The Golden Heart
November 12th, 1989 @ 10:50 AM
THE GOLDEN HEART
Dr. W. A. Criswell
11-12-89 10:50 a.m.
It is a joy on behalf of our wonderful First Baptist Church in Dallas to welcome you on radio and on Channel 11. You are listening to the pastor deliver a message entitled The Golden Heart. It is a sermon based upon an experience in the life of the prophet Ezekiel. We have the record of his call in the second chapter:
God said unto me, Son of man, stand upon thy feet, I will speak unto thee.
Then the Spirit entered into me. He set me on my feet, and I heard what He said.
He said to me, Son of man, I send thee to the children of Israel, to a rebellious nation that hath rebelled against Me: they and their fathers have transgressed against Me to this very day.
They are impudent children, stiffhearted . . . thus saith the Lord God.
They, whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear. . . [they] shall know that there hath been a prophet among [them].
And thou, son of man, be not afraid of them, neither be afraid of their words, though briers and thorns. . .and ye dwell among scorpions: be not afraid. . .though they be a rebellious house.
And thou shalt speak My words unto them, whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear: for they are most rebellious.
Now that was his call.
Now turn to the next chapter, chapter 3, verse 10:
Moreover God said to me, Son of man, all My words that I shall speak unto thee receive in thine heart, and hear with thine ears.
And go, get thee to them of the captivity, unto the children of thy people, and speak unto them, and tell them, Thus saith the Lord God; whether they will hear, or whether they will not hear.
Fourteen and 15 verses:
So the Spirit lifted me up, and took me away, and I went in bitterness, in the heat of my spirit; [but] the hand of the Lord was strong upon me.
These are the people who had so transgressed, and so disobeyed God, and so fell into idolatry and transgression and sin that God destroyed them as a people and as a nation; destroyed their holy city Jerusalem, took them out of the land, made them slaves in the empire of Babylonia. And there they are to whom this prophet Ezekiel is sent.
So I went in bitterness, and in the heat of my spirit. . .
And I came to them of the captivity at Telabib, that dwelt by the river of Chebar, and I sat where they sat, and remained there astonished among them seven days.
Seven days, that’s the official period of mourning. When those friends of Job came to see him, they sat in silence with Job for seven days [Job 2:13].
So this prophet in the bitterness of his spirit and in the heat of his heart sat with them for seven days. “I sat where they sat, and remained there shamem,” translated here “astonished” [Ezekiel 3:15]. In 2 Samuel 13:20, in the story of the rape of Tamar by her brother Amnon, when he raped her, forced her, she tore asunder her garments, rent her garments, heaped ground and dust on her head, and shamem, was devastated, made desolate [2 Samuel 13:1-19]. That’s the word here; that’s the word here: went to those captives in bitterness and condemnation and denunciation; and after he looked at them, and sat with them, he was overwhelmed, made desolate in spirit by their sorrows [Ezekiel 3:14-15].
Do you remember one of their psalms? Psalm 137:
By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion.
We hanged our harps upon the willow trees in the midst thereof.
For they that carried us away captive required of us a song; and they that wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing unto us one of the songs of Zion.
How can we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?
If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. . . Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy.
That’s what he found. In bitterness of spirit, going to the people of the captivity [Ezekiel 3:14-15], and after he had sat where they sat, and shared their sorrows and infinite loss and tragic disappointment, then he became in heart and soul somebody else. And that gives birth to the title of the sermon, The Golden Rule: do unto others as you would that others do unto you [Matthew 7:12]. This title of my sermon, The Golden Heart: sympathize with others, enter into their tragic misfortunes, and sadnesses, and disappointments in life; sympathize with others as you would they sympathize with you.
First: in condemnation, in condemnation remember to love and to be compassionate. There is no doubt but that there are times in our lives when we need to be condemned. Beginning at the fortieth chapter of Isaiah: “Comfort ye, comfort ye My people. . .Yea, speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem. . .she has received of the Lord double for all her sins” [Isaiah 40:1-2]. All of the rest of that book is one of comfort; and yet in the heart of it, Isaiah 58:1, “Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, show My people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins.” There is no doubt but that there are times in our lives when we need to be made aware of our sins and our transgressions. But when we condemn, we ought to do it with a broken heart.
