Give Me This Mountain
January 5th, 1969 @ 8:15 AM
GIVE ME THIS MOUNTAIN
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1-5-69 8:15 a.m.
On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. And you have just heard our Chapel Choir, these teenagers, so many of whom are soon going away to college. And we are going to miss you and love you and pray for you. And any time you can come back and be with us, do so. The contribution of these young people to our work and to our church, and especially to this early service, is beyond anything that we could adequately say in gratitude and thanksgiving.
Now I want to make a comment about this bug that has laid me low for the last three weeks. I do not want anybody to get any idea that it was a Dallas bug. All of the bugs we have in Dallas are friendly, and felicitous, and helpful. I got this bug in Nashville, Tennessee where Dr. Strickland comes from. It is a foreign bug. If you could get it out where you could see it and hit it with a hammer, it would be all right. The trouble of it is that it is some kind of a virus, which is a name that the doctor gives when you have got something that he does not know what it is. You have got a virus.
Well, may the Lord keep us well and make us strong for the greatest year that we have ever shared. Now the title of the sermon first tonight, I am going to preach tonight on Molecules and Moonspots. And it is a sermon that arises especially out of the feat of our astronauts who did the fantastic and unbelievable thing of swinging around the moon and coming back to earth: the title of the sermon tonight Molecules and Moonspots.
Now the title of the sermon this morning is Give Me This Mountain. And it is from a story in the fourteenth chapter of Joshua. And if you would like to turn to the passage, I shall read it as the text; Joshua chapter 14:
Then the children of Judah came unto Joshua in Gilgal: and Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenezite said unto him, Thou knowest the thing that the Lord said unto Moses the man of God concerning me and thee in Kadesh Barnea.
Forty years old was I when Moses the servant of the Lord sent me from Kadesh Barnea to espy out the land; and I brought him word again as it was in mine heart.
Nevertheless my brethren that went up with me made the heart of the people melt: but I wholly followed the Lord my God.
And Moses sware on that day, saying, Surely, surely the land whereon thy feet have trodden shall be thine inheritance, and thy children’s for ever, because thou hast wholly followed the Lord my God.
And now, behold, the Lord hath kept me alive, as He said, these forty and five years, even since the Lord spake this word unto Moses, while the children of Israel wandered in the wilderness: and now, lo, I am this day eighty-five years old, fourscore and five years old.
As yet I am as strong this day as I was in the day that Moses sent me: as my strength was then, even so is my strength now, for war, both to go out, and to come in.
Now therefore give me this mountain, whereof the Lord spake in that day; for thou heardest in that day how the Anakim were there, and that the cities were great and walled: if so be the Lord will be with me, then I shall be able to drive them out, as the Lord said. And Joshua blessed him, and gave unto Caleb the son of Jephunneh Hebron for an inheritance.
Hebron therefore became the inheritance of Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenezite unto this day, because that he wholly followed the Lord God of Israel.
And the name of Hebron before was Kirjath Arba; the city of Arba, which Arba was a great man among the Anakim.
We shall first take what Caleb says about his age. I have not thought to begin with to make it a part of the sermon. But Caleb so emphasizes it. As he speaks to Joshua, God’s appointed leader over Israel, he says, “God has kept me alive these forty and five years. Forty years wandering in the wilderness and five years for the conquest of Canaan, and now, lo, I am this day fourscore and five years old.” Eighty-five years of age. “And I am as strong this day as I was in the day that Moses sent me: as my strength was then, even so is my strength now, for war, for peace, to build, to go out, to come in” [Joshua 14:10-11].
That is a remarkable thing and I would suppose God’s greatest gift to a man, that in his last days he have strength to serve the Lord God. There is a very famous poem written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow entitled “Morituri Salutamus.” That is Latin “We who are about to die salute thee.”
Morituri salutamus; it was a word that was spoken by the gladiators when the gladiatorial show opened, as they marched in front of the Roman Caesar in the Coliseum. This is the poem that Longfellow wrote on the fiftieth anniversary of the class of 1825 in Bowdoin College. Longfellow and Nathaniel Hawthorne were classmates, and after fifty years from their day of graduation, Longfellow was asked to write a poem in celebration of that unusual reunion of the class after fifty years.
So he entitled it “Morituri Salutamus.” And one of the passages in it is this:
But why, you ask me, should this tale be told
To men grown old, or who are growing old?
