The Little Child
September 7th, 1975 @ 8:15 AM
THE LITTLE CHILD
Dr. W.A. Criswell
9-7-75 8:15 a.m.
This is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Little Child. In our preaching through Isaiah, we spoke the last time I preached on the first part of the eleventh chapter, and today we begin at the sixth verse and conclude at the ninth verse. Isaiah 11:6-9; this is a dramatic, prophetic picture of the golden age that is yet to come, the millennial kingdom:
The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.
The cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp –
that would be an Egyptian cobra –
and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice’ den.
We don’t know what a cockatrice is. Three times is it referred to in the Bible. It is the name for some dreaded kind of a reptile.
They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.
This is the prophetic picture of the golden age into which someday we shall come in the kingdom of God. And the picture here, of course, is one of Edenic, primeval peace and serenity. These are by nature opposites; a wolf and a lamb, a leopard and a kid, a lion and a fatling. It was not God’s intent that animals eat each other; it was not God’s purpose in creation that the tooth, and the claw, and the fang should be employed for harm and destruction. The carnivore – the carnivorous meat-eating animal – is a result of sin and of the Fall. When God shall remake His creation, it will revert to that primeval, pristine peace, and beauty, and serenity, and tranquility. The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid. And the fearsome, carnivorous, ravenous lion will eat straw like an ox.
But the most beautiful and meaningful of all of the dramatic portrayal lies in its picture of a little child. Three times in the passage is this little child mentioned. It will play on the hole of the venomous cobra. It will put its hand on a cockatrice den, the dreaded serpent’s den. There will be no hurt. There will be no fear. There will be nothing to cause harm or injury, and the whole scene, if you could paint it – with all God’s creation following after – the whole scene is led by a little child, "and a little child shall lead them."
I would not have been surprised had I read in the text, "and the king shall lead them." I would not have been surprised had I read in the text, "and the high priest shall lead them." I would not have been surprised had I read in the text that the prophet shall lead them. I would not have surprised had I read in the Bible that the apostle shall lead them. But what is surprising to me, and overwhelming, is to read in the inspired Word that this great, millennial throng of all God’s creation – the animal world brought into tranquility and sublimity and the whole company of God’s redeemed as they march in praise of the glory of God – they are led by a little child; "and a little child shall lead them" [Isaiah 11:6].
Now, the sermon is based upon a persuasion, a surmise, a corollary, an addendum which I think is true, and the reason I think the corollary is true is this: the eternal principles of God are like God Himself, they are a reflection of God. They never change; God never changes [Hebrews 13:8]. There is no shadow of turning in the Almighty, and the great principles that reflect the character of God are like God Himself. For example, righteousness or morality – what was right yesterday is right today; it shall be right tomorrow. It will be right forever because righteousness and morality are grounded in the character of Almighty God. So the great principles of relationship that guide us both with one another and in the presence of the Almighty are eternal. They never change.
When I see therefore that in the millennial kingdom, in the golden age, a little child shall lead them, then I pause to see if the corollary is correct. This is the work of the Lord; it is a reflection of the heart of God. If that is true, if the deduction is correct, then what I see in the millennial kingdom – the work of the hand of God – I will see in history, I will see in the Scriptures, I will see in the great doctrines of the church, and I will see in human life and in human experience if it is of God.
So let’s see, "and a little child shall lead them" [Isaiah 11:6], is it true in history? Let us see. All of us have been brought into an acquaintance with the Roman Empire, the greatest empire – the vastest, the most influential, the longest in existence that the world has ever known; the Roman Empire. But what was it like? To us today, it is almost impossible to recreate the life in the days of the Roman Caesars. For one thing, it was a world that had been subjected by the Roman legionnaire; it is the same kind of a world as if Hitler had won the war. All civilization was under the iron heel and in the iron fist of the Roman Caesar; the whole civilized world.
Again, it was a world of human slavery: had you walked down the streets of Ephesus when Paul was there, six men out of every ten you met were slaves. Had you walked down the streets of Rome, or had you walked down the streets of Antioch, or walked down the streets of Corinth, or of Thessalonica, six out of every ten you met were slaves. And in a slavery – it is impossible for us to enter into where there were no laws of protection; the slave was of all creatures most servile and abject.
