Praise and Prosperity
October 20th, 1974 @ 10:50 AM
PRAISE AND PROSPERITY
Dr. W. A. Criswell
10-20-74 10:50 a.m.
We welcome you who are sharing this service with us on television and on radio. This is the pastor of the church, the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and the title of the sermon is Praise and Prosperity. We are preaching these days out of the life and experience of a pastor who lived long ago. He was the brother of our Lord. And he became a Christian when the Lord personally appeared to him after the Savior was raised from the dead.
And James became the leader of the churches of Christendom. In his letter of five chapters, he writes very pragmatically, experientially, empirically. He is down here where the people are, not up there in some metaphysical, philosophical theological world. And he writes about things that we know and experience and things that we ought to do in the household of faith. So out of the fifth chapter of his letter, and in the eleventh verse, he says, “Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy” [James 5:11].
And what especially drew my attention to the verse was the word translated here “end; “You have seen the end of the Lord.” The word is telos. Everywhere in the Bible, you will find the word translated “perfect.” Telos, teleios. And the idea of perfection in the word is not ours of sinlessness, without spot or blemish or taint of iniquity. To us perfect always means that. But there is nothing of that in the word as it is used in the Bible. The word telos, teleios means the consummation of a purpose for which a thing was made. It is arrived.
For example, a man is a telos, or a teleios of a boy. The purpose of God for the boy is that he grow. If he doesn’t, he has not achieved the purpose of God. The Lord made the boy to grow into a man. Now that’s the meaning of the word. So it drew my attention to it especially when it spoke about Job and what God did in the consummation of his life. So I turn over here to Job, in the forty-second chapter, and I read what God did for him at the consummation of his life, as Job came to the end of God’s purposes for him. And this is what it says. “So the Lord blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning: for he had fourteen thousand sheep”—where he had seven before—”and six thousand camels”—where he had [three] before—”and a thousand yoke of oxen”—where he had five hundred before—” [Job 1:3; 42:12-13]. “And he also had seven sons and three daughters” [Job 42:13]. Isn’t that a remarkable thing what God did as He brought Job to the purpose, the consummation of his life?
So I look at Job, to see what kind of a man that he was and what it was that brought this marvelous blessing, prosperity to his life. In the forty-second chapter of Job, the old patriarch cries:
I have heard of Thee, O Lord God, by the hearing of the ear; but now mine eye seeth Thee:
Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.
And so it was, that the Lord spoke to Job’s comforters, and He said to them, My wrath is kindled against thee…for ye have not spoken of Me the thing that is right and good, as My servant Job hath.
Now you take seven bullocks and seven rams, and go to My servant Job, and you offer up for yourselves a burnt offering; and My servant Job shall pray for you
And the Lord turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends: And also the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before.
[Job 42:5-8, 10]
Then the word I read:
So the Lord blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning: for he had fourteen thousand sheep, and six thousand camels, and a thousand yoke of oxen . . .
And he had also seven sons and three daughters.
What do you think about that? This is the life of a man who steadfastly adored and worshiped and served the Lord. When he was bereft of everything he possessed, he says, “The Lord gave it to me, and the Lord took it awa;, blessed be the name of the Lord” [Job 1:21]. And when Satan afflicted him with boils from the top of his head to the bottom of his feet [Job 2:7], he said, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” [Job 13:15].
And then brought through those days of terrible disaster and catastrophic loss, he said, “Lord, even then have I been proud and lifted up in spirit, I now see Thee, and looking at Thee, I abhor myself and repent in dust and ashes” [Job 42:5-6]. And God was pleased with the words and the spirit of praise and adoration of Job. And God accepted him, was delighted with him, and God gave him twice as much as he ever had before [Job 42:12].
That is the title of the sermon, Praise and Prosperity, our adoration of God, our thanksgiving and gratitude to God and God’s infinite blessings to us. Did you notice in reading about this teleios of Job, the consummation of his life, that it spoke of these offerings, seven bullocks and seven rams offered up unto God? [Job 42:8]. And that brought to my mind, of course, this series of lessons that I’ve been teaching on Wednesday night at seven-thirty o’clock in this great auditorium. We have as a general subject for it, “The Scarlet Line, The Scarlet Thread Through the Bible,” following blood sacrifice in the Word of God.
