The Future of the Arab Nations
October 11th, 1970 @ 10:50 AM
FUTURE OF THE ARAB NATION
Dr. W. A. Criswell
10-11-70 10:50 a.m.
On the radio and on television 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 Nation. The message is prepared from God’s Word and is something that all of us who believe in the Book ought to know, ought to consider, ought to remember, and particularly and especially as we read the headlines in our daily newspapers, and as sometimes our hearts are filled with dread and foreboding concerning the future into which all of us are drawn in the Middle East.
There was a time when the Far East was far away; when the Levant was on the other side of the world. There was a time when across the sea, seemingly, the people were separated by almost impassable barriers; but that day has passed. The world is literally a whispering gallery. It is small, and whatever happens on the other side of the hemisphere, beyond the continents, affects our daily life and the circle of our families.
How much more so is that true when we see God’s Word brought to pass in the gathering of the nations in Palestine? How swiftly can we ourselves move from place to place – beside the infinitesimal time for a news story to come out of the fartherest outreaches and be read there before our very eyes.
Just a few weeks ago, we flew from Bangkok over Burma, over Pakistan, over India, Afghanistan, and most of Iran, most of Persia in a few hours. The whole world is just like this, like in the palm of your hand. Consequently, these things that we read in the papers bring to us sometimes dread. But that’s why we need the Word of the Lord. None of these developments are a surprise to Him. He sees the end from the beginning.
And we are taught in these Holy Scriptures that the Lord is sovereign over all creation, over all history, and in that sovereign will, we all have a part. These things are revealed to us on the pages of the Holy Book that we might have hope – that we might not fall into despair. God lives and God works; God directs and God moves. And He reveals what He is doing through His holy apostles and prophets. And to us who will read them and believe them, they bring to us immeasurable courage and hope.
So that is the background of the choice of the message this morning: The Future of the Arab Nation. In order to present the message – and I feel the limitation of time and my own understanding more than most any other message I’ve ever prepared, but particularly do I feel the circumscription of time – there are a thousand of facets to this study this morning that I haven’t time even to refer to, much less to discuss. But the broad outline we have time to present, and we shall do it from these holy pages.
I must begin with Ishmael. Why Ishmael? Because Mohammed believed and he taught all of his Arabian followers, and it is confirmed by the Scriptures, that the Arabs are descendants of Ishmael. As the Jews are descendants of Isaac, so the Arabs are the descendants of Ishmael – of the seed of Abraham.
When a Muslim goes to Mecca, and after he has completed his pilgrimage there, he shares in a feast of Ishmael – for the Muslim is taught and believes that it was Ishmael that was offered by Abraham on Mount Moriah and not Isaac. Ishmael is the seed from which all of the fruit and flower of the Islamic-Arabic world has descended.
So to begin with, we must start with Ishmael. In the sixteenth chapter of the Book of Genesis, Sarah did something that was wrong then as it would be wrong today. There is no such thing as something being right then and wrong now. Right is right eternally, and wrong is wrong forever! There may be degrees of understanding and growth and sensitivity, but rightness is in the character of God. God doesn’t change! So what Sarah, the wife of Abraham, did was wrong, but she did it nonetheless.
Sarah, as she grew older, had no child, and it became increasingly apparent to her that she was sterile; she was barren. And not believing the promise of God, staggering at the promise of God that she should have a child, even beyond her time, Sarah did something wrong. She had a bondmaiden – she had a slave out of Egypt who waited on her. And the slave, the Egyptian woman, was named Hagar. So, when Sarah doubted that in her old age that she would ever have a child, she took Hagar and laid her in the bosom of Abraham, and Hagar conceived. And when she saw that she was with child, she despised her mistress Sarah, for she was going to have a child and Sarah couldn’t. And Sarah reacted furiously. And from the wrath of Sarah, Hagar, this Egyptian bondmaid, fled away.
Now, as she wandered in the wilderness, the Angel of the Lord came to her and said to her, "Hagar, thou art with child, and shall bare a son, and thou shalt call his name Ishmael," God hears – Ishmael [Genesis 16:11]. "And I will multiply thy seed exceedingly, that it shall not be numbered for a multitude" [Genesis 16:10]. "He shall be a wild man," living out in the open and in the deserts; "his hand will be against every man, and every man’s hand against him" [Genesis 16:12]
So Ishmael was born the seed of Abraham in Abraham’s house, in Abraham’s household. Now, in the seventeenth chapter of the Book of Genesis:
God said unto Abraham, Thou shalt keep My covenant therefore, thou, and thy seed after thee and their generations.
