MOVING THE HEART OF GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
8-25-91 10:50 a.m.
You are now a part of our precious and wonderful First Baptist Church in Dallas. And this is the senior pastor bringing the message entitled Moving the Heart of God.
In our preaching through the Second Gospel, the Gospel of Mark, we have come to the last verses in chapter 12. They read like this:
And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much.
And there came a certain poor widow, and she cast in two mites, which make a farthing.
And Jesus called unto Him His disciples, and saith unto them, Verily—the Greek is amen, amen, truly—I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than they all which have cast into the treasury:
For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.
Moving the Heart of God; the Lord looked upon it, the poverty and need of that poor woman, and seeing her give her entire living to the blessed Lord moved His heart. And He called His disciples and said, “Look upon it.” Our Lord is like that. Throughout Holy Scripture, He is revealed as a God who is moved by the love and devotion of His people. Do you remember how the fourth chapter of the Book of Hebrews closes?
For we have not an High Priest who cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tried as we are, though He without sin.
Wherefore, come boldly unto the throne of grace and find mercy, and receive there grace to help in time of need.
The heart of God is moved by the devotion of those who love Him. It’s an unusual thing when we read this Holy Word and look at human history, that the great, moving instruments of humanity, the organizations of human life, have begun in those humble, sweet moments that move the heart of God.
When Hagar was cast out of her home with Abraham, she and her little son, Ishmael, wandered in the desert of Beersheba. And finding herself in desperate need, she hid the boy away that she might not look upon him when he died. And the Lord God said, “Hagar, I see you and your tears. And I hear the cries of the lad, Ishmael” [Genesis 21:14-20]. And it moved the heart of God. And that is the beginning and the birth of the great Arab nations of the world.
When I turn the pages of Holy Scripture, this is the beginning of the exodus and the national life of Israel: by decree of Pharaoh, the mothers were forced to throw their children in the Nile River [Exodus 1:22]. And God looked down from heaven and heard the tears of those weeping mothers. And God said to Moses, “I have seen their tears, and I have heard their cries. And I am sending thee to deliver My people, Israel” [Exodus 3:7-10]: the birth of the nation.
I turn the pages and there I see Hannah crying before the Lord because she is barren. And the Lord saw her tears and heard her cries [1 Samuel 1:7, 10-20]. And this is the beginning of the reigning of the kings over Israel. God is like that. He is moved by the humblest appeal that comes from the hearts of His children.
When we were in England, the coup of those hard communists took over the government. And all day and all night on those British television broadcasts, there was presented the awesomeness of the people of Russia who faced that hard communist regime. They were getting ready for concentration camps, for the great mass assigned to Siberia, for all of the things that come with martyrdom and loss and hurt. That’s how we left England.
And upon the airplane bringing us home to America there was no announcement made from the cockpit by the pilot, but there was a rumor that spread through the plane that the coup had failed. Those hardened communists had been cast out, and [England] was once again free to serve as they were led to do so by their hearts. And I remembered what that meant to our humble Baptist people in that Soviet Union. Having twice preached through the cities of Russia, in the days of the hardened communists, and looking upon their martyrdom and their oppression, I thought—when the word drifted through the plane that these communists were cast out—I thought of those dear humble people.
God bless them, and the Lord be praised that He has answered their prayers and they are free. And revival is spreading through the whole Soviet Union in a way that we have never seen in the story of mankind; God, looking upon the tears and the cries of His humble people.
Where this happened is at the end of a confrontation between our Lord and the Pharisees and the Sadducees and the rulers of the temple. This is His last visit. He says, “You shall not see Me again until you cry, Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord” [Matthew 23:39]. And as you remember, in that terrible confrontation, the Lord denounced those religious leaders. It is recorded in the twenty-third chapter of Matthew [Matthew 23:1-36]. It is summarized in these few verses before the passage that I read, and it ends in a striking and withering word from Jesus [Matthew 23:37-39].
“You, desiring chief seats in the synagogues and uppermost rooms at feasts, devour widows’ houses, for a pretense make long prayers: you shall receive the greater damnation” [Mark 12:38-40]. That’s the way that closes.
Then follows, “And Jesus sat over against the treasury” [Mark 12:41]. After that awesome denunciation and damnation, our Lord sat down in the Court of the Women there in the temple, somewhat of a refuge, a quietness of heart. And while He was seated there, after this awful denunciation, He saw that poor widow, taking everything that she had and giving it to the work of the Lord [Mark 12:42-44]. How like our Savior to notice it! It was a refreshment to Him to look upon it. It moved His heart. And it moves us, too. You can’t read that and not feel in your soul a response to the devotion and the largesse of that humble, unnamed widow.
I say it’s like Jesus to notice it, moving His heart. You remember, as He walked through one of the cities of Israel, He was pressed and thronged on every side. And while He walked in the midst of that multitude, Jesus said, “Someone touched Me” [Luke 8:43-45].