And of course, that bring us to the Levitical law. And the last two times, we’ve been looking at the sacrifices that the people brought before the Lord. And last Wednesday night, we spoke of the five offerings of Leviticus [Leviticus 1-7]. Looking at those five offerings, two of them were mandatory, commanded. It was necessary that the worshiper bring those offerings. One is the sin offering [Leviticus 4:1-5:13, 6:24-30] and the other is like it, the trespass offering [Leviticus 5:14-6:7, 7:1-7]; the sin offering against God; the trespass offering against other people and against holy things.
Both of them are alike. They’re sin offerings. The sin offering was mandated. It was commanded [Leviticus 4:1-35]. No man could come before God without the shedding of blood [Leviticus 17:11]. “Without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins” [Hebrews 9:22]. And in the Old Testament by type, they sacrificed an innocent animal, poured out its blood, and in the blood sacrifice came before the Lord [Hebrews 9:19-21].
Today we come before God in the blood of the cross [Hebrews 12:24]; pleading the expiation, the propitiation [1 John 2:2], the atonement [Romans 5:11], the sacrifice [1 Corinthians 15:3], the pouring out of the crimson of His life of our Lord on the cross [Matthew 27:32-50]. There’s no man who shall ever stand in the presence of God in his sin [Hebrews 12:14]. He must find atonement, and atonement means the shedding of blood [Leviticus 17:11]. So that sacrifice was commanded [Leviticus 4:1-35]. There is no way to come before God except in blood, in the shedding of blood, in a sacrifice of blood.
Now the other three offerings were called sweet savor offerings [Leviticus 1-3; 6-7]. What do you mean by a sweet savor offering? It was an offering that when God looked upon it and the smoke of the offering ascended heavenward, the fragrance of it delighted God, and it was called a sweet savor offering [Leviticus 1:9]. The fragrance of it delighted the Lord. Now those offerings, burnt, peace, and meal, those offerings were called sweet savor offerings because they were not commanded. They were not mandated, but the offerer came before God and brought them to the Lord because he loved God, and it was a way of praising God and giving thanks to God.
Now I’m going to change the translation of one of them so you can see it more perfectly. When we say, “the peace offerings” [Leviticus 3:1-17; 7:11-21, 28-34], it means something or not quite understand it. So let me translate the word actually as we would say it today. The word translated “a peace offering,” we would call it in our language, we would say “a praise offering, a thanksgiving offering.” Practically all of the offerings of the tabernacle and of the temple were peace offerings. They were thanksgiving offerings. They were praise offerings. Very few of them were burnt offerings. Practically all of them were praise offerings, thanksgiving offerings. And they were voluntary. The man did it out of the gratitude and overflowing praise and thanksgiving of his heart. And when he did it, he gathered his family together and whatever friends he would invite, and then the officiating priest and the offering was sacrificed before God, and they shared it as a communal meal [Leviticus 7:11-21]. It was a thanksgiving dinner. It was a thanksgiving sacrifice. And it was brought to the house of the Lord, and the ministers shared it [Leviticus 7:14], and God looked upon it and called it a fragrant offering, a sweet savor offering [Leviticus 3:5].
There is something in that that is marvelous. You know what it is? It is this: there is a presupposition on God’s part who gave all of this Levitical legislation, there was a presupposition on the part of God that the life of His people would be a life, not of onerous, burdensome worship, not what they did was always just out of mandate and commandment, but the presupposition was that the life of God’s people would be a life of praise, and of glory, and of gladness, and of thanksgiving, that the overflowing gratitude of their hearts and the love of their deepest souls for God would find expression in these offerings of sacrifice, and praise, and gratitude, and glory. Now you will find that overflowing spirit of marvelous, wonderful song and praise and prayer and offering, you’ll find it reflected in the life of the people. For example, look at this. The ninety-sixth Psalm:
O sing unto the Lord a new song: sing unto the Lord, all the earth.