This is My covenant, which ye shall keep, between Me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised.
And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant between Me and you.
So, in that same chapter that God gave to Abraham the covenant of circumcision, the announcement is re-made that Sarah will have a child, and that in that child, the great blessings to the world and the Messiah shall be born, shall come.
Then Abraham said, "O God, that Ishmael might live before Thee!" That’s an astonishing thing! When God says Sarah is to have a child, and the blessing with come through that child, the Messianic promise will be kept through the seed of Isaac, this promised child, Abraham prays, "O God, that it might be Ishmael!" [Genesis 17:18] Abraham so loved that child that he prayed God that the promise might come through Ishmael, but the Lord says, "No!"
The promise is to be kept through Isaac and the seed of Isaac,
But as far 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 sons shall he have), and I will make him a great nation. (Then it continues.)
So Abraham took Ishmael his son, and all that were in Abraham’s house, and circumcised the flesh of their foreskin in the selfsame day, as God had said unto him.
Abraham 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 selfsame day was Abraham circumcised, and Ishmael his son.
The covenant of circumcision includes Ishmael and his seed and his descendants. There are two sons; and both of them are in that covenant of circumcision: Ishmael and the twelve sons of Ishmael (the twelve patriarchs, the twelve nations of Ishmael, the Arabic nations) and Isaac, with Israel his son and those twelve sons of Israel (the twelve patriarchs) – they all are in that covenant of circumcision.
Now, I turn to the twenty-first chapter of the Book of Genesis. This is the story of the birth of Isaac, "Laugher"; such joy unbelievable, unimaginable, and indescribable to Sarah and to Abraham. So Isaac is born. And Abraham circumcised his son, Isaac, being eight days old as God had commanded him. First Ishmael; then Isaac – both of them.
Now, in the story in this chapter, Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, which she had born unto Abraham, mocking – the boy then was a teenager, and [she] saw Ishmael, the son of Hagar the Egyptian, the bond-mother, [she] saw that son mocking little baby Isaac. And here again, Sarah reacted furiously, and she said to Abraham, "You cast out this bondwoman and her son: for this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son, even with Isaac" [Genesis 21:10]. Now, the thing was very grievous in Abraham’s sight because of his son, Ishmael. Abraham loved Ishmael, and when Sarah demanded that that boy and his mother be cast out, it was grievous in Abraham’s sight. He didn’t know where to turn. He didn’t know what to do. The thing was a burden and a breaking of his heart. But God said to Abraham: "You do as Sarah has demanded." And He repeats: "Of the son of a bondwoman will I make a nation, because he is thy seed. And he also is in that covenant of circumcision."
So, the bondwoman and her son Ishmael are cast out. And Hagar with that teenage boy wanders in the wilderness, in the desert, until they face death by thirst. And not being able to look upon her son as he dies, Hagar places him to one side and withdraws and is seated by herself in the desert and lifts up her voice and weeps. And while she is weeping, facing death, the second time the angel of the Lord comes to her:
And the angel of God called to Hagar out of heaven, and says to her,
Arise, lift up the lad, and hold him in thine hand; for I will make him a great nation (How oft does God repeat it), and God gave them water to drink.
And God was with the lad; and he grew, and dwelt in the wilderness,
Now I turn the page again. In the twenty-fifth chapter of the Book of Genesis:
These are the days of the years of Abraham which he lived, a hundred and threescore and fifteen years (a hundred and seventy-five years).
Then Abraham gave up the ghost, and died at a good old age, an old man, full of years; and was gathered to his people.
And his sons (plural) – and his sons, Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah, in the field of Ephron, the Hittite, which is before Mamre (there at Hebron), the field which Abraham purchased of the sons of Heth. There was Abraham buried, and Sarah his wife.
Many of us have been there several times and have visited that tomb. Then follows immediately, not the generations of Isaac, but the generations of Ishmael:
Now these are the generations of Ishmael, Abraham’s son, whom Hagar the Egyptian, Sarah’s handmaid, bare unto him.
Twelve princes – he had twelve boys and one girl. And the one girl was married to Esau. Esau took her to wife. Isn’t that an unusual thing? Twelve boys and one girl were born to Ishmael. Twelve boys, and one girl, Dinah, were born to Israel.
