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WE HAVE PIPED AND WE HAVE MOURNED

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord's Day Evening, January 4, 2004


"We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned unto you, and ye have not lamented" (Matthew 11:17).


John the Baptist was in prison. Herod the Tetrarch put him there for preaching against his illegal marriage to his brother's wife. After John was put in prison, Jesus went out and spoke to a great crowd of people. He defended the strong preaching of John the Baptist. He said that John was more than a prophet - he was God's messenger, preparing the way for Christ. Then the Lord said,

"From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force"
     (Matthew 11:12).

The Scofield note says, "Only the violently resolute would press into it" (Scofield Study Bible, note on Matthew 11:12). Violent, relentless resolution was required to enter the kingdom.

But most of the people Jesus spoke to that day were either opposed to what He said or indifferent and asleep regarding their salvation. So Jesus gave them a little parable, a story to show them their spiritual condition. He said,

"But whereunto shall I liken this generation? It is like unto children sitting in the markets, and calling unto their fellows, And saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned unto you, and ye have not lamented"
     (Matthew 11:16-17).

Most of the people were like children playing a game called "weddings and funerals." The game consisted of one group of children "piping," or playing the flute, as the Jews did at a wedding, while their little friends were supposed to dance a Jewish folk dance. The second group of children then sang a sad, wailing Jewish funeral song, while their little friends were supposed to mourn, like people at a funeral.

Jesus used these children's games to show the cold indifference of most of the people to living religion. They did not respond. They were like children who refused to play the games of "weddings and funerals."

"We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned unto you, and ye have not lamented"  (Matthew 11:17).

I will now bring out two simple points from this text.

I. First, the text as it applied to many of the people in the time of Christ.

Jesus said, "We have piped…we have mourned." He was speaking of John the Baptist and Himself. Many of the commentators say that Jesus "piped" and John "mourned." But Christ Himself did not make such a distinction between His preaching and that of John. No! No! Christ said, " We have piped… We have mourned."

John and Jesus both preached strong, mournful sermons on sin and judgment. John preached, "O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?" (Luke 3:7). "Every tree therefore which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire" (Luke 3:9). These were hard sermons, given to arouse mourning over sin.

But Jesus also preached this way. Jesus said, "Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?" (Matthew 23:33). "Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels" (Matthew 25:41). Both John the Baptist and Jesus preached strong sermons, rebuking sin and warning the people of Hell fire, the eternal judgment of God on sin. Jesus said, "We have mourned unto you, and ye have not lamented" (Matthew 11:17). You have not mourned over your sins, sin has not become an intolerable burden to you.

Then Jesus said, "We have piped [played the flute] unto you, and ye have not danced." Both John the Baptist and Jesus played the happy flute of the gospel, preaching the good news of salvation to them.

John strongly "piped" the good news to them. He plainly preached the gospel.

"The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world" (John 1:29).

"And looking upon Jesus as he walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God!" (John 1:36).

These verses show how clearly John the Baptist preached the gospel of Christ. He "piped" to them, but they did not dance.

Jesus also "piped" to them. He also preached the good news of the gospel. In this same chapter, in verse 28, Jesus said,

"Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28).

"Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out" (John 6:37).

"Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life" (John 6:47).

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16).

So, you see, both Jesus and John the Baptist preached hard sermons, meant to induce mourning. And both Jesus and John the Baptist preached the joyful message of salvation through faith in the Son of God.

"We have piped unto you…we have mourned unto you"
     (Matthew 11:17).

But whether they piped or whether they mourned, the majority of the people were unmoved. They listened to the piping sermons and the mournful sermons - and neither type of sermon had any effect on most of them. They still refused to take the kingdom of heaven by violent resolution (Matthew 11:12).

"We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned unto you, and ye have not lamented" (Matthew 11:17).

The majority of the people neither lamented over their sins, nor did they rejoice over salvation in Christ. That is the way it was in the time of Christ.

Some believed, and Jesus said, "Wisdom is justified of her children" (Matthew 11:19). The wisdom of preaching hard sermons on judgment and joyful sermons on salvation, did produce some true converts. So the wisdom of both kinds of preaching was "justified of her children," in the few people who believed, who with violent resolution pressed into the kingdom of heaven. But now we come to the application of this, in the second point.

II. Second, the text as it applies to unconverted people in our own church.

"We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned unto you, and ye have not lamented" (Matthew 11:17).

We preach both "piping" gospel sermons and mournful sermons on judgment, death, and Hell. This very morning I preached mournfully on the subject of death. Did you lament after hearing it? You were supposed to lament and mourn over this morning's sermon. Did you? Be honest with yourself. Isn't it true, "we have mourned unto you, and ye have not lamented"? Isn't it true that the fear of death or mourning over sin has not filled your mind, even though that sermon on your coming death was very strong? You have gone on playing and fooling and fellowshipping just as though you had never heard me preach that sermon on the dreadful subject of death this morning. Isn't that true?

