MOVING THE HEART OF GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
9-9-79 10:50 a.m.
Well, it is a joy and a gladness unspeakable to welcome the uncounted thousands of you who are you who are listening to this service on radio and who are watching it and worshipping with us on television. This is the pastor bringing the message entitled: Moving the Heart of God. It is a sermon on the twelfth chapter of the Book of Mark, beginning at verse 41; the second gospel, the Gospel of Mark, beginning in the forty-first verse of chapter 12; positively one of the most beautiful incidents in the life of our Lord; Mark, chapter 12, beginning at verse 41:
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 threw in two mites, which make a farthing.
And He called unto Him His disciples, and saith unto them, Verily—truly, amen—I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they 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.
She had nothing left besides. And that gave rise to the subject of the message: Moving the Heart of God. The Lord was moved by the magnificent devotion of this poor, poverty-stricken woman.
And yet, when I think of that, that is not unusual. That’s not unique. God’s heart has always been moved in the devotion, and at the cries of His people. When Hagar and her son Ishmael were cast out into the wilderness, Hagar placed her child under the shade of a bush. And withdrawing, the Bible says, “about the bowshot of an arrow,” she sat down to cry. And the Bible says, the Lord heard her cry, and opened for her a fountain of water [Genesis 21:14-20].
In the first chapter of the Book of Exodus, there was a Pharaoh who knew not Joseph, and he edicted that all the male children of the Hebrews should be cast into the River Nile. And the mothers of the Hebrew families wept. And far away in the land of Midian, God said to Moses, “I have heard the cry of My people” [Exodus 1:16, 22, 3:7, 9].
Moving the heart of God; Samuel begins like that. Hannah, because she was barren and sterile and had no child, wept before the Lord and prayed. And the Lord heard her cry. He saw her tears, answered her prayer. And the little boy the Lord gave her, she called “asked of God”—Samuel [1 Samuel 1:7, 10, 15].
So I say, this is not strange, or unusual, or unique, that the heart of God was moved by this poor woman. The Lord Jesus, watching her, called His disciples and said, “Look, look, this is a beautiful thing to behold. It is a precious thing to see.”
And that’s trebly, doubly, quadruply so, because in the life of our Lord, this is the last time that He visited the temple. As He left He said, “You’ll see Me no more until that day when you say ‘Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord.’” [Matthew 23:39]
This is the conclusion of one of the bitterest days that mind could imagine, that life could be lived through. This is the day of the Lord’s confrontation in the temple with the scribes, and the Pharisees, and the elders of the people. And it closes in that bitter, caustic, awesome denunciation delineated at length in the twenty-third chapter of Matthew: “Woe unto you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, whited sepulchers . . . devour widow’s houses, and for a pretense make long prayers.” [Matthew 23:27]
And after the vitriolic and caustic and burning and searing judgment of the Lord on those leaders of the people, He apparently withdrew into a quiet corner of the temple area. It happened to be in the Court of the Women. And it happened that in the Court of the Women was located those thirteen trumpet-like chests into which the people gave their tithes and their offerings.
And as the Lord, withdrawing seemingly by Himself, sat there, and watching the people as they gave, He noticed this poor woman, and called His disciples to look at her, pointed her out. He apparently found comfort and strength and encouragement in the example of that blessed woman. She is such a contrast to the temple leaders in their grasping materialism, in their unbelievable secularism—in her hope and trust in God.
And it moved the heart of Jesus. It does us. You can’t read this story and not somehow be affected by it. How like Jesus to notice her! In the great throng that visited that temple from all over the earth, He noticed her. That’s the Lord. That’s Jesus. That’s our great God and Savior.
Do you remember, on the way to the house of Jairus, who had said to the Lord, “My little girl is sick unto death”—and on the way the little child died? Do you remember as He was going to the house, there was a great multitude around Him on every side? And suddenly Jesus stopped and said, “Who touched Me?” And Simon Peter blurted out, in reasonable amazement, “Master, they throng Thee and press Thee on every side and yet You say who touched Me?” And the Lord repeated, “But somebody touched Me” [Luke 8:43-48].
And a woman with an issue of blood for so many years, had said in her heart, “If I but touch the hem of His garment, I’ll be healed.” And seeing she was not hidden, she came forward and fell at His face, fell at His feet and said, “Lord, I touched You.”
