LOOK AND LIVE
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2-15-76 10:50 a.m.
The title of the sermon this morning is Look and Live. It is a textual sermon, it is not an exposition of a passage. But in our preaching through the Book of Isaiah, having come to chapter 45, in verse 22 is one of the tremendous texts in all the Word of God. This is it, Isaiah 45:22: "Look unto Me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else."
This is the Lord’s tremendous and significant word to mankind. This is the message of the prophets, of the sages, of the seers, of the psalmists through all the centuries. And this is the message to which, when a man answers, it determines his condition and his character, his salvation, his destiny forever. We shall follow the text in a reverse order. We shall take the last clause first: "for I am God, and there is none other." Then the second part, the message of God to "all the ends of the earth." And then the third part: "Look unto Me, and be ye saved."
The context of the passage is most clear, and the last clause is a summation of the whole Word of God in the forty-fifth chapter of Isaiah: "for I am God, and there is none else." He says: "For thus saith the Lord that created the heavens, God Himself hath formed the earth and made it" [Isaiah 45:18]. "These false gods have no knowledge, and the people that set up the wood of their graven image, they pray unto a god that cannot save" [Isaiah 45:20]. Who hath declared these prophecies, sometimes thousands of years in fulfillment? "Who hath declared this from ancient time?" Who hath told it from that time? "Hath not I the Lord? and there is no God else beside Me, a just God and a Savior; there is none beside Me" [Isaiah 45:21]. And then the text: "Look unto Me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else" [Isaiah 45:22].
So the text presents us with the one true and only God. This is the cry of the prophet, and when he is able to lead his people into that same paean of praise and adoration, such as in the days of Elijah standing on Mount Carmel by the side of the false prophets of Baal [1 Kings 18:22]. And the fire descended from heaven in answer to the prayer of the prophet, and the people cried to the Lord, "Jehovah, He is God" [1 Kings 18:36-39]. Thus the whole Bible rings and resounds with the great monotheistic revelation of the one and true and only Lord.
In confusion and contumely lay the false deities and the false gods of the ancient world. Where are the gods of Nineveh before whom the multitudes prostrated themselves; the winged bull of Asshur and all his fellow deities? Ask the moles and the bats – their present companions. Ask the mounds of earth under which those false deities are buried. They lie in ruin and in departed glory. Where are the false gods of ancient Greece? These deities to whom they addressed their adorning and adorable poetry; these false gods that they hymned in sublime odes; these gods for whom they built sanctuaries and temples that were the wonder of the world at Ephesus. The Parthenon in Athens are the most astonishing ruins the earth has ever known; those to Jupiter at Baalbek in Syria; where are the false gods of Rome? Does Janus any longer preside over the destiny of the legions, or do the vestal virgins any longer tend their perpetual fires? They have fallen from their pedestals. Like Dagon, they are broken in pieces before the ark of the covenant [1 Samuel 5:4]. Their scepters are burned with fire and their glory is departed.
And what has been true of these gods of the ancient world shall be true of the gods of this present world. There will come a day when Buddha will be forgot; when Brahma and Vishnu and Krishna will be names of the days that are past. And the false gods that America worships – power, and money, and prestige, and fame, and fortune, and amusement, these also shall perish with the passing age. For there is but one true God [Isaiah 45:21], and His name one: the Lord Jehovah. "Look unto Me, and be ye saved, the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none other" [Isaiah 45:22].
Who are these to whom He makes His address? "All the ends of the earth." If I stand here, then the ends of the earth are those who are far and beyond and away. The ends of the earth are the aborigines of central Australia. They are a part of the ends of the earth. The Bantu, and the Bushman, and the Hottentot of central and darkest Africa, they are a part of the ends of the earth. The Stone Age Indians in the Amazon jungles of South America, they are a part of the ends of the earth.
