In Memory of Mother
May 11th, 1980 @ 10:50 AM
IN MEMORY OF MOTHER
Dr. W. A. Criswell
5-11-80 10:50 a.m.
It is a joy inexpressible for us in the First Baptist Church in Dallas to welcome the uncounted thousands and thousands who are sharing this service on the two radio stations that bear it, and watching the hour on television. This is the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas delivering the message entitled, In Memory of Mother, or if your mother is still living, In Tribute to Mother. In the second chapter of the Book of Exodus, beginning at verse 1, we read: "There went a man of the house of Levi, and took to wife a daughter of the house of Levi. And the woman conceived, and bare a son; and when she saw him that he was a goodly child, she hid him three months" [Exodus 2:1, 2]. For Pharaoh had promulgated an edict that all the male children of the Hebrews should be slain [Exodus 1:22], thrown to the crocodiles in the river; so she took her little baby and hid him three months [Exodus 2:2]. "And when she could not longer hide him," he grew so big, and he yelled and cried so loud, he hollered so extremely he couldn’t be hid any longer, so "she took for him an ark of bulrushes, daubed it with pitch and slime, put the child in it, and laid it in the flags by the river’s brink" [Exodus 2:3].
And the mother was very careful to place it at a place in the Nile River where the daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe; she’s smart. Now the next verse: "So the daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe herself in the river; and her maidens walked along by the riverside; and when that princess saw the ark among the flags, she sent her maid to fetch it" [Exodus 2: 5].
Isn’t that a shame that we have let that word "fetch" fall out of the English language? There’s no word to take its place; there is no word in the English language that means "go get and bring back," except "fetch." And I think we ought to still use it; "fetch." You know exactly what she told that maidservant to do, "fetch that ark floating there among the bulrushes in the papyri on the bank of the river" [Exodus 2:5]. So the little ark was brought to the princess.
And when she opened it, she saw the child: and, behold, the babe wept. And she had compassion on him, and said, This is one of the Hebrews’ children. Then said his sister –
Miriam, who was watching all that had come to pass –
Shall I go and call to thee a nurse of the Hebrew women, that she may nurse the child for thee?
And Pharaoh’s daughter said to the little girl, Go. And the maid went and called the child’s mother.
And Pharaoh’s daughter said unto the mother, Take this child away, and nurse it for me, and I will give thee thy wages. And the woman took the child, and nursed it.
[Exodus 2: 6-9]
Can you conceive of the providence of the God, that it so turned that the baby is not only not fed to the crocodiles, but the mother is paid to nurse it and to bring it up? [Exodus 2:9]. "So the child grew, and she brought him unto Pharaoh’s daughter, and he became her son [Exodus 2:10]. And she called his name "Ra-moshes, Ra-moshes; but the Hebrews wouldn’t have a heathen god "Ra" on his name, so they lopped it off and just called him "Moses." But she called him, "Ramoses, Ramoses" [Exodus 2:10].
Now, the eleventh chapter of the Book of Hebrews: "By faith Ramoses," or the last two syllables "Moses," "when he was born, was hid three months of his parents, because they saw he was," and the King James Version translates it "a proper child, because she saw he was a proper child,’ asteion child; the word means "beautiful, well-formed, fair" [Hebrews 11:23]. When the mother and father saw that he was an asteion child, a beautiful child, they disobeyed the king’s commandment, they were not afraid to confront the king’s servants, and they hid the child and did not destroy him.
And by faith, that Ramoses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the prince, heir apparent to the throne, the son of Pharaoh’s daughter:
Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season;
Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward.
You couldn’t help but be thrilled with a story like that; and the message is why.
A tribute, first, to our mothers personally, and may I be the speaker for you as well as for myself? Then second, a tribute to mother from the church, as I am the spokesman for our congregation as redeemed people of the Lord. And then third, a tribute to our mothers from God, from heaven.
First, a tribute, personally, from us, from our hearts: these mighty men that appear in the Bible always appear full-grown; they just are there. Like the goddess Pallas Athena, born full-grown from the brow, the mind of Jove, so these men, mighty in the Bible, just appear full-grown.
