THE BLESSEDNESS OF HOME
Dr. W. A. Criswell
5-9-76 10:50 a.m.
Oh, thank you glorious choir and orchestra! I love for you to sing the songs of Zion, the Holy Scriptures. That is another psalm you can sing every Sunday, if you so like. I do not read a psalm just one time and think never to read it again. I love to read them over and over. And when you sing them like that, it is glorious. How excellent is God’s name, making the firmament, the heavens above us, and creating us in His own image. The evolutionist says we are human beings, just a little above an insect, but God says in that psalm that He created us “just a little lower than the angels” [Psalm 8:5]. There is something about materialism that degrades the human soul. But there is everything about God that lifts up the worshipful heart to the highest heavens themselves. Thank you, choir; sing it again and again and again.
God bless us as we lift up the name of our glorious Lord. We welcome you who are sharing this service on radio and on television, particularly and especially in our prayer that God will help us carry the message of this church and of this Holy Book to all the communities and cities of America. It will bless us beyond compare if you will write to us. On your screen, you will see the name and the address. May God put it in your heart to write. Bless you for doing so.
This is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Blessedness of Home. And it is a sermon prepared from two beautiful words in the Psalms.
First, in Psalm 68:6, “God setteth the solitary in families…” And the second, in Psalm 107: 41, “He maketh his families like a flock.” When I read that passage, “God setteth the solitary in families,” I think of a little baby, a little infant, a little child. “God setteth the solitary in families,” when I read that passage, I think of the prodigal son in a far country [Luke 15:13]—degraded, feeding hogs [Luke 115:14-15]—and what an insult that was to a Jewish youth. He came to himself and came back to his father and his home [Luke 15:17-21], “God setteth the solitary in families” [Psalm 68:6]. When I think of that text, I think of an orphan boy or an orphan girl, “God setteth the solitary in families.” And sometimes, when I think of that text, I think of an old and aged man, and someone loves and someone cares. “God setteth the solitary in families” [Psalm 68:6], and “He maketh his families like a flock” [Psalm 107:41]: the blessedness of home.
It pleases God when a couple loves one another. Isn’t it an unusual discourse that Paul writes in the second Timothy letter, when he speaks of Adam and Eve, as a typical message from God concerning all of our people—men and women, husbands and wives, fathers and mothers—and the apostle says that Eve was deceived and was in the transgression, but Adam was not deceived and so chose, in a volitional choice, what he would do? What was that choice? What did Adam choose to do? The apostle says Eve was deceived and did not realize the tragedy into which she was plunging herself and her posterity. Eve was deceived, but Adam was not deceived [1 Timothy 2:14], that is, he chose to partake of the interdicted fruit and so died with his wife [Genesis 3:1-6]. Or I could place it in other words and it would sound like this: Adam so loved the help meet God had created for him [Genesis 2:18, 20-23], that rather than see her die and he live, he chose to die with her [Genesis 3:6].
Do you remember the story of Jacob, who loved Rachel, and he worked seven years for her hand? Then in a deception, Laban, the father of Rachel, gave to Jacob Leah. Then Jacob worked seven more years for Rachel [Genesis 29:18-30]. And the Scriptures say that, to Jacob, those fourteen years were as nothing because of the love wherewith he loved her [Genesis 29:20].
Is it not one of the most beautiful stories in human literature, the story of the Moabitess Ruth? And how Boaz the Bethlehemite fell in love with the Moabitess and took her into his own heart and into his home. And she became his wife and the mother of Obed, who is the father of Jesse, who is the father of David [Ruth 4:10-17]—the beautiful love of Boaz, a Bethlehemite, for Ruth, a Moabitess.
And there is no more moving story in the Scriptures than that of Elkanah and Hannah. And Hannah was barren and wept before the Lord [1 Samuel 1:2, 5], and Elkanah, the husband, said to her, “Am I not better to thee than ten sons?” [1 Samuel 1:7-8]. And in answer to prayer [1 Samuel 1:10-11], there was a little baby, a child given to the arms of Hannah, and she named him “Asked of God”—in Hebrew, “Samuel” [1 Samuel 1:20].
I tell you truly, I do not exaggerate: there are ten thousand problems and ten hundred thousand conferences that would never need to be, if the two loved one another. You could solve an ocean, a sea—a universe full of perplexities and disappointments and discouragements and problems, if the two loved each other. “God hath made his families like a flock” [Psalm 107:41], and “God hath set the solitary in families” [Psalm 68:6]. And it pleases God when they love one another.
Again, it pleases God and the home is blessed when the child is prayed for and wanted and asked for as Hannah said to old Eli, “For this child I prayed” [1 Samuel 1:27]. What a beautiful and precious way to receive a child from the hands of God who formed it, and made it, and created it in the womb of a loving and expectant mother. When the child is loved and prayed for in the home, everything that heaven could bestow, to sanctify and hallow the days of the family, hath God done in that love and devotion. To love children, your children, is something of heaven. It is a breath from above.