Sing unto the Lord, bless His name; show forth His salvation from day to day.
Declare His glory among the nations, His wonders among all people.
Give unto the Lord the glory due unto His name; bring an offering, and come into His courts…
Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad…
Before the Lord: for He cometh, He cometh to judge the world:…
[Psalm 96:1-3, 8, 11, 13]
That is the spirit of overflowing praise on the part of the people. “O glory, glory. Praise His name. Give the glory due unto the Lord. Bring an offering and come into His courts.”
May I point out just one other out of all of it? The last one, the one hundred-fiftieth Psalm, “Praise ye the Lord,” or untranslated, “hallelu-yah.”
Praise ye the Lord. Praise God in His sanctuary: praise Him in the firmament of His power.
Praise Him for His mighty acts: praise Him according to His excellent greatness.
Praise Him with the sound of the trumpet: praise Him with the psaltery and harp.
Praise Him with the timbrel and dance: praise Him with stringed instruments and organs.
Praise Him upon the loud cymbals: praise Him upon the high sounding cymbals.
Let everything that hath breath praise the Lord, hallelu-yah,
or translated here, “Praise ye the Lord.”
What am I going to do about this? “Praise Him with the timbrel and dance.” Dance. “O, praise Him with the timbrel and dance” [Psalm 150:4]. Well, when we say that word “dance,” we think about the hoochy coochy, the bunny hop—none of those. That’s what we think. Oh dear! This is what it means. When a man is so full of gladness, and praise and gratitude to God, he can’t contain himself, and he stands up before the Lord, and he walks before the Lord with words of praise, with shouts of gladness and glory. That’s what it refers to.
In the sixth chapter of the 2 Samuel, the story is told of David bringing the ark into Jerusalem [2 Samuel 6:12-13], and then the little verse, “And when they brought the ark into Jerusalem, David danced before God with all of His might” [2 Samuel 6:14]. It was a hallelujah occasion! It was a great holy, marvelous, heavenly hour! And David danced before the Lord with all of his might.
We are not moved like that much anymore, but when I grew up as a boy, I used to see people moved like that. And in the beginning of my ministry, I used to see people like that. As I began preaching, I was invited as a young man to hold a revival in a church, not this big, but looked like this, it had a balcony all the way around. And that morning, that morning there were two young men who were saved.
And when time came for the pastor to introduce them to the church, there was a fine-looking woman who stood up and asked the pastor if she could say something. She was a teacher, I found out, of the woman’s Bible class in the church. And she came forward and put one of her hands on the head of those boys and said, “Today, I prayed God for one of my boys.” And then she took her other hand and put it on the head of the other lad and said, “But God was better to me than my prayer. Today, God hath given me both of my boys.”
And then from one side to the other of that beautiful church, she shouted and clapped her hands and praised God. You just never felt such a thing. The great, vast throng that jammed the church that morning were bowed down as one, in tears of gratitude and glory and thanksgiving. That is what that refers to. Oh, how wonderful it is, how marvelous it is, the feeling of it, the glory of it; so full of the gladness and praise and gratitude to God that you just have to shout it, you have to clap your hands, you have to sing it, you have to say it, you have to move. You are just praising God.
Now that is the presupposition of that offering [Psalm 96:8]. That out of the gratitude of the hearts of the people, there would be a voluntary offering, not commanded, not mandated, but something that came out of the fullness of their hearts.
Now I want to speak of that to us, about us; how we are. A gift that would involve us and the difference between one that is mandated, commanded, and one that is given out of fullness of love and soul; now I’m going to take an illustration, the first me and the other—and the other, you. First me, what is given to me, if it is a gift out of necessity; that’s one thing. The preacher doesn’t have anything to eat, so we’re going to give him something to eat. The preacher doesn’t have any shoes to wear, so we’re going to give him some shoes to wear. The preacher doesn’t have any clothes, so we’re going to give him some clothes. And he doesn’t have a place to live, so we’re going to give him a place to live.
