The Future of the Arab Nations
October 11th, 1970 @ 8:15 AM
THE FUTURE OF THE ARAB NATIONS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
10-11-70 8:15 a.m.
On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Future of the Arab Nations. This is a very difficult message, but it is one that is very clearly presented in the Word of God, and it is one that for the most part is very different from what one would think. We ought to know what God says, for the Lord outlines the future. He is a great God; He is not a God like the god of the idolaters, He is not a God like the god of the philosophers, but our God knows the future just as we could know the past. And God reveals His great sovereign purpose among the peoples and nations of the world. God does that that we might have assurance, and as you will see the development of the sermon, you will see that explicitly and significantly in the purpose of God for us that we might live in hope and assurance. So in the Holy Scriptures, God outlines here His sovereign purpose; not only for the Christian faith and the Christian church, but also for the peoples and nations of the world, and that includes the great Arabic Islamic world.
The reason that I preach on it now is because of the headlines in our daily newspapers and the apprehension that all of us feel. These things concern the remotest household; there is no escaping the turns of fortune of modern life. We live in a little neighborhood, we can be anywhere, almost, we can be anywhere in a few hours. I learned that so dramatically in this recent journey I made around the world: flew from Bangkok over Burma over India over Afghanistan over Pakistan and over most of Persia in just a few hours. It’s unbelievable how the world has been pulled together, made a small whispering gallery, and how all of us are involved in the events that may take place on the other side of the hemisphere.
Now in preaching this sermon, I have to follow the life of Ishmael. Mohammed believed and taught his followers that all of the Arabs were the descendents of Ishmael; and that is confirmed in the Scriptures. The Scriptures look upon all of the tribes of Arabia as being the descendents of Ishmael. When the pilgrimage is made to Mecca it is closed by a feast of Ishmael; for Mohammed taught his followers, and the Muslim world believes, that Ishmael was offered on Mt. Moriah by Abraham and not Isaac. So the great son from whom the Arabs descended is Ishmael, whom they believe was offered up on Mt. Moriah, and not Isaac.
Now, we begin with the story of Ishmael. It was wrong then, it is wrong today; wrong today and wrong then what Sarah, the wife of Abraham, did. She was barren; and not believing the promise of God to her, in despair, thinking that she could no longer bear a child, in despair, she took her maid, Hagar, an Egyptian bondwoman, she took her maid and laid her in the bosom of her husband [Genesis 16:1-3]. And out of that union, wrong then, wrong today, wrong today, wrong then, out of that union there was a child born. And when the child was born, Hagar the bondwoman and bondservant, the concubine, the mistress, now, when the child was born, Hagar looked upon Sarah who was barren and sterile, with contempt, and when that happened, Sarah had a violent reaction against it. So she dealt so miserably and badly with Hagar that Hagar fled away from the presence of her mistress Sarah [Genesis 16:4-6]. And the Angel of the Lord saw her by a fountain of water in the wilderness of Shur [Genesis 16:7], and the Angel said to her, "This child, this child, you shall call his name Ishmael," which means "God hears":
This child you shall call Ishmael – God hears – and I will multiply his seed exceedingly, and it shall not be numbered for multitudes. He will be a wild man, a desert man; his hand will be against every man, and every man’s hand against him.
So Hagar bore this child by Abraham, and named his name, "God hears," Ishmael [Genesis 16:15]. Now, a thing that we forget, a thing that I never hear anybody refer to: in the next chapter, which is the seventeenth chapter of Genesis, in the next chapter, God makes a covenant with Abraham and seals it by the rite of circumcision. And God said unto Abraham:
Thou shalt keep My covenant therefore, thou and thy seed after thee, in their generations.
This is My covenant, which ye shall keep, between Me and you and thy seed after thee: Every child among you shall be circumcised.
Ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt Me and you.
Now God in this same chapter repeats His promise that by Sarah he shall have a child of his own loins, of his own life [Genesis 17:15-16]; and Abraham, verse 18, says, "O God, that Ishmael might live before Thee!" [Genesis 17:18]. Abraham so came to love that child that when God said, "You are going to have a son by Sarah [Genesis 17:19], and he will be the one through whom I intend this great blessing to all the families of the earth," that is, the coming of the Messiah. Abraham said, "O God, I wish it could be Ishmael; let it be Ishmael, choose Ishmael." And the Lord refused. But He said to Abraham:
As for Ishmael, I have heard thee: Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve princes shall he beget –
twelve princes, twelve sons who shall be the progenitors –
the patriarchs of twelve nations, and I will make him a great nation.
