Loving the Lord
May 26th, 1968 @ 10:50 AM
LOVING THE LORD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
Exodus 32: 15, 16
5-26-68 10:50 a.m.
On the radio and on television you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the message entitled Loving the Lord. In these present days, I am writing a book on why I preach that the Bible is literally true. And as I have studied and prepared and am now writing that volume, my heart’s attention has been riveted again and anew upon what the Bible testifies in itself. These are the words of God. There is no such thing as the communication of ideas without words.
And I have never seen such pervasive inanity as I have been introduced to as I have read and studied, preparing the writing of this volume. Everywhere through the theological world there is the almost taken-for-granted attitude that the ideas may be inspired but the words are not inspired. How do you have inspired ideas in that Book, and the words that contain them and present them do not reflect what God says and what God reveals? If the word that communicates the idea is not infallible, then I have no way of being persuaded that the idea is not infallible, because the idea is expressed in the word. And if I am to have an infallible idea in the revelation of God, it must be communicated to me through an inerrant and infallible Word. God not only inspired the minds of the prophets and the apostles, but God inspired the writings, the words of the apostles and the prophets [2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:20-21].
Now that is illustrated in the thirty-second chapter of Exodus, verses 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 side was it written—
It was written on this side, the front side, it was written on the back side—
And the tables were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, graven upon the stones.
We have in this Book the words of God. They were written by God [Exodus 32:16]. They were engraved by the finger of the Lord [Exodus 31:18]. And the tables were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God [Exodus 32:16]. If God has written something and if we can read God’s words, what does God say and what is the engraving that the Lord incised with His own finger? This engraving and this writing, as you know, is the Ten Commandments. And twice are they recorded here in the Book. They are recorded in the twentieth chapter of Exodus [Exodus 20:1-17], and they are recorded in the fifth chapter of Deuteronomy [Deuteronomy 5:7-21]. Now I read what God says. These are the words of God.
Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.
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, neither shall thou 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 the fourth generation [of them that hate me];
And showing mercy unto thousands of them that love Me, and keep My commandments:
then the continuing chapter of the Decalogue [Exodus 20:7-21].
As I read the words of God, the inerrant, infallible, inspired, revealed, recorded words of God, looking at them closely, I am preaching a sermon on one of them this morning. “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me [Exodus 20:3]. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image of any other god” as though to bow down and to worship it [Exodus 20:4-5]. “For I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the sins of the fathers upon the children,” and the obverse, “blessing and showing mercy upon thousands that love Me, and keep My commandments” [Exodus 20:5-6].
The word is jealous. “For I the Lord thy God am a jealous God” [Exodus 20:5]. What an unusual epithet to apply to God, God whose name is jealous. Now that word qanah in Hebrew, qanah; in Greek it is zelos, and in one of those root coincidences of grammar, both words in the Hebrew and in the Greek, both words are exactly alike in their derivation.
The root meaning of qanah in Hebrew, of zelos in Greek, is fire, burning, heat. And a substantive form of that root meaning is this word qanah, zelos, a burning, a fury, a heat, a fire. As the twelfth chapter of the Book of Hebrews says, “For our God is a consuming fire” [Hebrews 12:29]. “For I the Lord thy God am a jealous God” [Exodus 20:5].
In the ordinary use of that word in the Bible, in the Hebrew and in the Greek, in the Old Testament, in the New Testament, not only are those two words in their derivation exactly alike in both languages, but they are applied and they are used exactly alike in both languages and here in the Bible. There is a bad use of the word. There is a good use of the word.
