Loving the Lord
May 26th, 1968 @ 8:15 AM
LOVING THE LORD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
5-26-68 8:15 a.m.
On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the message from the Book of Exodus entitled Loving the Lord. The message has been brought to my heart, especially this week, because in these present days I am writing a book on why I preach that the Bible is literally true. And as I am writing that book, I reread some of these tremendous passages concerning the Word of God.
Now this is one of those passages, in Exodus chapter 32:15 and 16:
And Moses turned, and went down from the mount, and the two tables of the Testimony were in his hand: the tables were written on both their sides; on the one side and on the other were they written. And the tables were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, graven upon the tables.
What did God write on those tables of stone? Writing with His own hand, the writing was the writing of God [Exodus 32:15-16]. What did God write on those tables? In the twentieth chapter of Exodus you have the words of God, what God wrote. In Exodus 20 and in Deuteronomy 5, in both places, we have the Words of God [Exodus 20:1-17; Deuteronomy 5:7-21].
Now this is what God wrote: “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me” [Exodus 20:3]. That was the first thing that He wrote. Now the second thing that He wrote:
Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:
Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation [of them that hate Me;]
And showing mercy unto thousands of them that love Me, and keep My commandments.
And the rest that God wrote is written there in this chapter. So God wrote, “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me. And thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or bow down before it” [Exodus 20:3-5]. Then God wrote the reason for, because, “I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and showing mercy unto thousands of them that love Me, and keep My commandments” [Exodus 20:5-6].
This is an astonishing description that God has written describing Himself; with His own finger did He write it [Exodus 31:18, 32:15-16], and with His own words did He say it, “I am a jealous God” [Exodus 20:5]. Now in Hebrew qanah, or in Greek zelos, we have taken that exact Greek word and put it in our language. But whether in Hebrew qanah, or in Greek zelos, the word means exactly the same.
The root meaning of the word is “heat, burning, fire”; as the last verse of the twelfth chapter of the Book of Hebrews closes “For our God is a consuming fire” [Hebrews 12:29]. The root meaning of that word in the Hebrew and Greek is exactly alike. It refers to a burning, to a fury, to a heat. “For I the Lord thy God am a jealous God” [Exodus 20:5].
Sometimes that word qanah or zelos is used in a bad sense. For example, when the story of Joseph is referred to in the New Testament [Acts 7:9], the author says that the brethren of Joseph were jealous of him. They were envious of him [Genesis 37:11]. That is a use of the word in a bad sense. And there’s no one of us but is familiar with that use of the word. You have felt that passion, that heat, that burning in your own life. There would be hardly any one of us that had not experienced somewhere in our life envy and jealousy. And the envy and jealousy moved the brothers of Joseph to sell him as a slave into Egypt [Genesis 37:26-28]; a bad use of that word.
There is a good use of that word, a blessed use of it. An example of it is in the life of Elijah as he fled before Jezebel and went down to Sinai [1 Kings 19:1-8], where these tables of stone were delivered to Moses in that exact place [Exodus 32:15-16]. He was in a cave at Sinai and the Lord came to him and said, “Elijah, what are you doing here on the back side of a desert, at the end of a wilderness,” when there was a seething and a turmoil in his own nation, among his own people. “What are you doing here?” And Elijah replied, “I have been very jealous for Jehovah: but my people have torn down Thine altars and broken Thy covenants and slain Thy prophets, and I only am left” [1 Kings 19:9-10].
And the Lord went by in a wind and a fury, and the Lord caused the earth to quake, and God caused the great fire to burn, but He was not in any of those. And then a still, small voice, and Elijah covered his face with his mantle, and God asked him again, “What are you doing here?” And Elijah repeated his exact answer, “I have been very jealous for Jehovah God, but my people have broken Thy covenant, and they have torn down Thy altar, and they have slain Thy prophets, and I, I only am left” [1 Kings 19:11-14].
And the Lord God said to Elijah, “Now you get up and you go back to the assignment and back to the prophetic call that I gave to you in these years gone by. You go back.” And then He outlined things for Elijah to do, and then He added, “And beside all that I have seven thousand I have reserved for Myself who have not bowed the knee to Baal” [1 Kings 19:15-18].
Now the devotion of Elijah, and the spirit of Elijah, and the fire of Elijah, and the burning of Elijah, in the Bible He describes as being jealous for the Lord [1 Kings 19:10, 14]. Now that is the word that is applied by God Himself to Himself. “For I the Lord thy God am a jealous God” [Exodus 20:5]. The Lord assumes unto Himself His people. And as a husband will zealously and jealously guard over his family, his wife, his children, they are his; and the finer the man the more zealously and jealously will he guard over them and seek to protect them and keep them. So God looks upon us as His own and peculiar possession, and He zealously and jealously guards over us and seeks to make us His very own [Exodus 20:5].
Now when we think of the Lord God in that spirit and attitude and sensitivity of God toward us, we see it expressed in these commandments that He has written. “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me [Exodus 20:3]. Thou shalt not bow down to them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God” [Exodus 20:5].
