The Spirit of the Lord
June 20th, 1976 @ 8:15 AM
THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
6-20-76 8:15 a.m.
We welcome you who are sharing this service with us on the radio of the city of Dallas, WRR, and on our own radio station, the first one on the FM dial, KCBI, stereo, Sonshine 89, the best radio station in the world. This is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Spirit of the Lord.
In our preaching through the Book of Isaiah, last Sunday we left off with chapter 60 [Isaiah 60:22]. And today we begin with chapter 61; reading the Holy Scripture, Isaiah chapter 61: “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me; the Lord hath anointed Me to preach good tidings” [Isaiah 61:1]. There is an Old Testament word that in the New Testament comes out to be euaggelion, “the good tidings,” the gospel:
God hath anointed Me to preach good tidings unto the meek; He hath sent Me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;
To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn;
To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He might be glorified.
Oh what an immeasurably wonderful and glorious prophecy! Of whom could the prophet speak? He must be God Himself, who could thus mean this to the Lord’s people who die in this earth. Of whom speaketh the prophet this?
I turn now to the fourth chapter of the Book of Luke, beginning at verse 16. Luke chapter 4: “And Jesus came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up” [Luke 4:16], the second chapter of [Matthew] closes with the word, “He came to Nazareth”—was brought up in Nazareth—“in order that the Scripture might be fulfilled… He shall be called a Nazarene” [Matthew 2:23]. And that’s where our brothers of the Nazarene communion find their name, the Church of the Nazarene, “He shall be called a Nazarene,” a follower of Jesus, a Nazarene.
“And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up: and, as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up for to read” [Luke 4:16]. According to the custom, standing up to read the Word of God, which is as we do in this church; and then He sat down in the chair of the rabbi to teach. “There was delivered unto Him the book, the roll, of the prophet Isaiah [Luke 4:17]. And when He had unrolled the book, when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written,” Isaiah chapter 61 [Isaiah 61:1-2]:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He hath anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He hath sent Me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.
And He closed the book. He rerolled the book, and He gave it again to the minister, the presiding officer of the synagogue, and sat down to teach; sat down in the rabbinical chair. “And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened upon Him [Luke 4:20]. And He began to say unto them, This day is this Scripture fulfilled in your ears” Isaiah 61 [Isaiah 61:1-2]. “This day is this Scripture fulfilled in your ears” [Luke 4:21].
But the text is ever fresh. It is as pertinent today as it was when our Lord read it and used it as the basis of His message two thousand years ago. “This day is this Scripture fulfilled in your ears” [Luke 4:21]; as fresh, as beautiful, as wonderful as it was in the days of our Lord, and how I am moved in my own heart, to think that I am reading the same passage of Scripture and preaching from the same text that our blessed Lord used in His first message to His hometown people in Nazareth.
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He hath anointed Me to preach” [Luke 4:18]. How blessed that man upon whom God pours His Holy Spirit when he stands up to preach. The pastor of the church, the preacher of the congregation, may be many things. He may be an administrator. He may be a scholar. He may be a money raiser. He may be an organizer. He may be a visitor. He may be many, many varied things in the congregation. But first and above all he ought to be an anointed prophet spokesman for God.
And the people ought to pray that he be so. We pray that God shall give him wisdom as he directs the ministries of the church, that God will bless him as he directs the organized life of the people, but most of all that he might be an anointed prophet of God when he stands in the sacred pulpit to deliver the Word of the Lord.
“He hath anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor” [Luke 4:18]. These are named especially because it would be so easy to forget them, and overlook them; “To preach the gospel to the poor.” One of the finest things said about our Lord is, “The common people heard him gladly” [Mark 12:37]. They pressed around Him, people who felt themselves largely outcast and overlooked and forgotten, but they felt dear to the heart of our Lord, “and they heard Him gladly,” poor people, common people.