My sainted mother, oft times when she would chasten me would cry; tears roll down her face as she chastened me. If you will look at the twenty-third chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, that’s the most searing, burning, scathing denunciation in human literature: “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! whited sepulchers,” [Matthew 23:27]. You turn to the end of the chapter. You turn to the end of chapter 23: it ends in a sob [Matthew 23:37-38]. Luke says, “The Lord wept” [Luke 19:41]. Somehow, in condemnation, even when it is just and right, we ought to do it with a broken heart.
Anything, O God, but hate. . .
I have known it in my day,
And the best it does is sear your soul
And eat your heart away.
. . .
O God, if I have but one prayer
Before the cloud-wrapped end. . .
I am sick of hate and the waste it makes—
Let me be my brother’s friend.
[“Prayer for 1939,” Fanny Heaslip Lea]
I have often said in my own heart, “If I ever preach on hell, let me do it, Lord, not as though I were triumphant over the damnation of the lost. But Lord, if I preach on hell, help me to do it with tears and a broken heart. In condemnation, Lord, help me to be sympathetic and loving.”
Number two: in judgment, Lord, help me to be understanding and kind. “Judge not,” He says, “that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure you mete, it shall be measured to you again” [Matthew 7:1]—in judgment, with understanding and loving remembrance and sympathy. Before you criticize and condemn a man for the limp in his walk; first you walk in his shoes, in his shoes. It is an exaggeration, but it’s a reflection of the truth. The more we understand, the more we forgive.
I read about a teacher in his dramatic class. He had a new pupil, and the pupil stood up to read in the drama, and he held the book in his left hand. And the professor interrupted and said, “Son, hold the book in your right hand, in your right hand.” And the lad paid no attention, continued to read with his left hand. And the irritated professor said, “Son, I said hold the book in your right hand!” And the boy held up his right hand. It was a stub. And the professor looked at it, the stub, and said, “Oh, I understand. I beg your pardon”; in judgment, with understanding and loving sympathy.
In my little church, beginning my ministry, I had three deacons. And one of the deacons—in our little country place, didn’t have a high school, just a grammar school—and the deacon sent his daughter to the county seat to go to high school. And one day she came back, pregnant. At that time it was a far greater transgression than is looked upon today. It was a matter of ostracism and condemnation then. The girl came home pregnant. And this other deacon, oh dear! the words that he said about that deacon, and about his daughter, and about his house, and about his home, and about his family; scathing, bitter, that deacon about his fellow deacon.
This is in the beginning of the Depression. And his daughter, this deacon that was so denunciatory, this deacon’s daughter and her husband came to the farm home to stay there for her to have her baby. He had in his home another daughter who was what we would call here in our church, belonged to our Special Education group; a girl about thirty years of age. And while that son-in-law was there in their home, he made that girl pregnant; that deacon’s afflicted girl, she became pregnant by that son-in-law. And I met him. And you never heard a man cry in your life, you never heard a man lament in your life, like that deacon. And the substance of it was this: “Young pastor,” he said, “what makes it so terrible is the words of denunciation that I have uttered about my fellow deacon, in condemnation, in judgment.” With sympathetic understanding: my brother, my sister, there’s not anything in this earth that can happen to anybody else that can’t happen to you. It’s just by the goodness and grace of God that some of us are liberated, escape. The golden heart in judgment: judging one another in sympathy and in understanding.
And third, and last: in tragedy and in misfortune, pray and help. “Be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” [Ephesians 4:32]; in tragedy and misfortune, helpfulness, prayerfulness. Our Lord is described twice in the Bible as Someone who carries our grief and bears our sorrows [Isaiah 53:4; Matthew 8:17]—helpfulness.
I read a rule book one time of mechanics, how they are to do. And one of the rules I read was this: “Remember that the warmth of the human hand will increase the diameter of the shaft.” I couldn’t believe, read it, “Remember the warmth of the human hand will increase the diameter of the shaft.” If that can happen to a bar of solid cold steel, think what the touch of the human hand in love and sympathy can do to the human heart and to the human life.
