The Little Lamb of God
December 13th, 1981 @ 8:15 AM
THE LITTLE LAMB OF GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
12-13-81 8:15 a.m.
We welcome you who are with us on radio; this is the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Little Lamb of God. In the second chapter of the Book of Luke, a verse, 6 and 7, “It was so,” Luke 2:6-7:
It was so, that, while they were in Bethlehem, the days were accomplished that Mary should be delivered. And she brought forth her first-born Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes,
She did not have enough money to put a little gown, a little garment, a little baby dress, so she just wrapped Him in the rags that she had; “wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a manger.” She did not have a crib; put Him in a place where the cows and oxen were eating straw, “because there was no room for them in the inn” [Luke 2:6-7].
We have insurmountable and insuperable problems that face the world today. For the first time in the history of creation, for the first time in the story of civilization, there are governments that are openly and statedly and avowedly atheistic. No ancient Greek would make a decision without first consulting the oracle at Delphi, nor would any Roman general ever go to war without first propitiating the gods. But these know no god, bow at no altar, and call on the name of no deity. This is a phenomenon of our generation: governments that are openly atheistic. We are seeing the world flooded with secularism and materialism and humanism. Our values in education, in universities, in the political world, in the economic world, in the cultural world, in the literary world, our values are materialistic. And whether it is humanism in Russia or materialism in Russia, it is the same as in America: there’s no difference in it over there than over here, and there’s no difference in it here than over there. Materialistic values are the same everywhere; and they are degrading to the human spirit.
The problems we face today, the vast increasing paganism and heathenism of the world population, the minority of Christians in the earth is steadily, steadily, steadily becoming apparent. By the year 2000, there will hardly be two percent of the world’s population that is Christian. And with that awesome paganism of the world, there carries with it a concomitant of terrorism and violence; without the ameliorating, pacifying hand of the Christian faith. The problems we face in our present world, the immediate—not long range—the immediate prospect of atomic confrontation; I can understand why the Swedish government and the Danish government and the Norwegian government, I can understand why the governments of those nations are concerned because of the prowling atomic submarines from the Russian navy. But we have them in the Gulf of Mexico, prowling off of our coast. And we have them prowling off the coasts of North Carolina and New York. And each one of those submarines, in a matter of minutes, can destroy Dallas, and Houston, and Fort Worth, and San Antonio in one multi-headed missile. Did you read last week, the United States government has a federal office in the city of Dallas for the evacuation of our population, in the hope that somehow our people might, part of them, be spared in an atomic war.
The problems that confront our world today seem insoluble. But they had problems in the world two thousand years ago that seemed no less beyond solution. Caesarism, two thousand years ago was triumphant, and that was the same as if Hitler had won the war. The entire civilized world was under the mailed fist of a Caesar who reigned over the empire in Rome. Not only that, but bloody Herod stood over the people of God as their king; and he was supported and upheld by the might of the Roman legions. And not only that, but there was a seething restlessness in Judea that eventually erupted in 66 AD in a war that destroyed the nation. The Roman soldier was ubiquitous; he was seen everywhere from one side of the empire to the other. They had insuperable problems then. Three men out of every five you would have met on any city street was chattel property; he was a slave. Out of a population of one hundred million people, sixty million in the Roman Empire were slaves. They had insuperable problems then. This status of womanhood in the ancient day was no more, no higher, more raised than that of an animal. The status, the place of a woman in the Roman Empire, was as low as a beast. They had insuperable problems then. There was universal in the Roman Empire the right to expose the child. The father of any child, if he chose not to wish the child to live, took the little thing and placed it on the side of the road, or on a hillside or mountainside, for the animals to devour it. That was universal. They had insuperable problems then. The chosen nation of God, the people of Israel, were at their lowest spiritual ebb. Pharisaism ruled the nation; and what they did not control the Sadducees did, who were pawns of the Roman government. It was a sad and hopeless and dark day two thousand years ago, and seemingly it is like that today.
What was God’s answer? What is God’s answer to human need? A Baby, a Lamb, a little Child. I would have thought—wouldn’t you—that when God sought to solve the problems of the world He would have sent His phalanxes from heaven, marching armies of angels, of the hosts of glory. Wouldn’t you have thought God would have done it by some kind of forceful intervention? The people thought that. In the sixth chapter of the Gospel of John, in the fifteenth verse, it says, “And the people sought to make Jesus a king by force” [John 6:15]. Here was a man who could feed an army on a little child’s lunch [John 6:8-13]. Here was a man that could raise a soldier from the dead if he’s slain [John 11:43-44]. And they thought by force to make Jesus a king. The disciples thought that. What do you think they meant when it says that they struggled with each other about who would be greatest in the kingdom? [Mark 9:33-34]. Let’s take that word “kingdom” and put another equal word there, “empire”: they struggled with each other, and were jealous of each other, because each one sought for himself first place in the empire that Jesus was going to command. How different the Lord God. Answering the insuperable, insoluble problems of the world, He sent a little Baby, a little Child, a little Lamb [Matthew 1:20-23].