So Abraham took Ishmael his son, and all that were in his house, and circumcised the flesh of their foreskin, in the selfsame day as God had said unto him" [Genesis 17:23]. "Abraham was ninety years old and nine, he was ninety-nine years old when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin. And Ishmael his son was thirteen years old when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin. In the same day was Abraham circumcised, and Ishmael his son" [Genesis 17:24-26]. Now Ishmael belongs to that covenant, and the descendents of Ishmael and that rite of circumcision is faithfully performed among the Arab world just as it is in the Jewish world. Ishmael is a seed and a son of Abraham; and God said, "As for Ishmael, I have heard thee concerning that son; and I will bless him exceedingly" [Genesis 17:20].
Now we turn the page to the twenty-first chapter of the Book of Genesis. So the Lord visited Sarah, and in God’s time, when Abraham was a hundred years old, and when Sarah was ninety years old, God performed that wonderful miracle and Sarah bare a son. And because they laughed at the prospect, they called his name "Laughter," Isaac. And Abraham circumcised his son Isaac, in the covenant, being eight days old, as God had commanded him [Genesis 21:1-5]. And the child grew, and was weaned: and Abraham made a great feast the same day that Isaac was weaned [Genesis 21:8]; that was the custom of the time:
And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, which she had born unto Abraham, mocking, jeering.
And again, Sarah was furious; so she said to Abraham,
You are to cast out this bondwoman and her son; for she is not going to stay in the same household with me and my son Isaac.
And the thing was grievous in Abraham’s sight.
Abraham had a deep and everlasting affection for Ishmael [Genesis 17:18], who also is a son of the covenant, who was circumcised [Genesis 17:25] as Abraham was, as the household of Abraham, and as Isaac was. So, Abraham, not knowing where to turn or what to do – do you men ever come to an impasse like that in your household when your wife makes up her mind about something, and it is grievous to you? What do you do? I know exactly what you do if you stay married; you do exactly as Abraham did [Genesis 16:6]. Abraham said, "Well, you do as you like here at this house; you run it." I don’t think I ever heard anything truer than that story about the old codger that had been married for about seventy or eighty years. And they asked him the secret of the happiness of his home. "Why," he said, "it’s very plain: when we married, we agreed that I would handle all of the big problems, and my wife would take care of all of the little problems." So he said, "We’ve been getting along like that for these seventy, eighty years; I handle all of the big problems. I face up to the question of the United Nations, and the Vietnam War, and the Middle East crisis, and the budget, and the national debt; I handle all of the big problems. And my wife handles all of the little ones: what we’re going to do with my salary, how the children are going to be reared, where we’re going to live, everything in the household; and we get along fine." There’s a moral in that. You men listen, that’ll really work.
Well, it did here in the life of Abraham. The thing was grievous in his sight because of the lad; he loved Ishmael [Genesis 21:11]. But God said, "Now you listen to Sarah, it’s the only way to have peace in the home." And he says again to Abraham, "Of the seed, the son of the bondwoman, will I make a nation, because he is thy seed" [Genesis 21:12-13], he’s a son of that covenant of circumcision. So Hagar was sent away with her son Ishmael. And out in the desert wandering, she thought to die; there was no water. So she put the lad away from her and withdrew for several hundred yards, saying, "That I might not see him die." And over there in the desert she lifted up her voice and wept [Genesis 21:14-16]. And God heard the voice of the lad, as he was crying also; and the second time the angel of God visits her and calls to her, and says to her, "Arise, lift up the lad and hold him in thine hand; for I will make him a great nation" [Genesis 21:17-18]. And God was with the lad, and he grew and dwelt in the wilderness. He dwelt in the wilderness of Paran, and his mother took him a wife out of the land of Egypt [Genesis 21:20-21].
Now I turn the pages again to the twenty-fifth chapter of the Book of Genesis. "Now these are the days of the years Abraham’s life: he lived an hundred three score and fifteen years." He lived a hundred seventy-five years. "Then Abraham gave up the ghost, and died in a good old age, an old man, full of years; and was gathered to his people. And his sons Isaac and Ishmael" – now see, we never think about Ishmael, we never remember that; "his sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah in the field of Ephron, the Hittite which is before Mamre, the field which Abraham purchased of the sons of Heth; there was Abraham buried, and Sarah his wife" [Genesis 25:7-10]. And you can go visit their tombs, as many of us have, to this day.
