A Minchah for the Lord
September 23rd, 1987 @ 7:30 PM
A MINCHAH FOR OUR LORD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
9-23-87 7:30 p.m.
And welcome, the throngs of you who share this hour on radio. I was in West Texas, in Amarillo, this last Sunday night, and I met some of the people who live in the western part of our state. And I was so encouraged by their gracious and generous words to me. Some of them said, “In Amarillo we listen to you all the time as you preach there in Dallas.” And I met a family who had come up from Midland, and they said, “We listen to you on the radio.” Well, I said how could it be, because KCBI does not reach that far away. And they said there is a Christian radio station in Amarillo and there is a Christian radio station in Midland, and many of the programs that are broadcast on KCBI are also picked up and broadcast on the Christian radio stations in these cities in West Texas. So welcome, the multitudes of you who share the hour in the First Baptist Church here in Dallas. This is the pastor delivering a message entitled A Minchah for Our Lord. And several people reading that title said, “What are you speaking about when you say a ‘minchah’ for the Lord?”
It is a study, and I pray that when we attend our services on Wednesday night that you will bring your Bible with you: and when I speak of a text, a passage, that you will take your Bible and turn to it and read it with me. It’ll bless your heart to do it. I do not look upon the Bible as a fetish, a talisman, nothing of that nature; I just do know that to take the Holy Scriptures and to turn to it in a passage and read it is a blessing to the heart. A Minchah for The Lord: now we begin with Hebrews, the Book of Hebrews, chapter 11; chapter 11, the Book of Hebrews. He begins with a definition of faith:
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
By it the elders obtained a good report.
Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.
Now the passage:
By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh.
Now you look at that text in verse 4. There are two names in this text, verse 4, there are two names for what Abel offered unto the Lord: it is called a thusia, a sacrifice, a slain animal. In the case of Abel, it was a firstling of his flock; it was a lamb [Genesis 4:4]. But it is also called a dōron, a gift: “God testifying of his gift.” Abel offered a thusia, a sacrifice unto God; and when God spoke of it, He called it a dōron, a gift [Hebrews 11:4].
Now, where did sacrifice come from? Where did sacrifice originate? What did it originally mean, and what was its original purpose? Why make the offering? Where did that sacrificial system come from? What gave it birth? And of course, as you know, it extended through the thousands and thousands of the following years. Now, you notice that word dōron: God called it a dōron, a gift [Hebrews 11:4]. Consequently, there are many learned theologians who defend the thesis that sacrifice began as a gift, a present, an offering of thanksgiving unto God. So the story in Genesis—now let’s turn to chapter 4 in the Book of Genesis, the one passage that we just read; so the story in Genesis chapter 4, and we look at verses 3 and 4, verses 3 and 4; Genesis chapter 4, now verse 3, then verse 4:
And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord.
And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock . . . And the Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering:
But unto Cain and to his offering He had not respect.
Now do you see that word “offering”? “Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord. And Abel brought of the fruit of his flock, of the firstlings of the flock. . . And God had respect unto Abel and to his offering: but unto Cain and to his offering, He had not respect” [Genesis 4:3-5]. Now the Hebrew word is minchah, minchah. What does minchah mean? Minchah fundamentally means “a gift, a present.” Abel offered a minchah unto the Lord; Cain also offered a minchah unto the Lord. And we won’t go into the reason for Cain’s refusal in the presence of God, his repudiation, because God said he was wrong; and no present, no offering, no minchah could ever change the mind of God concerning a man’s heart that is wicked. But that’s something else. We’re talking about what it was that moved Cain and moved Abel to bring an offering, which is called in the Hebrew a minchah, to the Lord. And a minchah, I say, is a gift; it is a present.
Now in 1 Kings 18:29 and 36, and in Ezra 9:4-5, and in Psalm 141:2, a minchah is translated “sacrifice.” What began as a present, a gift to God, came to be looked upon as a sacrifice offered unto the Lord; therefore, the theological position that sacrifice began as an expression of gratitude to God. It was a gift, it was a present. So the sacrifices of the ancient world, Sumerian, Babylonian, Assyrian, Egyptian. So the sacrificial system of the Roman world: “Great is Artemis, Diana, of the Ephesians” [Acts 19:28, 34], and that incomparable temple they built there for their sacrifices to Diana. So the sacrifices of the ancient Aztec pyramids. If you go down there into Old Mexico and see those great pyramids built by the Aztec, there on the top of those pyramids they offered human sacrifice, the most meaningful of all of the presents that they could bring before God. And so the sacrifices of the Old Testament: they began as a gift [Genesis 4:3-4], and then they were endowed with the meaning of an expiation, the forgiveness of sins, and finally a promised pattern of the coming Redeemer of the world [John 1:29].