Nor is that any different through the ages: God’s answer to the curse of the world was a little lamb, slain on the altar of Abel [Genesis 4:4; Hebrews 11:4]. God’s answer to the bondage of the Hebrew people in Egypt was a little lamb, slain at the Passover feast [Exodus 12:5-7, 13]. God’s answer to the needs of the nation was a little lamb, sacrificed in the morning and in the evening [Exodus 29:39]. And when God raised up John the Baptist to announce the messianic kingdom, he said, pointing to Jesus, “Behold the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world” [John 1:29]. And in the passage you just read—and that’s the reason I had you read it—John the sainted apostle, on the Isle of Patmos, says, “I wept much, because there was no one in earth and no one in heaven worthy to break the seals and to look upon the pages of the book of redemption” [Revelation 5:4]. And while he was weeping at the insolubility of the problems of the world, an elder touched him and said, “Weep not: the Lion of the tribe of Judah hath prevailed to break the seals and to look on the book” [Revelation 5:5]. And do you remember the next sentence? “And I turned to see the Lion that roared,” is that what is says? “And I turned to see, and beheld a Lamb as it had been slain” [Revelation 5:6]. That’s God. “And a little child,” said Isaiah in his incomparable messianic prophecy, “And a little child shall lead them” [Isaiah 11:6]. That’s God.
Just for this moment, we’re going to look at the gospel of the little Lamb.
Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, give him your cloak also. If he wants to take away your inner garment, give him your outer garment. And if any man shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.
The gospel of non-resistance, of non-revengefulness, of non-retaliation; the gospel of the little Lamb. That’s a remarkable thing, and it’s something that I can hardly do. I have a hard time with it. But that’s God.
In the days when the Armour Packing Company in Chicago was the biggest packing firm in the world, I went through it as a young fellow. There was a big section in that plant where the cattle were being slaughtered, and it was a din. The lowing of those cattle as they were brought up to the slaughter, and that great big man with a sledgehammer knocking them in the head, knocking them in the head, knocking them in the head, and they’d fall over and be processed. Then I went into the area of the packing plant where the pigs and the hogs were being slaughtered. And there was a man with a long, long sharp knife; and as those pigs squealing and hollering and grunting and groaning came down those chutes, he took that long knife and plunged it into their throats, cut the jugular vein, and the blood poured out, and immediately they were taken down into a vat of steaming hot water. Then I went into the plant where the sheep and the lambs were being slaughtered. It was as silent as this sanctuary is now: not a sound. And it was against the background of that, that what this preacher said to me stayed in my heart. His father, he said, in a packing plant, was the man who stood there with that long, long, sharp knife. And as those hogs were brought down, he plunged that knife into their throat, and cut the jugular vein, and the blood poured out. The preacher said to me no one told his father that that day, and for the first time, they were going to slaughter lambs. And while he was there slaughtering those hogs, cutting that jugular vein, plunging that knife into the throat, without his being aware of it on the chute there came a little lamb. And the preacher said, “My father took that long knife and plunged it into the throat of the little thing, and cut the jugular vein.” And he said to the astonishment and amazement of his father, the little thing licked the blood off of his hand. He said, “My father went to the office of the packing company, laid down his knife, and said, ‘I quit. I quit!’” Imagine, licking the hand that cut the life stream of blood.
May I apply that principle to the whole world? The gospel of the little Lamb. In 1922, in Washington D.C. there was held a World Disarmament Conference. At that time, the president of the United States was a Baptist, Warren G. Harding, and he presided over it. They opened the international conference with a prayer from a Christian minister. And the first day was given over to an address by another Baptist leader, Charles Evans Hughes, then Secretary of State and later Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. And he made an appeal—I’ve heard him at a Southern Baptist Convention—he made an appeal in behalf of the Lord of all the world, the Prince of Peace. And that night, the Japanese ambassador plenipotentiary, the representative of his government to the World Disarmament Conference, sat in his room in a deep study. And his secretary came and said, “Your Honor, it is time for retiring. You have a heavy day tomorrow.”
“No,” said the ambassador, “leave me alone. I must think.” After the passing of hours, the secretary came back and said, “Your Honor, it is late. You must rest.”
