The Golden Heart
September 30th, 1979 @ 7:30 PM
THE GOLDEN HEART
Dr. W. A. Criswell
09-30-79 7:30 p.m.
It is a joy unspeakable to welcome the uncounted thousands of you who are listening to this service on radio, on KLRD, the great radio of the Southwest, and on KCBI, the Sonshine stereo of our Center of Biblical Studies. This is the pastor of the church bringing the message entitled The Golden Heart. If you would like to turn to Ezekiel, chapter 3, we shall read the first three verses, and then we shall go to verse 14 and to verse 15 and read these verses out loud together. Ezekiel chapter 3, beginning at verse 1 reading to verse 3; first, Ezekiel chapter 3, the first three verses; now all of us reading out loud together:
Moreover He said unto me, Son of man, eat that thou findest; eat this roll, and go speak unto the house of Israel.
So I opened my mouth, and He caused me to eat that roll.
And He said unto me, Son of man, cause thy belly to eat, and fill thy bowels with this roll that I give thee.
Then did I eat it; and it was in my mouth as honey for sweetness.
Now verses 14 and 15:
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.
Then I came to them of the captivity at Tel Abib, that dwelt by the River of Chebar, and I sat where they sat, and remained there astonished among them seven days.
“And I sat where they sat” [Ezekiel 3:15]. There is a background in this passage that is found also in repercussion in the Revelation. There in the tenth chapter, John is told to eat the book [Revelation 10:9]. And when he ate it, it was sweet as honey and later was bitter as gall [Revelation 10:10]. This is from the prophet Ezekiel. The Lord said to him: “Eat this roll, this scroll, this book” [Ezekiel 3:1]. For the Word of God is sweet, sweeter than honey, sweeter than the honeycomb, but the message that it bore is bitter [Revelation 10:10]. It is one of condemnation.
So the prophet eats the roll, sweet as honey in his mouth [Ezekiel 3:2-3]. But when he delivers the message to the people, it is one of condemnation and judgment [Ezekiel 3:4-13]. So he says: “The Spirit lifted me up, and took me away, and I went to the people in bitterness, in the heat of my spirit; for the hand of the Lord was strong upon me” [Ezekiel 3:14]. Then he came to them in the Babylonian captivity who had been sold into slavery by Nebuchadnezzar, their nation destroyed, their city destroyed, their temple destroyed, their homes destroyed, everything they possessed in life taken away in the casualty of that awful destructive war [2 Kings 25:1-21]. And there these captive sat by the rivers of Babylon [Ezekiel 3:15].
Do you remember the song that they sang? The one hundred thirty-seventh Psalm:
By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down…
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 us one of the songs of Zion.
But 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.
Thus the people sang as they wept in the land of Babylon. And it was to these people who had been sold into judgment and condemnation and slavery because of their sins, it was to those people that Ezekiel was sent [Ezekiel 3:10-11]. And he came in judgment and in bitterness of spirit [Ezekiel 3:14].
But as he came to the captives in Babylon, he says, “I sat where they sat, and remained there amazed at their sorrow and tears and heartbreak. I sat there astonished for seven days” [Ezekiel 3:15]. And at the end of the seven days, the Word of the Lord came unto him [Ezekiel 3:16], and his message was one of repentance, and of faith, and the forgiveness of God [Ezekiel 3:17-21]. This is one of the most beautiful of all of the experiences that I could think for in life, and especially in the life of this prophet of God. And I call that the golden heart. The Golden Rule is as you turn it this way: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” the Golden Rule [Matthew 7:12].
The golden heart would be to sympathize with others as you would have them sympathize with you. “And I sat where they sat, astonished, without words as I looked at their sorrows and broken heartedness.” For seven days, Ezekiel sat with the people of captivity in that deep sympathy and understanding [Ezekiel 3:15]. The golden heart: it is first in our condemnation, a compassion and an openly expressed love. There is no doubt but there are times when, in our sin and in our iniquity, we ought to be condemned.
For example, in Isaiah chapter 58, “Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and show My people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sin” [Isaiah 58:1]. There is no doubt but that the condemnation of iniquity and sin in our lives ought to be openly and vigorously and unsparingly denounced. There’s no doubt of that. But at the same time, it ought to be done in deepest compassion, and love, and sympathy, and understanding.
The most awesome of all of the castigations that I’ve ever read in human literature is found in the twenty-third chapter of Matthew. This is the word of our Lord as He denounces the scribes and the Pharisees: hypocrites! whited sepulchers, who devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers [Matthew 23:14, 27]. There are no words I’ve ever read in language with the burning castigation and judgment of the twenty-third chapter of the Gospel of Matthew.
But do you remember how it ends? It ends in a sob. It ends in tears. “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem . . . how oft would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen gathereth her brood under her wings, and you would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate . . . Ye shall not see Me henceforth until you say, Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord” [Matthew 23:37-39]. A bitter castigation, the most bitter I know in language and literature, but it ends in a sob, in tears.
