THE IDEAL HOME
Dr. W. A. Criswell
5-10-81 10:50 a.m.
This is the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas welcoming the multitudes who are sharing this hour with us on radio and on television. The title of the sermon is God and the Family, or another name most appropriate for the message would be The Ideal Home, The Ideal Family. In the sixty-eighth chapter of the Psalms, Psalm 68, beginning at verse 3; Psalm 68, 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—
you find that name in “hallelujah,” the shortened form of Jehovah—
He that rideth upon the heavens by His name JAH, and rejoice with 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, Psalm 107, the last three verses; Psalm 107, the last three verses:
Yet setteth He the poor on high from affliction, and maketh him families like a flock.
The righteous shall see it, and rejoice; 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 him families like a flock” [Psalm 107:41], and in the sixty-eighth Psalm, “God setteth the solitary in families” [Psalm 68:6]. When you read the context of this sixty-eighth Psalm, it refers to the deliverance of the people of the Lord out of the bondage of Egypt [Psalm 68:7-8]. And in referring to the families, the solitary God sets in families [Psalm 68:6]: the context, the imagery is the brokenness of the homes of the slaves of Israel and Egypt [Psalm 68:5]. There would be a mother who is a slave over here, and a father who is a slave over here, and the children are slaves over there. But when the deliverance came, when they were liberated out of their chains and came out of Egypt, the families that were so separated and broken, the solitary ones here and there were all put together again in the home, in the family.
The imagery and the idea, of course, back of what the psalmist is writing is that it is the intention of God, and it is the purpose of God, that His people be gathered in families and in homes [Psalm 68:6]. It is very apparent, and as traumatic as it is apparent, when that intention of God is broken.
I went to see a young mother in the hospital and rejoiced with her in the birth of her baby boy, and as I visited with her in a room where there were two young mothers, on this side of the room was a young mother who cried, who sobbed brokenly, all the time I was there. When I went outside, I asked the nurse, “Why does that young mother cry so?” And she replied, “It has been several days since her baby was born, and the young father has not been here even to see his child, and it has broken the heart of the young mother”; God’s intention for the family and the home to be unbroken and together [Psalm 68:6].
The other end of that spectrum is no less traumatic if it departs from the intention and purpose of God. In the family circle are our aged parents, and they belong to the home, and it is the intention of God that they be loved, and respected, and cared for, and endeared.
I read of a son who took his invalid old father and dumped him in a two-wheeled cart to push him up to the top of the mountain and leave him there to die of exposure. And his little boy was walking by his side, and he said, “Daddy, what are you going to do with Grandpa?” And the man replied, “I’m going to take him to the top of the mountain and dump him out and let him die of exposure because he’s old, and deaf, and blind, and he can’t work. We’re going to get rid of him.” And the little boy walking long by the side of his father, thinking it over, said, “Daddy, I’m surely glad I’m here to see this because I’ll know now what to do with you when you get old.” Whether it is this side of the spectrum in birth, or whether this side of the allotted years in old age, it is the intention of God that the home be together; that the Lord gathers His children in families.
So we’re going to speak of the ideal home and the ideal family. First, it is one where the couple who build it love God and love one another. The Song of Solomon avows: “Love is as strong as death … Many waters cannot quench it, and the great floods cannot drown it” [Song of Solomon 8:6-7]. Where a couple love each other, where they work together, and toil together, and dream together, and plan together, and pray together, they solve ten thousand unsolvable problems. When they are committed to each other, whatever betide and whatever arises is somehow resolved in their commitment to each other.
When we read about Jacob, he served seven long years for Rachel, whom he loved [Genesis 29:18]. And Laban tricked him and gave him Leah instead, and said to him, “You work seven more years and I will give you Rachel” [Genesis 29:18-28]. And you remember what the Bible verse reads thereafter? “He served fourteen years for Rachel,” then the Bible verse says, “But they were as a few days for the love that he had for her” [Genesis 29:20]. In the story of Boaz, Ruth was a Moabitess, she was a foreigner, she was an alien [Ruth 1:4]. But out of the beautiful love of Boaz for that alien girl, Ruth, God built the home into which, in its generations, David the sweet psalmist of Israel was born [Ruth 4:18-22]. When Hannah cried because her womb was shut up and her life was barren, Elkanah her husband said, “Am I not better to thee than ten sons?” [1 Samuel 1:7-8].
