STANDING BEFORE GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2 Chronicles 20:13
6-6-82 7:30 p.m.
Now we invite all of you who are listening to this hour on radio to turn with us in the Holy Scriptures to 2 Chronicles. It is just about a third of the way through your Bible. In this Criswell Study Bible, it is page 537, 2 Chronicles, chapter 18. Wait a minute. Agajanian’s got me all confused. It’s that “hippy” that did it. That’s what done it! Second Chronicles, chapter 21, and we are going—2 Chronicles, chapter 20—that’s right, this one—chapter 20, and we are going to read verses 3 through 13; 2 Chronicles, chapter 20, verses 3 through 13. The sermon tonight concerns the open, public display, the demonstrativeness in religion, and this is the background for that message; 2 Chronicles 20:3-13. Now you on radio, with the thousands of us here in this sanctuary, let’s read it out loud together, 2 Chronicles 20:3-13. Now together:
And Jehoshaphat feared, and set himself to seek the Lord, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah.
And Judah gathered themselves together, to ask help of the Lord: even out of all of the cities of Judah they came to seek the Lord.
And Jehoshaphat stood in the congregation of Judah and Jerusalem, in the house of the Lord, before the new court,
And said, O Lord God of our fathers, art not Thou God in heaven? and rulest not Thou over all the kingdoms of the heathen? and in Thine hand is there not power and might, so that none is able to withstand Thee?
Art not Thou our God, who didst drive out the inhabitants of this land before Thy people Israel, and gavest it to the seed of Abraham, Thy friend for ever?
And they dwelt therein, and have built Thee a sanctuary therein for Thy name, saying,
If, when evil cometh upon us, as the sword, judgment, or pestilence, or famine, we stand before this house, and in Thy presence, (for Thy name is in this house,) and cry unto Thee in our affliction, then Thou wilt hear and help.
And now, behold, the children of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir, whom Thou wouldst not let Israel invade, when they came out of the land of Egypt, but they turned from them, and destroyed them not;
Behold, I say, how they reward us, to come to cast us out of Thy possession, which Thou hast given us to inherit.
O our God, wilt Thou not judge them? for we have no might against this great company that cometh against us; neither know we what to do: but our eyes are upon Thee.
And all Judah stood before the Lord, with their little ones, their wives, and their children.
[2 Chronicles 20:3-13]
A great public display, openly demonstrative of their appeal to God, and the thought of that—the openness of it, the public commitment of it—is the background of this sermon tonight, Standing Before God. All of us someday shall stand at the bēma of Christ [2 Corinthians 5:10], and the lost shall someday stand in the presence of the great white throne [Revelation 20:11-15]. And when I read the Holy Scriptures, the call of God for an open avowal, an open commitment, never ceases.
The Lord spoke through Moses as he stood in the midst of the camp, saying, “Who is on the Lord’s side? let him come unto me. Let him stand by me” [Exodus 32:26]. Elijah, in the name of God, offered that same appeal. “How long halt ye between two opinions? if Baal be God, serve Baal: but if the Lord be God, serve Him” [1 Kings 18:21]. Our Lord made that same invitation. “He that would be My disciple, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” [Matthew 16:24]. The apostle Paul spoke of that same commitment when he avowed, “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord” [ 2 Corinthians 6:17]. There is an open, demonstrable, public avowal in religion that always characterizes its true commitment to God.
When our Lord was crucified, He was crucified openly [Matthew 27:32-50; John 19:20; Hebrews 13:12]. These artists have done kindly; they cover His nakedness. But He was crucified naked, openly, on the road to Damascus, where all of the thousands that came to Jerusalem at Passover could look upon Him, so much so that when Paul was preaching before Agrippa, he said, “O King Agrippa, this thing was not done in a corner, but the whole world has known about it” [Acts 26:26].
There is an openness in religion that is undeniable, and every characteristic of it. We find that in the Old Testament. There was always a convocation, a solemn assembly of God’s people at the gate of the tabernacle. They gathered there in public service to name the name of God and to worship Him. In the days of the temple in Jerusalem, the people went up openly and publicly there to share every feast and the one solemn fast in the year. It was an open, public service, and the people separated themselves to the worship of God: “I belong to the family of the Lord.” And we see that in the Old Testament in these special occasions. Those special services were always open and public.
This afternoon I was reading again about the word of God that came to Samuel, saying, “Go to Bethlehem and anoint the one who I have chosen king over My people” [1 Samuel 16:1-3]. And how did Samuel do that? Did he do it privately, clandestinely, furtively secret? No, he did it openly and publicly as God always does His work. He called a sacred assembly, a solemn sacrifice, and invited all of the Bethlehemites and all the people around Bethlehem to that sacred sacrifice [1 Samuel 16:4-6].
