GOD AND THE FAMILY
Dr. W. A. Criswell
Psalm 68, 107
5-10-81 8:15 a.m.
It is a gladness to welcome the multitudes of you who are sharing this Mothers’ Day hour with us on the two radio stations that carry its message. In the sixty-eighth Psalm, Psalm 68, and then Psalm 107, Psalm 68, Psalm 107. First Psalm 68, beginning at verse 3:
Let the righteous be glad; let them rejoice before God: let them exceedingly rejoice.
Sing unto God, sing praises to His name: extol Him that rideth upon the heavens by His name JAH,
That is another name for God, a shortened form of Jehovah. You find JAH in “hallelujah,” “praise God,” hallelujah.
He that rideth upon the heavens by His name JAH, and rejoice before Him.
A father of the fatherless, and a judge of the widows, is God in His holy habitation. God setteth the solitary in families…
Now Psalm 107, the last three verses, beginning at verse 41:
Yet setteth He the poor on high from affliction, and maketh him families like a flock.
The righteous shall see it, and rejoice: and all iniquity shall stop her mouth.
Whoso is wise, and will observe these things, even they shall understand the lovingkindness of the Lord.
“He maketh his families like a flock [Psalm 107:41]…God setteth the solitary in families” [Psalm 68:6]. God and the Family, or the model home, the ideal family.
The background of the text is far different from what appears in just taking out these few words in the length of the psalm. The context lies in the deliverance of Israel out of Egypt. And when it speaks of God setting the solitary in families, he’s referring to the Egyptian bondage when the families in slavery were broken up. The slave father was over there, and the slave mother was over there, and the slave child was over there; but when God brought them out of bondage, the families were together again, and that’s what God intended, and that’s what God purposed. “He setteth the solitary in families” [Psalm 68:6]. It is not God’s purpose that the family be broken up and scattered, but that it be together. It is God’s intent that His people live in homes and by families.
The breaking up of the intention of God is always self-evident when the trauma comes to pass. Visiting a young mother in the hospital, rejoicing with her in the birth of her son, a little boy, little baby boy, across the, there were two mothers in the room, and across the aisle from where I was visiting with this mother, there was a young mother that sobbed all the time that I was there. And when I went outside, I asked the nurse, “Well, why does this girl cry so unceasingly?” She wept all the time that I was visiting the other mother in the room. And the nurse said to me, “The child has been born to that mother for several days, and the father, the young father, has not even bothered to come to see his child.” And the young mother was weeping in despair, brokenhearted. Whenever we break the family, however the cause, indifference, or disdain, it breaks the ideal of God.
Now the other end of the spectrum is no less poignant. In age when these who have grown older are cast aside and uncared for and unloved, the same ideal of God is broken; the intention of the Lord is no longer evident. There was a son who had dumped his old, aged father into a two-wheel cart, and was pushing the cart up the side of the mountain. Well, as the son took his aged and invalid father up to the side and to the top of the mountain, his little boy was walking by his side. And the little fellow said to his father, he said, “Daddy, what you doing with Grandpa?”
And the father replied, he said, “Son, Grandpa is a nuisance. He can’t see, he can’t hear, he can’t work, he’s invalid, and I’m going to take him up to the top of the mountain and dump him out. And he’ll die up there pretty soon of exposure.”
And the little boy walking along by the side of his father finally said, “Well Daddy, I’m sure glad that I’m here to see because when you get old I’ll know what to do with you.”
Whether on that end of the spectrum, when the child is born, and the family is brokenhearted by the disdain and scorn that breaks it up, or whether it’s on the other side of the spectrum and in forgetfulness of what our parents have done for us, in either way, it breaks the purpose of God. So that leads to my subject out of the Bible: God’s purpose for His people, that they live in families and in homes [Psalm 68:6]; the ideal home, the ideal family.
