The World’s Greatest Need: Peace

THE WORLD’S GREATEST NEED: PEACE

Dr. W. A. Criswell

Psalm 85

11-10-68     8:15 a.m.

 

On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas.  I cannot express to you how moved I am and how very surprised to see here in the dedication of these flowers a bouquet from some of my Jewish friends.  I think that is the finest surprise I have ever had in this quarter of a century I have been pastor of this church.

You will be interested in what Lee Roy and I will do the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and the Wednesday before that.  I think the dates are Wednesday, November 20 and Wednesday, November 27.  I took pictures all through that land, and Lee Roy took motion pictures, and those two Wednesday evenings at 7:30 o’clock we shall show them and talk about them here in this great auditorium.

I thought that the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, since Thanksgiving was a holiday and most of us would not have to get up early, I thought on that Wednesday we might start at 7:30 o’clock and go until 1:30 or 2:30 or something like that.  In any event, those two Wednesdays, do you have a calendar, somebody, to be sure that I am right in that?  The Wednesday of Thanksgiving, now the Wednesday before that, is that the twentieth?  All right, that’s the twentieth.  The twentieth of this month at 7:30 we will be here, and we will have a good time together.  It will be a very profitable time, very much so, and the Wednesday following which is before Thanksgiving.

Now the sermon this morning has to do with some of these things that concern us, the world, the kingdom of God, the Middle East, God’s chosen people, and God’s Holy Land.  The title of the sermon is The World’s Greatest Need.

And let me read the eighty-fifth Psalm.  This is a psalm of the returning exiles, and as the psalm was pertinent then, when the exiles returned from the Babylonian captivity, it is no less; it is equally pertinent today in the returning of God’s people to the Holy Land; the eighty-fifth Psalm: “Lord, Thou hast been favorable unto Thy land.”  And you remember I told you that God’s people are always connected with the land, always [Psalm 85:1].  In it, out of it, taken captive away from it, or turning their faces toward it, always, God’s people is identified with the land.  So he starts off with that same expression:

Lord, Thou hast been favorable unto Thy land: Thou hast brought back the captivity of Jacob.

Thou hast forgiven the iniquity of Thy people; Thou hast covered all their sin.

Thou hast taken away all Thy wrath: Thou hast turned Thyself from the fierceness of Thine anger.

Turn us, O God of our salvation, and cause Thine anger toward us to cease.

Wilt Thou be angry with us for ever?  Wilt Thou draw out Thine anger to all generations?

Wilt Thou not revive us again: that Thy people may rejoice in Thee?

Show us Thy mercy, O Lord, and grant us Thy salvation.

I will hear what God the Lord will speak: for He will speak peace unto His people, and to His saints: but let them not turn again to folly.

Surely His salvation is nigh them that fear Him; that glory may dwell in our land.

Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.

Truth shall spring out of the earth; and righteousness shall look down from heaven.

Yea, the Lord shall give that which is good; and our land shall yield her increase.

Righteousness shall go before Him; and shall set us in the way of His steps.

[Psalm 85:1-13]

Just to read it is to sense how God’s mercy and blessing are connected with that land.  Now, I’ve entitled the sermon this morning The Greatest Need in the Earth.  And it is from this text, verse 8, Psalm 85, “For He will speak peace unto His people.  Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other” [Psalm 85:8, 10].  He will speak peace unto His people.

You know, it is a strange thing how, if you visit with divergent races, and peoples, and cultures, and religions, if they say the same thing about something, it is surprising how it impresses itself upon your heart.  You are a people of a different language, of a different nation, of a different tribe, of a different background, of a different culture.  Always as you define people, in every category, they differ, yet there will be something that they will all say alike.  And this is something that happened as we journeyed through those nations of the Middle East.  And it was this: in every place and in every instance and on every voice, whether it was a peasant or a magnate, whether it was a learned or an unlearned man, always there was voiced the earnest soulful cry, “We need peace.  We must have peace.”

The Jew will say that from one side of the land to the other, from Dan to Beersheba, from the Great Sea to the Jordan; always that constant refrain, “We must have peace.  Our hope lies in peace.  We need peace to reclaim the land.  We need peace to reforest the hills.  We need peace to build our houses.  We need peace to build the nation.  We need peace in order to re-create the life that can sustain and support our families and our people.  We need peace.  We must have peace.”

Then you cross over into these other countries, and that same refrain will be heard.  From the peasant, from the taxi driver, from the young fellow that will serve you at the counter, up to ministers of state, that same reiterated, constantly repeated refrain, “We must have peace.”

