Dr. W. A. Criswell
2-4-73 10:50 a.m.
On the radio and on television you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. And this is the pastor bringing the message entitled He That Keepeth Israel. In a psalm that most of us memorized when we were children, number 121:
I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.
My help cometh from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.
He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: He that keepeth thee will not slumber.
Behold, He that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.
This is a plain, unconditional promise that can be verified in history. He that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep [Psalm 121:4]. Is that true? Is that so? We have three thousand five hundred years of history to verify that promise of God. "He that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep." Is it true? Is it so? Does God keep His word? Does He?
Many times in the Scriptures do the prophets avow that Israel shall remain a nation before God for ever. For example, in the thirty-first chapter of Jeremiah, beginning at verse 35: "Thus saith the Lord, which giveth the sun for a light by day, and the ordinances of the moon and of the stars for a light by night. . .The Lord of hosts is His name: If those ordinances depart before Me, saith the Lord, then the seed of Israel shall cease from being a nation before Me for ever" [Jeremiah 31:35-36]. If you can blot out the sun, and blot out the moon, and change the eternal ordinances of God that one will shine in the day and the other will shine in the night; if you can do that, then there will come a time when the seed of Israel shall cease being a nation before God. But the same Lord God that made the ordinance that the sun shall shine in the day and the moon shall shine in the night – that same Lord God hath said that "Israel will be a nation before Me forever." Now, just once again, a typical word:
Thus saith the Lord; If ye can break My covenant of the day, and My covenant of the night, that there should not be day and night
Then may also My covenant be broken with David My servant, that he shall not have a son to reign upon his throne.
The same Lord God that ordained the shining of the sun and then ordained the shining of the moon is the same Lord God that will keep that covenant with David, that he shall have a son to reign upon his throne forever. These are the unconditional words. Look at it again. In the forty-third chapter of Isaiah:
Thus saith the Lord that created thee, O Jacob, and He that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art Mine.
When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shall not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.
[Isaiah 43:1- 2]
In my Bible, up here at the top are the captions: "The church comforted with God’s promises." Yet when I read the Word of the Lord it says, "Thus saith the Lord that created thee, O Jacob, and He that formed thee, O Israel" [Isaiah 43:1]. When you do that, the Bible becomes polyglot; it becomes enigma; and finally, it comes without meaning. And that is why the half-infidel liberal throws it away. The Bible must say what it says, and let it mean what it says; and when you take that away, it becomes a shambles.
I cannot say "the church" when God says "He that created thee, O Jacob, and He that formed thee, O Israel." He is not speaking to the church. The apostle Paul said the church was a secret, a musterion, in the heart of God until the Lord revealed it to His holy apostles [Ephesians 3:3-6]. The church is not in the Old Testament. It was a secret hid in the heart of God until He revealed it to Paul and his fellow emissaries. This is the word of God to Jacob and the word of God to Israel. And it is the word of the Lord that "before Me as a people and as a nation, thou shalt live forever" [Jeremiah 31:35-36].
Now, we have three thousand five hundred years of past history in which to verify and to certify that promise of God. Is it true? Is it so?
· In about 1400 BC, Pharaoh said, "I shall destroy the nation," and he had a unique way of doing it. If he could destroy the seed of Israel, the nation would collapse thereby. So Pharaoh passed a decree that all the male children born in every Hebrew family should be slain [Exodus 1:16]. But God said – Pharaoh said, but God said, "Israel shall abide before Me a nation forever" [2 Chronicles 36:17-21].
· In 722 BC, Sargon with his merciless and bitter Assyrians destroyed Samaria and the northern ten tribes [2 Kings 17:18]. But God said, "Israel shall abide before Me a nation forever."
· In 586 BC, Nebuchadnezzar came with his Chaldeans and destroyed Jerusalem and destroyed Judah and destroyed the nation [Jeremiah 52]. But God said, "Israel shall abide before Me a nation forever."
· In 70 AD, Titus came with his Roman legions and they leveled the Holy City to the ground, and they destroyed the temple of the Lord, and they destroyed the nation utterly. But God said: "Israel shall abide before Me a people forever" [Jeremiah 31:35-36].
In the eighteenth chapter of the Book of Acts and the second verse, it says that Aquila and Priscilla, who later became friends to the apostle Paul, were in Corinth because – and here is a little parenthesis – because Claudius, the Roman Caesar, had expelled all Jews from Rome [Acts 18:2]. That has been the story of their life through the centuries since. Nation after nation after nation has sought to destroy and to bury them.
In the log that Christopher Columbus wrote, dating it the first of August, 12, Columbus observes that the port in which his ship is anchored and from which he leaves to find the New World, that the port is filled with Jews. Why? Because Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand had made a decree to destroy all the Jews in Spain, and they were driven out and expelled. For centuries there were no Jews in the British Isles. They were not allowed in England.
In 1948, for the first time in nearly two thousand years, a nation of Israel was born. But Nasser and the Arab said, "It shall not exist." But God said: "It will abide before Me forever" [Jeremiah 31:35-36]. And in 1956, Nasser the leader of Egypt declared war against little Israel, and he was ignominiously defeated.
