Sweet Little Jesus Boy
December 16th, 1984 @ 10:50 AM
SWEET LITTLE JESUS BOY
Dr. W. A. Criswell
12-16-84 10:50 a.m.
This is the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the message entitled: Sweet Little Jesus Boy or The Child in the Home. Our background text is in Luke chapter 2:40 – just a background text: "And the Child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon Him."
It is patent altruism that Christmas is built around a child. The heart of it, the center of it, the soul of it, the inspiration of it, the meaning of it, the description of it, the drama of it is a child – a child in the home. And not only is that true about Christmas, but it is true about the Christian faith.
Some of the great art of all the centuries depicts the Christ Child: The Sistine Madonna, one of the noblest paintings of the centuries, or The Madonna of the Chair. In a thousand depictions in drama do we see this story of the Child in the home. It is in our singing: "Away in a Manger," or "Silent Night," or "Joy to the World," or "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing," or "The First Noel."
World without end has this dramatic coming of our Lord into the world and into the home – has it moved with inspiration the entire response of the human soul. But not only is this true of the Christian faith, but this is a revelation and a depiction of the whole Word of God and of human life. And that is the message today. The entire story of the message of God revealed to us in these Holy Scriptures is built around the child – the child in the home, the child in the family, the child of hope and of promise, the coming child.
I’m going to attempt this day something that I have never done before, and that is we’re going to have a lesson in Hebrew. In the fourth chapter of the Book of Genesis, the first verse reads like this – Genesis 4:1: "And Adam knew Eve, his wife, and she conceived, and bare Cain. And the mother, Eve, said, ‘I have gotten a man from the Lord.’"
Now that’s what the King James Version says, out of which I always preach. But what Eve said, as I read in the King James Version, is what those translators in 1611 said that she said, but she didn’t say that. She said something else. And what she said was so amazingly unbelievable that they just put down here Eve said, when this first child was born, "I have gotten a man from the Lord."
Now this is our Hebrew lesson. That little phrase there – "from the Lord" – is an interpretation of two words. The first one is e‑t‑h, eth. And the other one is Yahweh, Jehovah, the Lord. Now when they translate that, "I have gotten a man eth Yahweh" – eth Jehovah, from the Lord – there’s nothing in the Scriptures to warrant that translation.
Now we’re going to look at it. You’ll find that word eth, e‑t‑h – you’ll find it twice in the first verse in the Bible. That’s the one we’re going to look at. It says in the first verse in the Bible – and every boy that was ever taught a Hebrew lesson has memorized this first verse, "Bereshith," in the beginning – "bara," He created – "elohim," God – "eth" – there’s that word – "eth hashamayim waeth" – there is it again – "haaretz."
"Bereshith," in the beginning – "bara," He created – "elohim," God created – "eth hashamayim," the heavens – "waeth," and the – "haaretz," the earth.
Now that word eth is never represented in the English language. It is never translated – never. What that word is is a pointing to an object of a verb. "In the beginning God created eth" – pointing, "waeth" – pointing. "In the beginning God created eth the heavens eth the earth."
And you could – if you put it in English – you could say it like this: "In the beginning God created verily the heavens, verily the earth in the heavens," in the heavens. "In the beginning God created namely the earth, namely the heavens." It just points out to the object of the verb – eth, even. "In the beginning God created even the heavens, even the earth."
All right, why wouldn’t it have the same meaning here? "And Adam knew Eve, his wife, and she conceived, and bare Cain. And Eve, the mother, said, ‘I have gotten a man eth Yahweh’" – even the Lord; namely the Lord. Now when we look at that carefully – "I have gotten a man eth Jehovah" – even the Lord, even the Lord God Jehovah – first of all, she could not have referred to God Himself in what she avowed. That would be unthinkable and unimaginable, and it would not make sense.