A bad use of the word can be seen as the New Testament will describe the jealousy of the brothers of Joseph [Acts 7:9], who being envious of the brilliant and gifted young man who saw visions and dreams [Genesis 37:5-11], and who must have been most fair in his countenance; a handsome young boy and doted on by his father who so ofttimes made the mistake as our fathers do today of showing preference to a child in the family. Jacob did that. He adored Joseph, the son of Rachel [Genesis 30:22-24], whom he loved [Genesis 29:18], and he lavished on the boy his affection and overtly showed it, making the boy a present of a coat of many colors that signified far more than just that he had a beautiful coat [Genesis 37:3-4]. Well, the affection, and love, and admiration, and thanksgiving for the boy Joseph incited and excited envy and jealousy on the part of his brothers [Genesis 37:4, 11]. So upon a day they conspired, and in the conspiracy they sold the lad to the Ishmaelites, who sold him to the Egyptians [Genesis 37:26-28, 36], who used him as a slave until he landed in a dungeon [Genesis 39:20].
Now that is an illustration of the bad use of that word qanah, zelos, jealousy, envy. And there is no one of us in our life experience but that has felt that. It’s a weakness and a terrible one. It’s a hurt and a horrible one. There’s not anything that will make life more miserable or uncomfortable, plow up sweet relationships, tear and break apart as the green monster of envy and jealousy.
Now, the word ordinarily used in the language, there is no special thing about that word; it’s an ordinary word as it’s in our language. The word also is used in a noble sense and a good sense and in a devoted sense. For example, Elijah, after he had done his best to turn apostatizing Israel back to God [1 Kings 18:19-46] and seeing his great reform thwarted by the queen Jezebel [1 Kings 19:1-2], ran from her presence for his life and in despair finally came down to Mt. Sinai [1 Kings 19:2-8], where those words were written and given to Moses [Exodus 32:15-16].
And standing there at the mouth of a cave in dejection and despair, God came to him and said, “Elijah, with all of the ferment and turmoil in My people, why are you here in so critical an hour?” [1 Kings 19:9]. And Elijah said, “Lord, I have been very jealous for Jehovah God. And Thy people have broken Thy covenant, torn down Thine altars, and slain Thy prophets, and I, I alone, am left” [1 Kings 19:10]. And the Lord God caused a wind to pass by, and an earthquake to shake the earth, and a fire to burn. And then that still small voice [1 Kings 19:11-12], and asked Elijah again, “Elijah, what are you doing here?” [1 Kings 19:13]. And Elijah replied in the same language, “Lord, I have been very jealous for Jehovah God, and Thy people have broken Thy covenant, and torn down Thine altars, and slain Thy prophets, and there is no one left but I” [1 Kings 19:14].
And the Lord God said to Elijah, “Elijah, you go back. There is a task and an assignment and there is a work, and you go back,” and He outlined what Elijah was to do. And then the Lord added a little word, “And I have reserved for Myself seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal. You are not alone” [1 Kings 19:18]. So Elijah returned in the same zeal and burning of the Lord until finally he was translated to heaven in a whirlwind and in a chariot of fire [2 Kings 2:11]. Now, that is the good sense of that word [1 Kings 19:10, 14]. And in that good sense the Lord applies it to Himself. “For I the Lord thy God am a jealous God” [Exodus 20:5]. That is, God watches over us, and He claims us not peripherally, or indifferently, or casually, or summarily, but God claims us with a passion, with a great love, with a tremendous devotion [Exodus 20:5]. God has no known limits in His devotion to His people, and God has no known limits to what He prepares for those who love Him: Jesus, God in the flesh, dying for our sins [1 Corinthians 15:3]; Jesus, ascending into heaven [Luke 24:51; Acts 1:9-10], mediating, interceding for His saints [Romans 8:27, 34]; and Jesus, preparing a place from the foundations of the earth [Hebrews 1:10], from the beginnings of eternity, things that eyes never seen and ears have never heard, and imaginations and hearts have never conceived what God is preparing for those who love Him [1 Corinthians 2:9].
This is the jealousy, the zealousness of God for His people [Exodus 20:5]. As a worthy husband will guard and watch over and care for and provide for his family, God is like that over us. And in that zealousness and in that jealousy, there is on God’s part a mandate that we love Him first and above all [Matthew 22:36-38]. We are not to make a god out of any other thing in the earth [Exodus 20:3-4].
