The Church We Love
September 23rd, 1979 @ 7:30 PM
MOVING THE HEART OF GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
9-9-79 8:15 a.m.
It is an infinite joy for us in the First Baptist Church in Dallas to share this service with you who by the thousands are listening on radio. This is the pastor bringing the message entitled Moving the Heart of God. Our story is out of the Book of Mark, chapter 12, beginning at verse 41. Mark, the Second Gospel, chapter 12, verse 41:
And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much.
And there came a certain poor widow, and she cast in two mites, which make a farthing.
And Jesus called unto Him His disciples, and saith unto them, Truly—verily, amen—I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury:
For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.
Moving the heart of God; isn’t it a remarkable revelation and self disclosure that God can be moved? And yet when you think of it, it’s not unusual or unique. He has always been just like this, moved by the devotion of this poor woman.
Was He not moved when Hagar cried in the wilderness, thinking that her son Ishmael and she would die? And she put the lad under the shade of a bush, and withdrew, the Bible says, the distance of the bowshot of an arrow that she might not look upon the face of her weeping child when he died. And the Bible says God heard the cry of that woman and God heard the cry of that child [Genesis 21:15-18]. Isn’t that remarkable?
Or take again, when Pharaoh, in the first chapter of Exodus, said all the male children of the Hebrews should be cast into the river [Exodus 1:22], the mothers of those children wept. And God said to Moses, who was far away in the land of Midian, God said to Moses, “I have heard the cry of My people” [Exodus 3:7]. Isn’t that unusual?
Or follow the story of Hannah who in bitterness of spirit wept before the Lord and cried because she was barren; and the Lord heard her cry [1 Samuel 1:10-11]. And when God gave her a son, she named him Samuel, “Asked of God” [1 Samuel 1:20]; moving the heart of God. So we’re not surprised then as though this were a unique or unusual story, that Jesus is moved by the devotion of this poor woman [Mark 12:41-44]. This is the last time He was in the temple.
When He left it, He said, “Verily I say unto you, you will see Me no more, until ye shall say, Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord” [Matthew 23:39]. This was the conclusion of I suppose one of the bitterest days in history. It was the day of the confrontation in the temple between the Lord, and the Sadducees, and the Pharisees, and the temple elders. And it ended in a bitter denunciation, mentioned here in Mark briefly [Mark 12:40], discussed at length, portrayed at length in the twenty-third chapter of Matthew [Matthew 23:1-22]. And you remember it, “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!” [Matthew 23:23]. And here in Mark, in the previous verse, “You who devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers” [Mark 12:40].
After the bitterness of that terrible denunciation, the Lord withdrew to Himself and was seated in the court of the women. In that court were thirteen trumpet-shaped treasure chests, into which the people entering to worship placed their tithes and their offerings. And the Lord, withdrawing after that bitter denunciation, was seated there, watching the people give. And somehow the gifts of those two mites on the part of that poor woman moved His heart, strengthened Him, encouraged Him, blessed Him. It does us as it did Him. You couldn’t read that and not be moved by it—and how like Jesus to notice it. It is preeminently a story of the spirit of our blessed Lord. She did it so willingly, and so yieldedly, and so surrenderedly, and so faithfully, and so trustingly; how like Jesus to notice it [Mark 12:41-44].
I say, how like the Lord to notice it. He was that way. Do you remember when in His journey to the house of Jairus because they said the little girl was so desperately ill and finally died, do you remember, they crowded Him, surrounded Him on every side? [Luke 8:41-42]. And as they walked through the streets of the city, Jesus suddenly stopped and said, “Who touched Me?” And Simon Peter blurted out, “Lord, they throng Thee and press Thee on every side, and yet You say, Who touched Me?” [Luke 8:45]. And the Lord replied, “But Simon, someone touched Me” [Luke 8:46]. And it was the woman with an issue of blood [Luke 8:43-44]. And finding she could not hide herself, she bowed before Him, and said, “Lord, I just said in my heart, if I touched, if I just touched the hem of Your garment, I would be well. And I am healed” [Luke 8:43-47, Matthew 9:20]. Isn’t that amazing? Thronged on every side, pressed by a great multitude, “Who touched Me?” [Luke 8:42, 45]. That’s Jesus.