What did she mean then when she said at the birth of this first child, "I have gotten a man eth Jehovah" – even the Lord, namely the Lord, verily the Lord? Now this is what I think – and I’ve studied it the best I know how – and this, I think, is what she meant. In Genesis 3:15, the chapter before, God said the Seed of the woman – the Seed of the woman – shall crush Satan’s head. It’s going to be her Child – her Child, not the child of the man. It’s going to be her Child that brings victory over death and the grave and brings salvation to us, who are under this curse.
And when that first child was born, Eve – this is the first child that was ever born into the earth – when that first child was born, Eve, remembering the marvelous promise of God, that in the Seed – in the Child of the woman – the curse of the earth would be taken away, and victory should be brought over death and the grave – and when that child was born, the first one, Eve thought that this was the answer to God’s promise. This is the Coming One. This is the messianic hope. This is the victory over sin and the grave. This is the taking away of the curse from the earth.
And that’s what she meant: "I have gotten a man, even the hope of the world" – the messianic promise, the victory over death and the grave. Well, whether I’m right about that interpretation or not – and I think I am – whether I’m right or not, it sets the whole stage for the entire revelation of God. When I read through these sacred Scriptures that follow after, it is always that story of the child in the home.
Now we’re going to take a moment this morning to follow it, just looking at it. It says over there in the next chapter in the Book of Genesis that Enoch begat Methuselah. Then it says, "And after Enoch begat Methuselah, he walked with the Lord. And Enoch was not, because God took him" [Genesis 5:21-24]. Very carefully – and if you’ll read it in the fifth chapter, in the next chapter – you’ll see how carefully that is worded and emphasized: "After Enoch begat Methuselah" – after the coming of that little boy into the home, "Enoch walked with God."
We turn the pages of the Book of Genesis, and Abraham is ninety‑nine years old. And Sarah, his wife, is eighty‑nine. And there come to visit them three men, representing the triune God. And one of them is called the Lord [Genesis 18:2-3]. And one of them says to Abraham – ninety‑nine years of age, and his wife, eighty‑nine years of age – one of them, the Lord, says to Abraham, "At this time according to life, you are going to have a child," a son [Genesis 18:10].
Now Sarah was behind the curtain of the tent. And when that Angel said to Abraham, "You, by Sarah, are going to have a child according to the time of life," Sarah laughed. She laughed [Genesis 18:12].
"Could it be that my husband, an hundred years old, and I, eighty‑nine, we are to have a child, a son?" And Sarah laughed.
And the Angel of the Lord God said to Sarah, "You laughed."
And the Bible says Sarah, being confused and afraid said, "No, I did not laugh."
But the Lord said, "Yes you did. You laughed" [Genesis 18:13-15].
And according to the time of life, God visited Sarah, and she gave birth at ninety years of age – when her husband was a hundred years of age. She gave birth to – and here it is again – the child of promise, the seed of Abraham. And they called his name laughter, Isaac, laughter [Genesis 21:1-3]. That’s the story – the child in home. It continues.
When Jochebed and Amram had a child, the Bible says in the eleventh chapter, "They saw it was" – the eleventh chapter of Hebrews – "it was a proper child," a proper child [Hebrews 11:23]. That’s an old English word for a beautiful child, a beautiful child. They refused to follow the king’s commandment that the child be destroyed, that it be slain. And they made for the little fellow an ark, daubed it with pitch, put it among the flags of the bank of the Nile, where the daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe [Exodus 2:1-6]. And that is the story of the Exodus. That’s where it begins, in the beautiful story of a beautiful child, the child in the home.
The story continues. Hannah, praying before the Lord God, said to Him, "If You will send me a child, I will loan him to Thee," give him back to Thee, "all the days of his life" [1 Samuel 1:11]. And that is the way the story of the Judges ends, and that’s the way the story of the Prophets begins. It is with that child. And according to the time of life, in the answered prayer, a little child was born. And they named him Samuel, "asked of God" – asked of God, Samuel, asked of God [1 Samuel 1:20].