It is too late! Ah, nothing is too late
Till the tired heart shall cease to palpitate.
Cato learned Greek at eighty; Sophocles
Wrote his grand Oedipus, and Simonides
Bore off the prize of verse from his compeers,
When each had numbered more than fourscore years,
And Theophrastus, at fourscore and ten,
Had but begun his Characters of Men.
Chaucer, at Woodstock with the nightingales,
At sixty wrote the Canterbury Tales;
Goethe at Weimar, toiling to the last,
Completed Faust when eighty years were past.
For age is opportunity no less
Than youth itself, though in another dress,
And as the evening twilight fades away
The sky is filled with stars, invisible by day.
[“Morituri Salutamus,” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow]
And if I had the temerity to add to what Longfellow said, I could call to our remembrance Galileo, the incomparable scientist, discovered the libration of the moon at seventy-five. The great philosopher, Kant, wrote several of his greatest works at seventy-four. Verdi, the opera composer, wrote “Falstaff” when he was eighty. Oliver Wendell Holmes, the son of the great author, Oliver Wendell Holmes was an alert vigorous Supreme Court judge at ninety-two. Emerson wrote some of his finest essays after he was seventy-five. Tennyson wrote the beautiful “Crossing the Bar” at eighty-three. Titian, one of the most incomparable painters of all time, Titian painted one of his greatest pictures, the historical picture of the “Battle [of] Lepanto,” at ninety-eight. And Gladstone, England’s greatest statesman, for the fourth time was elected prime minister of England after a hard fought campaign when he was eighty-three years of age.
These things emphasize what Caleb said as he stood in the presence of Joshua. “I am now this day eighty and five years of age, but as I was strong when we came first to this land at Kadesh Barnea, so is my strength today” [Joshua 14:10-11].
Second: when Caleb speaks to Joshua, he reviews the years of God’s mercy that preserved him and kept him. He is introduced to us as a Kenezite, a Kenezite, that is Caleb was not an Israelite [Joshua 14:6]. He was not a Hebrew. By blood he did not belong to the chosen family of God. But somewhere in the years of his forefathers, his ancestors renounced their godless idols and embraced the true religion of Moses. And the family became identified with the tribe of Judah.
But he was a Kenezite, he was a Canaanite, he was a wonderful convert. And if you will watch our people, you will find that some of the most zealous and devoted of all of our yokefellows in this ministry were not born in Baptist homes. They became converts to our faith and our communion out of the conviction of the Spirit of God in their hearts.
Caleb was that way. He was a Kenezite. He was a Gentile. But he had given himself with his family to a tremendous dedication to Jehovah God.
Now he reviews the years that had gone by. He says he was forty years of age when they came to Kadesh Barnea [Joshua 14:7]. And the Lord said to Moses, “You choose a prince from each one of the twelve tribes and let them spy out the land” [Numbers 13:1-2], for it is a good land, says the Lord God. It has timber; it flows with milk and honey. It is a land of water and springs, fertility, fecundity. It is a wonderful land [Exodus 3:8]. “Now go look at it.” It is a great tribute to Caleb, though he was a Gentile, that he was appointed as the prince to represent Judah [Numbers 13:6].
So those spies, as Caleb recalls to Joshua, those spies went up and down the land and looked at it [Numbers 13:17-25]. It was all God said it was. At Eshcol, at the brook Eschol, they cut down a branch with a cluster of grapes so large, prolific, that they hung the branch over a pole, and two men carried it back [Numbers 13:23], showing them the beauty and the glory and productivity of the land God had promised them.
Now when they returned, Caleb and Joshua said, “Let us go and possess it, for God has promised it to us. We are ready to make that conquest. Let us go” [Numbers 13:30].
But ten of those men said, “It is true, it is a favored land, one that flows with milk and honey, but giants are there. The Anakim are there, the sons of Anak inhabit that land. And they live behind walled cities. We are not able to take it. Why, in their sights we were as grasshoppers, and so we were in our own sight” [Numbers 13:26-29, 31-33].
You’ll always find that to be true; when you think you have no power, you have no power! When you think you cannot do it, you cannot do it! When you think you are a grasshopper in the sight of the enemies of God, you are a grasshopper! “We were in the sight of those giants as grasshoppers, and so we were in our own sight” [Numbers 13:33]. The ten made the people to murmur and to complain and to say, “Would God we would had died in the land of Egypt! or would God we would had perished in the wilderness!” [Numbers 14:2].
