Report on Israel
February 18th, 1973 @ 8:15 AM
REPORT ON ISRAEL
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2-18-73 8:15 a.m.
On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the message entitled A Report From Israel.
Tonight I shall speak on the mount of Moses, Mt. Sinai. For the first time in my life, and I have been to the land of Israel, this was the seventh time, for the first time I went down to the Sinaitic peninsula and went to the mount where Moses received the Ten Commandments [Exodus 19:18-20:17], and before which the bush burned unconsumed [Exodus 3:1-3]. That is absolutely the most rugged, and jagged, and empty, and blistered, and desert country that I have ever seen. And some of the things that came to my heart, and that I looked at down there, I thought I would preach about tonight; so at 7:30 tonight the message from Mt. Sinai, the mountain of Moses.
This morning I have several passages to read. One is in the last chapter, the thirty-fourth chapter of Deuteronomy:
And Moses went up from the plains of Moab unto the mountain of Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, that is over against Jericho. And the Lord showed him all the land of Gilead, to Dan – in the North.
And all Naphtali, and the land of Ephraim, and Manasseh, and all the land of Judah, unto the utmost sea – the Mediterranean.
And the South, and the plain of the Valley of Jericho, the city of palm trees, unto Zoar.
And the Lord said unto him, This is the land which I sware unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, saying, I will give it unto thy seed: I have caused thee to see it with thine eyes.
The second passage is in the first chapter of Joshua:
Now after the death of Moses the Lord said to Joshua, Moses’ minister, saying,
Moses My servant is dead; now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, thou, and all this people, unto the land which I do give to them, even to the children of Israel.
Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given unto you, as I said unto Moses.
And the third passage is in the one hundred and fifth Psalm, verses 8 through 11:
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.
And the next passage is in the thirty-first chapter of Jeremiah:
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 from before Me, saith the Lord, then the seed of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before Me forever.
And the last passage is in the last chapter of Amos:
And I – the Lord God – will bring again the captivity of My people Israel, and they shall build the waste cities, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards. . .and they shall also make gardens, and eat the fruit of them.
I 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 thy God.
These passages are just typical and representative of a thousand others that I could read in the Bible, all of which summarized say that God’s people will be a nation before Him forever, that the seed of Israel will inherit their land, and that God will gather them back home, a part of which prophecy we are seeing fulfilled in our generation before our very eyes.
There is an identification between Israel and the land that is almost miraculous to behold. One of the Israeli’s was speaking to me about how they buried their dead. He said, "We do not bury our dead in coffins or in caskets. We wind them in a winding sheet and place them in the ground, for the land has given birth to us. We belong to the land and to that land, we return." The hallowedness of those places, to me so barren and rocky, but the hallowedness of those places to the seed of Israel is nothing short of miraculous.
I can illustrate it by our own attitude to the place where we were born. If you lived in Ohio and now live in Arizona, you doubtless will be just as happy in Arizona as you were in Ohio. If you were born in Canada and now live in Texas, you are doubtless as content to live in Texas as you were in Canada. The land makes no difference to us particularly one way or the other, but to them, every rock and every acre and every piece of soil, every piece of topography, the undulations of the hills, the height of the mountains, the valleys, the rivers, the streams, the seas, all are holy and sacred in their eyes. It is nothing short of miraculous how the people are identified with the land and the land with the people. It is something God has done.
And the quiet and the confidence of the nation in the presence of imminent and momentary danger, and I could almost say annihilation, is no less miraculous. What if we lived in a little enclave and around us on every side were fifty million bitter enemies, planning and announcing our destruction by day and night? This is the case of that tiny land of Israel, surrounded by implacable and bitter enemies. Yet their quiet, their confidence, their illimitable persuasion in the protection of their little army is no less amazing to behold. The land of Israel has in it about two and a half million Israelites. And around them are nations who are being implemented in armor and warfare by some of the greatest powers in the earth.
Their position seems impossible, and yet you’d never know in visiting the land that there were any enemies. Nor would you ever suppose that they ever faced any final confrontation with the other nations round about. It is quiet, it is peaceful, the people are busy. You’d never know were you not already aware of it, you’d never know of the deep underlying, traumatic national existence that they are forced to live.
So I talked to them, and I asked them about that ultimate confrontation. And their reply without exception was the same. "We will not have war in a year. We will not have war, doubtless, in two years. But we will almost certainly have war in the third year." And I asked, "Why do you think that you will face a confrontation by the third year?" And the answer is very obvious and one that you yourself know.
When Sadat of Egypt stands up before his fanatical Muslim followers and he avows, "This year we will destroy Israel, this year we will drive them into the sea," and that year passes and he doesn’t do it – then he stands up and says, "This year we will destroy Israel, this year we will drive them into the sea" and he doesn’t do it, how long can a premier stand before his nation and say those things and not ultimately do either what he promises or face removal from office?