For example, the Lord hid John the Baptist in the deserts until the time of his showing forth unto Israel; and then suddenly he is there, down in the Jordan River, calling the nation to repentance [Matthew 3:1-3; Luke 3:3]. Like Elijah, his type, in the seventeenth chapter of 1 Kings, just suddenly Elijah the Tishbite appears before Ahab the king [1 Kings 17:1]. Or, like the story of the judgment and wrath of God upon the world in the antediluvian age, just suddenly, the Bible says, "But Noah found grace in God’s sight" [Genesis 6:8]; he is just suddenly there.
The same is true in the life of our Lord: outside of an incident when He was twelve years of age, there are thirty silent years [Luke 2:41-51]; then suddenly He is there in the Jordan, baptized by the great Baptist preacher John [Matthew 3:13, Mark 1:9, Luke 3:21, John 1:36]. So with Saul of Tarsus: he just suddenly appears. In the Book of Acts, in the martyrdom of Stephen [Acts 7:59-60], God’s first servant to lay down his life for the faith, they laid their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul [Acts 7:58]; he’s just suddenly there. But without exception, impossible, inconceivable otherwise, those years of silence were deeply penetrating and formative. And without those years, there had been no tremendous appearance of an Elijah, or of a John the Baptist, or of a Noah, or of a Saul.
That’s why, in reading the story of Moses, of Ramoses, I added to the story, the account of it in the eleventh chapter of the Book of Hebrews. When he came of age, he renounced the throne of the Pharaohs and chose to suffer with the people of God, rather than to be ministered to and bowed before by all of the court of the Egyptians [Hebrews 11:24-25]. How did that come to pass? Why, this man is reared in Pharaoh’s court, and he’s now forty years of age, an apparent heir to the throne.
The reason is simple. In the days when he nursed at his mother’s breast, his mother taught him the faith of God, and the people who called on the name of Jehovah, the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob. And as a lad growing up under the tutelage of that godly mother, Jochebed [Exodus 2:7-10], he never forgot it, never able to get away from it. And when the great time of decision was made, he cast his life and lot in life with the people of God [Hebrews 11:24-27]. Mother did that.
While I was ill and had to lie down and rest long hours every day, I took it upon myself to read something that I had never read in my life but should have; namely, the Confessions of Saint Augustine. And if you ever have opportunity to read that it’ll bless your soul. Augustine was one of the great intellectual giants of all time, and the first and foremost of the Latin fathers. He was a vile and sinful youth, indescribably so. There were no depths of sin to which Augustine did not descend.
He had a godly, praying mother named Monica. She so interceded for that boy, and pled with the pastor of the church at Carthage, that at that time was a rival to the imperial city of Rome itself – she so pled with the pastor of the church at Carthage for the salvation of that wayward and disgraceful and sinful boy, until finally the pastor of the church, weary of her much coming, said to her, "Mother, go thy way. The child of so many prayers could never be lost." That’s God’s truth.
Somehow a mother, before the throne of God’s grace, interceding for her son, somehow, though he is lost to Platonism and lost to Greek debauchery and carnality, somehow God’s ableness through mother’s intercession, changes and remakes human life. So I say, these men that appear here in the Bible, just suddenly there they are – in those formative and silent years, always there is a godly woman who is shaping and praying and guiding, molding and making the life that we see when we read of their appearance before the earth. Thus it is with us, as George Reber prayed: "Lord, Lord, how could I ever forget the mother who helped me when I was helpless, and who took care of me when I was so small?"
Who fed me from her gentle breast,
And hush’d me in her arms to rest,
And on my cheeks sweet kisses prest?
When sleep forsook my open eye,
Who was it sung sweet lullaby,
And rock’d me that I should not cry?
Who sat and watched my infant head,
When sleeping in my cradle bed,
And tears of sweet affection shed?
When pain and sickness made me cry,
Who gazed upon with heavy eye,
And wept for fear that I should die?
. . .
Who ran to help me when I fell,
And would some pretty story tell,
And kiss the place to make it well?
Who taught my infant lips to pray,
To love God’s holy word and day,
And walk in Wisdom’s pleasant way?
And how can I ever cease to be
Affectionate and kind to thee,
Who was so very kind to me?
. . .