,Twelve princes according to their nations.
And these are the years of the life of Ishmael, an hundred and thirty and seven (He lived to a hundred thirty-seven years): and he gave up the spirit and died, and was gathered unto his people (just as it says of Abraham: ‘and he was gathered unto his people.’)
And they dwelt (there in the wilderness). And Ishmael died in the presence of all his brethren.
When you look back at the beginning, you find those two boys: Ishmael, the elder, the son of Hagar, the seed of Abraham, a child of the covenant of circumcision; and the other son, Isaac, born of Sarah, a child of promise through whom God said He would bless the world, the Messianic hope. And those two lines, those two genealogies multiplied according to the sovereign purpose of God. And Ishmael multiplied; the father of the Arabian. And Isaac’s seed multiplied; the father of the Hebrew, the Jew.
And for the centuries and for the centuries and for the centuries, they lived in peace. There are exceptions, of course, as there are exceptions in every history. You look at the history of America and see how much of it is clouded by war and conflict. Look at our own nation today. There are people in the nation of America today that I do not want to own as fellow Americans. I don’t want to do it! I would not do it unless I were coerced and forced to do it! There are people in America I don’t want to be named with. To me, they are unpatriotic. They are blasphemous. They are dirty. They are filthy. They are filthy in their minds. They are filthy in their lives. They are filthy in their hearts. They are depraved. They are anti-God, anti-church, anti-Christ and everything decent and fine! Yet they are Americans, and I have to regard them as such.
I am just pointing out to you that it doesn’t mean, when I say that they lived together in peace through the centuries and the centuries, that there were not confrontations and conflicts. But I am saying to you that, in the great stream of those Semitic cousins, the children of Ishmael and the children of Isaac, that they lived in peace.
And not only that, but in the days when the European so-call Christians were forcing the Jews into ghettos and spurned them as the haters and crucifiers of Christ – we crucified the Lord, our sins did it, and one of the most tragic of all of the turns of civilized culture has been the attitude of the European Christians, the so-called church, to persecute the Jew, when all of us had a part in it: we pressed on His brow the crown of thorns, and we drove the nails through His hands and feet; our sins did it!
But while the church, so-called, in Europe was persecuting the Jew and putting him in ghettos, at that time and in those centuries, the Islamic world welcomed the Jew in their midst: he was governmental official; he was a physician; he was scientist; he was scholar; he was teacher; he was rabbi; he was accepted as a peer in the Arabian world.
Why, take Maimonides for example, Moses Ben Maimon, the greatest Jew of the medieval ages. He was a rabbi in Cairo. He was the great codifier of the Talmud. He was a scholar beyond most any you could be acquainted with. But he also was the physician, the court physician to Saladin, the great leader of a unified Muslim world. They got along. Why, did you know within the last half a century, the minister of finance in Egypt to King Fouad was Cattaui Pasha, a Jew? And throughout the Arabic world, there were Jews who were given the title of Bey and Pasha, significant titles of honor in the Arabic world, and they lived together in honor and in mutual respect.
Whence then this awesome confrontation that we see today with the Jew on one side and the Arab on the other side? And a bitterness that goes as deep as life, as high as heaven, and seemingly as long as time shall last; where did that come from? Who gave birth to that? Is it because of ancient animosities? Now, I repeat, I’m not saying that there have not been conflicts in the days past, just as I am saying there is not unanimity even in America. But in days past, those animosities were nothing compared to what we see now. Nothing! They lived together in peace and in mutual respect. Then where did this awesome bitterness come from? And what is the fountain that feeds it? Here again, I am over-simplifying matters. But I can point out the great stream of truth. That awesome bitterness between the Jew and the Arab arises out of the suppression and the persecution and the repression of the nations of the world. We have done it! It is a child of our siring and bearing!
The story of modern Israel and of the modern Arab is a story of the refugee. First, the Jew: wherever the Jew has gone, he has been most happy to be assimilated not in religion, but in culture, in the life of the nation where he’s lived. Walk up and down the streets of Dallas; a Jew in Dallas will be a fellow citizen of our queenly city. For the most part, I cannot look at them and tell them any different from the rest of us. They are a part of us. They are patriotic Americans. They love our nation. They love us. They’re our friends and we love them. So the Jew in Argentina, so the Jew in Japan as I met them over there, talking Japanese, living the cultural life of the Japanese: like the Gulf Stream, distinct and apart, but a part of the culture of the nation, and no trouble, as they are no trouble in America. They are our fellow citizens. They help us build.