But if we stand there, then those that are far away and are the ends of the earth are we who are here. We also are a part of the ends of the earth; the polished Harvard Bostonian, the eloquent Princetonian, the erudite and learned seminarian, they are a part of the ends of the earth. And the wretched, in sin and in squalor: the drunkard, and the harlot, and the pimp, and the procurer, and the pusher of dope and drugs, they are a part of the ends of the earth. And we in this congregation this morning, and you who share on radio and television, we also are some of them; the ends of the earth. You individually, and I here, we are a part of the ends of the earth. And the wonderful message is addressed to them, and it is addressed to us: "Look unto Me, face unto Me, call unto Me, and be saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none other" [Isaiah 45:22]. Will you look once again at the descriptive directive and appeal of this marvelous text? "Look unto Me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none other. Look, look unto Me" [Isaiah 45:22].
The ancient philosopher, and the thinker, and teacher was as brilliant a man as we could ever know in our modern academic and university world. I one time looked through the courses offered at Oxford University in England, and there were something like four hundred different courses offered in Aristotle alone. Those great thinkers of the ancient world, a Socrates, a Plato and Aristotle, they asked the right questions and they sought the right answers, but they groped in the dark. Death and the grave and the world that was to come lay beyond their grasp, their comprehension, their understanding. And they taught, and they lived, and they died having never known the ultimate truth. They sought it. They inquired about it. They pierced into the gloom of the midnight of the darkness of the grave, but they never saw it.
It only came to us when God incarnate walked the face of this earth and taught us the truth of the revelation of Almighty God. For it is Christ Jesus, the incarnate God, who revealed to us the full-orbed truth of the Almighty, and revealed to us the character of the great, mighty, and invisible God, who no man has ever seen [John 1:18] and whose mind no man could ever comprehend. "It is Christ who brought life and immortality to light" [2 Timothy 1:10]. And it is He, who says, "Look unto Me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth" [Isaiah 45:22].
Will you notice how plain and how simple is that plan of deliverance and salvation? "Look unto Me." Anybody can look. It does not require an education to look. A man need not have prestige or status or political power to look. It does not even demand moral excellence or righteousness. Even the vilest and lowest and the most wretched of sinners can look. "Look unto Me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth" [Isaiah 45:22]. And therein do we stumble and hesitate and falter and fall. How could it be that in so simple a thing as I look that I can be forgiven my sin, that I could be regenerated and saved by it. Look. There must be, we say, there must be something else, something further, and something beside. Surely, surely there are deep and mysterious ceremonies and rites and rituals that are required. Surely there must be cabalistic and incomprehensible words that must be said. Surely, surely there must be great and mighty deeds to be done for one to be delivered and to be saved. But to look – just to look; how simple a word – four letters, and two of them alike. Just to look.
We feel like Naaman, who was a mighty man with his master and the head of all hosts of Assyria – but a leper [2 Kings 5:1-14]. And standing before the house of Elisha the man of God that he might be cleansed, Elisha did not even walk out the door to see him – did not even greet him; sent out one of his servants and said to the great general: "Go down to the Jordan and wash. Dip yourself seven times, and your flesh will come again like unto the flesh of a little child, and thou shall be clean" [2 Kings 5:8-10]. And Naaman was wroth. He was insulted. "Why," said Naaman, "I thought the prophet would come out, and call upon the name of His God, and in a great dramatic gesture, strike the leper, and I would be clean [2 Kings 5:11]. Or I thought he would assign me some great dramatic gesture and mighty thing like conquering an empire or bringing a million talents of gold. But this, to wash, anybody could wash" [2 Kings 5:12].
So we stumble and we hesitate. Look. Could a man be saved just by a look? And if we have any tendency whatsoever to look – we look at everything and everybody except God. Some look to Moses, and to the lightnings and thunders of Sinai, and they look to the righteousness of the law to be saved. There are some who look to the priests and to the minister and to the church in order to be saved. There are others who look to the ordinances – to the baptismal pool and in the water: "I shall wash my sins away." There are others who look to themselves and they examine themselves: "Did I repent just right, and did I believe just right, and did I join the church just right, and am I living just right, and is my consecration just right?" And they look inwardly to themselves. While all the while the voice of the living God is ever and the same. "Look. Look. Look unto Me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth [Isaiah 45:22]. Look." Look to God, as a man would look to a guide if he were lost in a forest.