It was a world of the exposure of children. If a man didn’t want a child – and especially true of a girl baby – all he had to do was to say, "Expose it." I remember in our study of the Greek language, there was placed in my hand a papyrus dug up out of hermetically sealed sands of Egypt. And in that papyrus that was assigned for me to read, the father was giving instruction to his wife to expose the girl baby; that is, not wanting it, so take it out somewhere and lay it on the side of the road so that a carnivorous animal might eat it. Or, worse still: somebody pick it up, break all of its bones, raise it misshapen, and place it on the side of the street that it might beg for alms. That is the kind of a world in which the Roman Empire was raised above the nations and civilization.
When God looked down on the Roman Empire and saw its cruelty, and its harshness, its infinite suffering and subjection, what did God do? Did He send down His thunderbolts? Did He rain on it the artillery of heaven? Did God crush the leaders of the Roman Empire with a veiled fist? Did He? This is what God did. In a little town called Bethlehem, He took one of His stars up there in the sky, and He moved it over. And there in a manger, God looked down upon the life of a little Babe – soft on the bosom of its mother – God’s answer to the harsh, cruel night of the world [Matthew 2:1-2, 9-11].
Were you here last Christmas when Gary put up an enormous tree here? They called it a singing, a living – "a living Christmas Tree." Did you come and see it? They sang a song. Do you remember the song?
Said the night wind to the little lamb,
Do you see what I see?
Way up in the sky, little lamb,
Do you see what I see?
A star, a star dancing in the night
With a tail as big as a kite.
Said the little lamb to the shepherd boy,
Do you hear what I hear?
Ringing through the sky, shepherd boy.
Do you hear what I hear?
A song, a song high above the tree
With a voice as big as the sea.
Said the shepherd boy to the mighty king,
Do you know what I know?
In your palace warm, mighty king,
Do you know what I know?
A Child, a Child shivers in the cold
Let us bring Him silver and gold.
Said the king to the people everywhere,
Listen to what I say.
Pray for peace, people everywhere.
Listen to what I say.
The Child, the Child sleeping in the night
He will bring us goodness and light.
He will bring us goodness and light.
["Do You Hear What I Hear?"; Noel Regney, 1962]
"And a little child shall lead them" [Isaiah 11:6]. Is it true in history; these great, eternal principles of the Mighty God? Is it true in the Scriptures? Is it true? Look!. The Lord God bows down His ear from heaven to hear the cry of His people; they moan, and they groan under a heavy load. They are making brick without straw; they bow under the lash of an awesome taskmaster. And they cry unto God; and the Lord bows down His ear to hear, and He raises up a great deliverer for Israel [Exodus 3:7-10]. He is the son of Pharaoh’s daughter – he’s the Prince of Wales – he is the heir-apparent to the throne; he is the next great pharaoh of that mighty nation of an ancient age. But rather than enjoy the splendor and the luxury of the throne, he chooses to suffer, to suffer affliction with the people of God [Hebrews 11:23-26].
Where did that come from? A child – a child crying on the bosom of the Nile – and a little sister; when Pharaoh’s daughter said, "Fetch me a nurse," brought the little child’s mother [Exodus 2:2-10]. And as the little child nursed from mother’s breasts, and there the little thing grew up, the mother taught the lad who he was, who his people were, who God was. And when the great decision was made, he made it for God [Exodus 2:11-15]. It was the fruit of the life of a little child.
In the days of the apostasy, when even the high priest allowed his two sons to turn the house of God into a brothel [1 Samuel 2:22-23], isn’t that a strange thing, the turn of wickedness? Do you remember in the French Revolution they took a prostitute, a harlot, and placed her on the high altar in Notre Dame in France, and praised and worshipped her? Isn’t that a strange thing? In the house of God, in the tabernacle of Shiloh, the sons of old Eli turned it into a brothel. And in the days of the apostasy the terrible Philistine came and occupied the land, and reduced to servitude the house and the people of God [1 Samuel 4:1]. And in those days, in the quiet of a nighttime, a little child, a little child, a small child heard the voice of God saying, "Samuel, Samuel!" And he ran to old Eli and said, "Here am I. Thou didst call me." And old Eli said, "I did not call. I did not call." And the lad lay down again. When that happened the third time, old Eli perceived God had called the child [1 Samuel 3:1-9]. God’s answer to the need of the people: "and a little child shall lead them" [Isaiah 11:6].
I haven’t time to speak of Naaman’s little maid, captured [2 Kings 5:2]. Think of the hurt of that little girl when a cruel soldier seized her, tore her away from her home and carried her a slave into a foreign country; and she waited, the little child, on Naaman’s wife. Why didn’t she hate them? Why didn’t she seek to do them wrong? The little child, seeing that Naaman the master was a leper, said, "Oh, would to God he could be well! And in my country there is a prophet who can cleanse him, make him well, heal him whole again" [2 Kings 5:3], a child, a child.