But in Europe, in Europe, there was a desire on the part of politicians, and rulers, and governors, and kings, and princes to take the Jew and to squeeze him and to bleed him; take away his property, take away his life, and confiscate what he has, and a thousand other things, vile and evil, did they do to him. England one time dismissed all the Jews. For centuries, there was not a Jew in England; they had all been driven out by the king. I haven’t time to go through it.
And finally, it culminated in my lifetime. Hitler and Nazi Germany slew, burned, stabbed to death, starved to death, put in gas chambers, six million Jews. And out of the persecution of Russia and out of the persecution of Poland and out of the persecutions of Germany and the rest of the so-called "Christian" nations of Europe, which are not Christian – there are Christians in them; there are no Christian nations, there never has been! – out of that horrible persecution, there was born in the soul of the Jew what we call "Zionism," that is, a hope and a desire and a longing to have somewhere to flee to, somewhere to go, somewhere to live. In the days of the awesome persecution of Hitler, for example, did America open her doors and say: "You can come over here?" No, we didn’t! And out of desperation, out of those years of horrible persecution, Zionism was born in the heart of the Jew.
I think of God, of the sovereign purposes of God. [The Jew] turned his face to his homeland, just as God said he would. He began to look toward the land of his forefathers, and as the days passed, and the Jew was increasingly persecuted in Russia and in Poland and in Germany especially, they began to ask to immigrate to Palestine. So the Jew – a refugee from where he had been, and his fathers had been, and his forefathers had been in all of those nations for hundreds of years – the Jew, in order to find hope to live, turned his face to Palestine. That’s what you call Zionism: to build a state, an Israeli state, in the homeland of his fathers.
The Balfour Declaration is nothing except just a letter, a one-page letter that Lord Balfour wrote to Lord Rothschild, a Jew, saying that his majesty’s government looks with favor upon a national home of the Jew in Palestine. So the Jewish refugee, seeking a place to live, turned his face to the home of his father, to Palestine.
Now, the same kind of a thing, though a little different turn, happened to the Arab world. For centuries and for centuries, the Arab world was under the iron fist of a dictatorship, the last of which was the Ottoman Turks, the Ottoman Empire. And when that terrible war – and I can remember it – World War I was fought between Germany and Austria and Turkey on one side, and the Allies on the other side, the French and the English secretly promised the Arab people that if they were victorious against Turkey and the Ottoman Empire was broken up, that the Arab could look forward to being free; their nationalistic aspirations could be realized.
We won the war. France, England and America and our Allies, Italy and others, won the war. The United League of Nations, as you know, mandated to France and England those Arab countries, but as time went on, the French and English gave up those mandates, and the Arabs organized, realized their own national aspirations: Iran, free; Iraq, old Assyria, free; Syria, free; Egypt, a Muslim nation, not Arabs, free; Lebanon, free. Most of this has happened in your lifetime and in recent years – free! But as the Arab looked forward to his national aspirations – the seed of Ishmael, children of the covenant of circumcision – as the seed of Ishmael looked forward to their freedom, as the seed of Isaac looked forward to their freedom, they found on their hands these innumerable refugees, millions of them, millions of them; the Jewish refugees seeking a home in the land of their fathers, and the Arab refugees, more than a million of them, in and around Palestine.
When I was over there more than twenty years ago, soon after that creation of the Israeli state, when I looked at those refugees, I said in my heart: "More than a million of them – unless there is some solution to this awesome problem, the whole world is going to be confronted some day with almost an indescribable holocaust."
There are a thousand other factors that enter into it. I just wanted us to know several things: one, according to the Word of God, both of those peoples – the Arab, the child of circumcision; the Jew, the child of circumcision – both of those great families are Semitic cousins, and they belong to the same circumcision covenant; the seed of Abraham, both of them, both of them! One has a separate choice in God’s sovereign grace. And through the Jew – and I need not repeat it – God has said the great blessing will come to the earth. "Israel, Mine inheritance": but both of them are children of that Abrahamic covenant of circumcision. They are both Semitic. They are both of the seed of Abraham.