Then in June of 1967, Nasser stood up and said, "I have two billion dollars of Russian armament. I have one thousand Russian tanks. I have an armada of airplanes." And he inflamed the fifty millions of the Arab world, and in June, led by Nasser, the holy war of the Arab people attacked Israel from every side. To the amazement and to the astonishment of the earth, in six short days, in six short days, little Israel cut Nasser and his Arab legions to shreds! And at the same time that Radio Cairo was blasting out victory to the Egyptian people, the defeated and miserable and wretched Egyptian soldiers began to swim back across the Suez Canal and appear in the streets of the city. And the airplanes of the Israeli army, having finished the Egyptians at Sinai, came back and, unknown to the legions surrounding Jerusalem, they began to work by the side of the Jewish soldiers, and they took Jerusalem and they captured the entire West Bank.
And that brings to mind a saying of Isaiah, chapter 31, verse 3 and verse 5:
Now the Egyptians are men, and not God; and their horses flesh, and not spirit. When the Lord shall stretch out His hand, he shall fall all together.
As birds flying, so will the Lord of hosts defend Jerusalem; defending also He will deliver it, and passing over He will preserve it.
[Isaiah 31:3, 5]
God said: "That the nation shall stand before Me forever" [Jeremiah 31:35-36]. And in the morning, some of us are leaving to visit that Holy Land. Does God keep His promise? Does He? We have three thousand five thousand years to verify it. "He that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep" [Psalm 121:4]. They shall abide before Me a nation forever. And if we can change the ordinances of the sun and of the moon, then shall we be able to change the covenant of God that Israel shall abide a people before the Lord forever.
Now, what does that mean to us? A very simple thing, and in the few moments remaining, I pray God shall bring it in significance and deep spiritual meaning to our hearts. What does that mean that God faithfully shall keep that covenant promise with Israel? It means a simple thing, a very simple thing: if God does not keep His promise to Israel, how shall I know that He will keep His promise to me? If God lied to the seed of Abraham, how could I but know that He lies to me? And if God breaks His sacred compact and covenant that He made with Israel, how could I know but that He will break that sacred covenant and promise He made to me? Look. The text, Psalm 121:4, "He that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep." Hebrews 13:5-6: "For He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me." The same Lord God that promised to care for Israel is the same Lord God that hath promised to care for us. And if He failed in His promise to Israel, how could I know but that He will fail in His promise to me?
When I was a boy, I went to church every time the door was open. I grew up in the church. Some of the things that my pastor would say reverberate through my heart as long as I shall live. Some of the stories he will tell, this is one – he was describing out there in West Texas where I was fetched up as a lad, he was describing a lone rancher, way out separate and apart, in a little house. And upon a night, an evil and dark night, upon a night, there came to that lone ranchman’s house, there came a band of robbers and murderers. They came to destroy, to shoot the family, and to rob them of all that they had. So the leader of the band that night stealthily, quietly, furtively, clandestinely, secretly approached the house and looked in through the window, with a gun cocked to kill the rancher and his family and to rob him of what he had.
As the murderer and robber looked through the window, this is what he saw: the rancher was down on his knees with an old opened Bible, with his sweet wife and his children gathered round. And he was talking to the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob. And the same Lord God that keeps His promise to Israel, honored His promise to His servant. "I will not leave thee, nor forsake thee. So may I boldly say, God is my helper, I shall not fear what man can do to me" [Hebrews 13:5-6]. And the robber later said, "When I looked at that man down on his knees with an open Bible, I could not pull the trigger." He called his men and they rode away.
Our covenant-keeping, promise-remembering Almighty God, that’s what it means to us. Or take again, God promised to the seed of Israel a homeland. Listen to Psalm 105:8-11:
He hath remembered – God hath remembered His covenant forever, the word which He commanded to a thousand generations.
Which covenant He made with Abraham, and His oath unto Isaac;
And confirmed the same unto Jacob for a law, and to Israel for an everlasting covenant:
Saying, Unto thee will I give the land of Canaan, the lot of your inheritance.
God promised that to the seed of "Israel forever, for an everlasting covenant, saying, Unto thee will I give the land of Canaan, the lot of your inheritance" [Psalm 105:11]. All the other nations have the other parts of the world, but your lot will be the Promised Land on the other side of the Jordan River. Canaan is yours forever. That is God’s promise to Israel.
I turn now to the fourteenth chapter of John, and the same Lord God makes a promise to us of our Canaan’s happy land: "In My Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a home for you" a possession for you, a land of rest for you." "And if I go and prepare that topos," that possession, that home, that place, that mansion, that land for you, "I will come again, and receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there ye may be also" [John 14:2, 3]. The same Lord God that promised the land of Canaan to Israel in Psalm 105 is the same Lord God that promises our Canaan land on the other side of the Jordan River of death in the fourteenth chapter of John. And if He breaks the promise here, how could I know that He doesn’t break the promise there? That’s why our people love to sing those songs:
On Jordan’s stormy banks I stand,
And cast a wistful eye
To Canaan’s fair and happy land,
Where my possessions lie.