Now in Hebrews 11:4 it says that by the minchah that Abel offered unto God, “by it he being dead yet speaketh.” Can that be true today, that through our gifts, can we witness and testify for God through the coming centuries? Is what was true of Abel, that by his minchah he speaks today, can that be true of us? That by the minchah, the gift that we would bring to God, that we also can bear witness to the grace of our blessed Lord through all of the unfolding generations? My answer, of course, is a resounding affirmative, yes! So that speaks to us of the meaning and the use of our possessions, what we have.
Will you turn now to Deuteronomy chapter 8, Deuteronomy chapter 8, verse 18? This is one of the tremendously pertinent verses in all the Word of God, Deuteronomy 8:18: “Thou shalt remember the Lord thy God: for it is He that giveth thee power to get wealth.” Whatever we own, God gave it to us. And of course someday it will return to our Lord; we are but stewards. Whether we are faithful or unfaithful, what we have is given us of the Lord.
Our first obligation now, in the things that God has placed in our hands, our first obligation is to support one’s own family. In 1 Timothy 5:8: “But if any provide not for his own, and especially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.” The first obligation that one has in using the things God has given him is to support his family.
The second great obligation that we have as Christians is to support the church. Paul writes extensively in 2 Corinthians chapters 8 and 9, and in 1 Corinthians 16:2 of our commitment to God; after the family, then the commitment to the Lord’s work in the earth. I wish I had time—some of the most beautiful verses in human literature are those in 2 Corinthians chapters 8 and 9, Paul talking about our dedicated underwriting, undergirding of the work of Christ in the earth. And of course all of us are familiar with the Old Testament explanation and definition of the use of what God hath given us, such as in Leviticus 27:30-32: “The tithe is holy unto the Lord”; that belongs to Him. Or in Malachi 3:10: “Bring all the tithes into the storehouse. . .and prove Me, saith the Lord, if I will not open the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, there is not room in your heart or life to receive it.”
It is a wonderful thing, a glorious thing, when a man takes God into partnership. Do you remember the story of Jacob at Bethel in Genesis 28:10-22? He is fleeing from the face of his brother Esau, and lying down at night has a stone for a pillow [Genesis 28:11]. And in the night he dreams, and there is a great ladder leaning against the balustrades of glory. What of those angels? Do they come down and ascend, or do they ascend and come down? Do you remember? The angels in that dream ascend and come down [Genesis 28:12]; the angels were with him, the angels are here. They’re up there also, but they’re here, God’s ministering spirits, His angels [Hebrews 1:14]. In that dream of the ladder leaning up against the bulwarks of heaven, the angels ascend and descend [Genesis 28:12]. And when he came through Bethel, he said, “This is Bethel, this is none other than Bethel, the house of God” [Genesis 28:17]. And Jacob said, “Lord, if You will be with me”—he was going to a strange country, to a strange people, in a strange land—“Lord, if You will go with me, stand by my side, one tenth of everything You place in my hands, Lord, I will keep it sacred and dedicated to Thee” [Genesis 28:20-22]. Isn’t that a wonderful response for a man in his life? To make God his partner?
Money, possessions, can be a curse. It was a curse to Achan [Joshua 7]; it was a curse to Ahab as he coveted Naboth’s vineyard [1 Kings 21]; it was a curse to Ananias and Sapphira [Acts 5:1-10]. What you have can be a curse—it all depends upon how you use it. In the story of the good Samaritan, first there came the thief, and said, “What is thine is mine, and I am going to take it.” Then came the Levite and the priest, one on either side, and they said, “What is mine is mine, and I will keep it.” And then came the good Samaritan who said, “What is mine is thine, and we will share it” [Luke 10:30-35]. What a beautiful, beautiful, beautiful spirit! “I have bread to eat; I’ll share it with one who is hungry. I have clothing to wear; I’ll share what I have with that one who is naked. I have a minchah to offer unto God; and to give it is an infinite privilege.”
Now let us turn to Luke 19; Luke chapter 19, Luke chapter 19. We must hasten; these moments go by so rapidly. Luke chapter 19, beginning at verse 11:
He spake a parable, because He was nigh to Jerusalem . . .
And He said, A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom . . .
And he called his ten servants, and delivered unto them ten pounds, and said unto them, Occupy till I come.
So they traded, “And then came the first, saying, Lord, thy pound hath gained ten pounds. And he said, Good and faithful servant: be thou authority, have authority over ten cities” [Luke 19:16-17]. Verse 18: “The second came, saying, Lord, thy pound hath gained five pounds. And he said to him, Be thou also over five cities” [Luke 19:18-19].