Somehow, when the couple love each other, problems disappear. Nor do I read in the Bible that they ever read a book about how to solve their problems, nor do I read in the Scriptures that they ever went to a marriage counselor. They solved their problems in loving one another, and I don’t think there is any problem that is insolvable when the couple really love each other; God’s intention for the home, the ideal family, where the couple love each other.
Number two, the intention and the purpose of God for the home: when the child is wanted and prayed for. There’s not a more moving presentation in the Bible than when Hannah comes before the Lord with little Samuel, and holding the child, she says to old Eli the high priest, she says to him, “As I live,”
As thy soul liveth, my lord, I am the woman that stood by thee here praying … and for this child I prayed; and the Lord hath heard 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 beautiful, beautiful sentiment and what a Christ-honoring home. And Olivia Davis, ninety-six years old, can you hear me? Hold up your hand if you can hear me. Do you remember coming to me and saying, “Pastor, let me give you a text for a faithful wife”? And you quoted me that verse: “I am the woman that stood by thee here praying” [1 Samuel 1:26]. Isn’t that a beautiful text for a memorial service for a godly mother and a godly wife? “I am the woman that stood by thee here praying.” It is all the difference that mind could imagine, when the child that is born in the home is wanted and is an answer to prayer.
In my reading this week, concerning a certain religious group that is politically active in America, they were lamenting over the fact that last year there were one million five hundred babies that were aborted. And when you think of that, and the trauma of that, and what lies back of that—in America last year, one million five hundred babies aborted—you don’t know where to turn or what to think. It was the intention of God, it was the purpose of God that the child be prayed for and be wanted and be received as a miraculous gift from His gracious hands.
Long time ago, I told the story here in the pulpit—don’t know whether any of you would remember it or not, but Eunice Curbin, who for so many years has been a fellow librarian in our First Baptist Church library, sent me a poem depicting that story. I said, “Where did you get this?” and she said, “It’s in that famous little book called Heartthrobs.” Do you remember the poem, if I call it? Do you remember the story that lies back of the poem, if I recall it to your mind? It concerns a family, very, very poor. And they had a large number of little stair-step children from the baby up, and they were so poor they couldn’t feed the children, and couldn’t clothe them, and couldn’t shelter them. So a man of affluence offered to take one of the children, and they now pick out the child that they’re going to give away. So they look at the eldest child, and they say, “Not, not he. He’s our firstborn. He’s our eldest son; not he.” Then the next child is a girl, and the father says to his wife, “Not she. She looks exactly like her mother. She looks like you. We couldn’t give her away.” They go to the next one, who’s a boy, and she says to her husband, “Not—not he. We could not give him away. He looks exactly like his father. He looks like you. We couldn’t give him away.” The next child is crippled little James; “We couldn’t give him away. He’s crippled. He needs us.” And they come down to the baby, and they look at the baby and they say, “We couldn’t give our baby away. This is our baby.” So the family resolved to stay together and to starve together, and I think God looked upon it and somehow must have helped them from heaven. It is the intention of God, it is the purpose of God, that the child that comes into the home is loved and wanted. This is bone of our bones; this is flesh of our flesh; this is our child.
You know, a young fellow has so very much to learn. I began my preaching and pastoral ministry when I was seventeen years of age and knew so very little. How much you learn in the passing of time. In my little country church was a family and they had a whole lot of children. Being not married, I lived with the people and I stayed often in that home; ate dinner so many times with that family—large family; mother, father, and children. Never did I visit with the mother but that she would tell me about little Robert who had died, and she would just cry as she told me about little Robert who had died. And in my unknowing and in my inexperience, I said to her one time when she was telling me again about the little boy and his death and the brokenness of her heart, I said to her, “Mrs. Hopson, look at all of these children you have. Why do you cry over Robert? So many children you have.” She looked at me in astonishment and said, “Dear young pastor, if I had forty children and one of them died, it would break my heart.” How little a young man knows.