And in that sacrifice, he sanctified Jesse and his family [1 Samuel 16:5]. And according to the word of the Lord, Samuel had the family pass before him, and he looked upon Eliab, and Samuel said in his heart, “Surely this is the anointed of God.” And the Lord said to Samuel, “You look on the outside, but I look on the heart. I have rejected him” [1 Samuel 16:6-7].
Then the second son passed by and his name Abinadab, tall and magnificent, and Samuel said in his heart, “Surely this is the anointed of God.” And God said, “No, I have rejected him” [1 Samuel 16:8].
And the third son, Shammah, came by, and Samuel said, “Surely this is he.” And God said, “I have rejected him” [1 Samuel 16:9].
And all seven of the sons of Jesse passed by, and God said to Samuel, “None of them have I chosen” [1 Samuel 16:10]. And Samuel could not understand, for the whole family of Jesse had been called to the sacrifice. And in his misunderstanding and lack of understanding, the prophet turned to Jesse and said, “I cannot understand. Do you have yet another son?”
And Jesse thought, “Why, yes, I have another son, but he is a boy, he is a lad, and he is out in the field, keeping the sheep!”
Samuel said, “We will not sit down until he comes!” [1 Samuel 16:10-11].
And they fetched a lad named David, and the Bible describes him: ruddy-faced, wasn’t even old enough to grow a beard, and beautiful of countenance. And the Lord said to Samuel, “This is he, anoint him!” [1 Samuel 16:12].
And the next verse says, “And Samuel anointed David in the presence of his brethren” [1 Samuel 16:13], before all of the people; that’s God. What God does He does openly and publicly! And the people who follow the Lord do so in an open, public demonstration [Romans 10:9-10].
That is the religion of the New Testament. It’s the true religion of God through all of the ages and all of the centuries, “I’m on God’s side! My name is among the people who love the Lord.” That’s what it is. A church is called a koinōnia; it is a fellowship; it’s people [Acts 2:42]. The church is called an ekklēsia; it’s a called-out, separated people unto God [Acts 20:28].
In the eleventh chapter of the Book of Exodus, the Lord said Moses, “This night My death angel will pass over, that I may show to the world that I put a difference between the Egyptians and My people Israel” [Exodus 11:4-7]. And God said to Moses, “This night you have every Israelite take blood of a lamb and place it on the lintel and on the doorposts of the house, in the sign of a cross, here and on either side [Exodus 12:7, 22], that all the Egyptians, all the world, that everybody and all the angels in heaven can see, that is a family that belongs to God.” That is a family that loves the Lord; look, the sign of the blood on the lintels and on the doorposts. There must be some tremendous reason why God expects of His people an open, public assembly; an open, public, unashamed commitment.
I can think of many reasons that lie back of that purpose. I will name three. One of them is it’s the way to victory. Somehow when a man takes his stand for God, openly and publicly avows his faith in the Lord, God does something for him. It is the way of victory. Do you remember Revelation 12:11? “And they overcame him—Satan and his angels—they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony…by the word of their testimony.” There is a saying in history: “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.”
If you have ever been to Oxford, the main entrance into Oxford, there you will find a monument to Ridley and to Latimer, burned at the stake for the faith, for God, for Christ, for His church, for the faith that we preach here tonight; the Bible, the open Word. As they were burning, Master Ridley began to cry, and Bishop Latimer, tied to the post on the other side, turned his head and said, “Be of good cheer, Master Ridley. We will light a fire in England this day that will never go out,” and it shines throughout the world. That is the faith, a public commitment unto death! [Revelation 12:11].
Not only that, but that’s the way we teach our children: openly and publicly, unashamedly. This is a Christian home, this is a godly family, and these are children of the faith and of the Lord. In the sixth chapter of the Book of Deuteronomy—which is the number one chapter in all of the Torah, in all of the Law—it is called the Shema, from the word here; listen to it:
Now these are the commandments, the statutes, and the judgments, which the Lord your God commanded to teach you . . .
That thou mightest love the Lord God, to keep all of His statutes and commandments . . .
Hear—shema—hear, O Israel: for the Lord our God is one Lord:
And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.
And these words, which I command thee shall be in thy heart—
And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and thou shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.
And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes.
And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and upon thy gates . . .
And it shall be that in time to come, when your sons shall say, what mean ye by these things? Thou shalt say: The Lord God gave us these statutes and these commandments to keep.
[Deuteronomy 6:1-9, 20, 24]
That is God’s way, a public commitment to the Lord. This is a Christian family, a godly home, and these are the children of love and of prayer; that’s God.