The little boy grew up, and he became a great prophet in the land. And God said to His prophet, Samuel, "Saul has disobeyed me, and I have rejected him. And I am sending you now to Bethlehem to the house of Jesse, for there I have chosen Me a king after My own heart. And you take your horn of oil and anoint him, anoint him!" [1 Samuel 16:1].
So Samuel went to Bethlehem. He announced the day of consecration and sacrifice, and called Jesse and his sons to the sacrifice, to the sanctification. And then Samuel said to Jesse, "I want you to have your sons to pass by." And Samuel said, "The son that God hath anointed to be king over Israel, the man after God’s own heart, I am to anoint reign and ruler over the kingdom" [1 Samuel 16:3-5].
So Jesse had his first son to pass by, Eliab. And when Eliab passed by, tall and handsome and strong and masculine and manly, Samuel said, "This is he. This is he!"
And God said to the prophet Samuel, "You look on the outside, but God looks on the heart. I have rejected him" [1 Samuel 16:6-7].
Then Samuel said, "Have your second son pass by." And Abinadab passed by. He was as fine looking as his older brother, Eliab. And Samuel said, "This is he. Surely, this is he!"
God said to Samuel, "I have rejected him" [1 Samuel 16:8].
Samuel said to Jesse, "Have your third son pass by." And Shammah passed by. He was as fine and noble as his two older brothers. And Samuel said in his heart, "This is he."
And God said to His prophet, "I have rejected him" [1 Samuel 16:9]. And all seven sons of Jesse passed by before Samuel, God’s prophet. And God said of each one: "I have rejected him" [1 Samuel 16:10].
In consternation, Samuel turned to Jesse and said, "Are these all of your boys? I cannot understand. God has not chosen any of them."
And Jesse happened to remember, "I have got another boy, but he is a lad. He is a child. And he is out in the sheep pasture, taking care of the flock."
And Samuel, God’s prophet, said, "We will not sit down. We will not rest until you call him!" [1 Samuel 16:11].
And Jesse went to the sheep pasture and called a little boy – a lad, a child, keeping his father’s sheep. And when the lad was brought in front of Samuel, God says, "This is he! This is the king of Israel. Anoint him! Anoint him" [1 Samuel 16:12]. And the Book of 1 Samuel says he was anointed king in the presence of his brethren [1 Samuel 16:13] – a small boy, the man after God’s own heart [1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22]. That’s the story of the Lord God. That’s the child in the home.
It continues. I just take one other. Athaliah was the daughter of Ahab and Jezebel. And she was as vile and violent and vicious as her father and her mother. And when her husband, the king of Judah, died, she slew all of the seed of David, all the royal family. She slew all of them [2 Kings 11:1]. A vile and vicious queen – she slew them all in order that she might be queen alone.
But Jehoiada, the high priest, took a little baby of the king of Judah, who had died, and he stole away that little child named Joash. And he kept that little child in the temple, in the house of the Lord, for six full years. And when the child became seven years of age, Jehoiada, the high priest, called together the captains of the hundreds and the captains of the thousands. And he brought forth that little lad, now seven years of age. And he said to the captains of hundreds and the captains of thousands, "This is the child of the king. Let us anoint him." And they put a crown on his head. And they draped the lad in kingly garments. And the captain shouted, "God save the king" [2 Kings 11:2-4, 12]. That’s the first time you’ll see that in human language. "God save the king." And he stood there, a little boy, seven years of age, crowned the king of God’s people. It doesn’t stop. The whole story is one of a child in the home.
And when we come finally to the great antitype – the great marvelous Child to whom all of the rest have been preparing and pointing and getting ready – when we come to Him, you just watch and see and read how meticulously and carefully God does it. The Lord God is committing His only begotten Son to a home, to a family. And He sends an angel, Gabriel, who is God’s messenger. And he announces to Zacharias, old priest, that he by Elizabeth his old, old, old helpmate – that they are going to have a child. And because he doesn’t believe it he’s dumb, the angel says, for nine months [Luke 1:5, 11-20]. And when the child is born, his lips are filled with praises, and his mouth is filled with the glory of God. And they named the little boy John [Luke 1:63-64], who later became ho baptistes – John, the one who baptizes, John the Baptist.