I’ve often thought, and you’ve heard me express this, how it was when that leper just walked up to Jesus, thronged on every side, and he just walked up to Him [Matthew 8:2]. Well, by law he had to put his hand over his mouth and call, “Unclean! Unclean! Unclean!” [Leviticus 13:45]. And wherever he walked people fell away, fell away. And that’s what happened. He just walked up to Jesus as that throng fell away. Jesus didn’t move. And the Bible says when he came to the Lord, the Lord reached forth His hand, and touched him [Matthew 8:3]. My brother, that was nine tenths of the cure! He had forgotten what it was to feel the touch of a warm human hand. And He touched him—in sorrows and tragedies and misfortunes, to be loving and prayerful and encouraging.
I read of a little girl who came home from school, and she said, “Mother, my little playmate didn’t come to school today.” Next day, the same thing, “Mother, she didn’t come to school today.” The next day, “Mother, my little friend came home, came to school from home today. And when recess came, she didn’t go out to play, she just sat there and cried. Mother, her mother died. Her mother died.” And the mother said to the child, “What did you say to her? What did you say to her?” And the little thing replied, “Mother, I didn’t know what to say, so I just sat by her side and put my arm around her, and cried too”—the human heart moved by the hurt and sorrows of somebody else.
And my sweet people, that is the most marvelous entrée to present the gospel of Christ than any other way or else in this earth: through human kindness and through human love and understanding and sympathy.
I so well remember World War I; lived through it. My half-brother fought through World War I in France. Over there in World War I, in no man’s land, there was a Christian chaplain who was seeking American soldier boys who might have fallen. And here was a lad, dying. And the chaplain kneeling by his side proposed to read out of his little black Book, out of the Bible. And the dying soldier boy said, “I’m thirsty. And I’m cold.” And the chaplain took the last drop of water he had in his canteen and gave it to that thirsting, dying soldier boy; and took off his own coat, and wrapped it around that lad. And when he did so, the soldier boy looked at the chaplain, and said, “Sir, if there’s anything in that little black Book that will make a man do for others what you’ve done for me, I’m ready to listen.” There is no entrée to the human heart like that of loving, understanding, sympathizing.
When I came into the pulpit just now, there where I’m seated someone had written a poem:
Lord, let me live from day to day
In such a self-forgetful way
That even when I kneel to pray
My prayer will be for others.
Others, Lord, yes others,
Let this my motto be;
Lord, let me live for others,
That I might live like Thee.
[“Others,” Charles D. Meigs, 1907]
Less of self and more of others, until there is nothing of self and everything for others. Let us pray together.
Our Father in heaven, bless and sanctify and hallow this message from God’s Holy Book. Lord, how selfishness eats at our very souls, how it makes us oblivious to the hungering tragic need of others. Lord, in Thy gracious goodness and love for us, help us to open our hearts, and hands, and prayers, and remembrance to these who are all around us. Even in our own families, Lord, help us to be sympathetic and understanding, forgiving. Lord God, that we might be more like Jesus, who poured Himself out for us. Bless Thou this throng that listens on television, that today they might find hope and salvation in Christ [Romans 10:9-13]. And bless the great throng in this sanctuary. God, give us souls, in Thy dear, saving, and keeping name, amen. Amen.
On television, you’ll see a number, a telephone number: call us. If you don’t know how to receive Christ as your Savior, there will be a godly somebody, a consecrated Christian who will open the door for you. And I’ll see you in heaven someday. And to the great throng in God’s house this solemn hour, in the balcony round, down a stairway, in the throng on this lower floor, down one of these aisles, “Pastor, today, this is God’s day for me, and I’m standing with you” [Ephesians 2:8]. Come, a thousand times welcome, while we stand and while we sing.
Dr. W. A. Criswell
A. Ezekiel’s call and bitter obedience
B. Sat with captives seven days
1. Shared sorrows
2. Experienced a change of heart
C. Definition of the Golden HeartII. Love and sympathy in condemnation
A. There is a time for condemnation
B. When we condemn, do it with a broken heartIII. Understanding and kindness in judgment
A. The more we understand, the more we forgiveIV. Prayer and helpfulness in tragedy and misfortune
A. Jesus carried our griefs and sorrows
B. The healing touch