As a man whose arm was mangled, as I saw one time – a horrible thing, mangled in a great machine, and he would look to the surgeon and the doctor, as a man in legal entanglements and perplexities would look to a lawyer. Even as day by day for food, we look to the grocery man. So look to God! Look to God. But somehow, I cannot sense, I cannot see, I cannot understand. God did not say: "See." He did not say: "Comprehend or understand." What He did say was "Look, look, look" [Isaiah 45:22].
When the Israelites were wasted and dying, bitten by venomous serpents [Numbers 21:4-9], I can easily imagine a man, because of the terrible toxin in his system from the bite of that venomous creature, I can imagine his going blind. Because he is blind, does that mean God could not save him, and God could not forgive him? You see, God never said: "See." God said: "Look; look!" And a friend, seeing that man blinded by the serpent, could say, "There is a brazen serpent lifted in the midst of the camp, turn and look!" For you see, it is not in our seeing. It is not in our understanding. It is not in our comprehending. But it is in our turning. It is in our looking. It is in our expectancy, our faith, and our trust that we are healed, that we are saved, that we are delivered. Look. Look. Look!
My predecessor in this pulpit for forty-seven years was the far-famed George W. Truett. In a little passage in one of his sermons, I copied out his witness of his conversion. I read it. Listen to it. "I sat in the audience one night and listened to the preacher as he pleaded that Christ might have His own way and save a soul. I said: ‘Lord Jesus, it is all dark. I cannot understand. But dark or light, live or die, come what may, I surrender right now to Christ.’ He saved me then."
Did you see? The great pastor said, "I said, ‘Lord Jesus, it is all dark. I cannot understand. But dark or light, live or die, come what may, I surrender to Thee.’ And He saved me then. Not by my brilliance or not by my wealth, not by my station, or status, or political power, prestige or fame, I am saved by a look at the Crucified One." There is life for a look at the Crucified One. There is life at this moment for these that look, to "Look unto Him and be saved" – unto Him who was nailed to the tree.
How humbling that is for us, for us all. For the rich man is saved in the same way as his butler, or his maid, or his cook. The erudite seminarian is saved in the same way as a common day laborer who never went to school a day in his life. The man of great prestige and power is saved in the same way as a ragged urchin who roams the streets. The righteous and the morally good are saved in the same way as a harlot, or a prostitute, or a common drunkard. And the Jew is saved in the same way as a Gentile dog, for God has concluded us all in unbelief, that He might have mercy upon us all [Romans 11:32]. It is that we look and live.
Stewart Petty, our young British intern, said to me as we came into the auditorium this morning, he said, "Will you speak of Spurgeon this morning?"
I said, "Stewart, it will be the appeal of the message."
For it was this great text, elaborated upon by a primitive Methodist layman, that won the greatest preacher we have ever known since the days of the New Testament to the faith and Christ. It was on a snowy, stormy, first Sunday in January, 1850. The young fellow, fifteen years of age, had been seeking God, had never been able to find forgiveness of his sins. And going that day to a different church, hoping to find the way, he was stopped by a heavy snowstorm and unable to proceed further, turned into a little court, and there happened to be this primitive Methodist chapel. Today, on the wall by the pew where he sat under the gallery, there is a marble tablet and the explanation is that in this place Charles Haddon Spurgeon was saved. But I let him speak of it from his own message. Listen to the great English preacher:
I had been about five years in the most fearful distress of mind as a lad. If any human being felt more of the terror of God’s law, I can indeed pity and sympathize with him. I thought the sun was blotted out of my sky, that I had so sinned against God that there was no hope for me. I prayed. The Lord knoweth that I prayed. But I never had a glimpse of an answer that I knew of. I searched the Word of God, the promises were more alarming than the threatenings. I read the privileges of the people of God. But with a foolish persuasion that they were not for me. The secret of my distress was this: I did not know the gospel. I was in a Christian land. I had Christian parents. But I didn’t understand the freedom and simplicity of the gospel. I attended all the places of worship in the town where I lived. I honestly believe I did not hear the gospel fully preached. I do not blame the men however. One man preached the divine sovereignty. I heard him with pleasure.