Now look at that closely for just a moment. Verse 13: “The nobleman called his ten servants, and delivered unto them ten pounds, and said unto them, Occupy,” pragmateuomai. Pragma, your word pragmatic comes from it; this word translated “occupy,” pragmateuomai, that word means “do business, make money . . . until I come.” It means to trade. “You go out here and take what I have given you and make it pay, trade, do business, get to work” [Luke 19:13]. So, verse 16: “The first came, saying, Lord, thy pound hath gained ten pounds” [Luke 19:16]; one thousand percent. Then verse 18: “The second came, saying, Lord, thy pound hath gained five pounds” [Luke 19:18]; he made five hundred percent. Now to the first one he said, “You be ruler over ten cities” [Luke 19:17]; and to the second one he said, “You be ruler over five cities” [Luke 19:19].
I can’t help but make a comment there. I think in the regeneration, as the Bible calls it, when this whole creation is remade [Matthew 19:28], I think God is going to assign the entire creative universe of God to us, and He is going to give us rulership in that universe according to how we’ve been faithful to Him in this life. Now one of the reasons that I say that is, that nobleman did not need that money: a pound was only worth twenty dollars, a mina, the Greek word for it, only worth twenty dollars. So if he gave him ten pounds, he gave him two hundred dollars, isn’t that right? If he gave him five pounds, he gave him a hundred dollars. Those sums were not vital to that rich nobleman. Well, what was he doing? What he was doing was, he was trying to find faithful stewards; people who would take the things that God had given them and to be faithful in it. And according to their faithfulness, they were going to be assigned the governorship, the rulership, the care of the whole universe. That’s what God is saying to us; and that’s the ultimate purpose of what God gives us: He is seeking good stewards for the rulership in this world that is yet to come.
I can’t help but think of an old farmer who was just working his boys to death. And the neighbor said to him, “Jim, you don’t need to work those boys that hard in order to raise corn.” And the old farmer replied, “Neighbor, I’m not raising corn—I’m raising boys!” That’s exactly what God is doing with us. He doesn’t need our money. He doesn’t need our possessions. He doesn’t need what we have. The world is His: the cattle on a thousand hills [Psalm 50:10], the silver and the gold [Haggai 2:8], all of it belongs to God, and all of it will return to the Lord. Well, what is God doing? What He is doing for us, He is seeking faithful stewards. And according to our faithfulness in the use of what God gives us, the whole rulership of the universe lies in His purview.
Well, our ultimate accountability—I cannot forget the young fellow that was graduated from the seminary from which I gained my theological degree, Dr. Darrow. You know, when you’re young it is so different. You do ten thousand things out of youthful enthusiasm that you’d never do after you’ve been pastor sixty years; you just wouldn’t think about doing those things. I was—you know, when I look back over the beginning ministry that I had, I think Libby Reynolds, she was just four years old when I was her pastor in our little village church. There’s a whole lot of things that I did then that I just marvel that I did; and I’d bet you marvel at them too when you look back over those days. Well, this young man, this young preacher, he was called to be pastor of a mill town in South Carolina. And, of course, the man that owned the mill was the major-domo and high factotum of all that part of the earth; and he gave two dollars a Sunday to God, two dollars a Sunday; that rich mill owner who had everything in the town, two dollars a Sunday. Well, the young preacher, you know, he stood up there and in indignation, he just denounced those that didn’t give to the Lord, and pointed him out, pointed him out. And it made the mill owner furious, for the young fellow said, “We don’t own anything. We don’t own anything. All we have belongs to God; and we don’t own anything.” Well, the mill owner called the young fellow and said, “You meet me at the church at two o’clock.” And they met at the church at two o’clock, and the mill owner got that young preacher and said, “Do you see this great mill? That’s mine.” Then he took him to his palatial home and said, “You see this palatial home? That’s mine.” And then he took him to a broad, beautiful acreage of farmland and said, “That’s mine. And you say I don’t own anything.” And the young fellow said, “Let me meet you next Sunday at the church at two o’clock.” And the mill owner said, “Fine, I’ll meet you next Sunday at two o’clock.”
“Only,” said the young man, “instead of it being this coming Sunday, let it be a Sunday one hundred years from now. Let it be a Sunday one hundred years from now. Then who owns that big mill? And who owns that palatial house? And who owns those broad acres?” Finally, it goes back to God. We just use for a moment what we have in our hands, and God is seeking good stewards.
Lord, may I be good in that, and you be faithful in that. And may the Lord find us all worthy of what He places in our hands.
Now we want us to sing us a song. And while we sing the song I’ll be standing right here. And a family you to come into the fellowship of our dear church, a couple, a one somebody you to answer God’s call [Romans 10:9-10], on the first note of the first stanza, come, and welcome, and welcome. Ready? While we stand and while we sing.