring us bread" [Genesis 43:1-2]. But the sons say, "Father we cannot return. The man will not allow us unless we bring our younger brother with us, little Benjamin" [Genesis 43:3]. And the father says, "He cannot go, lest some mischief befall him, he cannot go" [Genesis 42:38]. But the famine is severe and the brothers finally come to their father and say, "But Father, if we stay here we shall die, we shall die [Genesis 43:8]. There’s no bread to eat. Let us have little Benjamin and we’ll go down to the man in Egypt and buy bread." And the father says, "But I cannot let the boy go, his brother wild beasts have torn." Then Judah comes near to him and says, "I will be surety for the boy, I will be responsible for him [Genesis 43:9]. At my hand you can require him. I’ll take care of him and I’ll bring him back." So Israel deposits in the hands of Judah the life of this youngest boy Benjamin [Genesis 43:13].
They go down into the land of Egypt to buy bread. And when Joseph sees little Benjamin, he has to leave the room so moved is he looking upon the face of his own brother [Genesis 43:29-30]. But in the providence of God and in the wisdom of the Lord, in order to open their hearts to the appeal and the love of God, he appears to be very, very stern. So after each one’s sack is filled, he says to his steward, "Now you put my cup, the one out of which I drink, you put my cup in the sack of the youngest son along with the money" [Genesis 44:1-2]. And the boys return home. And after they are outside of the capital city just a little ways, Joseph calls his steward and says, "After them! And you go through the sacks; and when you come to the sack in which my cup out of which I drink is found, bring him back to me."
So the steward goes and overtakes the brothers; and he treats them harshly and roughly and says, "Why, out of the kindness of this administrator when he gives you bread to eat do you steal the cup out of which he drinks?" [Genesis 44:3-6]. And those brothers say, "Why, such a thing is impossible, we never stole anything in our lives; we are honest people and reared in an honest way." And they say, "Let him whose sack the cup might be found, let him die the death" [Genesis 44:7-9]. So they start at the eldest, and go down; and the cup is found in little Benjamin’s sack [Genesis 44:12]. The men rent their clothes. They return and Judah says, Judah came near and said, "O, my lord, O, my lord!" and makes one of the most pathetic appeals in the earth [Genesis 44:13-29]. Then he comes to the conclusion: "Now therefore," Judah is saying to this administrator in Egypt who actually is Joseph, "Now therefore," he says, "if I cannot bring back Benjamin to his father:
Now therefore when I come to thy servant my father, and the lad is not with us; seeing that his life is bound up in the lad’s life;
It shall come to pass, when he seeth that the lad is not with us, that he will die: and thy servants shall bring down my father in sorrow to the grave.
For thy servant became surety for this lad unto my father, saying, If I bring him not unto thee, then I shall bear the blame forever.
Now therefore, I pray thee, let thy servant abide instead of the lad a bondman to my lord; and let the lad go up with his brethren.
For how shall I go up to my father, and the lad be not with me?
God deposits these children in our homes, and in our hands. They are small and helpless for a reason: that we might learn to be responsible for their care and their upbringing. God could have made them, in His infinite power, full born as he did, Juno [Minerva] out of the brain of Jove. But in His wisdom, they are deposited small and helpless and needing our care.
So any father and mother that is responsible, any father and mother will accept that responsibility – oh, how tenderly and how faithfully! – in the hours of the night and the day. And we feed them, and take care of their physical life, watch over them, take them to the doctor. I can’t remember when the first time I saw that famous picture of the doctor in the nighttime, seated there watching over the life of a little child. We are so responsible! Then we are responsible for them mentally, mentally. We are very careful about their education and their training and their teaching. We just feel that the child must go to school and must be taught.
But to me, in my humble persuasion, the reason God made them untaught, and little, and needing help is that we might be responsible for them spiritually; accountable to God spiritually. And someday, when we stand in the presence of the Almighty, to have the child with us, I cannot conceive of fathers and mothers who someday face the judgment bar of Almighty God and the lad be not with you. I cannot conceive of it. As much as I have tried to enter into sympathy with fathers and mothers who allow their children to grow up lost, and unchurched, I still have not found any reason in my mind or any feeling of understanding in my heart. "How shall I go up to my Father, and the lad be not with me?" [Genesis 44:34]. How shall I stand at the judgment bar of Almighty God someday and this child be not with me – lost, shut out, unsaved?
In the providence of God there came a deacon to see me. And he said, "A family has moved next door, and they’re lost. Would you come and talk to them?" So I went to visit in the home. There was a father and a mother, a girl about seventeen, another boy about fifteen or sixteen, and another boy about twelve. I talked to them. "Yes sir, we’re going to be there at church." But they didn’t come; the children were having too furiously a good time in the city, and he was making lots of money. About a month later I went back and I visited with the family again. "Oh," they said, "we’re going to be there, we’re going to be there." But they didn’t come. The children were having too furiously a good time; and he was making lots of money. In the wee hours of the morning, the telephone rang out there at the house, at the parsonage, and a nurse who belongs to the church, a nurse said to me, "Pastor, with great reluctance do I call you tonight at an hour like this. But, there’s a man down here, they just moved to Dallas. And his son has been, oh so cruelly crushed in a terrible automobile accident. And the boy will die in just a little while. And the father’s here by himself, and I just hated to see the father be here by himself when his boy dies."