Number one: it is an ideal family in its building; when the couple who are marrying love God and love one another. The Song of Solomon says, “Love is strong as death . . . Many waters cannot quench it, and the floods cannot drown it” [Song of Solomon 8:6-7]. When a couple give themselves to each other to live together, to work together, to toil together, to dream together, to pray together, to work together, to die together, in that commitment, ten thousand thousand problems are already solved, when a couple really love each other. Jacob worked seven years for Rachel, whom he loved, and when Laban pawned off on him Leah, the father said to Jacob, “You work seven more years, and I will give you Rachel.” And the Bible says that Jacob worked for Rachel fourteen years [Genesis 29:16-27]. And do you remember the little verse? “And they were but a few days because of the love he had for her” [Genesis 29:20]. Or take again: Boaz is a well-to-do country gentleman, with his fields in Bethlehem [Ruth 2:1-3], but he loved Ruth, who was a Moabitess [Ruth 1:22], she was an alien, she was a foreigner; but the love that cemented Boaz and Ruth built the home [Ruth 4:13], in which ultimately David was born [Ruth 4:21-22]. Or Elkanah and Hannah, the brokenheartedness of Hannah is assuaged when Elkanah says to her, “Am I not better to thee than ten sons?” [1 Samuel 1:8]. What books on marriage did they read? Or what marriage counselor spoke to them? If they read a book on it, I would be astonished to learn of it. Or if they went to a marriage counselor, I would be amazed by it. What settled their problems was they loved each other. And when a couple does, ten thousand thousand problems are automatically resolved: the ideal home; when the couple love each other.
All right, number two: the intention of God for the family, for the ideal home, number two, when the child is wanted, when the child born is prayed for and thanked God for. There’s not any more beautiful little word to be read in the Bible than the word of Hannah when she appears before aged Eli, and she says to the priest and the minister of God, she says to old Eli, “As thy soul liveth, my lord, I am the woman who stood by thee here, praying. For this child I prayed; and God has answered my prayer; and I have lent him to the Lord all the days of his life. For this child I prayed” [1 Samuel 1:26-28]; what a difference in the spectrum, the social and cultural life of America that I see today. I was reading last night of a group who is politically active, religious people that are politically active in America, and it said that in this last year one million five hundred thousand babies were forcibly aborted, one million five hundred thousand babies aborted! It just staggers you! You just don’t know where to turn or what to think. The purpose of God, the ideal: when the child is prayed for and wanted. And the couple look upon it, “This is bone of our bones, this is flesh of our flesh; I see you in him, or I see her in you. This is our child.” That’s God’s purpose and intent and ideal.
Some time ago, a long time ago, I told a story. And Eunice Kervin, who for years and years has been a fellow librarian in our church library, Eunice Kervin sent me a poem about it. I had no idea. I asked where it came from. She said, “It is in that little book, a very famous little book, called Heartthrobs.” Do you remember the story, if I recall it to your mind? There is a poor family, very poor, and they have many children; and they can’t feed them all they’re so poor. So a well-to-do gentleman has offered to take one of the children. And they have the choice of picking out which one they’re going to give away because they’re so poor they can’t feed and clothe and house them all. So they pick out the one they’re going to give away. And they start with the eldest son, and they say, “No, not he; he’s our eldest, he’s our firstborn, we couldn’t give him away.” They go to the next one, who is a girl, and they look upon her, and he says, “We can’t give her away; she looks exactly like her mother. We can’t give her away.” The next one is a boy, and they look upon him, and she says, “We can’t give him away; he looks exactly like his father. We can’t give him away.” They go to the next one, a little crippled boy, and they say, “We couldn’t give little James away; he’s crippled, he needs us.” And they go to the baby, and they say, “We can’t give our baby away; he’s just a little baby.” They finally decided to stay together and to starve together. That’s great. That’s the intent of God. That’s the purpose of the Lord.
