He That Keepeth Israel
February 4th, 1973 @ 8:15 AM
HE THAT KEEPETH ISRAEL
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2-4-73 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 He That Keepeth Israel. This the beginning of our annual conference on prophecy. And the theme of it this year is “Israel: The Land and the People.” It will continue every evening, according to your program, and morning through Wednesday night. The message tonight will be brought by Dr. MacArthur who is pastor of the First Baptist Church of Eugene, Oregon. And the message this morning is entitled He That Keepeth Israel. And as you know, it is a part of the one hundred twenty-first Psalm. And all of us memorized that when we were children.
I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.
My help cometh from the Lord, which 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.
That is an unqualified, uncategorized statement. “He that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep” Psalm 121:4. As such we can verify that promise of God in history. And we have many centuries in which to do it. We have three thousand five hundred years in which to confirm or to deny the truth of God when He made that promise to the children of Abraham. “He that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep” [Psalm 121:4].
Many times in the Bible does God say that Israel will be a nation before Him forever. In the thirty-first chapter of Jeremiah for example, God says:
Thus said 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 from before Me, saith the Lord, then the seed of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before Me for ever.
Thus saith the Lord; If heaven above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath…
And you know it’s always been a strange thing to me. We’ve been living on this planet for however long the infidel evolutionist want to say, five hundred million years or fifty million, whatever he says, it doesn’t make any difference, not so anything what he says anyway.
We’ve been living on this planet a long time. And yet we just barely know something about the crust of it. The depths of the earth, if the depths of the earth can be searched out and we don’t even begin to pierce it. And if the heavens can be measured and those billions of light years beyond us are beyond imagination. If you can know those things and measure those things then also will I cast off the seed of Israel, saith the Lord.
I take time just to repeat another:
And the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah, saying,
Thus saith the Lord; If ye can break My covenant of the day, and My covenant of the night, that there shall not be day and night . . .
Then may also My covenant be broken with David My servant, that he should not have a son to reign upon his throne; and with the Levites the priests and ministers.
And on and on it goes. These are uncategorized, unconditional covenants. Listen to Isaiah 43 for example,
But now 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 shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.
Now in my Bible may I read the caption? “The Church Comforted with God’s Promises.” Yet when I read the Book it says, “Thus saith the Lord that created thee, O Jacob, and He that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I am with thee” [Isaiah 43:1]. How are you going to make the Bible have any sense or reason in it when the people who interpret it write up here at the top “The Church Comforted with God’s Promises” when my plain mind and understanding and reading says “He that created thee, O Jacob, and He that formed thee, O Israel” [Isaiah 43:1]. The Bible becomes a shambles. It becomes inexplicable. And that’s why these half-infidel liberals finally just throw it away. When they don’t let the Bible say what it says, the Bible finally becomes an enigma. If you will let it say what it says, the Bible will always be very plain. And what we don’t understand, God someday will make it plain. But it all fits. It has a great message, and it is moving to a great consummation, a final denouement. But first we must let it say what it says.
Then what it says is, Israel, the seed of Jacob, will be in God’s sight a people forever [Jeremiah 31:36]. Now I say we have three thousand five hundred years in which to verify that. Is that so? Is that true? Is it? Well, just for a moment let’s follow it down through the ages. About 1400 BC, Pharaoh said that “I shall destroy the seed of Israel” [Exodus 1:16]. And the way he sought to do it was a very obvious and plain way. If he could do away with the seed, if he could kill all the male children, the nation would die.
Did he succeed? God said, “Israel will be a nation before Me forever” [Jeremiah 31:35-36]. Pharaoh failed. In 722 BC, Sargon destroyed Samaria and the Northern Kingdom [2 Kings 17:18]. But God said, “Israel will be a nation before Me forever” [Jeremiah 31:35-36]. In 587 BC Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Judah and Jerusalem and the Southern Kingdom [2 Chronicles 36:17-21; Jeremiah 52; 39:1-10], but God said, “Israel shall be a nation before Me for ever” [Jeremiah 31:35-36]. In 70 AD Titus and the Roman legions absolutely obliterated the Jewish nation. But God said, “Israel shall be a nation before Me for ever” [Jeremiah 31:35-36].
In the centuries that have passed since 70 AD, time and again, nation after nation has sought the destruction of the seed of Israel. For example, in the log that Columbus wrote—when on August 1, 1492 he set out to discover a new way to India, believing the world was round and thus came to the new continent of South and North America—in the log that Columbus wrote, he noted that the harbor in which his boat was anchored and from which he left to go to the new world, the harbor was filled with Jews.
Why was it filled with Jews? Because Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand had decreed that there should be no Jews in Spain. And he expelled them and sent them out and away. For centuries there were no Jews in England. They were not allowed to live in the British Isles.