I don’t think there’s a more precious verse than Hebrews 4:15, “He can be touched with the feeling of our infirmities”; the moving of the heart of God; so, this woman. I want you to notice how little it was that she gave. Out of her penury and out of her want, out of her poverty and out of her need, she gave two mites [Mark 12:42].
Did you know yesterday I spent I don’t know how long trying to find out how much that is. She gave two mites. It’s just about looking for a needle in a haystack to find out how much that is. It is so infinitesimally small. The Greek word is lepton, a lepton. And two leptons make—two lepta it is in Greek—two lepta, two leptons in our language, make a quadratus. Well, a quadratus is a word for a Roman coin which is one-fourth a quadrans, one-fourth of an as, a Roman as. Well, I did everything I could to find out how much is a Roman as, and the nearest I can come to it is that a mite is about one-eighth of a penny. Now that’s the nearest I can find; one-eighth of a penny, of an American cent, one-eighth of a cent. So she put in two-eighths of a cent. That’d be about a fourth of a cent.
Anyway, it is the smallest amount that you could think of, which itself is a picture of the poverty of that woman. She placed in two mites, two lepta, one quadrans, which is a fourth of a small Roman penny. But what made it so noticeable to our Lord was it was everything that she had [Mark 12:44]. It was all of her living. She had nothing else beside. There was nothing left. By hard labor, she had those little wages, and by self-denial, she had saved those two little coins. And she had given everything that she possessed, just trusting in God to take care of her, to feed her as the ravens fed Elijah [1 Kings 17:4-6]. And she did it so devotedly and so willingly.
When you look at that and read that, it speaks such things to us today. Just looking at it, it talks to my own heart. It does yours. As I speak of it in your presence, I can feel your response. The Spirit of the Lord was in that woman. Now how easily it would have been for her to be forensic about her response. My dear people, there is no end to the calling up of human foible. It is in everyone. It is everywhere. It is in everything. And it could have been so easily a part of this woman’s forensic spirit. What? Give to the temple?
My brother, you already know the Lord God Almighty was treasuring up wrath and judgment against that temple. And in thirty-seven years from that moment according to the saying of Jesus Himself, God destroyed the temple from the face of the earth [Mark 13:1-2]. You know that. In 70 AD, it was wiped off of Mt. Moriah.
What? Give to the temple? I don’t how she would have answered, but I can answer for her. I think her heart would have replied, “I’m not giving to the temple. I’m giving to God.” And however the shortcomings, or the mistakes, or the gross errors of Pharisee or Sadducee or temple elder, the gift is to God. And it is placed in His name, and in His charge, and in His keeping. And however men are, that’s between the great judgment day and those men, but the gift is made unto God. That’s beautiful. That’s great. However things are, or ought to be, the devotion, and the love, and the spirit is heavenward, God-ward. The gift is for God.
Will you notice again; when you look at that, it has a tremendous appeal to all of us because we’re all included, all of us. Jesus Himself looked at them. There were the rich, the affluent who could respond in an abounding way. And there was this poor widow who could respond in so limited and penurious a way. But all alike were a part of the response [Mark 12:41-42]. That also is marvelous. It’s great to think that the kingdom of heaven is not limited just to those of tremendous gifts, or tremendous abilities, or tremendous success, or tremendous fortune, or tremendous anything. But the kingdom of God is wide-open to all of us, and there is no one so poor or so unworthy as to be excluded. All of us, loved alike [John 3:16], redeemed alike, bought by the blood of Jesus alike [1 Peter 1:18-19], and all of us can have a part in the kingdom work of our Lord, all of us [2 Corinthians 9:6-7].
That also is a wonderful thing to remember in each one of our lives. Long time ago I learned it isn’t just the rich that can be greedy, or grasping, or covetous. The poor can also be greedy, and grasping, and covetous. Covetousness is not a sin that is limited to just one group or one class, but it is a selfishness that is inherent in all of us! And as we come before the Lord, it’s one of the temptations, the demurring, the hesitancies that we have to overcome.