Saturday night I "piped" to you. I preached a gospel sermon on "The Parable of the Older Son." I told you that God keeps calling you in, to salvation in Christ, because He loves you, like that Father loved his boy. I ended the sermon by singing,

Come home, come home, Ye who are weary, come home,
Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling, Calling, O sinner, come home!
     ("Softly and Tenderly" by Will H. Thompson, 1847-1909).

Did you dance with joy when I played the flute of the gospel? Did you say, "Yes, that's right! Jesus loves me and wants to save me. I will press into the kingdom of God! I will throw myself on the mercy of Jesus"? Did you say that in your heart? Isn't it true that you just listened to the sermon and didn't respond emotionally or spiritually at all? You went right on playing, and fooling, and fellowshipping afterward, just as though you had never heard me preach that happy gospel message on the love of Christ, and the way of salvation in Him! Isn't that true?

I told you to read Richard Baxter's "Treatise on Conversion." I told you to read it over and over, until it grips your heart. Baxter is all full of "piping" and "mourning." Did you read it until you lamented for your sin, and rejoiced in Christ? I doubt it.

I know of some unconverted young men in our church who had an evening off Friday night, with nothing to do. Tomorrow morning, they go back to college, and their minds will be filled with school work. Saturday they had other work to do. Last Friday evening was really the only opportunity they had to spend a few hours reading and meditating on Baxter. Did they do it, as I told them to do - to prepare for the coming evangelistic meetings? No, they did not. Instead, they wasted those few precious hours Friday night watching a trashy video, "Pirates of the Caribbean." I doubt that any of them will be converted in the meetings next week.

They were just too unconcerned about their souls to take the time to study Baxter and prepare themselves for the examination in the evangelistic meetings. I wonder how many others have been fooling around, and not taking several hours to pray and memorize Baxter.

I have found that you can't make a boy or girl be a good student in college. You can "pipe" to them about studying and its rewards. You can "mourn" for them, and warn them of the danger of not studying for their classes. But unless they themselves decide to get down to business and put their heart into studying, they will not get good grades in school. You can't do it for them. They have to do it themselves.

And it is the same with salvation. We can tell you how happy you will be if you get saved. We can tell you how miserable you will be if you remain lost. But if you don't get serious about it yourself, you will not pass God's test. You will not press into the kingdom of God no matter what I preach.

"We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned unto you, and ye have not lamented" (Matthew 11:17).

What more can we do for you, if you will pray seriously in your closet each day for your own salvation? What more can we do for you, if you will not carry around Baxter's little book, and pore over it, and meditate on it, and memorize it, until it grips your heart with its message?

I can only say that if you do not pray in your closet and study Baxter's book you will remain unmoved no matter what Dr. Waldrip preaches next Thursday night. It's up to you. Will you be like those foolish Jews who couldn't be moved by anything Jesus or John the Baptist preached? Or will you press violently into the kingdom of God, through serious prayer, and much reading and re-reading of Baxter's famous book? The choice is yours. The examination begins next Thursday night. We will see if you are prepared.

I dread the thought that these words will still apply to you when the evangelistic meetings are over,

"We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned unto you, and ye have not lamented" (Matthew 11:17).

Those who do not dance to the music of the gospel, will soon find themselves dancing in the flames. Those who do not lament over their sins now, will bewail them and gnash their teeth in outer darkness. Dancing in the flames. Lamenting in the darkness. Those who refuse to awaken now, will be awakened, too late, in Hell.

"And in hell he lift up his eyes" (Luke 16:23).

It is a terrible shame that he did not lift up his eyes earlier, and awaken at the sound of the piping and mourning.

Will you awaken now - or will you awaken in Hell? Which will it be for you?

If you would like to speak with me about this, please step to the back of the room now. We will go to my office and talk about this for a few minutes.

(END OF SERMON)

Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Matthew 11:12-19.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:

"God Calling Yet" (by Gerhard Tersteegen, 1697-1769).


THE OUTLINE OF

WE HAVE PIPED AND WE HAVE MOURNED

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

 

"We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned unto you, and ye have not lamented" (Matthew 11:17).

(Matthew 11:12, 16-17)

I.   The text as it applied to many of the people in the time of Christ,
Luke 3:7, 9; Matthew 23:33; 25:41; John 1:29, 36;
Matthew 11:28; John 6:37, 47; 3:16; Matthew 11:19.

II.  The text as it applies to unconverted people in our own church,
Matthew 11:17; Luke 16:23.

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