But Caleb said, “No, this is God’s word and God’s promise. Let us arise and possess this land” [Numbers 14:6-9]. And they took stones to stone them, and had it not been for the intervention of God, who came down in the form of a great pillar of fire and smoke, they would have stoned Caleb and Joshua there because of their confidence in the Lord God [Numbers 14:10-12].
The Lord said, “All who are of an age to enter this land as adults, twenty and above, all shall die in the wilderness, except My two princes, Joshua and Caleb” [Numbers 14:22-35]. So for forty years, for forty years Caleb wandered with the children of Israel in the wilderness, and for forty years looked upon more than two hundred funerals a day, as they wasted in the wilderness.
Then they came to the plains of Moab. And Caleb was present when Moses delivered his great Deuteronomic messages, his farewell messages to his people [Deuteronomy 29-33]. And after the last message was delivered, Caleb saw Moses turn to face the valley unknown to man, in the hills and the mountains of Moab, where God laid him to rest [Deuteronomy 34:1-7].
And Caleb stood there that day as Moses turned to face God’s call, and I can just hear Moses as he turns and climbs that great and final mountain to his eternal resting place. I can hear Moses as he says:
God is our dwelling place through all generations.
Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever Thou hast formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, Thou art God
And as he climbs further his voice grows fainter. “For a thousand years in Thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night” [Psalm 90:4]. And his voice grows fainter and fainter.
“We spend our years as a tale that is told, so teach us to number our days that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom” [Psalm 90:12]. And fainter and fainter, “And let the beauty of the Lord God be upon us; and establish Thou the work of our hands, yea, the work of our hands establish Thou it” [Psalm 90:17]. And Moses disappeared out of sight, and God buried him, and “no man knoweth of his sepulcher unto this day” [Deuteronomy 34:6].
Caleb stood there as Moses turned his face toward the setting sun. Then Moses, having been translated, the mantle of his leadership fell upon Joshua, the son of Nun [Deuteronomy 34:9]. And Caleb was by his side as they crossed the Jordan River [Joshua 3:1-17], as they took Jericho [Joshua 6:1-27], and finally [Joshua 8:1-29], Ai, and as they made conquest of the land of Canaan [Joshua 9-12].
Five years passing by, then Caleb at the end of those five years of conquests, comes to Joshua and asks for the inheritance God promised him. And as he speaks of it, he says, “Give me this mountain and this fortified district where the Anakim live, the sons of Anak live” [Joshua 14:12]. They are called in the Bible giants, and they lived behind fortified walls and in fortified cities. “Give me this mountain” [Joshua 14:12].
This is one of the strangest things that I have ever found in God’s Word. After the death of Moses, the servant of the Lord [Deuteronomy 34:5-6], it came to pass that the Lord spake unto Joshua, the son of Nun, saying:
Moses My servant is dead; now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, thou, and all this people, unto the land which I do give to them, even to the children of Israel. Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given unto you, as I said unto Moses. Now be strong and of a good courage; and be not afraid, nor be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee.
[Joshua 1:1-3, 9]
What an astonishing and amazing thing! “Go take this land which I give you” [Joshua 1:2-3]. Well, to me, when somebody gives me something, it is to my mind something that I didn’t buy; he gave it to me. Something I didn’t work for; he gave it to me. Something that I toiled for, no; he gave it to me.
But God doesn’t do it that way. The Lord God said to Joshua, “You cross this Jordan, and I will give you that land west of the Jordan River” [Joshua 1:2], and they took it [Joshua 1-12]. How? A gift of God, but one that they fought for, every inch of it; died for, paid for.
That is what Caleb is saying about Hebron and the cities around Hebron. “Give me this mountain” [Joshua 14:12]. That’s the way God gives. He gives in response to tremendous effort and commitment and dedication. “Give me this mountain.” And the Anakim lived there, and fenced walled cities are there [Joshua 14:12], and yet Caleb asks for it as a gift [Joshua 14:12].
All of God’s work is like that. When John Knox returned to Scotland, having been exiled, he knelt down on the sand of the seashore and cried, “O God, give me Scotland or I die.” And the fury and the encompassing burdens and trials that attended the ministry of John Knox is almost like a fantastic romance to read. “Give me Scotland.” But the cost of it, the war of it, the conquest of it, and all of God’s work is like that. There are giants that contest every foot of the way. There are battles to fight. There is a conquest to be made.