And when I see thee hang thy head,
‘Twill be my turn to watch thy bed.
And tears of sweet affection shed.
[from "My Mother," Ann Taylor, 1804]
Our personal tribute of love and remembrance to Mother.
Now, as the spokesman for the church, the tribute of the church to the Christian mother. There is nothing that awaits us but absolute disintegration and abysmal catastrophic despair without that Christian mother. I have watched, as an under-shepherd, I have watched our families and our people and our children for over half a century. There is not anything so dissolving to the fabric of the life of a child like the forsaking of an unworthy mother. No matter how you teach, or how you try, or how you seek in psychological, and sociological, and domestic and a thousand other ways to change that child out of the warp and scar of that injury you never ultimately succeed.
There is a tragic repercussion in the life of a child when the mother forsakes God, and forsakes the family, and forsakes the child that is inexpressibly, and horrendously tragic; nor can I say any other thing about the church. It seems strange for a pastor to stand in the pulpit, instead of saying the church depends on the Holy Spirit, and the church depends upon God, and the church depends upon all of these other things that go with organizational life and facilities, to stand here in the church and say, but actually the church depends upon a Christian mother. But it does!
However we may define the Christian life in these other categories, actually, factually, the church, the kingdom of God, the whole future of the destiny of the Lord’s appeal in the earth depends upon that Christian mother. That’s why I say again, I read out of this eleventh chapter of the Book of Hebrews, where did that young man come from, who being heir apparent to the throne, and the most powerful figure in Egypt, Ramoses, where did he come from? As the leader of the people, and the children of God, he came from those unseen and silent years of the training from his godly Hebrew mother.
And that’s true in every life. Where do our Christian businessmen come from? And where do these godly leaders in civic life come from? They come out of the love and the care and the prayers of our wonderful mothers. Where do our preachers come from, and our missionaries, and our Christian staff members, where do they come from? They come from the heart, and love, and guidance of our Christian mothers.
When I was in Baylor I lived in a home of a widowed mother. She was very old, seemed at that time to me to be very old. She had a little house there at the corner right next to Brooks Hall. And I lived in that house, rented a room there while I went to Baylor. I loved talking to her; she was the widow of an attorney in the city of Waco. She had one child, a girl; and that girl was a Presbyterian missionary nurse in what was then called the Belgian Congo, now called Zaire.
One day I was talking to her; she lived alone, and I said to her, "I don’t see how you stand it, being old and alone, and the only child you have, this nurse, this daughter, so far away, a missionary in the Belgian Congo in the heart of Africa."
That little mother stood up to her highest, finest, and with her eyes flashing with fire she said to me, "I can hardly stand it, I am so proud."
Dear me, what a mother, and what a woman! "I’m so proud of my girl, a nurse and a missionary in the Belgian Congo." That’s where they come from; they come out of the love and Christian devotement and loving care of our godly mothers.
Having paid tribute to our Christian mothers personally, the debt of love we owe them; and having pointed out the dependence, the utter dependence of the church and its ongoing ministries in the earth upon that Christian mother, let me conclude now with a tribute from heaven, God’s tribute to a Christian mother.
I believe you will agree with me, when I am done this part of the message, that a Christian mother, a godly wife and mother, is more like God in her spirit than any other creation the mighty omnipotent hand of the Father ever made in the earth; a mother is, a Christian mother. Look with me, tell me, when a mother looks at her son or at her daughter, tell me, when the mother looks at the child, does she think, "Oh, isn’t it great, my child is going to be famous, or rich, or so gifted and talented, that the whole earth will bow at the feet of my son or my daughter"? Or, when the mother looks at that boy and that girl, doesn’t she say, "Whether that boy or that girl is rich or not makes no difference to me; famous or not, makes no difference to me; whether the world bows at the feet of my child or not, makes no difference to me. I would love for the blessing of God to be on my son or my daughter. I want my girl or my son to be noble and good and worthy. "Isn’t that right?
I wish I could have seen Mother Truett. I’ve had people world without end describe her to me. She was a humble mountain woman from western North Carolina, and she always wore a little bonnet. And if she couldn’t wear that little bonnet, no matter the occasion, she didn’t attend; a sweet humble mother, wearing her little bonnet. She had a preacher named George W. Truett who was the most famous Baptist preacher in the earth; the whole world bowed at the feet of Dr. George W. Truett.