Egypt, of all countries, is poor, one of the poorest of all the poor nations of the earth.  Egypt has thirty million people, all of them on the verge of abject, indescribable poverty.  And not only that, but there has been a failure in every drive toward any kind of birth control, and Egypt is faced with the prospect of feeding one million new and added mouths every year.  And there is no place. There is no way.  There is no one to turn to.  And they have fallen into the colossal, indescribable tragedy of pawning their future to Russia.

When Russia says, “We are giving these arms to Egypt,” they are giving these arms to Egypt only in the sense that they are selling them for Egyptian cotton and Egyptian cottonseed oil and whatever else Egypt might be able to produce.  So Egypt, instead of taking what her land is able to produce and building homes and raising their standard of living and manufacturing textiles to cover the nakedness of their people, Egypt is taking the economy of the land and all of the productivity of their nation, and they are turning it into the hands and giving it into the hands of Russia.  It is a tragic and an indescribable, pitiful situation.  So you hear the cry of Egypt, all of the Egyptians, “We need peace.  We must have peace.  God, Allah, grant us peace.”

When you come to a country like Lebanon, Lebanon is a little tiny land.  It has two million people.  There are about as many people in Lebanon as there are around the city of Dallas.  Lebanon is the banking interest and center.  Lebanon is the merchandising center of the great, vast Middle East.  There Saudi Arabia comes to buy.  There all the people of the Middle East come to sell.  They have a free port in Lebanon, in Beirut.  Lebanon is the bankers, the merchandising.  Lebanon is the medium of traders for all of the commerce of the Middle East.  And when the Middle East is torn, when the borders are sealed, when men are preparing for the destruction of one another, business is destroyed, and from the peasant to the magnate in Lebanon, you have that cry for peace, “We must have peace.  We need peace.”

When you visit a little island like Cyprus, and in the capital city such as Nicosia, there is a division through the middle of Nicosia.  On this side are the Greeks, and on this side are the Turks.  Nor can one walk on this side of the city, nor can one walk on the other side of the city, they are prohibited.  And the United Nations army is there to see to it that the Greeks stay on this side of the city, and the Turks stay on the other side of the city.

There is a great demarcation between and they do not pass over.  A taxi driver can carry you to this point, but he can’t go beyond.  And on the other side, a taxi driver can carry you to this point, but he cannot drive his taxi beyond.  And the city is divided and the country is divided, and the United Nations soldiers are there to keep them from warring against one another.  So when you sit down, whether it be with the Turk on this side or the Greek Cypriot on the other side, they will repeat that same refrain, “We need peace.  We must have peace.  Our hope lies in peace.”

As therefore you look at the countries and then beyond the countries, you look at the whole world, you look at Africa, you look at China, you look at Russia, you look at Malaysia, you look at Vietnam, you look at the whole world.  The staggering preparation for war, the billions and billions of dollars that are spent for preparation of bloodshed, is enough to raise the standard of living of every poor nation in the earth.

And any time you read and any time someone says that the United States or Germany or these other Western nations are interested in the manufacture of arms in order to bring affluence and prosperity to the people—I could not imagine the manufacture of a greater lie or a more dastardly prevarication than that.  That is never prosperity, the manufacture of arms, for arms do not raise the standard of living of any people.

When you make a battleship, you are not making refrigerators, or stoves, or houses, or roads, or highways.  When you are making guns to shoot you are not making clothes, or shoes, or building comfortable houses in which people can live.  The same type of philosophy carried to an extremity, that in the manufacture of arms we create prosperity, ultimately drawn to its conclusion would be this: if that’s prosperity, then let’s divide the world in half and let this half make balloons and let the other half stick them, blow them up.  Then we’d all be prosperous.

Such reasoning is inane.  All of the money and all of the effort that goes into the manufacture of armaments is lost!  They are means of destruction and contribute nothing to the standard of the raising of the necessities and the meeting of the necessities of a people, of a nation, or of a world.

Why then this tragic come-to-pass where countries seal their borders and where men manufacture and buy arms?  The answer lies in those deep hatreds that lie in the souls of humankind: bitterness, hatred, had rather starve, had rather see our children starve than to talk or to make peace.  And you see that everywhere.  You see it in the heart of the Arabic world; the hatred of the Arabic world for the Jew is as deep as life itself, and it is fanned, and it is fanned, and it is fanned.

In Egypt I tore out the top of an English paper there, and the headline reads “Israeli Army Fires on Jericho Schoolgirls.”  I was there when that was supposed to have happened.  And such a thing as that is unthinkable!  You would find no Jewish army in the earth firing on schoolgirls.  Yet that is presented as being factual, that and a thousand other things.