Somehow God made us with a capacity for infinite, immeasurable love. If you have one child, you can love that child with all of your heart. If you have two children, you can love both children equally and each one with all of your heart. It doesn’t—it doesn’t subside when it is divided. And if you have ten children, you can love all ten of them as though you just had one, each one. Isn’t that remarkable way that God has given us? And that is the intention of the Lord in the home and in the family, that the child is wanted and loved and received as a gift from the miracle-working hands of the Lord.
Number three: the ideal home. The ideal family, it is one where the values and the priorities of life are recognized and faithfully followed. What would you say they are in the home? The world admires and publicizes success, fortune, advancement. Look at this family, they are rich. Look at them! The palace—the palatial home in which they live, look at the cars they drive. Look at the beautiful clothes that they—look at all the accouterments of an affluent life, and look at his success and his place in the community, in the business world or the political world; look at that family! Successful achievers, advancers, risers, overcomers; look at them. Fine, we don’t envy anybody because he’s rich, or successful, or advanced, or famous; we’re glad for him. Just saying that the priorities of life do not find themselves categorized in success, or achievement, or fame, or riches. Rather, the priorities of life that really matter concern one another: the family, the home, the parents, the child, the father, the mother, these are the tremendous priorities.
Let me read you something from a court reporter. The judge says to the boy, “Stand up to be sentenced,” and the boy stands before the judge. Then the judge speaks to the boy: “I knew your father. He was a great barrister. He was our authority 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 replied, “Yes, sir.” Then the judge says to the boy, “Why could you not have been like your father?” And the boy replied, “I never knew, sir, what he was like.” And the judge asked, “What do you mean, you never knew what your father was like?” And the boy replied, “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 the story that was printed, but I believe I can add a footnote: I would think when the court sentenced the boy, that he did so with a heavy heart.
What are our priorities? What are the big things that ought to consume our lives; money, success, and achievement, and advancement, or maybe just one another? At least it would please God if we placed first in our lives our homes and our families and our children and each other; the ideal family, the ideal home.
Last, fourth, the ideal family in the intention and purpose of God: it is one where religion and being a Christian—it is one where the Christian faith is normal and natural; not abnormal or unnatural, but it is a way of life. Sunday, one day out of seven, we give to God, just as one part of out of ten we owe the Lord. One day out of seven is God’s Day. It’s the Lord’s Day. It’s a holy day, not a holiday; it belongs to God. And the programming of the home, how we do is normal and natural: to dress up and to go to church, to appear before the Lord in the finest clothes that we have. They may be rags, but they are clean rags and the best we have. To dress up and to go to church, to appear before the Lord in the best that we have, and dad goes to the men’s Bible class, and mother goes to the TEL class, and I go to the little Card class, as they called it then, and then to the primary class, and then the juniors and up; just know no other thing. A family that belongs to God, and the order of the home is filled with those things that pertain to the Christian faith.
That’s God’s purpose and God’s intention for the family and for the home. It is a remarkable thing to me how children are so malleable, or so tractable, or so pliable, bendable, makeable, shapeable, like a twig or like molding clay. Children are so, somehow easily guided and easily made and easily conformed; trained in the image of God. The Lord made them that way. They just are. If you will look at that cartoon, “Dennis the Menace,” how many times—even though he’s got the flap of his pajamas all down—how many times is he there at the bed praying? It is normal. It is natural. It is easy for the child to love God and to be taught in the ways of the Lord. God made him that way. He’s so amenable and so responsive.