In the ancient day the tendency, of course, was to make their gods out of stone, or wood, or metal and say this represents thus and this represents thus. And in some communions they have a tendency to do that today. They make images and they make likenesses, and they say this represents thus, and this represents the other, and this represents somebody, and they bow down before it and seek to communicate with God through the help and the expression of a graven image.
God says you are not to do that, never, ever! There is to be no likeness. There is to be no form. There is to be no image [Exodus 20:4]: “For God is Spirit: and they who worship God must worship Him in spirit and in truth” [John 4:24]. And any likeness that helps us in our mistaken persuasion that we can be more reverent or we can reach God more surely through the aid of a graven image is expressly interdicted by the words of God Himself.
Now our weakness here in this church and in this dear place is not that we are tempted to make images of anyone or to represent anything and to bow down and worship before it. Nor in our homes will we find such images or such likenesses or such helps in worship which are interdicted of God. But with us there is the same tragic weakness to substitute another affection and another love in the stead of our first and pristine and primary affection and love for God. And all of us fall into these enticements and temptations from time to time. And you can see them so vividly expressed in the lives of the people that Jesus saw and touched.
I am thinking now, first, of the rich young ruler, one of the finest and most courageous young men in the Bible [Mark 10:17]. When Nicodemus came to see Jesus, he came to see him by night [John 3:1-2]. Nobody could see; nobody would know. Nicodemus was a ruler among the Jews and a member of the Sanhedrin [John 3:1-2, 10]. This young man was a ruler among the Jews [Luke 18:18]. He could have been a member of the Sanhedrin were he old enough. He is described in the Bible as a young man. He is also described as a rich man [Mark 10:22], as Joseph of Arimathea was rich, and who was a like member of the Sanhedrin [Mark 10:4].
But this young fellow when he came before the Lord came in broad daylight and knelt down before the Prophet of Nazareth where everybody could see him and every eye could look upon him in broad daylight. And the Bible expressly says “and Jesus was in the way” [Mark 10:17], in a public place on a great thoroughfare. Now this young fellow came and openly, publicly, courageously knelt down in the presence of the Master. And he asked that he might know eternal life, and how to find it [Mark 10:17].
And the Lord, looking at that kneeling figure, said to him, these commandments written by the finger of God, one, two, three, eight, nine, and ten [Exodus 31:18]. “You keep the commandments, and thou shalt live” [Mark 10:19]. And the young man said, “Master, all of them have I kept from my youth up” [Mark 10:20]. I have never bowed down before a graven image [Exodus 20:4-5]. I’ve never sought to substitute another god [Exodus 20:3]. I have not vilely used God’s name in vain” [Exodus 20:7], one of the worst and most hurtful habits of human speech. “I keep God’s day sanctified, and hallowed, and set apart for the Lord” [Exodus 20:8], which most of us do not. The whole day is God’s day but you would never know it from us. “I honored my father and my mother [Exodus 20:12]. All of the commandments” [Mark 10:20]. No wonder when Jesus looked upon him, the Bible says, and He loved him [Mark 10:21].
But he didn’t know himself. “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me, and thou shalt not bow down thyself before them” [Exodus 20:3, 5]. And looking into the soul of the young man, the Lord said, “The great fortune that you have and the affluence that you enjoy and the money and treasures you have accumulated, give it away, get rid of it, anything, dispose of it” [Mark 10:21]. And the young man, overwhelmed—I’ve often thought if he had said to Jesus, “Lord, I will do it!” I’ve often thought if Jesus would have asked him finally to do it. He didn’t Zaccheus, He didn’t Nicodemus, He didn’t Joseph of Arimathea, in no other place will you find that Jesus asked that, but that young fellow [Mark 10:21].