The apostle Paul in the second chapter of the second Corinthian letter says in one of his vigorous denunciations of the church, he says, “With anguish of spirit and with many tears did I write unto you” [2 Corinthians 2:4]. Any time a castigation is made, any time a judgment is pronounced, it ought to be done with deepest, deepest compassion and love. To do anything out of hate, out of a vindictive vengeance is to destroy your own heart, your own soul.
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 wrap end,
I’m sick of hate and the waste it makes,
Let me be my brother’s friend.
If I ever am assigned the moment of judgment and condemnation and denunciation, first, Lord, let me do it in deepest love and compassion and sympathy. That’s why I have always felt that when the pastor preaches on hell and damnation and judgment, it ought to be only after he has cried before God for the awesomeness of the judgment that falls upon those who turn aside from the grace of our Lord.
Once in a while, I will hear a man either on the radio or at a convention preach about hell as though he were glad and triumphant that these lost sinners were falling into the burning and bottomless pit. And when I listen to the sermon preached like that, I think O God, how different from the spirit of our Lord who wept over the lost, who cried over the city [Luke 19:4], who gave His life that we might be spared such an awesome and terrible judgment [John 3:16].
I sat where they sat, the golden heart; sympathy in our condemnation, compassion in our sin and our lost condition. Again, the golden heart, “I sat where they sat” [Ezekiel 3:15]. There is charity in our judgment. The Lord said in the Sermon on the Mount, chapter 7: “Judge not, 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 7:1-2]. Charity, love, in our judgments. “Judge not, that ye be not judged.” It is easy for us to be harsh in our judgments, caustic in our criticisms.
I read of a professor at the University at Edinburgh. And there was a student who was before him, and he was holding the book he was reading in his left hand. And the professor said, “When you stand to read, hold the book in both of your hands.” And the young fellow continued reading with the book in his left hand. And the irritated professor said, “Sir, I said to you, hold the book in both of your hands.” But the young fellow kept on reading with the book in his left hand. Finally, the exasperated and irritated profession said, “Sir, I said to you, hold the book in both of your hands!” Whereupon the lad raised his right arm and it was a piece of a stub. And the professor said, “I, I understand.”
To be charitable in our judgments and to soften our caustic criticisms; as the old Indians would say, “Before you criticize a man for his limp, walk in his moccasins.” There may be a reason why you don’t understand—charitable in our judgments. You know, starting as I did, beginning as I did in a small church, I learned so many many things and that’s one, what I’m preaching now. “And I sat where they sat,” to be charitable and kind in your judgments.
It came about like this: people used to live close together and all of their lives in a community. Now we sort of live impersonal and unknown in these great cities. But living in small communities, mostly around the little church, people knew each other in their generations.
Well, this family, the girl went to high school in the county seat town and came back pregnant. So one of my deacons—ah, the fierceness of that man’s denunciation of that child—he wanted to turn the entire family out of the church; wanted to turn her father out of the church; wanted to turn her mother out of the church; certainly wanted to turn that girl out of the church. It was a disgrace what had happened, and they were all members of the church. Castigation of that deacon was fierce.
And of course, I was just a teenager then. And it overwhelmed me. I didn’t know what to do. This was one of my finest deacons. And the bitterness of his denunciation about that girl who was going to be a mother and a family, I didn’t know what to do.
Did you know one of his girls, the deacon’s girl, she was going to be a mother, married to this boy, and she came to live in the deacon’s home to have the child? And the deacon had an older girl, the sister of this one who was married and who was going to have a child, and that son-in-law of his, while he was living in that home, waiting for the child to be born, he made the eldest child pregnant.
I met that deacon on a road in the community, on a farm road in the community. And when he talked to me about what had happened in his house, he cried uncontrollably. You could hear him lament, lament. And what he said was this, he said, “Young pastor, it would not be so hard had I not said those words of judgment about Wilbert and his daughter and his family.”
You know what? I think any one of us is capable of murder. I think a man can be driven to any depths, any lengths, any depths of violence. I think he can. I think any man is capable of murder. And I think most of us are capable of falling, of sinning. And it is far better, I think, reading the Word of God, when we see people fall or stumble or sin, it’s far better in sympathy to pray for them; to ask God’s intervention in their lives and to try to help them, and encourage them in the love and in the faith of Him who died to forgive us our iniquities [1 Corinthians 15:3]. We don’t all sin alike. This man sins in this way. And this one sins in another way, and this one in still another way; but we all sinners alike [Romans 3:23]. And we just pray that God will have compassion upon us, and be merciful to us, a sinner [Luke 18:10-14]. And without judging another, just asking God to be pitiful and merciful to us; “and I sat where they sat” [Ezekiel 3:15]: the golden heart.