Now, we are at a great crossroads in the life and story of our own church. Lord, give me this mountain. I refer first to our city; our city. Lord, give us the souls that live in this sprawling, spreading, growing city of Dallas. Give us this mountain.
I sent our assistant, Dr. James Bryant, to visit some of the churches that have had an unusual record in baptisms and in soulwinning. And he visited those churches and looked at their program, and when he came back and laid it before me, I thought, “O God, would our people pay such a price as that for us to baptize several hundred every year?” Win that many. Would we?
And I have concluded, unless there is a change in our people, we would not pay the price. The giants are too big. And the walls of the city are too strong. And we have not the consecration or the dedication to measure up to such a conquest.
I am praying about that now. I have been for these last several weeks. If there is a conquest to be made such as I have thought in my heart for God, oh, the price that must be paid, and yet I never get away from that deep persuasion that the First Church in Dallas ought to baptize hundreds every year. We ought to baptize at least five hundred every year. There ought to be times when we might baptize a thousand in a year.
But, oh, the cost; give me this mountain. There is no building of any part of a church without a tremendous confrontation. I know that I know that our church will not be able to minister to the people to which God hath called us to minister to without a tremendous building program. But that entails millions of dollars. And for our congregation to build those buildings and raise millions of dollars calls for a tremendous and a gigantic commitment.
“God, give me this mountain”; but the Anakim live there, giants are there behind high and fortified walls [Joshua 14:12]. The whole life of the church is like that. If we build a Sunday school class, it takes prayer and visitation and commitment and dedication. If you do any further good with your choir program, if your choirs grow in heart, in spirit, and in numbers, it takes a great dedication.
The gifts of God are like that. They are bestowed upon people who offer to God a tremendous commitment and consecration. “Give me this mountain. For the Lord God will help me drive out the giants and receive the inheritance God promised to me forty and five years ago” [Joshua 14:10-12].
I think, and this is the burden of this sermon, I know in my soul that our people must pray about this future program, this expanded ministry. If we are going to reach more people for God, if we are going to teach more people the Word and mind of Christ, if we are going to expand our program, first there must be in our souls a tremendous and almost illimitable commitment to the work of God. “Give me this mountain” [Joshua 14:12].
When Alexander the Great had conquered the world, a philosopher came to him and said, “How did you do it?” And the great general replied, “By never turning back.” When Alexander the Great lay dying, he had no child, no heir, and his great generals standing by his bed said, “Alexander, whose is the kingdom?” And the great Alexander replied, “It is for him who can take it!”
We live in a spiritual world like that. These souls are for those who will win them. These buildings are for those will build them. The expansion of this ministry under God is for those who will do it. “Lord, give me this mountain” [Joshua 14:12].
Bring me my bow of burning gold;
Bring me my arrows of desire:
Bring me my spear: oh, clouds unfold!
Bring me my chariot of fire!
We shall not cease from battle strife,
Nor shall the sword sleep in our hand:
Till we have built Jerusalem
In this fair and pleasant land.
[adapted from “And Did Those Feet in Ancient Time” by William Blake]
“Lord, give me this mountain” [Joshua 14:12]. And this day is a day of commitment and consecration and dedication to the greatest expanded ministry any church has ever faced in the history of Christendom. God bless us all as we, in prayer and commitment, share these godly responsibilities and assignments together.
Now we must sing our hymn of appeal. You, on this first Sunday of the new year, you give your heart to Jesus. Give your life to God. Come down this aisle and stand by me. A family you, a couple you, or just one somebody you, on the first note of the first stanza, come. Do it now. Make the decision now, and in a moment when you stand up, stand up coming. And God bless you in the way. If you are in the balcony, there is a stairway at the front on each side, at the back on each side. There is time and to spare, come. On this lower floor, into the aisle and down to the front, “Here I am, pastor. I decide for Christ, for God, and here I am.” Or to put your life in the fellowship of this dear church, to march with us, to worship with us, to work with us, to pray with us, come and welcome, while we stand and while we sing.
GIVE ME THIS MOUNTAIN
Dr. W. A. Criswell
I. His age 85
II. His life
1. Not a Jew but a Kenezite or Canaanite
3. Wilderness wondering
4. His request for his promised inheritance
III. Give me this mountain
1. Our mountain, our assignment
2. Giants of discouragement
3. Numbers neurosis
4. Is there a way to reach these for Christ?