“He hath sent Me to heal the broken-hearted” [Luke 4:21]; in the Isaiah text, “to bind up the broken-hearted” [Isaiah 61:1]. When a man has a broken bone, a broken arm or hand, a broken leg or a broken foot, to bind it up seems to be easy. But who is able to bind up a fractured heart, the broken in heart, when the spirit is cowed, and the heart is crushed, and the life is wretched; when we’re too feeble to fight the battle of life any longer; when we are like a vessel derelict on the face of the deep, afloat, forsaken, deserted, and forgotten; the broken in heart? And the doctor says to us, “You take a long journey. Go to a foreign country. Look upon the beautiful Alps or visit the jungles of Africa.” But the problem is when you get on the plane and when you land in the place, you take your heart with you, the broken in heart. Finally we become a burden to ourselves and a burden to all around us. Finally nobody wants to be associated with us. We’re left, like a herd leaves a stag to bleed and to die alone. “To heal the broken-hearted”; how precious the invitation of our Lord when He said, “Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest [Matthew 11:28], to heal the broken-hearted” [Luke 4:18].
“To preach deliverance to the captives” [Luke 4:18], He is the great liberator and emancipator. To these who are bound in the shackles, and manacles, and prisons, and bars, and stonewalls of sin, and who live under the galling yoke of iniquity, to announce to them the opening of the prison doors, the freedom of the captives from wrong to right, from selfishness to service, from hell to heaven—the great preacher of freedom announces liberty to the captives.
“The recovering of sight to the blind” [Luke 4:18]; these who are blinded by the false values and cheap rewards of the world—sin blinds. To announce to them the light of the world, who can come and bring glorious victory, even in our darkness, a light to lighten the Gentiles, “the recovering of sight to the blind”; sin never pays off. It is a debt that increasingly burdens the heart and the life. And it’s the blind man who follows that path; “The recovering of sight to the blind” [Luke 4:18].
“To preach the acceptable year of the Lord” [Luke 4:19]; the background of that passage is the Jubilee year of Israel. Every fiftieth year the land that was lost and mortgaged returns back to the original owner [Leviticus 25:10, 13, 28]. The debtor who was sold in slavery is now free [Leviticus 25:54]. The whole world rejoiced in Israel in the acceptable Jubilee Year of the Lord. And this is the year announced to us by our Savior. “He hath heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation hath He succored thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of the Lord” [2 Corinthians 6:2]. This is the acceptable year of the Lord” [Luke 4:19].
The poor widow weeping at the gate of Nain [Luke 7:11-13], dry your tears, cease your weeping; the Lord of life is here. And the father of Jairus, who bows in grief over the death of his little daughter [Luke 8:41-42, 49-55], the Savior of the world is here. Martha, Mary, buried Lazarus, grief stricken [John 11:17-44]; the Lord of life has come; the acceptable year of the Lord.
What an incomparable presence. What a glorious hope, and what a marvelous message! [Luke 4:16-27]. And having heard it, and having listened to it, would not you have supposed that the people of the city of Nazareth would have bowed down before Him and said, “This is the Messiah of God? This is the day of salvation. This is the most marvelous visitation by which God has ever descended among men. This is the hour of Israel’s destiny. This is the greatest moment in the world!”
Wouldn’t you have thought when He had finished His message, that they would have bowed down before Him and worshipped Him, and thanked God for Him? But what does the Scripture say? “And all they in the synagogue, when they heard these words, were filled with wrath, And rose up, and thrust Him out of their city, and led Him unto the brow of the hill whereon their city was built, that they might thrust Him down to death!” [Luke 4:28-29]. I can hardly believe such a thing! This is the reception of the Prince of glory. “And they seized Him, and in wrath thrust Him out of their city and brought Him to a great precipice upon which the city was built, that they might cast Him down to death.”