I say there were three things that come to my mind—why God calls us to an open, public commitment. The third one is God’s way of salvation; that’s the way God does it. In Romans 10:9-10: “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus is Lord, and shalt believe in thine heart that God raised Him from the dead”—that He lives, that He reigns—“thou shalt be saved. For with the heart one believeth unto a God kind of righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” That’s God! That’s the way God does it. If I trust in the Lord in my heart, if I lean upon Him and look to Him to stand by me and see me through, if I accept the Lord in my soul, on the inside of my life, God says the first thing I am to do is openly and publicly to avow it before men and angels [Romans 10:9-10]. That’s what it is to be saved, to be a Christian.
I talked to a traveler out of China one time. As you know, in these years past and days past, China has literally decimated the Christian church. I talked to a traveler out of China, and he said to me, “In the interior of China was a church, a congregation of the Lord, and those bitter Chinese gathered all of the members of the church together and put them on the inside of the church house. Then the soldiers stood at the door of God’s meetinghouse, and as they invited those church members to come out, one at a time, they cut their heads off; one, one, one, one, one after another. And after they had slain every member of the church, there was one remaining: a little boy, a little child, a little boy. And those rough soldiers, looking upon that small lad, said to him, ‘We don’t want to cut off your head. Now you see this picture of Jesus?’ and they had a picture of Jesus in their hands. ‘Now we’re going to put it in the dust, we’re going to put it in the ground, and we want you to take your foot and we want you to crush the picture of Jesus in the dust of the ground, and we’ll let you live.’ And the little boy looked at the picture of Jesus in the dust of the ground and looked at those soldiers and raised his face to heaven and said, ‘Lord Jesus, one time You died for me, and this time I am dying for You.’ And he bowed his head, and they cut it off.”
That is the faith. That’s why ultimately the victory in China will not belong to the atheist; it will belong to God. And that’s why the victory in this world will not belong to darkness, or to evil, or to the kingdom of Satan; the victory will belong to Jesus. His people are tried and true, and they follow Him until death [Revelation 12:11]. May we stand?
Our glorious Lord, how marvelous, how wonderful that out of Your throne in heaven You came to this dark world and openly, publicly, walked in our midst [Hebrews 10:5-14]; lived a life of example and model and glory before our very eyes [John 13:15]; spoke to us words of salvation [John 10:27-30]; died in a shameful way of execution and ignominy [Matthew 27:32-50; Hebrews 12:2]; but the third day, rose triumphant from the grave [Matthew 28:1-7], having paid the penalty of our sin [1 Corinthians 15:3], to commend us to God through Thy blood [Hebrews 10:20], now waiting for us in our day and our time to inherit the kingdom You prepared for those who love Thee [1 Corinthians 15:3-4; 2 Timothy 4:8]. And our Lord, what a privilege for us openly, publicly, to commit our lives to Thee. All that we have, all that we are, every dream, every prayer, every golden tomorrow, it belongs to God. The work of our hands, the strength of our lives, our houses, our homes, our children, our hope, everything, Lord, we lay in Thy dear nail-pierced hands.
And while our people pray, and while we wait for you, “This is God’s time and God’s call for me, and I am answering with my life [Romans 10:9-10]. Openly, and publicly, and unashamedly, I am giving my life to the blessed Lord Jesus, and here I stand.” Maybe a family you: “We are going to have a Christian home, and we are putting our lives in this dear church.” Come and welcome. A couple you: “God has spoken to me; dear companion, will you walk with me into the kingdom, into the service and ministry of our great Lord?” Or just one somebody you, if you are in that balcony, down one of the stairways; if you are in the press of the people on this lower floor, down one of these aisles; make the decision now in your heart, make it now. Then, in a moment when we sing, take that first step; it will be the greatest decision and the most decisive step, and the most meaningful you’ll ever make in your life. Make the decision now in your heart, and when we sing the appeal, come, on the first note of the first stanza, and welcome. You dad, you mother, you wonderful little boy, you precious, beautiful little girl, God bless you as you come. And thank You, Lord, for the sweet harvest You give us tonight, openly, publicly committing our lives to Thee. In Thy saving name, amen. While we sing, come, and welcome.
STANDING BEFORE GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2 Chronicles 20:13
I. Religion of the Old Testament public and open
3. Special services were always open and public
II. Religion of the New Testament
1. Koinonia fellowship
2. Ekklesia called out, separated ones
III. Precepts of God; why an open assembly
1. God’s way to victory
2. God’s way of teaching
3. God’s way of salvation
IV. Someday every Christian will stand before God
V. The call of God for a public committal is now
VI. The religion of Christ is open, public and demonstrable