May I say one other thing? The golden heart, it is helpfulness and encouragement in our necessity, and in our want, and in our lack. The apostle Paul wrote it like this, “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” [Galatians 6:2]; understanding and sympathy and helpfulness in our burdens. God our Father is that way up there in heaven. The second chapter of the Book of Exodus says, “He heard the cry of His people” [Exodus 2:23-24]. In the story in the Book of little Samuel, the Lord listened to the heartache of Hannah [1 Samuel 1:26-27].
In the story of this Babylonian captivity, the fortieth chapter of Isaiah begins, “Comfort ye, comfort ye My people, saith the Lord. Yea, speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem…say unto her, behold, thy God! She has received of the Lord’s hand double for all of her sins” [Isaiah 40:1-2]. And when the God in heaven became incarnate, became flesh, He was just like that. Would you like to know what God is? Look at Jesus.
The response of our Lord is the response of God, and the attitude of our Lord is the attitude of God. How was Jesus? This is how He was; filled with compassion and sympathy [Matthew 14:14, 20:34; Mark 1:44, 5:19, 6:34; Luke 7:13], for those who were so desperately in need of healing, or encouragement, or health, or forgiveness [Psalm 103:2-4].
Why, I don’t think there is anything more dramatic in the Bible than when the Lord Jesus came down from delivering that Sermon on the Mount [Matthew 5:1-7:29], and the thousands crowded with Him on every hand, and the Book says, “And a leper came up to Him and said” [Matthew 8:1-2]. How in the earth could that happen? When the Lord is crowded by thousands on every side and a leper just walks up to Him? Why, the answer is very plain. The leper, unclean, filthy, ceremonially unclean, a type of the lostness of sin; the leper by law had to put his hand over his lips like this, and wherever he walked, he was commanded to cry: “Unclean, unclean, unclean!” [Leviticus 13:45]. And wherever the leper walked, immediately people parted, fell away from him.
And that’s what happened around the Lord Jesus; thronged and crowded by the thousands, that leper walked right up to Him, for as he put his hand over his lip and cried “Unclean!” there was that icy cold circle of the people falling away from him. He had never known anything else in his life.
Did the Lord move away? Did He fall away? The Lord just stood there. And the leper walked up to Him, just walked up to Him. And the next verse says, “And the Lord put His hand upon him, and the Lord touched him” [Matthew 8:3].
My brother, I think that was half the cure. He hadn’t felt the touch of a warm human hand in a lifetime! Always that icy, chilly circle around him, but not Jesus; Jesus put His hand upon him, and touched him. That’s God. You want to know what God’s like? That’s God.
And that’s why that incomparable passage in the Book of Hebrews, “For we have not a 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, being touched with the feeling of our infirmities—“Let us therefore come boldly into the throne of grace, to find grace in time of need, and help in time of trouble” [Hebrews 4:15-16]. Jesus knows all about us. Jesus sympathizes and understands. He is our Friend.
So, that beautiful song “Blest Be the Tie that Binds,”
We bear our mutual woes,
Our mutual burdens bear;
And often for each other flows
The sympathizing tear.
[“Blest Be the Tie that Binds,” John Fawcett, 1782]
“And I sat where they sat” [Ezekiel 3:15]. If I have any word to speak, let it be one of encouragement. If I have any pointing of the way, let it be to Jesus who cleanses us from all our sins [Revelation 1:5]. If I have any gospel to preach, let it be one of hope, and of life, and of joy, and of victory, and of heaven. And if we have any appeals to make, let it be: “Come to Jesus.” He is our Friend and Savior. He died that we might be washed clean and white [1 Corinthians 15:3; Hebrews 10:5-14], to open a door for us into heaven, to give us strength and encouragement in our pilgrimage, and His loving benedictory help for every trial of the way [Matthew 11:28-30].
Dear Lord, how could I but praise Thy name forever and ever and ever? May we stand?
What a friend we have in Jesus,
All our trials and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
Everything to Him in prayer!
[from “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” Joseph Scriven, 1857]
And Lord as You have been good to us and merciful to us and forgiving of us, may we also be kind, and sympathetic, and considerate, and merciful, and forgiving in our attitude toward others. As God loved us when we were unlovely [Romans 5:8], may we love others. And our Lord, accepting from Thy gracious hands the free pardon of our sins, the free gift of our salvation, we love Thee, precious Savior, and praise Thee forever. And may it be tonight, these who have come bowing in Thy presence, accepting from Thy nail-pierced hands the free pardon of sin, may they find salvation and glory and happiness in Thee.
In our praying tonight and in the quietness of this appeal, a family you, to put your life with us in the church; a couple you, to respond to the invitation of our Lord; or just one somebody you, “The Lord has spoken to me tonight and here I am, pastor. I want to accept Him as my Savior.” Or, “I want to give Him my life.” Or, “I want to be with these dear people in the fellowship of this precious church.” Our Lord, grant that tonight the harvest, sweet and precious, shall bless these who come and these who thank God for the response, in Thy dear name, amen.
Down one of these stairways, down one of these aisles, “Here I am, pastor, I make it now,” while we pray, while we wait, while we sing.