That’s the way the angel begins. Then the angel, in the sixth month after Elizabeth has conceived – goes to a little place called Nazareth and announces to a virgin girl that she is to be the mother of this foretold and foreordained Child [Luke 1:26-31]. Carefully, meticulously is God preparing for the Child in the home. Then the Lord God speaks by a night angel, and vision to Joseph, that he is to take to him his espoused wife, before they live together, and that the Child that should be born – conceived of the Holy Spirit – is to be called Immanuel, God with us, Jesus, Yahweh, our Savior [Matthew 1:20-23].
And when the Child was born, it was announced to the shepherds, and they rejoiced and spread abroad the marvelous thing that had happened [Luke 2:8-18]. And magi, wise men, came from afar with their gifts and worshiped before the Child, a child, a child [Matthew 2:1-2, 9-11] – the child in the home, God’s commitment to the home.
Do you notice in reading this story that it is said in the first chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, that Joseph being a dikaios man, when he was thinking about putting Mary away because she was pregnant and they hadn’t come to live together – they were just espoused – while he was thinking about quietly just putting her away, lest she might be a public example, God said to Joseph, "You take her and care for her, because the Child conceived in her is from God" [Matthew 2:19-20]. It’s the Holy Spirit. It’s God with us, Immanuel [Matthew 2:23].
And then it says, "And Joseph being a dikaios man," dikaios man – that is the word that applies to the Christ in these later pages. And that is a word that applies to God. God is a dikaios God. Our Lord Christ, the King over glory, is a dikaios Christ – translated just, righteous – that kind of a man into whose home God committed His Son. And now do you look at the word Mary?
In the first chapter of the Book of Luke, it says, when it was announced to her by the angel Gabriel that she should be the mother of this Child, she replied, "Behold, the doule of the Lord. And may it be done unto me according to thy will" [Luke 1:38]. Doule – that’s the word for slave. She was a committed, holy, consecrated young woman. And it was into that kind of a home, a beautiful and godly home, into which God committed His Son.
Now you look at the lad as He grew up in that home. In the passage that you just read out of the Book of Luke – in that passage, it says that when He was twelve years old, He was standing with the doctors of the law in the temple in Jerusalem, answering and asking questions. And they were amazed at His understanding [Luke 2:42, 46-47]. Twelve years of age – the lad, brought up in that godly home, knew the Scriptures, read the Scriptures, and was filled with the wisdom of God. And that’s not alone.
When you turn the page in the Book of Luke, after the Lord Jesus begins His ministry, it says that He went to Nazareth where He was brought up. And He went into the synagogue as His ethos was [Luke 4:16]. Now you have an English word e‑t‑h‑o‑s, ethos. It’s that word exactly – ethos, ethos – good English word, pulled over into the English language letter for letter, ethos. As His ethos was – well, what is ethos? Ethos is the word for character. Ethos is the word for nobility of purpose. When it’s used, for example, in beautiful art and painting, ethos refers to the nobility of impression that comes from looking at a glorious painting – not pornographic, but beautiful, godly ethos. Ethos refers to great nobility of character and purpose.
Isn’t it strange? That’s the word that is used – according to His ethos, He went to the synagogue. He went to church. There was built in the boy, all through the days of His life, nobility of character and of purpose. And when He became a man, as His ethos was, as His character was, as His great noble purpose was, He was found in the house of the Lord. The child grew up that way.
Now, to speak to us, God also and no less – God commits His child to the home, to the family. This is the Lord’s omnipotent doing, His work, His creation, this child. Now, I’m going to parenthesize just for a minute. If I live ten thousand thousand lifetimes, I could never ever understand how anyone could ever abuse a little child. I can’t understand it. Yet, it is one of the commonest of all of the depraved actions of a fallen mankind. The child is abused physically. The child is abused emotionally. And that has in it the overtones of sexual violation. And the child is abused spiritually.