This last week, I was seated in the auditorium in Norfolk, Virginia, at the sessions of our Southern Baptist Convention. And as I sat there, because I was preaching this Sunday morning hour on Isaiah 61, I was turning it over in my heart, remembering the words of our Lord and the marvelous message that He preached, one of comfort and encouragement, one of acceptance and salvation, “preaching the gospel to the poor,” preaching the gospel to the lost, “opening the eyes of the blind, binding up the broken in heart, proclaiming the acceptable year of the Lord” [Luke 4:18-19]. Oh, the wonder of the message of our Lord for us! I was turning that over in my mind, for I was seated there that day, waiting for the coming of the president of the United States. It was a new experience to me. The whole area of the city was sealed off. Even an automobile coming in was stopped and redirected. And to get into the hall was very difficult.
Every one who approached the building had to have two things. He had to have a registration as a messenger of the Southern Baptist Convention, and this had to be pinned on his clothing. And he had to have a special ticket that was especially issued and just a certain number of them. Then when you entered into the building, if you had anything in your hand, you had to lay it down while they examined it, even a piece of paper.
And in the hall there were security guards everywhere. You would have thought it was a policeman’s rendezvous. As I sat there right back of the president, I had something brush my ear, and I turned to see what it was. The guard right back of me had somehow turned and the butt of his gun touched my ear. It was the first time in my life I ever went to church with a gun at my right ear. So we sat there in silence, and finally, after a somewhat long time, the president of the United States came in.
He was escorted by an illustrious company of men. And when he appeared, everyone stood and applauded and applauded. Then he delivered, I do believe, as fine a message as I have ever heard in all of my life. It was a classic. He quoted Dr. Truett in his famous address on religious liberty, on the capitol steps in Washington D.C.
He just went from one beautiful peroration to another, and he delivered it effectively. When he was finished, a magnificent address, all of us stood up again, and applauded, and applauded, and applauded. And then with great dignity and appreciation, he was escorted from the platform and out of the building. And we sat down, having heard the great leader, the symbol of the power and government of the United States of America.
And I sat down with this passage in my mind and in my heart, thinking about it. The president of the United States comes, and even though the political complexion of the convention is not of that party, being from the South, the complexion is of another color. But he was received with great appreciation and listened to with deepening interest.
And I thought, “The Prince of glory came to the city in which He had grown up; the great Savior of mankind, the emancipator and liberator of the enslaved of the world. And instead of receiving Him with love and appreciation, and bowing down to worship at His feet, ‘And they in the synagogue, when they heard these words were filled with wrath, rose up and thrust Him out of their city; led Him to the brow of the hill upon which their city was built, that they might thrust Him down, cast Him down to death’” [Luke 4:28-29]. “He came unto His own, and His own received Him not” [John 1:11].
One of the purposes of God in the cross is to reveal before us the depravity of the human heart! What had they against Him? As Pontius Pilate says, “Why do you bring Him to me and ask that I deliver Him to death? What evil hath He done?” [Matthew 27:23]. And these are the things that they said: “He forgives sin. He forgives sin” [Matthew 9:2-6]. Think of that. “We hate Him because He says He is able to forgive our sins. He heals on the Sabbath day. Moved by a man in the synagogue who had a withered arm, He said, ‘Stretch forth your hand,’ and the man was healed. But it was the Sabbath day [Mark 3:1-6; Luke 6:6-11], and it was in the church house. He heals on the Sabbath day. We hate Him. He receives sinners, and He eats with them [Luke 15:2]. We hate Him! He eats with publicans and sinners [Matthew 9:10-11]. His hands are outstretched to the lost, to these who are foreign from God [Luke 19:10]. We hate Him. He said He has the power to raise this temple three days after it is destroyed [John 2:19]. We hate Him. He says that He is Christ, a King; and that is treason! [Luke 23:3]. Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” [John 19:15].
And though Pontius Pilate said, “I find in Him no fault at all” [John 18:38], and though Pontius Pilate said, “Bring me water that I may wash my hands” [Matthew 27:24], he delivered Him to be crucified and to death [Matthew 27:26]. How are we? That’s the way we are. We are a depraved, and a lost, and a sentenced and judged people [Romans 3:23, 6:23].