What was that to a poor sinner though, who wished to know what he should do to be saved? There was another admirable man who always preached about the law. But what was the use of plowing up ground that needed to be sown? I knew it was said: "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved" [Acts 16:31]. But I did not know what it was to believe in Christ.
I sometimes think I might have been in darkness and despair now had it not been for the goodness of God in sending a snowstorm one Sunday morning when I was going to a place of worship. When I could go no further, I turned down a court and came to a little primitive Methodist chapel. In that chapel there might be a dozen or fifteen people. The minister did not come that morning. Snowed up, I suppose. A poor man, a shoemaker or a tailor or something of that sort, went into the pulpit to preach. This poor man was obliged to stick to his text with the simple reason that he had nothing else to say.
The text was: "Look unto Me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth" [Isaiah 45:22]. He didn’t even pronounce the words rightly. But that did not matter, there was, I thought, a glimpse of hope for me in the text. He began thus: "My dear friends, this is a very simple text indeed. It says ‘Look.’ And that does not take a great deal of effort. It ain’t lifting your foot or finger. It is just ‘look.’ Well, a man need not go to college to learn to look. You may be the biggest fool and yet can look. A man need not be worth a thousand a year to look. Anyone can look. A child can look. But this is what the text says, it says: ‘Look unto Me.’ Aye," said he in broad Essex, "many of you are looking to yourself. No use looking there. You’ll never find comfort in yourself. And some look to God the Father. No, look to Him by and by; Jesus Christ says ‘Look unto Me.’ Some of you say, ‘I must wait the Spirit’s work.’ You have no business with that just now. Look to Christ. It says, ‘Look unto Me.’"
Then the good man following up his text in this way: "’Look unto Me. I am sweating great drops of blood. Look unto Me. I am hanging on the cross. Look, I am dead and buried. Look unto Me, I rise again. Look unto Me, I ascend. I am sitting at the Father’s right hand. Oh, look to Me, look to Me.’"
When he had gone about that length and minutes had spun out ten minutes or so, he was at the length of his tether, then he looked at me under the gallery and I dare say with so few present, he knew me to be a stranger.
He then said, "Young man, young man, you look so miserable." Well, I did. But I had not been accustomed to having remarks made of my personal appearance from the pulpit. However, it was a good blow struck. He continued, "And you will always be miserable, miserable in life, miserable in death, if you do not obey my text. But if you obey now, this minute, you will be saved." Then he shouted, "Young man, look to Jesus. Look now!"
And Spurgeon says,
I did look to Jesus Christ. I looked until I could have looked my eyes away, and in heaven I will look still in joy unutterable. There and then, the cloud was gone. The darkness had rolled away. And that moment, I saw the sun. I could have risen that moment and sung with the most enthusiastic of them of the precious blood of Christ and the simple faith which looks alone to Him. Oh! That somebody had told me that before. Look, trust Christ, and you shall be saved.
I’ve a message from the Lord, Hallelujah!
It is only that you look and live.
Look and live, my brother, live,
Look to Jesus now and live;
‘Tis recorded in His Word, Hallelujah!
It is only that you look and live.
[from "Look and Live," William Ogden]
No money; come without money, without price. It is not that we be educated, learned, erudite. Some of us, like my dear father and mother, never had opportunity to go to school. It is not that I am morally excellent, for all of us know what it is to fail, to be crushed with our own inabilities and faults. It isn’t anything but that I look. I look. I look. I turn my face God-ward, and in that turning, I am saved.
And that is God’s holy and heavenly invitation to you this Lord’s Day morning. Look! Look! Lift up your face and look. One somebody you, one couple you, one family you, "Today, pastor, I look." Make the decision in your heart, and in a moment when we stand to sing, stand walking down that stairway, coming down this aisle. And if I could be thus forgiven, could I change our invitation hymn? Let’s sing that song, 195:
I’ve a message from the Lord, hallelujah!
This message unto you I’ll give,
‘Tis recorded in His Word, hallelujah!
It is only that you "look and live."
["Look and Live," William A. Ogden, 1887]
And while we sing the appeal, with time and to spare, if you are in the topmost seat of the topmost balcony, make it now, come now. On the first note of the first stanza, "Here I am, pastor, here I come. Today I look to God," while we stand and while we sing.