So she said, "I asked him, ‘Do you know anybody in the city?’ And he said he knows you." "Well," I said, "what is the man’s name?" And she called that man’s name. So I dressed and went to the Baptist hospital and to the room. And there he was, standing by the side of the bed and before him a lad about fifteen or sixteen years old, crushed horribly, driving back into the city at a furious rate; they’d been in an awful crash. I took my stand by the side of the man and watched. And in just a little while the nurse pulled the sheet over the boy’s face and looked up at the father and said, "Your son is gone." Then she left me in the room by myself, standing there by his side. He pulled the sheet away from the face of the boy, then fell down on his knees and began to sob, and then to cry audibly and say, "O, my God! My boy’s gone; and I haven’t lived right before him. My boy is gone, and I haven’t done right by him. O God! What shall I do, and what shall I say?"
After the memorial service, and after the boy was buried, down the aisle in the church came a father and a mother and a girl about seventeen, and another boy about twelve, all of them seated together on the front row; all of them coming, committing their lives in trust to Jesus. And shaking hands with people at the back of the church, so many remarked on it, "Pastor, wasn’t that a great hour? Wasn’t that a marvelous service? Wasn’t that a glorious scene, the whole family coming to Jesus?" I said, "Yes, yes, a fine scene, a beautiful scene; yes, yes indeed." What I had thought when I stood and looked, I thought, "This is the saddest scene in this world." For I never told the people that there belonged to the family another boy about fifteen or sixteen years old; and that he lies in a Christ-less grave. I never felt that I should. But as I looked at them seated, I said, "This is the saddest sight in this earth"; for someday at the judgment bar of Almighty God, when the Lord calls the roll in glory, and He calls the name of that father, and he answers, "Here," and He calls the name of the mother and she answers, "Here," and He calls the name of that daughter and she answers, "Here," and He calls the name of the younger boy and he answers, "Here," and God looks into the face of that father and says, "And is this all?" And the father says, "No, no, there is another boy about fifteen or sixteen years old." And the Lord says, "And where is he?" And the man replies, "He lies in a Christ-less grave in Texas."
"How shall I go up to my Father, and the lad be not with me?" [Genesis 44:34]. The saddest sight in all this earth. When I get to heaven, Lord, Lord, O God! God grant that I may have this family and this child. "How shall I go up to my Father, and the lad be not with me?" When we stand in the presence of the Almighty someday, these are the children God hath given us, responsible not just for their physical well-being, responsible not just for their teaching, but responsible for their souls. And I say again, not by word or syllable or sermon, but by life and example; not, "Son, you go to church," or, "Son, you go to Sunday school;" but, "Let us go to Sunday school, and let us go to church. Let us go up to the house of the Lord, let us call on the name of the great God and our Savior, Jesus Christ. Come son, come daughter, let us go."
And then someday, when God calls us higher, "Let us arise to meet Jesus when He comes for us from the glory and the clouds of heaven" [1 Thessalonians 14:16-17]. And that’s this appeal this morning. First, to our children: to our children, "Pastor, I want to give my heart to Jesus this morning; I want to be saved. I want to be a Christian." You come. Second, to the child: "I want to join the church; I want to be baptized, I want to be a member of the church. I have taken the Lord as my Savior; I want to be a member of the church." You come. Then that third appeal, you fathers and mothers: "I will be responsible unto God for the soul of this child." Maybe a father and mother, "I’m taking the Lord as my Savior this morning, and here I come." Or a father, mother, "I want to be baptized; I do believe in Jesus, and I’m coming. We’re going to put our house in the faith and in the Lord; and we’re going to rear this child in the love and nurture of Christ Jesus." Maybe one of you belongs to one church and one belongs to another, which is a tragic thing for a child, "We’re going to put our lives together in this dear church." Or, "We belong to a church together in another place; we’re going to put our lives together here in this dear church." And as we prayerfully sing this appeal, as the Spirit of God would lay the invitation on your heart, come – child you, little girl, little boy you, father, mother you – as the Spirit of Jesus shall lead in the way.
Now we’re going to sing a song. Lee Roy, I want you to come up here. We’re going to sing a song without a book; don’t turn to a book, sing it out of your heart:
I can hear my Savior calling, take thy cross and follow Me
Where He leads me I will follow, I’ll go with Him all the way
I’ll go with Him through the garden; I’ll go with Him through the judgment
He will give me grace and glory, and go with me all the way.
["Where He Leads Me," Earnest W. Blandy]
And prayerfully, while we sing that appeal out of our hearts, not out of a book, out of our hearts, prayerfully, little boy, little girl, give your heart to Jesus, come. Or, "I’ve given my heart to Jesus, I want to join the church," come. Father, mother, as the Spirit shall press the appeal to your heart, come. On the first note of the first stanza, come. When we stand up in a moment, stand up coming. "Here I am, pastor," bring the child with you, bring the family with you, come. If the little fellow wants to come, if the little girl wants to come, come with them. As God shall say the word and lead in the way, come, while we stand and while we sing.