I remember reading about a woman who had received a vast inheritance. And when it was announced to her that she had received so great an inheritance, she said, “Quick, bring me my checkbook. Let me make this gift before my heart grows hardened.” That’s so true. Our predecessor, George W. Truett, was a close personal friend of John D. Rockefeller, Sr. And John D. Rockefeller, Sr. was talking about his support of the work of our Lord in the earth which he did so magnificently and generously. And John D. Rockefeller said, “Did you know, had I not tithed the first little salary that I made, I would not be able to tithe the millions and millions of dollars that I make today.”
All of it is in one great, single response. However we are in our assignment in this life, we all face the same temptations, the same weaknesses. All of us do. And for the poor as for the rich to be included in that response is a God-given blessing from heaven. And that leads me to my last avowal; the reward that God presented to her.
I want to ask you, when it says here that she gave every thing that she had, even all of her living [Mark 12:44], I want to ask you, what do you think happened to her? She gave every thing that she had. What she had to live upon she gave it to the Lord. What do you think happened to her? All right, my second question; do you think God let her starve to death? Do you? The Book says that she cast into the treasury all that she had, even all her living [Mark 12:44]. She had nothing left beside. What do you think happened to her?
The only way I can answer that is by the Word of the Lord. You have an instance of it, an exact illustration of it. When Elijah the prophet of God was sent to the widow at Zarephath in Zidon, he found the woman who had an only son, she a widow [1 Kings 17:8-16]. And because of the terrible drought, she had nothing in the house except a little handful of meal and a little oil remaining in a cruse [1 Kings 17:12].
And when Elijah said to her, “Take the meal and the oil and bake a cake for me,” she said, “This is all that I have, nothing beside. And I was preparing to gather these sticks and make a fire and bake a little cake out of the meal that is left and the oil that remains, that we might eat it, and die” [1 Kings 17:12]. And Elijah said, “Make the cake and bring it to me” [1 Kings 17:13]. And that woman, in tremendous faith, took the last little handful of meal that she had and the last little drop of oil in the cruse, baked the cake, and gave it to the prophet of God [1 Kings 17:15]. I suppose she starved to death.
You know the story. The barrel of meal did not waste, and the cruse of oil did not fail [1 Kings 17:16]. God took care of her, and God took care of this poor widow [Mark 12:42-44]. That’s the Lord. That’s God. And the blessing that came to her through that commitment of faith not only blessed her, but the beauty of her life in the story blesses us today. We’re all blessed, all of us blessed, marvelously blessed when we thus evince our faith in God; all of us [Mark 12:41-44].
There was a man, who with his wife [was] filling out the pledge card to the church, and when she saw the amount of money that he had written down on that pledge card, somehow that same spirit of covetousness and selfishness overcame her. She looked at it—with that much money, the dresses she could buy, the furs she could buy, the jewelry she could buy, the things that she could have. And she exclaimed almost unconsciously, looking at that card, “Dear husband, it seems to me that we have lost so much by our religion.” And he replied, beautifully, and sweetly, and quietly, he replied, “Dear wife, that’s right. We have lost so much by our religion. Before I was converted, I was a drunkard in the gutter, and we’ve lost all that, for now I walk in sobriety and in dignity before our people.” He said, “Before I was converted, I was a beast, a slave of evil, more like an animal than a man, and we’ve lost all of that, for now I try to be good to you and to the children.” He said, “Dear wife, before I was converted, we lived in a hovel in a one room, and the bed was on the floor, but we’ve lost all of that; now we have this pretty little cottage, and it’s our home.” He said, “Dear wife, before I was converted, I never had clothes to wear, and you were dressed in rags, and we’ve lost all that, for now we’re able to buy pretty clothes and to wear them in beauty before the people.” And he would have continued on, but she cried, “Dear husband, God forgive me! And dear husband, you forgive me; you forgive me, God forgive me. I have been so selfish and ungrateful.”