Isn’t that Jesus? “Somebody touched Me.” In a throng, and a press, and a multitude of people, Jesus noticed. And it was so here, in that great multitude that came to worship in Jerusalem from all over the world, He notices this poor woman. Well, we also are moved by her example. Her gift was so little, and she gave it out of the want and the necessity, and the penury, and the poverty, and the need of her life.
I spent a long time yesterday trying to find out how much that was this poor widow gave, and I followed it through the best I could. And I still can’t figure out how little that was. The text says it was a lepton, a lepton. She gave two lepta, plural, lepta. Now, two lepta make, what is translated here “farthing,” make a quadrans, a kodrantes. Now a quadrans, a kodrantes was a quadrans—it was a fourth part of a little Roman coin called an as. So that mite was one-eighth of a little, tiny Roman coin called an as, one-eighth.
And she gave two of them, two lepta. So that means her gift was a fourth of a Roman tiny penny called an as. That’s the best I can do. When you translate that into our money, the best you can come out with is, what she gave was about a fourth of a penny—two mites. But it was everything that she had. It was all of her living. It was what she had to live upon. And when she gave it, she had nothing else. It was everything that she possessed. Apparently she had earned it with hard labor. And she had saved it at a self-denial and self-sacrifice. And having done it, having worked in toil, and having saved in self-denial, she gave all of it to the Lord; all of her living—she had nothing else left beside— and had done that beautifully, willingly, devotedly, lovingly. And the Lord noticed it and I say, His heart, moved by the example of that woman, moves us too. You can’t help but be moved by the devotion and the sacrifice and the faith of that poor widow.
It speaks to us today. You look at her. Could she not have been forensic and debative about giving to the temple? Well, you know this: the Lord God Almighty was holding up, gathering a storm of anger against that temple. Thirty-seven years exactly from the date that that woman gave that gift, the Lord destroyed it from off of the face of the earth. He sent the legions under Titus and they razed it to the ground. The temple site has been without a temple ever since.
Why give to the temple? Don’t you think that’s a logical question and a reasonable one? Why give to those people? He just denounced them. “Pharisees, scribes, elders, hypocrites, whited sepulchers that devour your homes, widow’s houses; for a pretense make long prayers.” Why give to the temple?
You know what that woman would have said? And it’s an answer that when I prepared this sermon, it sure struck to my heart. You know what that woman would have said? “I’m not giving this to the temple, as such, nor am I giving it to the Pharisees, or the scribes, or the elders. I’m giving it to God; I’m giving it to God. And whatever the foibles of men,”—wherever there are men and wherever there are organizations of men, there will you find mistakes and weaknesses and foibles—“I’m not giving it to men, I am giving it to God. And how they use it lies in the great judgment between them and God; but I’m giving it to God.”
That’s noble, and that’s that woman. Not only that, but as poor as she was—in the depths of poverty she lived and toiled and worked—yet she felt included in the great ministries of our Lord in the earth; she was a part of the kingdom of God.
And that also is a marvelous self-disclosure and self-revelation of our Lord. We’re all included, not just the gifted, or the affluent, or the wealthy, or the famous, or the successful. All of us are included. Some of us are the poorest and the neediest.
You know what I think? At the eight-fifteen service, right down here and right over there is a great group of special education people. Some of them are here today. They’re special education people; they all work with their hands, they all work with their hands. Did you know that out of all of the people in this church, there is nobody that encourages me more, speaks to me sweeter, just encourages me in the faith, just none of them like those dear people? They are special education people, but they’re included; and God loves them, and they love the Lord.
I don’t exaggerate it when I tell you, time after time when I was a young man, I was invited to affluent churches, you know, suburban churches. “Well, why didn’t you go?” The salary was maybe ten times as much as I was making—a place of affluence and ease—it was a matter of convenience. They are all over there segregated somewhere. “
“Why didn’t you go?” I tell you exactly why I didn’t go. I don’t like that kind of a church, I just don’t. I don’t have anything against them—God love them, God bless them—but I don’t like that kind of a church. I like a church filled with everybody, just folks, everybody. Some of the richest in the world, there they sit; some of the poorest, there they are, and all in between. I love that, I love this church.
You may be seated by one of the wealthiest people in this city, you also may be seated by one of the poorest. It doesn’t make any difference. We’re all alike in the sight of God, everyone of us is somebody for whom Jesus died. And that poor woman felt included in the kingdom of God.