“No,” said the ambassador, “leave me alone. I must think this through.” And when in the wee hours of the morning the secretary came again, the Japanese ambassador turned toward him and said, “He is right. The American secretary of state is right. There is no other hope save in the God of all the peoples, in the Prince of Peace”; the gospel of the little Lamb.
Our solution and our answer will never come with our fists doubled, and our jaws set, and our words of acrimony and recrimination and vengefulness. It comes in the gospel of the little Lamb. “Bless them that hate you, and pray for them that persecute you, that ye may be the children of My Father which is in heaven” [Matthew 5:44-45]. That’s God.
May I point out just one other? The gospel of the little Lamb:
Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; or what you shall put on . . . Look at the fowls of the air: they do not sow, they do not reap, they do not gather into barns; but your heavenly Father feedeth them . . . Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, How shall we be clothed? For your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things. Seek first the kingdom of God . . . and all these things shall be added unto you.
[Matthew 6:25-26, 31-33]
The gospel of the little Lamb, of the little Child: trusting in God, leaning upon God.
Ooh, that’s hard for me because I want to do it myself. It’s a drive in me to try to do it myself. But the gospel of the little Lamb is, “Let us lean on the Lord; He will provide. He will take care. He will see us through”; the gospel of the little Child.
I one time heard of a poor and widowed mother who had a deeply consecrated little boy. You don’t have to wait to be a man to love God, you don’t have to wait to be a woman to love God; you can love the Lord just as earnestly and beautifully when you’re a boy or when you’re a girl as you can in womanhood or manhood. She had a precious little boy. Christmas Eve, nothing in the house, nothing, living in a little village on the edge of town, nothing. And the little boy said to his mother, “Mother, let’s pray. Let’s ask God to send His ravens to feed us.” To humor the boy, the mother knelt with the little lad, and he prayed God to send His ravens to feed them. And before they went to bed, the little lad opened the door, just a little. And the mother said, “Son?” And he said, “Mother, for the ravens to come in.” That Christmas Eve, when the storekeeper of the general store had done the work of the day, and at night had finished his labor, and was closing the store, he was making his way home after a hard day’s work. And with his head down, walking toward his home in that little village, he suddenly saw a pencil of light across the path. He was astonished. And he lifted up his head to follow the pencil of light from whence it came. And it came from the door opened just so, from that poor widow’s house. And the storekeeper, “I wonder if she has anything to eat.” He turned around! He went back to the store. He took a basket, filled it with all that he could hold, all he could carry, made his way to the widow’s home, pushed the door open, set the basket inside, and then closed the door. And the next morning, the little boy arose with his mother; and there that basket filled with good things to eat. And the mother exclaimed, “Where could it have come from?” And the little boy, in his simple trust in God, said, “Mother, the ravens, the ravens. God has brought it!”
Oh, for the heart and the soul and the spirit of a little child! God’s little Lamb.
[Dan Beam singing]
Sweet little Jesus boy
They made You be born in a manger
Sweet little holy Child
And we didn’t know who You was
Didn’t know You’d come to save us Lord
To take our sins away
Our eyes was blind, we couldn’t see
We didn’t know who You was
Long time ago You was born
Born in a manger low
Sweet little Jesus boy
The world treat You mean, Lord
Treat me mean too
But that’s how things is down here
We don’t know who You is
You done showed us how
We is a’tryin’
Master You done showed us how
Even when You’s dyin’
Just seems like we can’t do right
Look how we treated You
But please Sir, forgive us Lord
We didn’t know ‘twas You
Sweet little Jesus boy
Born long time ago
Sweet little holy Child
And we didn’t know who You was
[“Sweet Little Jesus Boy,” Robert MacGimsey, 1934]
Now may we stand?
Our Lord, we have so much to learn. Will we ever learn it? Sometimes I fall into despair about myself. O God, the gentle, precious, humble, sweet ways of the blessed Jesus, and we can be so harsh and hard and cruel. God forgive us. May we sit at Thy feet and learn of Thee. May Thy ways be precious to us. Lord, bless this worshiping throng today. And in Thy goodness and grace, give us souls.
In a minute we’ll sing our hymn of appeal. And when we sing it, coming down one of those stairways or down one of these aisles, “Pastor, we’ve decided for God today, and here we stand.” Putting your life in the church, bring your whole family, a couple you, or just one somebody you, “God’s spoken to my heart and I’m answering with my life.” Then thank Thee, Lord, for the harvest You bestow, in Thy precious name, amen. Let’s stay here for just a moment, then I’ll let you go, but right now, stay, pray; and that somebody you or that family you, come, while we sing our song of appeal.