I don’t think there is a story more preciously, tenderly beautiful than this: there was a poor, poor, poor family who had many children. And because of the poverty of the home, it was impossible to feed them all. So it was decided to give one of them away. And that night, while all the children were sleeping, the father and the mother were to decide which one was to be given away. They looked at the eldest, and looking upon his sleeping face, they said, “We could not give our eldest son away; he’s our firstborn and our pride. We could not give our eldest son away.”
They looked next at the eldest girl, and the father looking upon her sleeping face said, “Oh, dear, we could not give her away. She looks exactly like her mother.”
They looked at the next child, a boy, and the mother said, “Oh, dear, we could not give him away. He is the image of his father.”
They looked at the next child. He was crippled. “Oh,” said they, “we cannot give little Johnny away. He’s crippled, he needs us.”
They went all through the numbers of the children and finally came to the baby. And they said, “We cannot give our baby away. It’s just a baby!”
They finally decided they would stay together and starve together. That is of God: a love that would bind the family unto death.
You know, I have learned so much since I began a pastoral ministry when I was a teenager seventeen years of age. I keenly remember the rebuke: I was in a home and a mother had many children in this home on the farm. There was one child named Robert. Little Robert, who had died before I came to be pastor of the little country church, and every time I would visit in the home—and I stayed there many times—the mother would always talk to me about little Robert and how she missed him. And many times would cry as she remembered that little lad who had died. And out of the inexperience of my young life, one time I interrupted to say, “My dear Mrs. Hobson, look at all of these children that you have. The house is full of them. And yet you grieve over little Robert. You have so many beside, how could you grieve over one being gone?”
She looked at me in amazement and in hurt astonishment and said, “Oh, young pastor, you don’t understand! If I had forty children and one of them died, I would grieve over that one as though it was the only child that I possessed.” I remember that. That is mother love: If there were forty of us in the home, her love is not diminished or divided into forty parts. It is as though each one of them were the only child she possessed. The Lord is pleased when in the home the child is loved and prayed for. “God has set the solitary in families” [Psalm 68:6], and “He maketh his families like a flock” [Psalm 107:41].
A third thing: God is pleased and the home is blessed when that family is nurtured and loved in the admonition of the Lord. I mean by that: when our priorities and our values are appraised in the light of the truth of Almighty God.
It is so easy, and I and so many others, fall into these tragic errors. There is work to be done, there are tasks and assignments to be achieved, and there is much that the Lord has placed upon us. And in secular professions especially there are great corporations to build, and there is wealth to gain, and there is fame to be won, and there is advancement. And it is very easy for a man in the secular world to give himself to these things. And in the meantime, his children grow up, and they grow up, and they grow up, and they grow up without him. And the values that he incarnates and personifies are worldly values. They can be defined in terms of money, and advancement, and success, and building, when actually the great and mighty things that God has given him are forgot and neglected around his own door.
I remember reading a story one time, and it was cut off just right there, and I’m going to finish it in a way that I think happened: there was a tall young teenager in the court, and the judge said, “Sir, stand up and be sentenced.”
And the lad stood before the bar and the judge. And the judge, looking sternly at the lad, said, “I knew your father. He was a great barrister. He was our greatest authority on laws of property. These volumes that I possess are written by him. And you, son, have brought shame and disgrace on a noble father and a worthy name.”
And the boy replied, “Yes, sir.”
And the judge said, “Why could not you have been like your father?”
And the boy replied, “Your Honor, I never knew my father. I never knew him. I didn’t know what he was like.”
The judge said, “You never knew him? What do you mean?”
The boy replied, “Your Honor, when I was little and came to him, he pushed me away. He said, ‘Run along. I’m very busy.’ And as I grew up, I would ask him, and he’d say, ‘Son, I’m writing these books of law. I must not be bothered.’ Your Honor, I never knew him. I have no idea what he was like.”
That’s the end of the story that I read. I’m going to finish it. I would think that when the court sentenced the boy, he did it with a heavy, heavy heart. This is a weakness that so many of us share. We are busy; there is work to be done. There are books to write, and there are monies to be made, and there is advancement before us, and there are great corporations to build, and there are elections to win, and there is the country to govern, and there are a thousand assignments that we feel we ought to do, but maybe our priorities and our values are somehow not arranged in an order that is worthy and that pleases God. It is something that every man ought to consider on his knees and before God: what is first in my life? And what is right before the Almighty in heaven?
I must conclude. This pleases God, and the home is blessed when “God setteth the solitary in families” [Psalm 68:6], and when “God maketh his families like a flock” [Psalm 107:41], and when the high priest of the home, the father and husband in the house, when he leads and guides the family to the house of the Lord, and by his side is a faithful and devoted and wonderful wife and mother. Together, loving God and worshiping the Lord, they rear their children in the house at Shiloh, in the temple of Jehovah, in the church of the living God.