There came to see me, in my study over there, there came to see me one afternoon two little boys from an elementary school in Oak Cliff. One of the little boys was red-headed and freckle-faced. He was just covered in freckles. The other little boy looked like little Lord Fauntleroy. He was so precise and so dressed up. Well, the two little boys came to see me, and they came with the announcement, saying, “Our teacher,” in the elementary school that they attended, “our teacher said that they wanted us to interview a great man.” Now, that was the best way to start off the introduction you could ever know in your life: “teacher wants us to interview a great man. And teacher suggested that we interview a very great man: a famous lawyer in the city, or a famous doctor in the city, or a famous banker in the city, and we asked the teacher if we could interview a preacher, and she said, ‘Yes.’” So the two little boys said, “So we asked if we could interview you, and the teacher said, ‘Yes.‘“
Man, I opened the door. I never was so honored in my life as those two little kids came into my study to interview “a great man.” Well, he sat there, and the little freckle-faced one sat there, and they got their pads out and their note pads out and put them on their knees. And they got their pencils out, and they started asking me those questions that they had been assigned to ask in the interview.
Well, as time went on and the interview came to a conclusion, there was something about the atmosphere of the study, or the tone of the voice, or the fact that they were in a pastor’s presence, that just kind of pulled at the two boys’ hearts. They were of an altogether different communion from ours. So when they closed their little notebooks and put up their pencils, they began to talk to me personally, and this is what they talked to me about. They wanted to know when I was converted, and when I was saved, and how old I was, and how I felt. And then they wanted to know when I was called to be a preacher, and how did I know I was called to be a preacher, and how old I was when that happened to me; and how did I feel? And I talked to those little boys—the little freckle-faced one and the one so beautifully dressed—I talked to those two boys about my experience with God as a little boy: when I was saved and when I was called to preach and how I felt.
When I went to the door of the study with the two little fellows, why, each one shook my hand, and one of them said to me, he said, “Sir, this has been the greatest day of my life.” That little boy said that to me; not some great ball game in which they won or not some experience for a week at a camp or not some show that they saw, but talking about the Lord and how a boy’s heart responds to God. “Sir, this has been the greatest day of my life.”
You know, you have to twist and to wrench to make a delinquent out of a boy. He has to be taught to curse, or to use drugs, or to drink, or to be promiscuous, or to be filthy or dirty. By nature, the little fellow will respond to the beauty and the glory and the nurture of the Lord. He’ll just come along perfectly and beautifully in his speech, in his deeds, in his affections, and in his love. He’ll love you, and he’ll love the Lord, and he’ll know no other thing all the days of his life than to walk in the footsteps of our blessed Savior, following you and following Him.
This is the intent and the purpose of God. Blessed is the couple that finds it in the Lord and in one another, and blessed is the home that welcomes that child that God gives, and precious is the child who walks in the way of our wonderful Savior; the ideal God-blessed home. Now may we stand together?
Our Lord, what richness, what happiness, what glory, when our young people fall in love with Thee and with one another, and in how many ways does God pour out the blessings of heaven upon a home that looks up to Thee? And our wonderful Lord, we pray that we might so order our lives that God can do that through us. We build a Christian home, we pray for our children, and we are responsible to God for their little lives, and we ask heaven’s blessings upon the circle of the family. And we bring to Thee every problem that arises, and the answers are found not in psychology or sociology or books of problems and trouble, but the answers are found in the loving mercy and tender grace and forgiving Spirit of our Lord. O God, give us Christian homes.
And in this moment when we wait before the Lord and bow before Him, in this moment when we pray and we sing this hymn of appeal, a family you, to put your life with us in the worship and service of our Lord, come this morning. A couple you, to decide for God, come this morning. Or just one somebody you: “The Lord has spoken to me, and I am answering with my life” [Romans 10:9-10; Ephesians 2:8]. Do it now. In the balcony, down one of those stairways; in the press of people on this lower floor, into one of these aisles: “We have decided for God, dear pastor, and here we stand.” Make the decision now in your heart, and when we sing this appeal, that first step will be the greatest you will ever make in your life. Welcome. God tenderly bless you. Welcome. The angels welcome you, God welcomes you, we welcome you; come. And thank Thee, Lord, for the sweet harvest You give us; in Thy blessed name, amen. While we sing, come: “Here I am, pastor.”