All through the dark centuries of Russia and of Germany and of the nations of the earth, have the Jews been in ghettos, have they been persecuted, have they been expelled. In the eighteenth chapter of the Book of Acts in the second verse the story starts off, Aquila and Priscilla are in Corinth because the emperor, the Caesar Claudius had expelled all the Jews from Rome [Acts 18:2]. But God said, “Israel shall be a nation before Me for ever” [Jeremiah 31:35-36].
In 1948 the modern state of Israel was born. And for the first time in about two thousand years there was a Jewish national homeland. But Nasser down in Egypt said, “We will annihilate them.” And in 1956 he declared war against little tiny Israel and was ignominiously defeated. But in 1967 Nasser said, “I have two billion dollars worth of Russian armament. I have a thousand Russian tanks. I have an armada of Russian planes.” And he inflamed fifty million Arabs to a holy war against tiny Israel.
And in June 1967 Nasser and his Arab allies attacked Israel from every side, and to the astonishment and the amazement of the world, in six days that little band of Israeli soldiers cut Nasser and his Arab legions to pieces, in shreds. And when the radio in Cairo was blasting out victories, the soldiers of Nasser began to swim across the Suez Canal back home. And the harsh terrible truth was known. That’s when Nasser said that American warplanes had destroyed them, a colossal ignoble lie.
Well, the planes from Sinai were liberated when Nasser was cut to pieces. So they returned to Jerusalem and there did, out of the sky, Israel win the war for the West Bank and for the Holy City which could not help but remind us of a prophecy of Isaiah. Isaiah chapter 31, verse 3, verse 5, listen to it:
Now the Egyptians are men, and not God; and their horses flesh, and not spirit. When the Lord shall stretch out His hand, both he that helpeth shall fall, and he that is helped shall fall down, and they all shall fall 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]
Isn’t that an amazing thing? As birds fly [Isaiah 31:5]. When the Israeli planes came back from Sinai and hovered over Jerusalem and the West Bank, in a moment, in a moment, they had won their capital city and their nation to the banks of the Jordan River. For God had said, “Israel shall be a nation before Me for ever” [Jeremiah 31:35-36].
Now in the moment that remains and I wish we had hours to remain, in the moment that remains may I point out to us, under God and in the presence and power and name of the Holy Spirit, may I point out for us what that means? For it has a deep and a profound meaning.
And the meaning simply summarizes this. God made promises to Israel, and if God breaks those promises to Israel, how can I know that He will not also break His promises to me and to us? If God can lie to the seed of Jacob, how do I know but that He will also lie to the seed of Jesus? If God breaks His covenant unconditional that He made with Abraham and Abraham’s seed [Genesis 15:1-21], how do I know but that the same, lying, treacherous God would also break the covenant that He has made with us in the blood of our Savior [Matthew 26:28].
Now just for a moment, look, my text. “Behold, He that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep” [Psalm 121:4]. They shall be a people before Me for ever” [Jeremiah 31:35-36]. God said that unconditionally. Now if God can break that covenant, how do I know but that He would also break this one? For He hath said, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” [Hebrews 13:5], so that we may boldly say, “The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do to me” [Hebrews 13:6].
If God does not keep that promise in Psalm 121:4, how do I know that He will keep this promise in Hebrews 13:5-6? It is the same Lord God that made both of the promises. And if He breaks one how do I know but that He will break the other?
You know, sometimes things that I listened to my pastor say when I was a boy just stay in my heart. Here’s one. I remember one time he was preaching about a ranchman in a lonely house in West Texas where I grew up as a boy. And in that far, far isolated place this rancher, this farmer rancher had his little family in a little house. And that night, that night there came a robber band to shoot, to kill the rancher and his wife and his children and to rob them of all that they had. And the robber later said that when he crept up stealthily, silently, clandestinely, furtively to the window to look in the house, preparing to shoot and to kill and to rob, he said when he looked into the window of the home there was that man, down on his knees with an open Bible and his sweet wife and family gathered round in prayer and supplication.
And the robber said, the violent highwayman said, “When I looked at it, I could not pull the trigger.” If God breaks His promise to Israel, “He that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep” [Psalm 121:4], how do I know but that He would break the promise in Hebrews chapter 13, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee [Hebrews 13:5]. Therefore may I boldly say I will not fear what man can do unto me” [Hebrews 13:6]. It’s the same Lord out of the same Book.
Let’s continue for just a moment. Look at this glorious promise that the Lord will make to Israel. Psalm 105:8-11:
He hath remembered His covenant for ever, 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.
When the Lord divided up the earth He gave to the seed of Jacob, even to Israel, the land of Canaan as their lot and inheritance forever [Psalm 105:9-11]. Now if God breaks that covenant how do I know that He will not also break this one? [John 14:1-3]. “Let not your heart be troubled: Ye believe in God, believe also in Me. Over there where I am going I am preparing a home for you, a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there you may be also [John 14:1-3].