Today we would not apply that to us in our lives and in this church because we don’t bow before idols, not here, not in this church; nor do we worship before graven images [Exodus 20:4]. Not in this church. But there is an application of that to our lives in other areas that are equally as pertinent.
Now may we look at it in what God says there is to be nothing between us and God. He is to be first, always first! And nothing is to be loved in our lives or desired in our lives, worked for in our lives more than we love and honor and reverence God, for God is a jealous God [Exodus 20:5].
Now in the life of Jesus He met many people who placed other things above their devotion to God and the call of the Lord. This is one. There came to Him, running in the way [Mark 10:17], a rich young ruler who knelt down before Him in broad daylight where everybody could see Him [Mark 10:17]. Where Nicodemus came to visit Jesus, he came to see Him by night [John 3:1-2]. But this rich young ruler, Nicodemus was a ruler [John 3:1], this young fellow is a ruler also [Luke 18:18]. He came in broad daylight before the eyes of the whole world, and he knelt down before the Lord, bowed before Jesus [Mark 10:17]. I can easily understand why it says, “And Jesus beholding him, loved him” [Mark 10:21]. That was one of the finest and most courageous young men who ever lived; rich, affluent, already in youth a ruler among his people and a fine, virtuous young man. When the Lord asked him about these commandments, he said, “All of them have I observed from my youth up, all ten of them” [Mark 10:18-20]. But he didn’t quite know himself, for these first commandments he had broken [Exodus 20:3, 5]. As the Lord talked to him, God revealed to him his true heart. “You love money more than you love God. Get rid of it. Get rid of it. Give it away. Anything to get rid of it, give it away, and come and follow Me, and you will have treasure in heaven” [Mark 10:21].
And the young man, twice in the New Testament is this word stugnazō used, Stugnazō. One time it refers to the lowering of the clouds, the boiling of the clouds [Matthew 16:3]; the other time it is used is to describe the face of that young man, the conflict in his soul was registered in his face, and he turned and went away, for he loved money more than he loved God [Mark 10:22]. And God says, “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me” [Exodus 20:3]. God is to be first, money is to be second, or third, or fourth, or fifth, or anywhere that it might be useful, but not to love money. “The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil” [1 Timothy 6:10].
Let’s take another that Jesus met in His ministry. And Pontius Pilate, when he heard He was from Galilee, sent Him to Herod Antipas [Luke 23:6-7]. There was a wastrel, and a libertine if ever one lived. It was John the Baptist who stood before that tyrant and said, “It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother’s wife” [Matthew 14:3-4]; Antipas, the epitome of lust, and pleasure, and sin. And when Jesus was brought before him, He refused even to say a word to him [Luke 23:8-9]. Isn’t that a remarkable thing? The man who gives himself to lust and to sinful pleasure, Jesus would not even speak to him.
And when Herod Antipas asked for signs and miracles, the Lord answered not at all, not at all [Luke 23:9]. How a man who lives in sin shuts himself out from God! “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me” [Exodus 20:3]. We shall not labor the point. All through the life of Jesus is that same thing, men loving other things more than they loved God. As He stood before Caiaphas, the high priest, the high priest said, “If we are friends with this Man, the Romans will come and take away our place and our nation and that must be considered first; our place” [John 11:48].
Or, as He stood before Pontius Pilate who said, “I find not fault in this Man; this Man is innocent. I find no fault in this Man” [John 19:4]. Yet he delivered Him to be crucified [John 19:16] because the elders of the people said, “You are not a friend of Caesar if you let this Man go” [John 19:12]. And Pilate loved power more than he loved God. All of these things are but typical of human life and with us today. Loving other things and desiring other things and seeking other things more than we love and desire and seek God. “For I the Lord thy God am a jealous God” [Exodus 20:5].
Then the Lord wrote with His own finger [Exodus 31:18, 32:16], the awesome judgments that follow the affections of our hearts. They’re like a two-edged sword, they cut both ways. There is a great blessing when a man places God first in his life, in his home, and in his family [Deuteronomy 28:1-14]. There is also an awesome judgment when we do not place God first [Deuteronomy 28:15-68]. “For I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children” [Exodus 20:5].
Oh, what an awesome thing and how poignantly, vividly illustrated in God’s Book! David, a man after God’s own heart [1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22], who sang those sweet psalms, by whose mouth God spake prophecies even of the Lord Jesus, the coming Messiah Redeemer [Psalm 22]; David, and David finds a burning in his heart and a lustful passion in his soul. And David takes to his own house Bathsheba [2 Samuel 11:5], and has her husband murdered, that his sin might be covered over [2 Samuel 11:4-17]. But you don’t hide things from God. He sees and He knows, and in the appearance of Nathan, God’s prophet [2 Samuel 12:1], before David, the Lord God said, “And this judgment shall be on thy children and thy children’s children, and the sword shall never leave thy house!” [2 Samuel 12:9-10]
And that same spirit of lustful desire and passion in David appeared in Amnon, his own son, as Amnon violated Tamar, David’s daughter and Amnon’s sister [2 Samuel 13:1-19]. And that same fury and passion was found in Absalom, who slew Amnon [2 Samuel 13:20-33]. Through the generations and the generations that burning and lustful and passionate spirit was found in his son and in his son’s son, and through the generations that followed.