Then in this chapter, the first thing is not the generations of Isaac; but the first thing, the generations of Ishmael: "Now these are the generations of Ishmael," and they continue. And it says that twelve princes born to Ishmael, according to their nations; then it says, "These are the years of the life of Ishmael, an hundred and thirty and seven years," he lived to be a hundred thirty-seven years old; "and he gave up the ghost and died, and was gathered unto his people" [Genesis 25:12-17]. Same thing as Abraham; Abraham, when he died, was gathered unto his people [Genesis 25:8]; Ishmael was gathered unto his people. And they dwelt from Egypt clear across to Assyria; and he died in the presence of his brethren. So those two great families began to multiply according to the promise of God, and to replenish that part of the earth; the seed of Isaac, as they multiplied, and the seed of Ishmael, as they multiplied, both of them children of the covenant of circumcision.
Now we, just in the few moments that we have, we just scan the centuries. For the centuries and the centuries and the centuries, for the most part, those Semitic cousins lived in perfect peace. The years and the years and the years, the centuries and the centuries and the centuries, the sons of Ishmael and the sons of Isaac, cousins, both Semites, both Semitic, they lived in perfect peace. You could illustrate that world without end. We haven’t time to enter into the turn of the faith of the children of Ishmael to the Mohammedan religion. No small part of that was due to the idolatry of the Christian churches; the churches were filled with idols. And they were taught that there were three in the Trinity: a Father God, a Son God, and a Mother God, Mary. Oh, I haven’t time to enter into that. There are lots of reasons for the rise of Islam, Mohammedanism; and the biggest reason was, I think, because of the idolatry and the awful corruption of the Christian churches. Anyway, Mohammedanism arose as a violent reaction to the corruption and the idolatry of the Christian churches, and to the heretical teaching of its monks. But that’s beside the point today; just referring to the fact that the Arabic world, the world of the children of Ishmael, became Muslim.
Now in that Islamic world, the children of Ishmael and the children of Isaac lived, for the most part, in perfect peace; they did through the centuries. While Europe was placing the Jews, the children of Isaac, in ghettos, and looked upon them with scorn and disdain, and persecuted them because they were the crucifiers of Christ, while the Christian European culture was putting the Jew in ghettos, the Islamic world received the Jew as an equal. They had the title of bey, b-e-y, bey, they had the title of pasha, which in the Islamic world, in the Ottoman Empire, were great honored titles. Moses Maimonides, Moses ben Maimon, the greatest Jew of the centuries who lived in the twelfth century, Maimonides was not only a court physician to Saladin, the great leader of a united Islamic world, but he was also the rabbi of the great synagogue in Egypt, in Cairo. And the Jew in the Islamic world, while the Europeans under the iron fist of the church – so called – while Europe was struggling through the Dark Ages, the Islamic world was advancing in mathematics and in science and in philosophy. And in that Islamic world, the Jew had a recognized and significant part: they were government officials, they were doctors, they were lawyers, they were leaders of the people, and recognized and accepted as such. Why, within recent years, the minister of finance to King Fouad in Egypt was a Jew, Cattaui Pasha.
Now, where then has come the awesome conflict and confrontation that we see now in the Middle East? Where did that come from? Because of ancient animosities? No. There are troubles between any people. No matter where, you’ll find some troubles. But there are no more ancient troubles between the children of Ishmael and the children of Isaac then there is between the different lineages and genealogies of other nations of the world. Well, where then comes this awesome confrontation over there in the Middle East? It comes from the suppression, and the repression, and the persecution of both of those families by the other nations of the world; and the fruit of that persecution and repression is seen in the problem we face now in the Middle East. Well, what do you mean? It is very plain, it is very simply stated: the problem in the Middle East is a problem of refugees, it is that almost altogether.
First the Jew: had the world received the Jew as the Islamic world did, you would have no problem. The Jew in America largely is not interested in going to Palestine. Where did this Zionist movement come from? It came from the awesome persecution of the culture of Europe against the children of Isaac and Israel. Hitler alone killed six million Jews; and out of the small, relatively small number of Jews, that was an awesome percentage. And what happened in Europe – I’m talking about the Jew in Russia and the Jew in Poland and the Jew in Germany, as well in other times. There was a time when England put all the Jews out of the nation, cast them all out, and for centuries there was not a Jew in England, not one. All of those years, all of those years, which finally culminated in the devastating persecution of the Jew under Hitler, what was born in the heart of the Jew was, "Anywhere to escape, to get out, it’s our very life to move; we have to do something."
Did America open her gates to the flood of Jews who wanted to escape out of Russia, clear on through Germany? No, we did not, we did not, nor did any other nation. So there was born in the heart of men like Herzl, what we call as the Zionist movement; which was, a national homeland for the Jew, where the Jewish refugee could go; anywhere for him to turn, anywhere for him to live. The problem of the refugees of the sons of Isaac created the pressure that finally gave birth to the immigration of the Jew to Palestine, and finally the creation of the Palestinian Jewish state.