I grew up in a country far colder than this. And maybe also because of the habits of the times, we all—everybody that I ever knew, everybody—bathed in a galvanized tub on Saturday night. The “Saturday night bath” was an institution in the culture in which I grew up. I remember one time hearing—and I didn’t see anything funny about it at the moment—a fellow looking at one of those new luxurious, modern tubs and saying, “Oh, how I wish it were Saturday night!”
Saturday night, everybody bathed, and Sunday morning we dressed up and went to church; my father to the men’s Bible class, in the little tiny church in town, taught by Mr. Pennick, the undertaker. He made an impression upon me, that somber man, with his black mustache, and black hair, and black suit. Oh, religion was a somber thing when I was growing up. And my mother went to the TEL class—Timothy, Eunice, and Lois [2 Timothy 1:5]—and you read that in your Scripture this morning. She went to the mother’s class: the TEL class. And my little brother went to the junior class taught by Mrs. Cassidy, and I went to the older children’s class taught by Mrs. Kemp, and we grew up in that little church. The impressions that are made upon me today are evanescent, and peripheral, ephemeral, but the impressions made upon me when I was growing up as a boy are indelible. They are there forever.
Did you know one day there were two high school students who came to see me here at the church? They were writing a theme for their class in high school, and they had been assigned to interview a banker, and a doctor, and a lawyer, and a preacher. One of the boys was a Methodist, and one was a Presbyterian. One of them looked like little Lord Fauntleroy the way he was dressed, and the other looked like a disheveled urchin of the streets, red-headed and freckle-faced. I was greatly complimented that out of all of the ministers in the city of Dallas, they had come to interview me as the preacher. They had been to the banker, the lawyer, and the doctor. Now, they were interviewing me.
So they sat there oh-so-officially, you know, and they got out their writing pads and their pencils and they started to ask me questions. They were greatly intrigued when they found that I had given my life to be a minister as a child and that I had started preaching when I was a teenager. And they asked me all about it and wrote it down. And after they asked me forty dozen other questions, why, then, finally the big one: they said, “Now will you tell us the one greatest day in your life? What was the one tremendously great day in your life?”
Well, I hadn’t thought of it. And I just reconnoitered and tried to remember the great days in my life: when Bob Coleman, Truett’s assistant for forty-two years, called us at Muskogee on the telephone and said, “Tonight, the twenty-seventh of September in 1944—tonight, the church has unanimously called you to be pastor.” They hadn’t said a word to me about it, not a word. Out of the blue of the sky, he called me. Think of that! Ah! Or when Mrs. Veal, without anyone knowing it—and didn’t want anyone to know it—gave me $155,000 to buy the property there, and then gave me $1,500,000 to build the building and didn’t want anybody to know it; she just said, “I want you to do it.” Or when I was elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention or oh, so many things.
“What is the one greatest day of your life?”
Finally, I said, I said, “Young fellows, I’d have to say the greatest, most meaningful day of my life was when I was ten years old, and the revival meeting was annually being conducted in our church, and the preacher stayed in our house. And every night after the service my mother would pour the preacher a glass of home-churned buttermilk. And as he sat at the kitchen table and drank it, I sat by his side, and he would talk to me about the Lord. And on a weekday morning, having gained permission from my parents to be dismissed from school for the hour, I went to the morning service, and I happened to be seated back of my dear, old, and sainted mother. And when the preacher was done his sermon and the people stood and sang, “There Is a Fountain Filled with Blood,” my mother turned to me, and she was crying, and she said, “Son, today, today, will you give your heart to Jesus?”
And I burst into tears, and I said, “Yes, Mother. Today, this day, I accept Jesus as my Savior.”
And I said to the boys, “I could hardly see the preacher for the tears.”
And whenever I see a child today who comes to the Lord with tears, I live through that experience again. What a humble day. What a plain and a simple day, but it’s the greatest day of my life. That’s the day I became a Christian—that I opened my heart to Jesus, that I was saved, that God wrote my name in the Lamb’s Book of Life. That’s the day that promised forever my home in heaven.
Is that a day you also have shared? “This is the day I accepted Jesus”
O happy day, happy day,
When Jesus washed my sins away.
He taught me how to watch and pray,
And live rejoicing every day.
Happy day, happy day,
When Jesus washed my sins away.
[“Oh, Happy Day”; Phillip Doddridge]
And that is the invitation we extend to you on television and radio. Did you have, you who listen to me, did you have a godly Christian mother? Did she pray for you? What a glorious day to give your heart to Jesus in answer to her prayers. In the throng who fill this great sanctuary, today, to give your heart to the Lord, or to bring the family into the fellowship of the church, as God shall press the appeal to your heart, make it now. Come now. I will be standing here on this side of the communion table. Down a stairway, down an aisle, come, come. Bring the family with you, come. God bless you, angels attend you in the way as you answer with your life, while we stand and while we sing.