When you ask about the economic life of those nations in the Middle East, it is for their good, it is for their welfare that they make peace.  There is water enough, and for all, if they would intelligently share it.  There is fertility and land enough, and for all, if they would share it, not only for the few millions that are there, but for other millions that would come.  There is an abundance of resources in the Middle East to support those people that are there and other millions that would come, but they do not share it because of these deep and bitter hatreds.

Syria is losing billions of dollars every year because of the sealing of their borders.  Egypt is losing hundreds of millions of dollars every year because of their closing the Suez Canal and because of the appointing of their economic future to Russia.  Why do these people suffer poverty and need, disease and distress?  They do it because of an unmitigated and unrelenting hatred.  They’d rather hate the Jew and starve than to talk peace and live.  The whole world is like that.  And it comes down in the eyes of others; it comes down even to us in the United States of America.

I want to describe to you a conversation that I had, that we had, with a very learned Hebrew professor.  And he was talking to us about a problem they have in Israel and a problem that we have in the United States.  And this is what he said: he said, “We will sooner and easier solve the problem of Arab and Jew in Israel than you will solve the problem of Negro and Anglo in the United States of America.”

“Well,” I said, “that is an unusual thing.  What makes you think that?  That’s an astonishing remark to make!”

“Well,” he said, “I’ll tell you why.  You have three alternatives with the Negro in the United States of America, three of them.  One, you can kill all twenty million Negroes in the United States, that’s one.  You can kill them all.  Second,” he said, “you can follow South Africa’s plan of apartheid.  You can build an absolute impenetrable iron wall of separation.  Or third, you can integrate your society.

“Now,” he says about all three of them, “first, you are not going to kill, murder, assassinate, massacre, all of the Negroes in the United States because you have a Christian conscience.  So you are not going to kill them.  Second,” he said, “you are not going to follow the plan of apartheid of South Africa because of the democratic processes in your government and the guarantee of their citizenship by the Constitution.  Third,” he said, “you are not going to integrate because of your social and cultural backgrounds.  So,” he said, “you are facing an insoluble problem in the United States of America, and we will solve our problem of Jew and Arab before you solve the problem of Negro and white in the United States.”

Now I submit to you that man has thinking, and he is looking at the United States from afar and judging us as he had lived here, he said, for five years and had studied it.  So as you face these problems, problems in the United States of America, of riot, and pillage, and violence, murder and bloodshed; as you face it in the Middle East with hatred and with war; and as you face it around the earth; as the entire burden of armament becomes almost inseparable on the part of the nations of the world, as you face the problems of modern national life, internal and external, is there not some other way besides violence and hatred and bloodshed?  Is there not some better way?

I can never forget my conversation with Kimo, who was the first Auca Christian.  The most savage of all of the Stone Age tribes in the Amazon jungle were the fierce Aucas.  When they were seen, whenever they appeared, they were shot down like animals.  But Kimo became a Christian, and through Kimo, one of the finest specimens of manhood you ever saw, a tremendously beautiful, beautifully well built man, when I talked to Kimo this is the story of his conversion.

When Dayumae, a member of that tribe, a woman, had become a Christian and had brought back two Christian missionaries with her and had preached the gospel, upon a day in an adventitious phenomenon of nature, all of them fled away, the Aucas fled away, and they intended to come back and to kill Dayumae the Christian Auca and those two missionaries.  They all fled but Kimo.

And Kimo stayed, and he said, “All of my life I have dipped my hands in human blood.”  He was one of the Auca Indians that had killed those five white missionaries.  He’d helped murder them.  “All of my life,” he said, “I have dipped my hands in human blood, and all of my life have I seen these murderous orgies that have destroyed our people, killing our fathers and our mothers and our families.”  And he said, “All the life of my father was that, and all the life of his father was that.”  And he said, “Surely there is some better way.  And these missionaries have brought to us a gospel and a message, some better way.  And I, for one, am going to listen.  I am going to open my heart.  I am going to open my ears.”

And Kimo listened to the Christian message, and Kimo threw away his javelin and threw away his spear and threw away his blowgun, and gave himself to Jesus Christ.  And when I was there and preached to that little Auca church, he was the elder of the congregation.  There is some better way besides bloodshed, and murder, and hatred, and violence, and war.

In my humble judgment, the most senseless and the most useless of all the wars that were ever fought was the War Between the States in the United States of America.  On the Confederate side we had some of the greatest Christian men who have ever lived: Robert E. Lee and General T.J. “Stonewall” Jackson and a thousand other noble men, Christian men, who were fighting in the Confederate army.  Nor would I deny to the Union forces a like Christian leadership.  Abraham Lincoln was a great and Christian man, and with Abraham Lincoln were other great Christian American citizens.  Yet those men were at one another’s throats—to slay one another, to kill one another, violently to bury one another in each other’s blood.