Of course, I am not infallible, but I think had Jesus heard from his voice, the reply of the young man “I’ll do it, Lord, that I might follow Thee,” I think the Lord would have said, “just the willingness, just the yieldedness.” But what actually happened was, you know, in the Bible, in the New Testament, that word stugnazō is used in two places; stugnazō. One, it is used to describe the lowering of the clouds, the boiling of the storm [Matthew 16:3]. And the other place in the Bible where that word is used is describing the face of that young man; the war in his soul as he fought within himself trying to decide, was registered in his face; stugnazō. And the young fellow turned away [Mark 10:22]. He thought he had kept that first commandment; “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me” [Exodus 20:3]. But actually his real love and his real affection was his wealth, his fortune, his money. He loved God less than he loved his possessions. And the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil [1 Timothy 6:10].
I haven’t time to labor the point. Herod Antiphas, think of it, standing and looking at Jesus the Lord and wanting no other thing from Him than as a juggler or as a magician to see some unusual miracle performed by Him. For that was Herod Antiphas [Luke 23:8]. He had given his life to sensual pleasure, to lust. He’s the one to whom John the Baptist addressed the word saying “It is not right for thee to have thy brother’s wife” [Matthew 14:3-4]. And Herod Antiphas, loving pleasure and loving sin more than loving God; “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me [Exodus 20:3]. Neither shall thou bow down thyself before them” [Exodus 20:5].
I must hasten. And God says, “For I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children . . . and showing mercy unto them that love Me and keep My commandments” [Exodus 20:5-6]. This is the way God says our lives are enmeshed and entwined and put together. We don’t live to ourselves and we don’t die to ourselves [Romans 14:7-8]. And much less God says is it possible for a father and a mother to live in the circle of a home and what they love and what they desire will not be found in the lives of their children in those succeeding generations.
Now, the evil of it. “For I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and the fourth generation” [Exodus 20:5]. When there is a substitute for God and God’s will in the life, there is a repercussion of that in the lives of the children and through the generations. That’s an awesome thing, and even to speak of it makes one so tremble before God. Ah! how that can be illustrated in a thousand instances.
Sweet and wonderful boy David, God’s psalmist singer, the one whom God called the man after God’s own heart [1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22], and in the affections and in the passions of his soul, he takes into his house Uriah’s wife [2 Samuel 11:2-4]. And having violated God’s law and God’s will and God’s mandate and God’s commandment, he murders her husband in order that he might cover over the darkness of his sin [2 Samuel 11:4-17], which is all right in the life of a Oriental monarch and done in a thousand ways by all of the other Oriental rulers. However, the judgments of human life and the judgments of history are not according to secular human historians. The great Judge of life and of nations and of history is in heaven! [Psalm 110:5-6].
And as the story is told, the next verse says, “But God.” “But God” [2 Samuel 11:27]. “I am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and the fourth generations” [Exodus 20:5]. And that same burning, lustful passion that found expression in the life of David; and then his son violates his own sister [2 Samuel 13:1-19]; and Absalom, her brother, filled with the same burning passion that moved David, lifted up his arm and hand and slew his own brother [2 Samuel 13:20-33].
And Nathan the prophet said, “And the sword shall never leave thy house” [2 Samuel 12:10], and those passions, and those movements and affections of soul and heart found repercussion in David’s children, and in his children’s children, and in the interdiction and judgment of God down through the generations. You can read it. The story is written in blood and in tears on these sacred pages.
It is an awesome thing how God has put our life and our families together. And the sins of the father are visited upon the children [Exodus 20:5], and when we substitute for God any love, any affection, there is a repercussion in our families and in their succeeding generations.
Let us turn. If it were all like that, how hopeless and helpless we would be. But there’s another side. “I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children” [Exodus 20:5]. But when the father, the mother, are godly and Christ honoring and reverentially live and walk before the great Judge of all the earth, God shows mercy and blessing to those that love Him and keep His commandments [Exodus 20:6].