And Simon Peter looked at Him in amazement and said, “Lord, they press Thee and throng Thee on every side and You say, ‘Someone touched Me?’” [Luke 8:45].
And the Lord said, “But someone touched Me” [Luke 8:46].
And a poor woman with an issue of blood for twelve years, couldn’t be healed, seeing that she was known, fell at His feet and said, “Lord, it is I. I said in my heart, if I could but touch the hem of Your garment, I would be well again” [Luke 8:47; Matthew 9:20-21]. And the Lord felt it. And it moved His heart. That’s Jesus. There’s never a cry and there’s never a need brought to Him but that He is moved in His heart. That’s our Lord Jesus.
This poor woman brought to the temple two mites, which make a farthing [Mark 12:42]. Mark especially comments upon it. In that temple, in that temple, in the Court of the Women, were thirteen chests. And above each chest was a trumpet. And you placed your gift into that trumpet. And these two mites—lepton, singular, lepta, plural, two lepta, which make a quadrans, our word quad, four, comes from that. Two of those lepta make one quadrans—a quarter of a Roman coin made out of copper. I suppose you could say that she had in that two mites that make a farthing, she had, say, a fifth of a cent. That’s how small it was. But it was everything that she had. It was her entire living. And she gave it to the Lord [Mark 12:42-43].
And I am preaching about it today. Would you have thought for that? Would you think that sweet, devout, widow would ever have guessed that after two thousand years there’d be a preacher in a pulpit in Dallas speaking in loving remembrance of what she had done? You see, these little insignificant, inconsequential things in your life that you think are nothing, they may be the great turning points in the providence and in the omnipotence of Almighty God. The Lord blesses little things, small things.
Do you remember in the fourth chapter of the Book of Zechariah, “Who hath despised the day of small things?” [Zechariah 4:10]. They may be the greatest of all of the providences in your life, little things.
Sunday, a week ago, the thirty-two of us who were over there in England were in the little chapel, the little church where the great Charles Haddon Spurgeon was converted. It’s in Colchester. And we had a service there, moving and meaningful to me. So small—there are four pews, one, two, three, four, four pews, and one on either side. And on that day, in a heavy snowstorm when the young fellow sixteen years old couldn’t make it to the church where his father was preaching, he turned aside and sat right there on that side. There is a big plaque there where he sat. The boy sat there.
The weather was so bad that the pastor could not come. He was not in attendance. And a layman stood up and took as his text that wonderful invitation from Isaiah: “Look unto Me all ye ends of the earth, and be ye saved: for I am God, and there is none else” [Isaiah 45:22]. And that layman, a Methodist layman, that layman stood up and expounding the best he could on that text to that little handful of people—they have three members now, that little tiny church—stood up there and expounding said, “Look to Jesus. ‘Look unto Me,’ says the Lord God. Don’t look to the preacher. Don’t look to the church. Don’t look to the ordinances. Look to Jesus.” And turning to that sixteen year old boy, said to him, “You look so miserable. Son, look to Jesus. Look to Jesus.”
And Spurgeon afterwards said, “I looked and I looked and I looked my eyes away.” And he found the Lord, was converted in that tiny inconsequential congregation. And at twenty-two years of age was the most famous preacher in the world. You don’t know, you don’t realize what can happen in the most inconsequential and unimpressive incidents in your life. That’s God; moving the heart of the Lord.
This text speaks to us in an unusual and a wonderful way. She is bringing everything she has as a gift to the temple [Mark 12:42-44]. Now thirty-seven years later that temple was under the judgment of God and completely destroyed. She was giving her gift to God, not to the men who were unworthy, and not to that temple sacrificial system that was, in God’s providence, to be cast away. She brought her gift to God [Mark 12:42].
And that’s what we ought to do. I am bringing what I have to God. Bringing it here to the church, yes. Bringing for the work of the Lord, yes. But my gift I am dedicating to God. And do you notice that again she includes herself, poor as she was, she includes herself in that great throng that are members of the family of the Lord in the temple of Israel? She, poor as she was, she belonged and she felt that she was a member of the family of God.
May I take a leaf out of my life? A time when I was rebuked here in the church, and rightly so. As in so many instances of my ministry here, I was making an appeal for something. I can’t remember what it was. But I was making an appeal for something and asking the people to give me the money to sustain it, to carry it through, to bring it to fruition. And there came to me here in the congregation the poorest woman. And she pressed a gift into my hand—poor, poor, poor woman here in the church—and insisted upon my taking this little gift that she placed in my hand.
I refused it. I said, “You need it. And you take it back. I will not receive it. You take it back. You do it.”