I tell you another thing about us all. We’re all very much alike in the weaknesses that we have in the things that God gives us. It isn’t just the rich man, it isn’t just the affluent woman that can be selfish and grasping and covetous. The poor can be that way also, just as selfish, just as grasping and just as covetous. And we need—all of us need, poor and affluent alike—all of us need to recognize that it is easy to succumb to the temptation to keep and to grasp, to be greedy and to be covetous.
I heard of a woman who had received a large inheritance. And when she received it, she said, “Quick, bring me my checkbook and let me make my gift now before my heart becomes hardened.”
George W. Truett, our predecessor here in this sacred pulpit, George W. Truett was an intimate friend with John D. Rockefeller, Sr. And John D. Rockefeller said, “If I had not tithed the little that I made when I first began, I would have found it impossible to tithe the billions and the millions that I make today.”
It is the same, it is the same. Covetousness and selfishness is the same wherever you find it, in the affluent, in the poverty-stricken—all of us face it. And how beautiful, how beautiful the example of this poor woman!
Now, what reward do you think she received? What about this life? The Book says that she gave all of her living. She had nothing left. What do you think happened to her? If she gave to God all of her living and had nothing left and beside, how did she do? What happened to her?
Now, all I know to do is to look at the Book and to find from the Book what God does when somebody does that. So in the Book of Kings, in the seventeenth chapter, there is a story of a man who’s a prophet of God. His name is Elijah. And God sent him to a poor widow in Zarephath, a town in Zidon.
And when Elijah comes to that poor woman, he finds her gathering sticks to make a fire. And she explains to the prophet that because of the awesome drought—now three and half years it hadn’t rained—she has left a little handful of meal in the barrel and a little oil in the cruse. And she explains, “I am making a little cake that my boy and I might eat it and die.”
And the prophet says, “When you make the cake, bring it to me.”
Ah, that’s all that she has, that’s everything! And she intends to bake it and then die, she and her son.
“Give it to God. Bring it to me.”
Somehow the faith of that poor woman answered the prophet of God, and she baked the last little handful of meal with the last drop of the cruse of oil and offered it to the man of God. Do you remember the next sentence in the Bible? It says: “And throughout the years that followed, the meal in the barrel did not waste. And the cruse of oil did not fail.” God took care of her. Now, that’s all I know how to answer. When this poor widow gave to the Lord everything that she had, God picked up and took care. The Lord took care of her.
Would I be crude and crass if I were to tell you something that came to my heart about this, this last week? When I preach a sermon, I turn it over in my mind day and night, night and day. When I’ll be walking along, I’ll be thinking about that sermon. When I go to bed at night, I’ll be thinking about that text. I just turn it over in my mind and think about it. On an airplane, riding and back and forth, I’ll be thinking about it.
Well, I was seated at the television last week, seated there just for a little while. And there is a show called, “This is Entertainment.” Isn’t that it? “This is Entertainment.” And it is presented by Liza Minnelli and some others, and her mother was Judy Garland.
So as I sat there and looked at it, it very much presents Liza Minnelli’s mother, Judy Garland, very much she is in the picture. So as I look at that picture and I think of that wonderfully gifted actress, Judy Garland, I remember, I remember when she committed suicide. Do you? As I looked at that picture and thought of the marvelous fame and affluence of Judy Garland, I remembered when she committed suicide.
And then, as I looked at the picture I think of George Eastman, who invented the Eastman-Kodak and who invented the film that makes possible all of Hollywood and television. George Eastman invented all of that. I remember the day when George Eastman committed suicide. And as I sat there and looked at that picture, I thought of the most darling sex symbol that Hollywood ever knew, Marilyn Monroe. And I remember when she committed suicide.
Now, I want to ask you, sweet people. Could you imagine this widow taking her own life because of despair or poverty or need or failure? Could you? It’s unthinkable. It would be incredible.
And as I sit there and look at that and think of those things, I think, “Dear God, what’s the matter with us?” Why can’t we see the great issues of life are never, am I rich, or am I exalted, or am I famous, or have I succeeded? The great issues of life are always, do I know God! Do I trust in the Lord? Have I been led into the way of surrender and quiet submission, listening to His voice and elected purpose for my life?
I don’t know who she was; she is not named. I just know she was poor, and she gave to God everything that she had, a little tiny piece of a penny. But God was with her and the Lord enriched her life and took care of her. It’s a beautiful thing. And it blessed my soul just to prepare this message.