You know, one of the burning memories that I have – and why I should remember some of these things I cannot understand or explain – but when I was a little fellow – I’m talking about eight or nine or at the most ten years of age – I was in a home in the little town in which I grew up. And they had in that family a little boy, not more than say three years of age. They took that little boy and set him on the table, set him on the table in the house, and all of that group of adults were gathered round. And I just happened to be there at the time. And they had that little boy curse.
The thing, the little lad, was so young. He had no idea of the filthy words and what they meant. But they had that little boy, about three years of age, on that table in the midst of those adults, and he was cursing the most terrible and vile kind of language that the human speech is capable of. And as the little boy stood on that table cursing violently and filthily, the adults just laughed in an uproar.
I wasn’t but about nine years of age, and I felt then that that’s a damnable thing to do, and I haven’t changed my mind since! I haven’t changed it since. I still feel the day – after sixty‑five years – I still feel the burning, seething repercussion in my heart against that. Isn’t that strange that I would be that way for all of those years and felt that way then? Oh, what can be done to little children, little children! They are God’s commitment to us in the home and in the family. This is the handy work and the workmanship omnipotent of the Lord God Himself.
Last Thursday night we had a Primary leadership dinner down here with Miss Libby Reynolds, our director, and all of those people honoring Mildred Fraser for the years she’s spent working with those little children. Well, right over here sat the mother of a precious little baby in her arms. Her husband, the father of the child, Bill Rice, was in seeing the party last Thursday night here at the church. And his beautiful wife, Cynthia, was seated there with that little baby in her arms. Now the baby had been ill in the hospital just right after it was born. And we prayed for the little child. A lot of us did, and the little fellow was just beautiful, just fine.
So she was there holding the little child in her arms – little fellow just a few days old. I went over and sat by her. And she said, "Look. Look. See his little hands. See his little hands. And see his little feet. And see his eyes. See his ears. See the little beautiful child, little baby." And I looked.
The most beautiful planet in all of God’s universe is named Saturn – has golden rings around it. And we have sent satellites there into the orbits of Saturn and taken pictures of Saturn – the most beautiful planet in the universe – as well as other planets. And Saturn and all the other planets are made out of dirt. It is matter without shape. All of those golden rings and the planet itself is just stuff. It’s just matter. It’s just junk. If you had it in your backyard, you’d hire somebody to haul it off. It’s stuff. It’s junk. It’s matter.
But when you look at that little baby – that little baby – that’s God. That’s the workmanship of the omnipotent God – a little heart that can feel, and a mind that can think, and a soul that can respond. That’s God! That’s the Almighty. That’s His omnipotent hands. And out of all the vast, incomparably glorious creation of the universe there is nothing comparable to that precious little child God has committed to the home. That is what Christmas is all about. That defines it dramatically and pointedly in its every meaning, in its every definition – the child in the home.
And we thank God this beautiful season of the year for the gift of His unspeakable love, His indescribable blessing and visitation in Christ, a child. And we praise God no less for the children the Lord has given into our arms. And to receive them as a gift from heaven and to guide them and train them in the way of the Lord is of all things most precious, most meaningful, and most beautiful.
Well, I have to close, it’s twelve o’clock. We’re going to sing us a song, and while we sing our song, a family you, a family to put your life with us in the fellowship, and circumference, and communion, and love, and grace of this dear church; a thousand times welcome. What a beautiful thing to rear your children here in the love of the Lord, come, and welcome. A couple you maybe just beginning your home or one somebody you answering God’s call in your heart; as the Spirit of the Lord shall lead, open the door, say, "Lord, I’m answering with my life. Here I am, I’m coming now." In the balcony, down a stairway; in the press of people on this lower floor, down an aisle, "Pastor, we have decided for God, and we are on the way." May angels attend you and God bless you as you come, while we stand and while we sing.