All right, the other side. The other side is just the same; it is a problem of the refugee. When the Ottoman Empire broke up, as Great Britain – however the Balfour Declaration is nothing other than a little letter, a one page letter that Lord Balfour wrote to Lord Rothschild saying that the British government looked with favor upon the creation of a national home for Israel in Palestine – that’s all that Balfour Declaration is. But the same government, the same British government, with France and the Allies, promised the Arab world that if we are successful in our war against Germany and Turkey and Austria, the triumvirate, "We will grant to the Arabic world their national aspirations." So when the Ottoman Empire broke up, all of those people that live over there in that Islamic world looked forward to their national independence. The Egyptians looked forward to theirs, the Persians looked forward to theirs, the Iraqis looked forward to theirs, the Syrians to theirs, the Lebanese to theirs, the Palestinians to theirs; all of them looked forward to their own independence. And as you know, they were put under a mandate by the League of Nations, and so much was the trouble that the French and the English gradually withdrew from those mandates, and these nationalistic aspirations began to be realized. And there we ran into that refugee problem again. There are more than a million refugees out of Palestine who have been displaced by the home going of the children of Israel. And they remain there, unabsorbed; you can go look at them, I’ve seen them time and again, so many of them in temporary camps. And when I first saw them in 1950, I said in my heart then, "If there is not a solution for this Arab refugee problem, it’s going to breed one of the most awesome, horrible, unbelievable confrontations that this world’s ever seen." I felt that when I looked at it twenty years ago.
So you have both of them there: the Jewish refugee, trying to find a place to turn and to live, and you have the Arab refugee, who was already there for about nineteen hundred years and who has been pushed out of his place to live. And that is the confrontation that you have today. This is just a little simplicity; there are ten thousand other ramifications in the problem. But they are there, the children of Ishmael, and the children of Isaac, who for the centuries lived together in peace; but the problem has been created by the awesome pressure and the awesome persecution by the nations of the world. The problem actually is the fault of the nations who have persecuted those people.
Now, we must close this message. Now, what is the future? It looks so hopeless. No, no, for I had you read this morning from one of the most amazing prophecies in the Word of God, an astonishing prophecy; it’s in the nineteenth chapter of the Book of Isaiah. "In that day," after he describes God’s visitation to Egypt:
Egypt is going to call upon the name of the Lord, and there will be an altar to the Lord in the midst of the land of Egypt. It shall be for a sign and for a witness unto the Lord of hosts in the land of Egypt, and they shall cry unto the Lord; and the Lord shall send them a Savior, and He shall deliver them.
All of this is in the nineteenth chapter of the Book of Isaiah.
Now listen how it closes, "In that day shall there be a highway out of Egypt to Assyria," that’s over there in Iraq, there’ll be highway out of Egypt to Iraq, and the Iraqi shall come unto Egypt, and the Egyptian into Iraq, and all the nations in between that whole Muslim world:
And the Egyptians shall serve with the Assyrians. And in that day shall Israel be the third with Egypt and with Assyria, even a blessing in the midst of the land; whom the Lord of hosts shall bless, saying, Blessed be Egypt My people, and Assyria the work of My hands, and Israel Mine inheritance.
There is coming a time, says the Lord God, when that whole world over there will be at peace with one another; and their highways will be clogged with merchandising traffic as they visit one another, and as they all love and worship and serve the Lord God.
I haven’t time to say how I think that’s coming to pass; I think God is going to intervene in world history. I believe Jesus is coming again. And I don’t think there’s any peace without the Prince of Peace; but I believe He is coming, and I believe there shall be a kingdom, according to Daniel, which will be established forever in righteousness and in justice [Daniel 12:3]. And I think the Egyptian, according to the Word of God I believe it, the Egyptian and the Assyrian, the Assyrian, the Iraqi, I think the whole world over there is coming into a great millennial age; God says so, and I believe it. And these tragic holocausts and confrontations and awesome things that enter into the bitterness of gorilla warfare, all of these things somehow in God’s permissive will are struggling toward and reaching toward a great wonderful millennial visitation of God from heaven.