Why?  Because of hot-headed abolitionists.  Had it not been for those hot-headed extremists, the time would have come when slavery would have withered away in the South.  There would not have been a man in the South who owned a slave, including my grandfather who owned them.  There would not have been a man in the South who owned a slave because of the preaching of the gospel of the Son of God!  It would have withered away.  But instead of hailing the Prince of Peace, instead of looking forward to the blessings benign, benevolent, holy, pure and heavenly of the grace of the Son of God, men chose rather to take dagger, and pistol, and sword, and slay one another.  There is some better way, and that way is found in the hailing of the Prince of Peace [Isaiah 9:6].

I have often wondered, a thousand times have I wondered in that incomparable prophecy in the ninth chapter of the Book of Isaiah and the sixth verse.  I have often wondered at the climax of that glorious tribute to Jesus, the Son of God.  Do you remember the verse?  “For unto us a Son is born.  For unto us a Child is born, and unto us a Son is given … and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace” [Isaiah 9:6].  And as I have thought of the climax of those appellations, those descriptions of the coming King, could you imagine a climax beyond, “He shall be called the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father?”  What could you say beyond that?

But in inspiration and by the coming down, the moving of the Spirit of God, the Lord led the great prophet Isaiah to rise, to rise, to write: “And His name shall be called Wonderful,  and His name shall be called Counselor, and His name shall be called the Mighty God, and his name shall be called the Everlasting Father.”  But the climax of it all, “And His name shall be called the Prince of Peace” [Isaiah 9:6].

And when I think of that, the Prince of Peace, I think of ten thousand widows who have buried their faces in their hands and wept inconsolably over the death of a husband and a father.  I think of a million, million children who are left orphans.  I think of the destruction of the wealth of a people that leaves them poverty stricken, diseased, in famine, in want, in necessity; the Prince of Peace.

Ah, what greater, what more marvelous hope, dream, does mankind have than that somewhere, somehow, someday there shall appear a King, a Ruler, a Prince, who shall speak peace to the peoples of this world?  That is why in the [one hundred twenty-second] Psalm we are admonished:

Pray, pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee.

Peace be within thy walls, and prosperity within thy palaces.

For my brethren and my companions’ sakes, I will say, Peace be within thy walls.

[Psalm 122:6-8]

“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem” [Psalm 122:6].

May I close?  And in how many instances will the prophecies all turn in that holy and heavenly direction?  Zechariah will say:

Behold, look, rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; and shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, lowly, riding upon a beast, and the foal of a beast.

He is meek, He is lowly, and He shall speak peace to the nations: and His dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.

[Zechariah 9: 9-10]

And how many times will the old prophets repeat those beautiful, millennial pictures when they beat swords into plowshares, and spears into pruninghooks; when men do not learn war, and nation lifts up sword against nation no more? [Isaiah 2:4]

And the most beautiful of them all, when the prophet Isaiah says:

And the day will come when the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid . . . and the lion, carnivorous now, shall eat straw like an ox … When they shall neither hurt nor destroy in all God’s holy mountain, when the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.

[Isaiah 11: 6-7, 9]

 

I will hear what God the Lord will speak, for He will speak peace, peace unto His people [Psalm 85:8].

As I prepared this sermon, I said, “O Lord, I wish I had ten hours in it, I’d apply that message to our homes and families.”  How many homes are torn apart with dissension and violent words?  Peace, peace [Psalm 85:8].   When Jesus comes there is rest; a new husband, a new father, a new home.  In how many churches could the message be delivered, churches that are rent by violence and dissension and division.  But when He comes, there is peace and rest, love and tranquility, brotherhood, fellowship.  This is God.  It is God’s purpose for us.  It is God’s will for us that our lives be lived in the love, in the nurture, in the admonition [Ephesians 6:4], in the rest, in the happiness, in the glory, in the gladness, in the peace of the Lord [Psalm 85:8].

Our time has gone.  We must sing our hymn of appeal.  And while we sing it, a family you, a couple you, a one somebody you, give your heart to Jesus.  Come into the fellowship of the church.  As the Lord shall lay the appeal upon your heart, come.  In the throng in this balcony round, down one of these aisles, on the lower floor, down here to the front, “Pastor, I give you my hand.  I give my heart to the Lord.”  Or, “My whole family this morning, we are all coming.  This is my wife and these are our children.  All of us are coming today.”  As God shall lay the appeal on your heart, come, answer with your life.  Make the decision now, and in a moment when you stand up, stand up coming.  Do it.  For Jesus sake, come.  Make it now, while we stand and while we sing.