It sounds too much like bragging for me to comment upon something that I’d like to comment on that I see in my own life as I walk in this city. I don’t have any trouble with liquor. I don’t have any trouble with all of the things that destroy people’s lives. I’ve lost all of that, and I don’t miss it. But I love being here; I love being with you. I’d rather be here with you than any place else in the earth. I’d rather walk with you in the pilgrim way than to walk any other highway in this world. I don’t miss all that, but I’d miss this, the beauty, and the love, and the sweetness of the fellowship of Jesus, and you, my brothers and sisters in the faith—and not only in this life but in the life that is to come.
I think of that poor woman. Dear people, do you think I exaggerate if I describe it like this? Did Jesus recognize her in heaven? Did He? Having seen her down here in this earth, did He also know her in heaven? I think He did. I think He did. And not only that, but I think He said to the angels, “This is that poor widow that I was talking about when I said, ‘She gave more than they all.’ This is she” [Mark 12:43]. I think He said to the great company of the redeemed, “This is that poor widow written about in the twelfth chapter of the Gospel of Mark” [Mark 12:41-42].
And when I get to heaven, I want the Lord to show me that woman, “This is the widow that you were preaching about the second Sunday in September in 1979. This is she.” I’d like to meet her. I’d like to see her. I’d like to tell her what a blessing her example was to me and what an encouragement to the whole family of God.
And I think it’s just that way with you; when we all get to heaven, “Thank You, Lord, for the grace that made it possible for me to give to Thee so largely and so devotedly. Families brought, children taught, young people sought the glory of God in this dear place, thank You Lord for the help and the encouragement that made it possible for me thus to respond.” And now, may I close?
What do I have to offer to the great and marvelous Lord compared to the infinitude of God? Think of Him. The whole creation is in His hands. Think of Him. And even in this little planet, tucked away in one corner of this earth, think of the vastness of all of its treasures. All of it is His; we may use it for just a moment, occupy it ‘til He come [Luke 19:13], but it’s all His. He says so. The gold, the silver, the jewels, the riches of the earth are His [Psalm 50:10-12; Haggai 2:8], beside the universe beyond [Job 38:4-20].
And in the sight of the infinitude of God, what little do I possess? Two mites, two mites, my soul and my body, my hand and my heart, and to give them to God is such a preciousness, such a blessing. Lord, Lord, what I can do, let me do it for Thee. And what I can feel and love, in any way I can serve; let me do it for Thee; two little mites given into the treasury of the Lord [Mark 12:42]. It’s a preciousness. It’s a beauty. It’s a blessing. It’s the way to walk. May we stand together? I want our men to come down here and stand with me.
Our Lord, wherein we have ever been selfish, or covetous, or grasping, or wordly-minded, may the Lord in the place of that spirit, may the Lord grant to us the spirit of faith, and trust, and yieldedness, and devotion, and surrender. And may we believe that in loving Thee, God will love us; in trusting Thee, God will trust great things to us; in serving Thee, God will be our yokefellow and partner; and in giving to Thee, God will give back to us a thousandfold. And in someday, in a life beyond the days of this flesh, there will be joy and happiness and gladness in glory because of the part we’ve had in the preaching of the gospel, in the support of the kingdom, in the building up of the church. And our Lord, we give to Thee our two mites, my body and my soul, my heart and my hand. And here in this life, God bless the devotion. And in the life to come, may it be our reward and our joy forever, what we sought, what we tried to do for Thee. So Lord, bless this message and bless our people. And now we pray God will give us a harvest, somebody loving the Lord, accepting Thee as Savior, somebody coming into the fellowship of our dear church.
And in a moment while our people pray, while we wait, make the decision in your heart now, and down that stairway, down that aisle: “Here I am, pastor. I’m coming.” “This is my family. We’re all of us coming.” “This is my friend or my wife. The two of us are responding.” Or just one somebody you: “I’m on the way, pastor. I’ve decided for God, and here I am.” Do it now, while we pray and while we sing.