And I made her take her gift back. I refused to take it. She was so poor. And there happened to be standing there a godly man in our dear church. And when that poor woman left with the gift that I forced her to take back, that godly man said to me, “Pastor, you haven’t done right. You’ve made a mistake. You should receive from that poor woman the gift that she’s brought to the Lord and to the cause for which you made appeal. You should have received it. She came forward from her heart to give it to God and you should have received it. Then, pastor,” he said, “if later on you want to do something for her and help her in her poverty and in her need, wonderful, but don’t ever refuse the gift because they’re poor.”
I have never forgotten that. And when I think of the work of our church and the kingdom of God, and all that is involved in the great outreach ministries of our dear people, the poorest among us can have a part. Everybody, the humblest and the most poverty-stricken among us, all of us can share in the work of the Lord. I have never forgotten that rebuke.
May I speak now of the future of this dear woman? What happened to her? We’re not told, just this. But reading God’s Holy Word and following the example of those that are described in their poverty and need, I know that God took care of her. She gave the Lord all of her living, just depending upon the grace of God to feed her and to clothe her and to house her. And I think God did that for this poor widow.
I say that because of an instance like Elijah when he went to Zidon, to the widow of Zarephath. She gave him everything she had in the house, and said, “After this we’ll just starve together.” And God’s Book said when that widow gave to Elijah the last she had of what to eat in the house, the Book says that the barrel of meal did not waste and the cruse of oil did not fail until God sent rain upon the earth [1 Kings 17:10-16]. And that’s what I think happened here. She trusted in God. She gave her all to the Lord. And the Lord took care of her [Mark 12:41-44]. And He will of us if we will love Him and trust Him. He will see us through, and provide for our every need [Philippians 4:19].
I want to make another comment there. She gave our Lord everything that she had. What about life and living, and the things that we possess? What a wonderful God-blessed opportunity to give everything we have and to devote it all to the Lord. There’s not anything that we’re going to take with us. In our cold, dead hands, we’ll possess nothing. It’s only what we send of treasures to heaven before us that we have any joy in their possession at all.
I have copied here one of the most famous sonnets in English literature. You remember it? “Ozymandias,” by the incomparable English poet Shelley.
I met a traveler from an antique land—
he’s talking about Egypt—
I met a traveler from an antique land,
Who said: “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lips, and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on those lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
‘My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings,
Look on my Works ye mighty, and despair!’
Nothing else remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”
[“Ozymandias,” Percy Bysse Shelley]
“My name is Ozymandias, the greatest king and ruler of the earth. Look upon my works, ye mighty, and despair,” and nothing is seen or remains but the endless sand.
Carve your name high over the shifting sand,
Where the steadfast rocks defy decay—
“All you can hold in your cold, dead hand
Is what you have given away.”
Count your great conquests on [sea] and on [land]
And heap up and hoard as you may—
“All you can hold in your cold, dead hand
Is what you have given away.”
[“What You Have Given Away,” Edwin M. Poteat, quoting Joaquin Miller]
Lord help me, us, to be like that poor widow [Mark 12:41-44]. What we have belongs to God, and I’ll devote it and use it for His glory. That’s our treasure in heaven.
Now may I make appeal? That poor widow came before the Lord with two mites, two lepta, two mites, and she gave what she had to Jesus. I’m like that. In the great infinitude of the mighty and omnipotent and omniscient God, in this vast, unfathomable, immeasurable universe, in all of the vastness of God, here I am, an inconsequential nothing. But I have two lepta, I have two mites. I have my physical frame. I have my body. I have got my hands and my feet and my life. And I have my heart and my soul. And Lord Jesus, I can give these two mites to Thee. I can dedicate to Thee my physical life, my days, what my hands are able to do, and what my feet are able in errand to observe and to worship and to serve.
And I have my heart and my soul to love and to honor Thee. And Lord, I can do that, too. I can bring these two lepta to Thee, and give them into Thy gracious hands. And when I do, I am wonderfully and gloriously blessed.
MOVING THE HEART OF GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
A. A marvelous revelation, self-disclosure of God
1. His heart is moved by the devotion of those who
love Him (Hebrews 4:15-16, Genesis
21:14-20, Exodus 1:16, 22, 3:7, 9, 1 Samuel 1:7, 10, 15)
a. Failed Russian coup
B. Jesus’ last visit to the temple (Matthew
23:39, Mark 13:39-40)
C. The divine appreciation of a gift lovingly bestowed (Luke 8:43-48)
II. Out of
her poverty and need
A. The gift so small (Zechariah
1. Small things may be the greatest of all providences
a. Chapel in Colchester where Spurgeon was converted (Isaiah 25:42)
example speaks to us today
A. The gift is to God
B. We all have a part
A. In this life
1. God surely took care of her (1 Kings 17:14)
B. In the life to come
1. Poem, “Ozymandias”
A. The two mites we have to give
1. Our heart and soul
2. Our physical life