Now that’s one thing. But I want to tell you what you ought to do. You ought to take that to the deacons. “Now, listen here, you deacons, the preacher doesn’t have any shoes to wear, what are you doing to support him? And the preacher doesn’t have any clothes to wear, and he runs around here half-naked. That’s not right.”
The Bible says the workman is worthy of his hire [Matthew 10:10]. If the preacher needs anything, you ought to go to the deacons about it. He needs a car or he needs gasoline, or he needs writing materials, you ought to go to the deacons, you ought to pay him. Now you deacons, you ought to prepare for him. And it ought to be placed in the budget. That’s what you ought to do. You ought to take care of the pastor. This is the assignment of the deacons who make out a budget and they present it to the church.
Now that is of necessity. That’s mandated. That’s commanded. The Bible says the minister, the worker for God is worthy of his hire [Matthew 10:10]. And you ought to take care of him and pay him. Now that’s commanded. But, but, oh, how different, how different if something is given without thought of need or necessity or payment. It is in a different world.
Look, about two weeks ago or something, every night we had a Round Up over yonder celebrating the pastor’s thirtieth anniversary as pastor of the church. And upon an evening while I was there meandering around, there was a little girl, a little tiny thing who tugged at my trouser’s leg, my pant’s leg. And I looked down there and there she was, just a little bitty thing.
She had something in her closed fist, in her closed hand. And when I looked down and spoke to her, why, the little thing opened her hand to me. She had in it a quarter, two dimes, and a nickel and a penny. And she said she was giving it to me.
Well, I had no idea. So I looked up and saw her mother standing there. And her mother said to me, “Pastor, I don’t know what to say or how to explain it. It is just this.” You know, they had booths there where you could buy popcorn and a drink and a hamburger and things like that. And the little child was given some money in order to go to those booths and buy those things.
So the mother said to me, “She refused to use it, absolutely refused. And she kept it tight there in her fist.” And she said, “I asked my little girl, what are you going to do with that, and she wouldn’t tell me and she wouldn’t spend it.” And here’s what the little thing was doing. She kept that tight in her hand until she found me and then came and gave it to me. She wanted me to have it.
Do I need a quarter, two dimes, a nickel, and a penny? No. Don’t need it at all. But it thrilled my heart for that little child to bring that to me. Not of necessity, just out of the love of their hearts. In this thirtieth anniversary, there were some sweet people in this church who give me this stick pin. Do I need this stick pin? I do not. I don’t need it at all. But oh! just the love expressed in the gift warmed my heart. It’s a wonderful thing, that what the people do is not paying you, it’s not of commandment and it’s not of necessity: “This, pastor, is just because we love you, that’s all.” It’s a precious thing.
Now I want to talk about you. I grew up, as you know, in a poor, poor world, a poor family. And when I began my ministry, I began in the deep of the Depression, out in the country where the people could barely live; sold their cotton for five cents a pound. Now I saw so many things. And there in that context. Now you look at what I saw.
Here was a man and he give his wife a gift on their anniversary. He gave her a new washboard. Do you know what I mean by a washboard? A washboard, a scrub board, you know about like this. And it had corrugated, wavy metal on it. And you took the clothes and you just washed and scrubbed. That’s what he did on their anniversary. He gave her a new washboard, a new scrub board.
Let’s take another one. I know another one who gave his wife a new axe in order for her to cut the wood with. Cut the kindling, cut the fire wood. He gave her a new axe. Another one I know gave his wife a new iron. You know, one of those old fashioned, you put it on the stove and heat it up and iron with it. He gave her a new iron.
There’s nothing wrong with that. There’s not anything in the earth wrong with that. She needed a new scrub board, so he gave it to her. And she needed a new iron, so he gave her it. And she needed a new sharp axe, so he gave her a new axe. There’s nothing wrong with that, nothing at all of necessity and of need. But oh, think how much better and sweeter to bring to his wife on her anniversary or on her birthday, think of bringing to her something she didn’t need, of no necessity.