She had a son named Jim who was pastor of a little church up here in North Central Texas. And people would come to her and say to Mother Truett, "I know that you are proud of your far-famed son, George Washington Truett." And she would humbly reply, "Yes, oh yes, but have you heard my son Jim?" God’s like that. I don’t think He is impressed with our fame, or our riches, or our success, or the adulation of the world at our feet. I think God is like that Christian mother; He loves us, not because we are rich or famous, but He loves us because of His open, caring heart to each one of us in our separate need, and just as we are.
Did you ever see a movie, or did you ever see a TV – I’ve never been upon an occasion like that. Did you ever see one of those occasions where it’s a big pompous state affair, and there’s a herald at the door, and he stands there and he announces the entrance of the Duke and Lady of so-and-so, and then the Marquis of so-and-so, and then Lord and Lady so-and-so? And they come into the pompous occasion, announced by the herald. Haven’t you seen that on television? Or maybe some of you’ve been on an occasion like that.
Can you imagine God being like that, standing up there in the courts of heaven, and Michael the archangel announces some great mighty character, famous in politics, or in money, or in some other category, announcing them as they come into heaven, in order that God might be impressed? Here comes Major Domo, and here comes High Factotum, and God is greatly impressed; can you imagine that? It is ridiculous in the extreme.
You know what God is like? Just like that wonderful mother who said, "Out of all of my children, somehow I love Robert the best, because he’s lame and he needs me. My other children take care of themselves, but little Robert is lame and he needs me." Sweet people, God is like that; He is not impressed with our so-called success or our riches or our advancements. But I think God loves us the most when we are lame and hurt and need Him. That’s God, and that is a Christian mother; she’s like that.
And when we get to heaven, she’s going to have a marvelous place. I’ve often wondered who will have that place of honor at the right hand of Jesus; who will it be? Wouldn’t it be surprising if it turned out to be a little humble mother whose name we never heard of? Somehow, somehow heaven is like that; for the sweet godly mother, pouring her life into us, and if your mother has preceded you, waiting for us in glory.
Entitled "The Morning and the Evening of Life":
A lad stood by his mother’s grave;
His heart was drear and sad.
He had no home; he had no friends
To make his young heart glad.
He knelt there on his knees and prayed
Beside his mother’s grave,
He said, "Dear Lord, please guide me now
Through life’s long weary days."
Long years passed by, the eve had come,
The sun was sinking away.
An old man stood upon a hill
Beside a mound of clay.
His form was bent, his hair was white,
The tears stood in his eyes
As once again he knelt and prayed
In unashamed cries.
"O God, the evening now has come,
And death is drawing nigh;
I thank Thee for Thy holy care,
Through all the years gone by."
Knelt there, beside his mother’s grave
As in the years gone by,
He said, "Dear Lord, please guide me home
To mother in the sky."
This is the whole substance and meaning of life: to love God. This is the first and primary assignment of the mother in the home: to mold and to guide that child in the love and nurture of the Lord. And this is God’s tremendous appeal to you today.
What a beautiful day, what a marvelous hour to give your heart to the Lord, to gather your family together and to come into the fellowship of this precious church. In a moment, in a moment, we shall quietly stand and praying for you, make appeal that today to accept the Lord as your Savior, to follow the Lord in baptism, to put your life and destiny with us in this wonderful church. Make that decision now in your heart; and in a moment when we stand to sing, as you stand up, stand up making that first step, "Pastor, today we are answering with our life." Out of the balcony, down one of these stairways, in the great press of people on this lower floor, down one of these aisles, "Pastor, today, we are deciding for God, and here we stand."
My fellow ministers and deacons will be here with open heart and open hands to welcome you, to receive you, to rejoice in your coming. On the first note of the first stanza take that first step; turn to your wife and say, "Wife, let’s go." Gather those children in your arms and say, "Let’s go." A family, a couple, or just one somebody you, do it. This Mother’s Day, this God’s Day, this Lord’s Day, make it decisions day; and may angels attend you in the way as you come, while we stand and while we sing.