. . . .
O, who will come and go with me?
I am bound for the Promised Land.
["On Jordan’s Stormy Banks I Stand," Samuel Stennett]
It is the same God that made the promise in Psalm 105 who makes the promise to us in the fourteenth chapter of John. Or again, our promise of a resurrection that we shall live in His sight. In the thirty-seventh chapter of the prophet Ezekiel is a picture of a valley of dry bones – a prophetic imagery that presents the burial of Israel in the nations and in the history of the world. And the Lord God said to Israel – and the Lord God said to Ezekiel, "Prophesy upon these bones, and say . . . O ye dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus saith the Lord God unto these bones; Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and you shall live: I will lay sinews upon you, I will bring up flesh upon you, I will cover you with skin, I will put breath in you, and ye shall live; and ye shall know that I am the Lord" [Ezekiel 37:4-6]. That’s what God said to Israel. He promised them a resurrection out of the grave of the nations and out of the history of the world in which they have been buried for these millennia.
I turn now and the same Lord God speaks in the fifteenth chapter of the first Corinthian letter: "Behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we, we shall all be changed . . . then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory" [1 Corinthians 15:51-54]. The same Lord God that promised a resurrection to Israel is the same Lord God that promises a resurrection to us. And if God does not keep His promise to the seed of Jacob, how can I know but that He will fail in His promise to me? It is the same Lord. It is the same Book. It is the same promise.
Or, once again, our coming King. In the seventh chapter of 2 Samuel, the Lord God says to David: "And when thy days shall be fulfilled, and thou shall sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee . . . And I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. . . . And thine house and thy kingdom shall be established for ever before thee: thy throne shall be established forever" [2 Samuel 7:12-16], an unconditional promise and covenant that God made with David.
I turn now to the first chapter of Luke. And in the angel’s visit to Mary, he says, Gabriel says, "Behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and thou shalt call His name, Savior, Iēsous, Savior. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of His father David: and He shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of His kingdom there shall be no end" [Luke 1:31-33]. And I turn now to the nineteenth chapter of the Revelation:
And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and He that sat upon him is Faithful and True . . .
His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on His head are many crowns . . .
And He was dressed in a vesture dipped in blood: and His name is called The Word of God. . . .
And He hath on His thigh and on His vesture a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS
The same Lord God that made the covenant with David [2 Samuel 7:12-16] is the same Lord God that verified it to the virgin Jewess in Nazareth [Luke 1:31-33], is the same Lord God who is coming in clouds of glory, descending from the sky [Revelation 1:7].
Or just once again, the promise of security and rest to Israel; the Book of Amos, the ninth chapter, the last chapter and the last verse closes, "And I, the Lord God, I will plant them, My people, upon their land, and they shall no more be pulled up out of their land which I have given them, saith the Lord God" [Amos 9:15]. They will be there forever. And Micah said it in a way that all of us know: "They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more" [Micah 4:3]. What is God talking about? His people in the millennium. "They shall sit every man under his vine and every man under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid: for the mouth of the Lord of hosts has spoken it. For all the nations and peoples of the world, walk every one in the name of his god, but we will walk in the name of the Lord our God forever and ever" [Micah 4:4-5]. "And they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it" [Micah 4:4]. In that millennial kingdom, Israel shall dwell safely. They shall walk everyone in the name of the Lord God, and they shall be at rest and at peace for ever [Micah 4:4].
I turn now to the tenth chapter of the Gospel of John. Our eternal security, "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me: and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any one pluck them out of My hand" [John 10:27- 28]. The same Lord God that made the promise and the covenant to the seed of Israel – that someday they shall find rest and eternal security [Ezekiel 36:24-38] – is the same Lord God that promises to us, if we trust in Him, He will save us and keep us forever and ever and ever [John 10:27-28]. Is God faithful to His Word? That’s why our old-time forefathers, I have heard them even in my younger days, why our forefathers would sing:
How firm a foundation,
Ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith
in His wonderful word!
What more can He say
Than to you He has said,
To you who for refuge
Unto Jesus hath fled?
["How Firm a Foundation," John Rippon]
He that watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep [Psalm 121:4], and He that hath made to us these precious covenant promises will honor them and keep them forever and ever. Amen.
Now we are going to stand in a moment and sing our hymn of appeal. A family you, a couple you, or just one somebody you, coming to the Lord or coming to us or both, while we sing this hymn, make it now, come now. In the balcony around, on the last seat of the topmost row, there is time and to spare, come, down one of those stairways, into the aisle here and to the front. "I am coming, pastor, today, my heart is with you. I believe that blessed Book. I believe God will honor every promise He has ever made. I believe that the promises of God in Christ Jesus are everlastingly yea and amen, and I am coming. I am on the way. I made the decision now in my heart, and here I am." Do it now, make it now, while we stand and while we sing.