There was a couple who were filling out this pledge card. She looked to see the amount that he’d filled it out for, and it was very large. And she fell into that same weakness. “Ah, what we could buy with that amount of money!”
And there went before her mind beautiful dresses, furs, jewelry, beautiful things that she could buy with that money that he placed on that pledge card. And she said to him, “Dear husband, it seems to me that we have lost so much by our religion.”
And he replied, “Dear wife, that’s right, that’s correct. We have lost so much by our religion. Before I was converted,” he said, “I was a drunkard and in the gutter. And we’ve lost that. Now, in sobriety and dignity, I walk in our community.”
“Before I was converted,” he said, “I was more like a beast than a man. I was a slave to evil and we have lost all of that. Now I am saved and I’ve been remade.”
He said to her, “Dear wife, before I was converted, we lived in a hovel, and the bed we had was on the floor! And we have lost all of that. We have now this little cottage; and it’s ours.”
He said, “Before I was converted, we were dressed in rags. And you hardly had enough to put on to be decent when you walked out on the street. And now we’re clothed in beautiful garments.”
He would have continued, but she broke in and said, “Husband—O God, forgive me! And husband, you forgive me. You forgive me. I have been selfish. And I have been ungrateful. Husband, forgive me! And may God forgive me.”
Dear people, I feel like that lots of times. Lord, Lord, the amount of money that we give to the church, my little family, thousands and thousands of dollars. You could go out here and buy the most expensive car in the city with how much money we give to this church every year. And I don’t know what else you could buy.
Once in a while I think about that. Man, what I could do with that money. And then my heart smites me. Dear God, how ungrateful could I be? Lord, Lord, You have been just wonderful to us. Been good to you and you and you. Lord, Lord, the goodness of God, in lifting us up, setting our feet on a rock, putting a song in our hearts and praises on our lips; Lord, how could I ever thank Thee enough, and to offer some little measure of tribute to Thee? Dear God, thank Thee for the privilege and the open door.
And that’s this dear blessed woman. I want to ask you. When she got to heaven, do you suppose Jesus recognized her? Do you think He did? Yes, I think so, too. You know what I think? He said to all of the angels in glory, “This is that woman; this is she.” And then He turned to the redeemed and said to all of God’s redeemed, “This is she. This is she.”
You know what I think also? When I get to heaven and I ask Him, “Where is that woman, I’d like to see her,” He’ll know exactly who she is and where she is. And I want to meet her, I want to speak to that dear, blessed widow. I want to tell her what her example has done for me.
And I think about that blessed reward God gives us. Families brought, and children taught, young people sought, and the whole house of God filled with the glory of the presence of the Spirit that lives in the heart of His people.
In the presence of the infinitude of God, oh dear, how little we are and how small our possessions! Think of the vastness of God’s infinitude, and He has it all. Even think in this little piece of an earth, this little planet tucked away in one side of the Milky Way. Just think, all that’s in it is His. All the gold, the silver, the cattle on a thousand hills, the oceans and the mountains, and the skies and the stars, all belong to the infinitude of His great glory.
And in comparison, what I have is so small—two mites, two lepta. I have my body and my soul, have my heart and my hand, and that’s all. But I can give it to God. I can lay it at His dear feet. And the Lord blesses the work of my hands. It’s yours, Lord. And the desires and the dreams of my heart, they’re Yours, Lord. And He blesses. He will you. He does us. May we stand together?
Our men are coming to offer hands of love and welcome to you. Our deacons will be here at the front praying, waiting, welcoming.
And our Savior, could there be anything more precious than lovingly, devotedly, giving to Thee our hearts, our hands, the strength and the issue of our lives? O God, when we die, may it not be that we still grasp in our in our dead cold hands what God hath given us. But may it be that when we die, we have used what God hath given us for the glory of the Lord. And our Master, in a beautiful and unusual way bless the appeal this holy moment.
Somebody to give himself to Jesus; somebody to put his life with us in the church and all of us rejoicing with the angels in heaven together, while our people pray and while we wait. In a moment when we sing, down one of those stairways, down one of these aisles, “Here I am pastor. Here I come. I give my heart and life to Jesus. This is my wife. The two of us are coming.” Or, “This is my whole family. We are all coming.” Or just one somebody you, we will greet you and welcome you in the name of our dear Lord. Make it now while we pray, while we wait, and while we sing.