Oh, oh! I think of what the Jewish people said to Pontius Pilate when Pilate said, “I am innocent of the blood of this just Man” [Matthew 27:24], and washed his hands! And the nation said, “His blood be upon us, and upon our children” [Matthew 27:25]. And the record of that people has been one of heartache and tears and despair as they have wandered homeless among the nations of the world for the generations since, “visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children” [Exodus 20:5-6]. And you, and you, and you, what you are, you are going to find in your children. The thought is so heavy and grievous as I speak of it like that. Let me haste to turn it around.
“Visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children…but showing mercy to those generations for them that love Me, and keep My commandments” [Exodus 20:6]. Does God also visit upon the child and upon the children the devoted goodness and the virtue and the observance of the commandments of God? Does God also do that? He wrote it with His own hand [Exodus 32:15-16]. He does.
I could illustrate it forever. There is no sweeter story or a more beautiful romance in the literature of the world than the story of Boaz and Ruth; godly Boaz and sweet, beautiful, self-effacing and humble Ruth. And you remember how that beautiful story closes? And Boaz and Ruth were father and mother to Obed, and Obed was the father of Jesse, and Jesse was the father of wonderful, beautiful, sanctified, God-blessed young David [Ruth 4:17, 21-22]. Look at those generations: God-blessed Boaz, and God-blessed Obed, and God-blessed Jesse, and God-blessed young David. When he came in from keeping the flock and stood before Samuel, who had the anointing oil in his hands [1 Samuel 16:11-13], the rest of the family had Samuel sanctified [1 Samuel 16:5-10], but David, coming in from the fields, a beautiful boy singing psalms the angels bowed down their ears to hear, he didn’t need sanctifying. God said to Samuel, “Arise, anoint him: this is he,” [1 Samuel 16:11-13], a ruddy-faced lad. What a tragedy that David broke that line of blessing [2 Samuel 12:10]; Boaz and Obed and Jesse and beautiful lad David [Ruth 4:21-22], then in David it turned and the sword followed after [2 Samuel 12:10]. Isn’t it remarkable how we find ourselves in our children? Look at them.
In New York, waiting for an airplane to cross over the ocean to Europe, the plane was delayed, and milling around in the airport there I stumbled into the governor of Maryland. And he was waiting for his daughter to catch a plane, another line, and spending the summer in Europe. So I just spent the time there visiting with the governor of Maryland, a very fine man. He made the keynote speech at the convention that nominated Eisenhower for president; a noble man, a fine Christian man. Well, when he started talking to me he found out I was a preacher and a pastor and just began talking to me. And as time went on and he continued talking, why, he started speaking about his mother and about his family.
Now he said he is a Methodist, and as you know in the Methodist church, they come and kneel when they receive the elements of the Lord’s Supper. So he said to me, “You know, all her life my mother, when she went forward to take communion,” as he called it, “she always took off her jewelry.” “I suppose,” he said, “as a mark of humbling before God. But when she came forward to take the Lord’s Supper, she always took off her jewelry.” He said, “You know, I found myself doing that. Nor could I explain it. But I found myself doing that, taking off any jewelry, a ring, a stickpin, my watch.” And this is why he started talking about it.
He said, “Pastor, last Sunday my teenage boy happened to be kneeling by my side,” and he said, “I saw that teenage boy take off his jewelry as he knelt there before the Lord. I had said nothing to him. I just saw him do it.” That is the unconscious following down through the generations. God made it that way. And Moses said, after he had delivered to his people God’s commandments [Deuteronomy 5:7-21], Moses said, “O that there were such an heart in them, that they would fear Me, and keep all My commandments always, that it might be well with them, and with their children forever” [Deuteronomy 5:29].
If we love God first and if we reverence God above all else in the world, God will bless us, and God will bless our children, and God will bless our children’s children [Exodus 20:6]. But if we transgress God’s commandments and heed not His Word, God visits a judgment upon us and upon our children and our children’s children [Exodus 20:5]. O Lord, O God, we tremble in Thy presence. Lord, Lord, that God might give us strength to love Thee first and above all with our whole hearts, and souls, and minds, and strength. God, grant to us that blessing for our families, for our children, and for our children’s children.
We must sing our hymn of appeal, and while we sing it, a family you, coming into the fellowship of the church; a couple you, putting your life with us in this precious fellowship; one somebody you, confessing Jesus as your Savior; as God shall press the appeal to your heart, make that decision now. Make it this morning. And in a moment when we stand up to sing, stand up coming. In the balcony round, you; on the lower floor, you; into the aisle and down to the front, “Here we come, pastor. We are responding to God’s invitation today. Here I am.” As God shall press the appeal to your heart, come. And when you stand up in a moment, stand up coming. Do it now. Make it now. Give your heart to God. Dedicate your home to God. Devote your children to the Lord. Let God fill your life with every fullness, every heavenly benediction. Do it. And God attend you in the way as you come, as we stand and as we sing.