And lest I be inclined to say, “They did it, he did it, Judas betrayed Him [Matthew 26:114-16, 47-50], the Jews delivered Him [Luke 24:20], the Roman soldiers drove in those nails [John 19:16-18, 20:25-26], pierced His side” [John 19:34]; lest I say, “They did it”: no, we all did it. It was our sins who pressed upon His brow the crown of thorns [Matthew 27:29]. It was our iniquities that thrust Him through with a Roman spear [John 19:34]. We did it. Lord, Lord, what a people, and what a day.
May I briefly point out one other thing in the text? An awesome thing! When our Lord read the sixty-first chapter of Isaiah, He stopped when He came to the middle of a sentence, to the middle of the second verse, “to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord” [Luke 4:19], then He stopped; but the rest of that sentence, “And the day of vengeance of our God” [Isaiah 61:2; Luke 4:19]—there is another chapter, the story of human life is not finished. In the first part of that sentence, “to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord,” that is now, that was then; but there is another part to that sentence: “And to proclaim the vengeance of our God” [Isaiah 61:2]. Someday, every man that lives shall face the judgment of Almighty God [1 Peter 4:5]. “Behold,” and this is the text of the Apocalypse, “Behold, He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see Him, and they also who pierced Him” [Revelation 1:7]. These who cried, “Crucify Him” [Luke 23:21], and these who nailed Him to the tree [John 19:16-18, 20:25-26], someday shall be compelled to face Him. “And they also who pierced Him; and the kindreds, and tribes, and families of the earth shall wail because of Him. Even so, amen” [Revelation 1:7]. O Lord, and here I am, laden with sin, and here I am lost and undone, and here I am facing death and the judgment. O God, what of me, and what of us?
This is the day of salvation, Jesus said so, this is the acceptable year of the Lord, He said so [Luke 4:17-19]. “This is the day of the binding up of the broken in heart [Isaiah 61:1], of the opening of the eyes of the blind [John 9:39], of the saving of the lost” [Matthew 18:11]. This is the day of salvation. Someday, someday there will come a time of judgment, and of visitation, and of the vengeance of our God! [Isaiah 63:4].
O Lord, that I might fly unto Thee, find refuge in Thee; that I might accept from Thy gracious hands the proffered love and grace that will enable me someday to stand in the presence of God [Ephesians 2:8], washed in the blood of the Lamb [1 John 1:7; Revelation 1:5], the stain of my sin all washed away; Jesus, my great intercessor, and mediator, and pleader, and advocate [Hebrews 7:25; 1 John 2:1]. Lord, Lord, let me do it now. Let me accept Thee now, love Thee now, worship Thee now, trust in Thee now, give my heart to Thee now; so that I may be blessed in this life with the light of God shining in my soul, so that in the hour of my death I may die triumphantly, victoriously, and then some day enter with the redeemed into the beautiful city of God [Revelation 22:14]. O Lord, save me. And dear God, save these who listen to this appeal, this solemn morning hour.
In this moment now that remains, we sing our song of invitation. Let it be from the heart of our Savior Himself this appeal to your soul. To trust Him as Savior, to put your life in the fellowship of His people, to answer God’s call, as the Lord shall open the door and say the word, respond, answer with your life. In the balcony round, somebody you; on this lower floor, a family you; a couple or just one, when we stand in a moment to sing, stand walking down that stairway, stand coming down that aisle, “I’ve made up my heart, pastor. I’ve made up my mind. I have decided for Jesus, and here I am. I ask Him to forgive my sins [1 John 1:9], to write my name in the Lamb’s Book of Life [Luke 10:20; Revelation 20:12, 15, 21:27], to wash me and make me white and clean [Psalms 51:7; Revelation 7:14; 2 Kings 5:10-14], to give me strength and joy in the way. Here I am, pastor. Here I come.” On the first note of the first stanza, do it now, make it now, while we stand and while we sing.