You know, a young fellow has so very much to learn. I began, you see, when I was seventeen years old being a preacher and a pastor. And oh, how much you learn along the way. Well, in my little country church, there was a family [who] had many children. And one of the children had died, little Robert. And for the first ten years of my pastoral life I was unmarried, I was single, and I lived among the people; loved it. That’s the only thing that I object to in being pastor of a large church: I wish I could live with the people, in their homes, eat dinner with them, stay in the home at night. One of the men, I remember, built for me a prophet’s chamber; he called it, so that I could always have a place to stay if I wanted to go to his home. Well, I stayed in this home often, ate dinner there so many times. And no time I was ever there but that this mother of so many children, she would talk to me about little Robert who had died. And she’d just cry and talk to me about little Robert. Well, I was young, didn’t know, it takes time and life to learn; you’re just not born knowing. Well, I didn’t know, so I said to her one time, to that sweet mother, Mrs. Ruby Hobson, I said to her, “Ms. Hobson, look at all of these children here in the house, just look at them. Why would you grieve over little Robert with all of the rest of the children you have? Why do you cry over little Robert?”
And the woman in astonishment, the dear mother in astonishment said to me, she said, “Young pastor, you don’t understand. If I had forty children and I lost one of them, I would grieve as though it was the only child that I had.”
I can understand that now, after the passing of these many, many years. Love is sort of infinite and immeasurable in its capacity. That’s one of the strangest things about how God made the human heart. If you have one child, you can love the child with all your heart. If you have two children, you can love both of them just as much. If you have ten, it’s just the same. That’s the way God made us. And it is the beautiful and ideal home when the child is wanted and loved and prayed for. God has given us a child.
Number three: the ideal home, the ideal home is one where our priorities and our values are faithfully recognized. What would you say is a great thing in a home? Well, they are successful, they are rich, they are famous. Or just anything that the world values. They’ve got lots of cars, or a whole lot of land, or they have oil wells, or whatever the world admires and looks up to and speaks of. They’re great socialites, and they entertain lavishly, dress magnificently, name it. Do you think that is a priority in the building of a home? Success, achievement, money, advancement, do you think those things are first? Or––we’re talking about God now in the home––or do you think the first priority ought to be one another, she, he, this precious child? Sweet people, I want to read you something that came out of a court reporter. This is just the section of it:
The judge says to the boy, ‘Stand up to be sentenced.’ And the boy stands up before the judge. Then the judge speaks to the boy: ‘I knew your father; he was a great barrister. He was our author on laws governing property. The volumes in my chambers on rights of property were written by your father. You have brought shame and disgrace on a noble and an honorable name.’
And the boy, according to the reporter, says, “Yes, sir.” Then the judge says to him, “Why could you not have been like your father?” And the boy replies, “I never knew, sir, what my father was like.” And the judge says, “What do you mean?” And the boy replies, “I mean, Your Honor, I never knew my father. When I would try to see him, he would always say, ‘I haven’t time now, son, run along. I must finish these books on property.’”
That’s all that was printed. It’s all I could find. But I have an addendum; I have a footnote. I would think when the judge sentenced the boy he did it with a heavy heart. Our priorities are so oft times twisted and wrenched and not right. There’s a lot of us that would do things a lot different if we had opportunity to do them again.
Fourth and last: the ideal home, the ideal family, it is one where religion, and of course, being Christian, we would say, it is a home where the Christian faith is natural and normal; it is a way of life. Know no other thing. Sunday is a holy day, not a holiday; it’s a sacred day. We give it to God; this one day out of seven belongs to Him [Exodus 20:8-10]. Like one part out of ten of what I possess belongs to God [Leviticus 27:30], one day out of seven belongs to the Lord. And to have a home like that is normal and God-pleasing. Like every Sunday, we dress up to go to church, I believe in that. They may be nothing but rags, but they can be clean rags, the best we have, and we dress up, and appear before the Lord. We come before the Lord with the finest that we have, such as it may be. And dad go to the Men’s Bible class, and mother always to the T.E.L. class, and I to the Card class, as they called it then, then to the Primary, then to the Junior division, through all of the years that followed after. The usual way, normal, not abnormal, natural, not unnatural; it’s just the way of life. That’s God’s intention for the family. The religion is not here, it’s there. And the heart of it is not in the public convocation; the heart of it is in the life, in the demeanor of the home; the child brought up, as the Book said when you read it, “in the love and nurture of the Lord” [Ephesians 6:4]. A child is a remarkable thing. The child is so malleable, so tractable, so pliable, just like a twig. It’s a remarkable thing, the child.