We must hasten. Is it true in doctrine? "And a little child shall lead them" [Isaiah 11:6]. Listen to the word of our blessed and precious Lord:
At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?
And Jesus called a little child, a little child. And Jesus called a little child unto Him, and set him in the midst. . .
And said, Truly, verily –
in the Greek, amen –
I say unto you, Except ye be converted –
strephō, turned in heart and in mind –
except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.
Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
And whoso shall receive one such little child in My name receiveth Me.
The little child, the little child, "and a little child shall lead them." How pertinent that is in the background of the dissertation of our Lord; envious and jealous of each other, and striving to see who would be first, who sits on His right hand and who sits on His left; in the background of that spirit of rivalry and envy, and jealousy, and the Lord places in the midst a little child and said, "He is the greatest who is most like this little one" [Matthew 18:4], and a little child shall lead them.
Is it true in life and in human experience? The little child, the little child; now, I wish I had the hour and the hour, the leadership of a little child in a home, in the heart, in the life, in the experience. Last Sunday we invited – for I don’t know how many, many years on the Sunday of Labor Day – Dr. Huber Drumwright, head of the Department of Theology, directing the School of Theology in Southwestern Seminary; he has about a thousand five hundred preachers, and they are professors under his tutelage and guidance. I love to have him come. He grew up in this church. I sat down with him after the service was over, and we were breaking bread together, and while I sat by his side he turned to me and said, "Pastor, you know there’s a professor at the seminary who loves you devotedly, and you know nothing about it." He said, "I can’t describe to you how much that professor loves you."
Well, because of my literalism in the Bible, because of my fundamentalism, in some theological circles I’m looked upon with great askance, so when he said that to me I was surprised, and I said, "I did not know it. Why?" And this was his answer: he said in the home of the professor and his wife was a little boy, a little child, and the little thing was growing toward and nearing his eighth birthday, to be eight years of age. But the child had been grievously ill for a long, long time. And the mother, staying at home watching over the life of the little one, listened to the services on television. And upon this Lord’s Day, when the pastor was done preaching, the little thing turned in his illness to his mother and said, "Mother, I want to be saved just like that, just as the pastor has said. I want to be saved. I want to accept Jesus as my Savior. I want to be saved." And the mother was surprised, and she picked up the little thing in her arms and holding him next to her heart, she talked to him about the Lord and about what it means to accept Jesus as Savior, explained it to him carefully. And the little lad accepted, the best the little boy knew how, the Lord Jesus as his Savior. And holding the little lad in her arms the boy fell asleep; he died in the arms of his mother and in the arms of Jesus. And Dr. Drumwright turned to me and said, "Do you understand now why it is the professor and his wife so deeply love you?"
Put the whole world together, it hardly moves us like our children; when somebody is nice to them, they are nice to you. When somebody loves them, they love you. When somebody hurts them, they hurt you. When somebody minister’s to them, they minister to you. "A little child shall lead them," just like they had your heart in their hands, just like they had your soul in their hands, that little child; isn’t it unbelievable how God does things, how God puts these things together? Isn’t it astonishing? It’s just like God, He does it that way, and it is marvelous in our sight [Psalms 118:23].
We must make our appeal. And in a moment when we stand to sing our song of invitation, a family you, a couple you, or just one somebody you, to give your heart to the Lord, to accept Jesus as Savior, to put your life in the fellowship and communion of the church, while we sing this hymn of appeal, on the first note of the first stanza, would you come? Down one of these stairwells at the front and the back, into an aisle here to the front, "Here I am, pastor. Here I come. I have made this decision in my heart, and here I stand." Do it now. Make it now. Come now, while we stand and while we sing.
Dr. W. A. Criswell
A. Changes during the millennium
B. A child shall lead them
C. Principles of God do not change (Hebrews 13:8)
II. In history
A. Roman Empire filled with darkness and cruelty
B. God’s answer – a Baby born in Bethlehem
III. In Scripture
A. The cry of His people in Egypt (Exodus 2:2-9, 11-15)
B. In the days of Israel’s apostasy God calls Samuel (1 Samuel 2:22-23, 3:1-8, 20)
C. The maid in Naaman’s household (2 Kings 5:2-3)
IV. In doctrine
A. Greatest in kingdom of heaven (Matthew 18:1-5)
V. In human life