Maybe she already had a dress, but he brought her a pretty new dress. Or maybe he brought her a new bonnet, a new hat, or maybe he brought her something pretty to put on her dresser. Think of the difference in it. And when he brings it to her, she looks at it, and she says to him, “Oh, you should not have done it.” And he says, “Well, I’ll take it back.” “Oh..”
It is a different world! It isn’t the same. It is that overflowing love, and gratitude, and thanksgiving. God calls it a sweet savor offering [Leviticus 3:5]. It has a fragrance that pleases God. It delights God. Not out of necessity or commandment but out of the fullness of an overflowing heart. Now I must close. I have just a moment left.
You know, there are some things that are commanded us of God in the Bible. One, a man owes a tithe to the Lord. That’s all the way through the Word of God. From the days of the patriarchs like Abraham and Jacob, through all of the Leviticus legislation, the tithe is holy unto the Lord and clear to this present day [Leviticus 27:30, 32]. In the seventh chapter of the Book of Hebrews, it says, “And there He receiveth tithes of whom it is witnessed that He liveth” [Hebrews 7:8]. I owe that to God. That belongs to Him. It doesn’t belong to me. And when a man does the commandment of God, God says, “I will bless Him for it.”
Do you notice in the passage that you read, the plural? “I will open the windows”—plural—”of heaven and pour you out a blessing you cannot contain it, receive it” [Malachi 3:10]. When a man does that, God blesses him temporally, spiritually. “I owe that to God. And when I give a tithe to the Lord, that’s what I ought to do. And God will bless me when I do it.”
But there’s something else. There’s something over and above. There’s something that arises out of my deepest soul, O God. I want to illustrate it and then I have to close.
Long time ago, in the days of Dr. Truett and here in this church, world without end, the preacher would stand up as Dr. Truett would stand up in this church and they would take up offerings; offerings for missions, offerings for the new building fund, offerings for the Buckner Orphans’ Home. And the way they would do it, I watched them all of the years of my life, growing up. “All of you that will give fifteen thousand dollars, ten thousand, five thousand, you stand up. Anybody give a thousand dollars, you stand up. Fifty,” you have seen that all your life too if you are as old as I am or even younger. That’s the way they used to do it.
All right; the preacher was taking up an offering for a new church building. And the people were standing up to give what they would pledge to the new church house. And there was a man who stood up by the side of his wife and he said, “Pastor, in memory of our son who was killed in the war, we will give ten thousand dollars,” and in that day and in that church that was an enormous sum. “In memory of our son who was killed in the war, we will give ten thousand dollars.”
And when he sat down, there was a dear mother, seated next to her husband right there and she put her hand on his arm and she said, “Husband, stand up, stand up, stand up and tell the pastor that we will give ten thousand dollars for our son.” And the husband turned toward his wife and said, “But dear, our son wasn’t killed. Our son came back. We have our boy today.” And the mother replied to her husband, “Husband, stand up. Stand up. Stand up and tell him we will give ten thousand dollars for our son because he did come back! He was not slain. We have him today, and out of gratitude and thanksgiving to God, we will give ten thousand dollars for our son.”
That’s the glory of standing before the Lord.
What of necessity? God will bless it. What of commandment? God will bless it. What of need? God will bless it. But, oh, the fullness, and the richness and the glory of coming before God with a sweet savor offering: “This Lord; it’s not commanded. This is not demanded. This is not of mandated necessity. This, Lord, is out of the fullness of my heart. This is of praise and gratitude.” God says it’s fragrant, it’s beautiful, it’s precious in His sight [Leviticus 3:5; 2 Corinthians 9:7].
In this moment now we are going to sing our hymn of appeal, and while we sing it, while we wait prayerfully, is there a family you to place your life with us in the worship and praise of Jesus? Is there a couple you? Is there one somebody you? In the balcony you, on this lower floor, out of the press of people coming down one of these stairways, walking down one of these aisles, “The Lord has spoken to me and I’m coming, I’m bringing my wife and my children, we’re all coming,” or just you. While prayerfully we wait before God and sing this hymn of appeal, make the decision now in your heart. And on the first note of that first stanza, stand up, coming down that aisle to God and to us. Do it now, while we stand and while we sing.