Did you know, there came to see me over there at my study, two little boys? One was red-headed and freckle-faced, and the other was a little [Lord Fauntleroy], oh! he was so dressed up and precise, and the other was so freckle-faced, very freckled, and red-headed. And you’d never know in a thousand years what they came for. They were from an elementary school in Oak Cliff. And the teacher had given them the assignment to interview a great professional man. That’s what impressed me. And the teacher had said to the youngsters in the class, “Now I want you to interview a doctor or a lawyer or a banker, a famous one in the city.” And they asked the privilege of interviewing a preacher. Now that impressed me. And of course, when they asked if they could interview me, I was immensely impressed! So they came in, and they sat down. And after they told me what the teacher had asked them to do, why, each one sat there, this one and this one, with his pad on his knee, and his pencil all poised, and they had certain questions to ask. And I answered them the best I could, and those little boys wrote them out, you know, so meticulously. When they got through with their questions, there was something about the situation, where they were, or my answers, or whatever, that somehow entered into the interest, the heart of the two boys. And they begin to talk to me on their own, not what the teacher had asked, but what those little boys out of their hearts were interested in. They were young fellows, they were boys brought up in a different kind of a world than a Baptist child would be brought up in. So they began to talk to me, and they began to ask me when I was converted, and when I became a Christian, and then when I was called to the ministry, to be a preacher, and how did I feel as a little boy when I was converted, and how did I feel when I was called to the ministry, and all of those things that just intrigued those little fellows about how I was when I was a boy and gave my heart to Christ and answered God’s call to be a preacher. Well anyway, when we got through, and the boys shook hands with me as they walked out my study door, one of those boys said to me, he said, “Sir, today, today has been the greatest day of my life.” That little simple observation has stayed in my mind for the years since. The greatest day of that little boy’s life was not a ball game where they won, or a camp that they experienced, or some show that they saw; but the greatest day of their lives, he says, was talking to the pastor about when he was converted, and when he was saved, and how he felt when God called him to be a preacher, the things of God. You know, a little boy has to be twisted and wrenched to be made into a delinquent. By nature he’ll pray, and he’ll love God, and he’ll love you.
I can’t help but observe in that little cartoon of “Dennis the Menace,” how many times the little boy is pictured kneeling by the bedside with a flap of his pajamas down, he’s kneeling at the bedside praying. That’s normal, that’s natural; God made us that way. It’s the unnatural when we get into drugs, and drink, and cursing, and hatred. The natural is to love one another, and to love God, and to be together here and there.
Now may we stand together?
Our dear Lord, what a paradise would this be if the intention of God were fulfilled in our lives, in our homes, in our children. It’s the breaking up of the purpose of God that brings so many tears, so many broken hearts. O Lord, that we might listen to Thy voice and walk in Thy way. Beautiful and precious is God’s infinite purposes for us. He wills for us some beautiful and better thing [Hebrews 11:40].
And in this moment that we tarry, a family you, a couple you, a one somebody you, to put your heart with us in the love of God, come this morning. Gary Holder said to me, “See that young couple there? I am praying they’ll come this morning.” Come. And God bless you and angels attend you in the way as you answer with your life. In the balcony round, down one of those stairways, in the press of people on this lower floor, into one of these aisles, a thousand welcomes in the name of Jesus and in the name of our dear church as you come. And thank Thee Lord for the sweet response, in Thy blessed name, amen. While we sing, “Here I come, pastor, and here I am.”