If God lied to the seed of Jacob saying they should have the Promised Land as their inheritance [Psalm 105:8-11], how would I know but that God would lie to me when He says I have a promised home and a promised country in glory? [John 14:1-3]. That’s why so many of our marvelous songs, glorious songs that we sing are like that.
On Jordan’s stormy banks I stand,
And cast a wistful eye
To Canaan’s fair and happy land,
Where my possessions lie.
[“On Jordan’s Stormy Banks I Stand,” by Samuel Stennett]
How do I know I have any possessions over there? How do I know God will keep His promise to me? Because He has been faithful in keeping His promise to Israel. And it is a sign that He also will keep His promises to me.
Let us continue just for a moment. Look at this promise. In the thirty-seventh chapter of the Book of Ezekiel you have the vision of Israel, dead in the nations of the earth, buried in a grave and dead. He saw a valley of dry bones.
Thus saith the Lord God unto these bones; Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live:
And I will lay sinews upon you, and will bring up flesh upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and ye shall live; and ye shall know that I am the Lord.
Thus the whole thirty-seventh chapter of Ezekiel moves when God has promised to the seed of Israel a national resurrection. Out of the graves of the nations of the earth and out of the death that they have known, in sorrow and persecution, God will raise them up. He promised that in the thirty-seventh chapter of Ezekiel [Ezekiel 37:1-28].
I turn to the fifteenth chapter of the 1 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, immortalized, and we shall be changed.
…Then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.
[1 Corinthians 15: 51-52, 54]
If the Lord God lied through Ezekiel concerning the resurrection of the nation of Israel [Ezekiel 37:1-28], how do I know but that He has mislead me when He promises us a resurrection out of the depths of the grave and out of the heart of the earth [1 Corinthians 15:51-52, 54; 1 Thessalonians 4:14-17]. If God does not keep His promise there in the thirty-seventh of Ezekiel [Ezekiel 37:5-6], how could I know that He would keep His promise here in the fifteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians? [1 Corinthians 15:51-52, 54]. It is the same Lord God speaking out of the same Holy Book.
May I take time, just for one other? The Lord promised to Israel that they should be secure in their homeland forever. For example, Amos closes the ninth chapter and the fifteenth verse, Amos closes with these words, “The Lord God will plant them 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 are going to be there forever. Then I turn to Micah. And you are so familiar with this:
…And they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks . . .
But 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.
For all people [will] walk in the name of their god, but we will walk in the name of the Lord our God for ever and ever.
There is the millennial promise of our Jehovah Christ that Israel shall dwell in her land forever, and every man shall sit under his vine and under his fig tree and there will not be anyone to make them afraid, secure, quiet, at home [Micah 4:4]. That’s God’s promise to Israel. If He breaks that promise how do I know but that He will break His promise to me? In the tenth chapter of John,
My sheep hear My voice, I know them, and they follow Me:
And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any one thing, power in heaven and on earth, pluck them out of My hand.
The security of the believer. If God breaks that promise to Israel that they can dwell in their home and in their land and in peace without fear for ever, every man under his vine and under his fig tree [Micah 4:4]; if God breaks that promise how do I know but that He will break the promise to me when He says, “I give unto you My sheep eternal life, and you will never perish” [John 10:27-28]. We will dwell in our home forever and forever and forever.
That was the faith of our forefathers who used to sing, and I can hear those old-timers sing it now.
How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in His glorious word.
What more can He say than to you He hath said,
You who unto Jesus for refuge have fled?
[“How Firm A Foundation,” John Rippon, 1787]
The immutable, unchanging, eternal word and promise of God. Now may I go back three thousand five hundred years have we had opportunity to verify that promise God made to the seed of Israel? [Matthew 11:28-30]. Has the Lord been faithful? Has He? Has the Lord kept holy that covenant? Has He? Is there an Israel today? Is there?
Just so will the faithful covenant keeping God remember His promises to us, who have gone to Jesus with our sins and have found in Him a refuge and a rest for our souls [Matthew 11:28-30]. “He that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep” [Psalm 121:4]. He that keepeth us shall not fail ever, ever, ever.
This is our assurance and our invitation to you who would come by faith to the Lord [Romans 10:8-13; Ephesians 2:8], you, who would come and join heart and hand with us in the church. As the spirit of Christ shall press the appeal to your heart, come now; make the decision now. And in a moment when we stand up to sing, stand up answering God’s call to you with your life. “Here I am. Here I come.” Down one of these stairways, walking down one of these aisles, “Pastor, the whole family of us, all of us are coming this morning.” Just two of you, a couple you, or just somebody one you, while we sing this song, while we make the appeal, come. Do it now. Make it now, while we stand and while we sing.