No more beautiful, beautiful story, romance, in literature than the story of Ruth, a Moabitess girl [Ruth 1:4], who forsook her heathen land and her heathen gods and accepted the Lord God of Israel. “For Thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God” [Ruth 1:16]. And no finer man is presented in God’s Holy Word than Boaz, who sowed and reaped his spacious fields in Bethlehem [Ruth 2].
And God honored and God crowned the holy righteousness and the worship of Jehovah God, the Lord crowned in that, Boaz and finally Ruth, in their generation. And Boaz and Ruth were the parents of Obed, and godly Obed was the father of Jesse, and Jesse, God’s tall, sun-crowned servant, was the father of one of the sweetest, finest, dearest boys in the world; the ruddy-faced, beautiful countenance, David [Ruth 4:17, 21-22], singing his songs to the sheep [1 Samuel 16:11]. Why, I can just see that, that lad with his harp singing the songs that we have in the Psaltery, the twenty-third Psalm [Psalm 23:1-6]. Singing to his sheep, and the Lord looked down from heaven and the angels bowed down their ears to listen as that pure-hearted boy sang the praises of God and accompanied on that golden harp [1 Samuel 16:23].
And one of the most effective things that I have ever seen, a little detail in a story, was when God said to Samuel, “Take your horn of anointment, of ointment, and set him aside to be king” [1 Samuel 16:12-13]. Now Samuel the prophet had sanctified, purified Jesse and all of his house in order that they might come before the Lord [1 Samuel 16:5-10]. But when that lad David appeared fresh from the fields and the flocks, God never said to Samuel, “Sanctify him, purify him that he might come before Me.” When the lad appeared before the prophet of God, the Lord said to Samuel “That is the boy! That is he! Arise, anoint him king over My people” [1 Samuel 16:11-12].
Think of it. In the days of his purity and of his devotion and of his worship and of his singing, Boaz; and God blessed Obed because of Boaz, and God blessed Jesse because of Obed, and God blessed David and his brothers because of Jesse. And what a tragedy! What an infinite sorrow, that the blessings should have been cut and broken and breached by David [2 Samuel 12:10], after God’s own heart [1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22]. And thereafter the story is written in blood and tears and death [2 Samuel 12:10].
Do you know how the story of this Decalogue ends? It ends with a fervent prayer and appeal on the part of Moses, the great lawgiver. Listen to it. “O that there were such an heart in them, that they would fear Me, and keep My commandments always, that it might be well with them, and with their children forever!” [Deuteronomy 5:29].
If I love God first, foremost, God will add to me every other gracious thing that heart could desire. “Seek ye first the kingdom of heaven; and all of these things shall be added unto you” [Matthew 6:33]. If I love God first, God will bless my house and my family and my people in their generations [Deuteronomy 28:1-14]. But if I turn aside in my affections and love from the Lord, God removes His blessing on me, and I find the judgment in my children and their children [Deuteronomy 28:15-68]. O Lord, how it makes the soul tremble, tremble, tremble before God [Hebrews 10:31]. Lord, help, and forgive, and bless, and lift up, and sustain, and guide. Lord, remember Thy people.
And in this appeal we make this morning to you, give your heart to the Lord. Enthrone Him in your soul. Come, come, come. A family you, into the fellowship of the church; a couple you, putting your lives together in the Lord; one somebody you, “Today, I open my heart to God. I invite Him into my life. I shall make room for Jesus.” Do it. Do it. In the balcony round, on this lower floor, into the aisle and down to the lower front, come. On the first note of the first stanza, come. And the Lord bless you in the way. Make the decision now, and when you stand up in a moment, stand up coming. Young man, young woman, you; boy, girl, you; father, mother, you; whole family you, while we sing this song of appeal, come now. Do it now. Make it now, while we stand and while we sing.