Now I want to close the message. For any Bible-believing, God-honoring soul, there is always hope, and we are never to live in despair, never. If you are a child of God, and if you believe this Word, always we are to live on the upside, the "hope" side, the believing side of life. When Abraham was told, "Your seed, Isaac’s seed, will serve as bondmen and slaves in Egypt for four hundred years" [Genesis 15:13]; God never left it that way. He said, "But I will visit them when the iniquity of the Amorite is filled; I will visit them, I will visit them" [Genesis 15:16]. When Abraham offered up Isaac on the altar, and he that had the promises was to be slain [Genesis 22:2-10], Abraham believed that God would raise him up from the dead [Hebrews 11:17-19]; always that hope. When Joseph died, he said to his brethren, "God will surely visit you. Lift up your hand to heaven and swear to me that you will take my bones back to the Promised Land. God will surely visit you" [Genesis 50:24-25]. That’s what it is to believe in the Lord and His precious Word. When David was told, "And the sword shall never leave thy house" [2 Samuel 12:10], God also said to him, "But you shall have a son who will sit upon thy throne forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end" [1 Chronicles 17:11-14]. When Uzziah died, which to Isaiah, a young man then, was the greatest blow he could think for his people in Judah, the next verse says, "And I saw the Lord, high and lifted up" [Isaiah 6:1]. When weak Ahaz refused to trust in God, Isaiah said, "The Lord Himself shall give a sign: a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and they will call the name of that new King, Immanuel" [Isaiah 7:14]. When Daniel depicted the awesome confrontations of the nations of the world, he saw a stone cut from the mountain without hands, and it filled the earth, and he said "it is the kingdom of the coming One that shall endure forever" [Daniel 2:41-45]. When Malachi castigated the people because of their sins, he said, "And The Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings" [Malachi 4:2]. When Jesus told His disciples, "The Son of Man must be crucified," He also said, "But the third day He shall rise from the dead" [Luke 18:33]. When the Lord went away to heaven and the discouraged, despondent disciples knew not where to turn, the Lord said, "I will come again" [John 14:3].
When the apostle Paul took to the Lord the thorn in the flesh, God said, "My grace shall be sufficient for thee" [2 Corinthians 12:9]. And when the apostle laid his head on the chopping block to die as a Roman citizen by beheading and not by crucifixion, he said, "There is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day" [2 Timothy 4:8]. And when the apostle John was on Patmos to die of exposure and starvation, he turned, and there stood the Son of God [Revelation 1:12-13]. And when God gave him that awesome revelation of tribulation depicted there in Revelation, [chapters] 4 through 19, the most awesome plagues that mind could imagine; in the nineteenth chapter of the Revelation he says, "And I saw heaven opened," in the midst of those awesome tribulations, in the midst of the battle of Armageddon:
I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and He that sat upon him was [called] Faithful and True.
His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns;
And He was dressed in a vesture dipped in His blood: and His name is called The Word of God.
And then goes on to describe Him as "the King of all Kings, and the Lord of all the Lords" [Revelation 19:16]. Then he closed it, "And I saw a new heaven and a new earth" [Revelation 21:1]. This is the child of God; this is the believer of the Book: God having prepared some better thing for us [Hebrews 11:40], for we believe and know that all things God works together for good, "in all things God works for good, to them who love the Lord, and who are the called according to His purpose" [Romans 8:28]. And however dark the horizon may be for the nations of the world, God rules and reigns. And however my own life may fall into disrepair and hurt and illness, age and death, we believe God has prepared for us what eye has never seen, and ear has never heard, and even our hearts cannot imagine: the good things the Lord has in waiting for those who trust in Him [1 Corinthians 2:9].
Look up, my brother, look up. Lift up your spirits, my brother, lift them up; God is and God reigns. As the Lord said, "Be of good cheer, little children,it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom" [Luke 12:32].
Our time is far spent. In a moment we shall stand and sing our hymn of appeal, and while we stand and sing it, a family you, a couple you, a one somebody you, to give your heart to Jesus, would you come and stand by me? "Today, pastor, I want to take the Lord into my heart and life, and I’m coming. I believe in God, that He rules and reigns; and I believe, even the problems and trials that I wrestle with in my own soul, God will bring to some blessed thing if I’ll just trust Him for it." As the Spirit shall press the appeal to your heart, make it this morning, "Here I come, and here I am." Do it now, make the decision now, and when we stand up, stand up coming. Do it, while all of us stand and sing.
PEACE BETWEEN ARAB AND JEW
Dr. W. A. Criswell
I. The people of the prophecy
II. Prophecy concerns the enemies of Israel
A. In ancient days
B. In modern days
III. The present struggle
A. Through recent centuries, they shared cultural traits
B. Problem of the refugee
1. Jews escaping Europe
2. Palestinian Arab
IV. The millennial promise
A. Amazing prophecy (Isaiah 19:18-25)
B. God does not forget His covenant (Genesis 17:20)
C. Millennial kingdom
1. Jew saved (Romans 11:26, Zechariah 12:10, 13:1)
2. Arab saved (Isaiah 19:20)