Now, what do we face? Is it forever insoluble? And is there no hope? Oh, no! God has a great purpose for His people – for the Jew and for the Arab, for the children of Isaac and for the children of Ishmael. He’s got a great sovereign purpose and destiny for the whole Islamic world. God does! And you read it here in the Bible from the nineteenth chapter of the Book of Isaiah:
In that day there will be an altar, in the midst of Egypt,
It will 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 because of their oppressors, and God will send them a Savior, a Great One, and He shall deliver them (Egypt),
In that day there shall be a highway out of Egypt into Assyria (into Iraq to Baghdad), and the Assyrian shall come into Egypt, and the Egyptian into Assyria, and the Egyptian shall serve with the Assyrians.
And in that day shall Israel be the third with Egypt (Egypt, Israel, Iraq, Syria), even a blessing in the midst of the land:
Whom the Lord of host shall bless, saying, Blessed be Egypt My people, and blessed be Assyria the work of My hands, and blessed be Israel, Mine inheritance (through whom the great messianic promise will come).
All of them! All of them! All of them! "Well, pastor, I can see when you read it. I can see! How is that going to come to pass?"
Well, I haven’t time to preach the whole thing. But I believe the Prince of Peace is coming, I believe God will intervene in human history; the ten thousand details that God reveals in His Book. But I believe there’s a great day coming, and Egypt will call upon the name of the Lord, and the whole Islamic world will call upon the name of the Lord, and Israel will receive her King – a nation born in a day.
Now, the summation of the message: to a child of God and to one who believes the Holy Scriptures, there is always hope; there is always a better day; there is always a victory, just over the hill. We’re not to live in despair, helplessness or hopelessness. That’s why God reveals the future to us and why God spake to the prophets: that we might have hope. And any time there is a child of God, there will you find faith and hope and assurance, however dark the day or tragic the hour. When God revealed to Abraham that his seed through Isaac should be in bondage four hundred years in Egypt, then God said: "But I will visit My people. When the iniquity of the Amorite is full, I will visit My people," after four hundred years.
When Abraham offered up Isaac on Mount Moriah, raised his hand to take out and away the life of the child of promise, the Scriptures say he believed that God would raise him from the dead even though he’d been slain with his own hand; when Joseph said to his brethren, "I die. Promise me you’ll carry my bones and bury them in the Promised Land for God will surely visit you"; always that great day that is coming. When the Lord said to David, "The sword will never leave your house," He also said, "But there will be a son who shall sit upon the throne of David forever." When King Uzziah died, and the young prophet Isaiah was plunged into despair, the next verse says, "And Isaiah saw the Lord high and lifted up. And His train overflowed the earth." When Isaiah confronted weak Ahaz – Ahaz refused to believe God – the prophet said, "God himself shall give us a sign. A virgin shall be with child and they’ll call his name ‘God With Us’: Immanuel" [Isaiah 7:14]. When Malachi brought the curses of God upon the people, he also said, "But the Sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in His wings." When the Lord Jesus said: "The Son of Man must be crucified and die," He also said, "But the third day, He shall be raised from the dead." When Paul said, "The thorn of flesh in my side God refused to move," he also said: "But God said, My grace shall be sufficient for thee." When John was on Patmos to die of starvation and exposure, he turned and saw the Son of God. And at the end of the terrible tribulation, oh, those scenes in Revelation 4-19, in the midst of the nineteenth chapter:
I saw heaven open, and behold a white horse; and He that sat upon Him was Faithful and True,
His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns,
Dressed in a vesture dipped in blood: and His name is called (the Lord of Lords and The King of Kings;) the Word of God.
And when the whole world was dissolved by fire, the apostle wrote, "And I saw a new heaven and a new earth" [Revelation 21:1].
We are never to despair. We are never to lose hope. In age, in death, in the darkness of every dark, foreboding headline – over and beyond and above, God lives and God reigns! "Be of good cheer, little flock. It is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom." "In all things God works together for good to them who love the Lord."
Oh, Master, give us faith, and comfort, and courage as we pilgrimage through the wilderness of this life.
Now, our time is far spent. We sing our hymn of appeal, and a family you to come, a couple you, a one somebody you, while we sing this song, make it now, make it this morning. "Here I am, pastor, and here I come." In the balcony round, down these stairwells on either side, on the lower floor, into the aisle and down here to the front, "Here I am, I make the decision now," and in a moment when you stand up, stand up coming; and God lead and bless in the way as we stand and as we sing.