And another thing helping Sadat: there is no less a blind and fanatical premier in Libya. And Libya, as you know, has money because they have oil. And with the premier of Libya egging on Sadat, and Russia giving Sadat billions of dollars of armor, that confrontation inevitably comes.
So I asked the Israelis, "When that day and hour comes, as you say inevitably it will and as you say within three years, are you not fearful," and without exception they reply in the same way, "We have no fear of the Muslim. We have no fear of the Arab. We have no fear of the Egyptian. There is just one thing that we don’t know and that is the part that Russia will play when that confrontation comes." And that is the imponderable that lies in the hands of Almighty God.
For Russia cannot afford to see the billions and billions of dollars by which they are rearming those Arab nations, Russia cannot afford to stand by and see that investment wasted and destroyed. Yet when Russia enters on the side of the Arab and the Egyptian, what will the United States do, for America has pledged her friendship, and her support, and her help to little Israel?
I have the feeling when I stand in that land and look at those people and read this Holy Word, I have the feeling that we are standing in the veritable presence of the sovereign will of Almighty God; for the thing does not belong to men, but the thing belongs in the hands of the great Judge of all the earth. I especially felt that when last Sunday morning at eleven o’clock we had our service at Armageddon. I chose that place because of the prophecies and because of their fulfillment in our day. I asked that we might meet at Armageddon and have our worship service there.
And all through that service the Phantom jets of Israel were roaring and thundering overhead. The violence of the noise that they made shook the very hill of Megiddo, Armageddon, Armageddon. And as the roar of those jets was heard, it sounded to me like the very thundering noise and the tumultuous reverberations of the end time, the judgment day, the day of God Almighty, the battle of Armageddon. And in our lifetime and in our days and before our very eyes, we are going to see some of these imponderables resolved in the sovereign choice and will of Almighty God.
A second thing: while I was in Israel the archbishop of Jerusalem, the head of the Church of England for all of the Middle East, from the Persian Gulf through North Africa, wanted to see me, wanted to talk to me. So there were several men who made the arrangement for me to visit with the archbishop of Jerusalem. The Church of England is divided up into about sixteen worldwide districts, each one of which is presided over by an archbishop. They have no head, such as a pope. The archbishop of Canterbury who is just a fellow archbishop, because of the tradition of Canterbury, is somehow looked upon as the presiding officer among his peers. But all of the archbishops are the same.
In America the Church of England is called the Episcopal Church. In Canada it is the Church of Canada. But each of those units is here. And the archbishop of Jerusalem had this to lay on my heart. When you look at the Mount of Olives, the right side of it is a Jewish cemetery. The left side of it is open. And he said to me, "That part of the Mount of Olives on the other side of Kidron from the Holy City is owned by the Armenian church, the Latin church – that is their name over there, universally for the Roman Catholic Church – by the Greek Orthodox, by the Church of England, but most of it is owned by a Muslim trust. And they are getting ready, the Muslim trust, to turn that property over to secular interests and to build hotels on it, and subdivisions. And I have been appointed," he said, "as a chairman worldwide to seek funds to buy the property that is owned by the Muslims, and each one of the great national churches have agreed to give their part, and we’ll keep that half of the Mount of Olives as a garden where the Christians can walk and talk and pray." And he wanted me to help him as a representative of our Baptist communion.
I enjoyed that godly man. He is over seventy years of age, a saintly man. I enjoyed visiting in the cathedral, out of which he seeks to govern and lead his church. And here I’d like to pay tribute in a humble way, such as I would be able to do, not that they need it, but just something honest from my heart. I’d like to pay tribute to the steadfastness and to the courage of the liturgical church, and as I do so, I think of the Greek Orthodox Church. The nation of Greece fronts on the east the Muslim nation of Turkey. Just beyond the way is the Muslim city of Istanbul. For four hundred years the nation of Greece was under the iron hand of the Muslim Turks. There is not one Muslim in Greece. There is not one Mohammedan among the Greeks, not one. Ninety-five percent of the Greek nation is Christian Orthodox, Greek Orthodox. Imagine that; ruled by the Turks for four hundred years, yet not a convert to Mohammedism among them, not one.
The Greek Orthodox Church, and I could speak on it for hours; I studied it one time in school. The churches have made such an imprint upon the Christian faith. Their churches are built in the form of a cross and each arm exactly equal. A Latin cross, the perpendicular would be longer than the cross arms. But a Greek cross, the forearms are equal. And their churches are built in Byzantine architecture, a cross, a church built in the form of a cross with a dome in the center. And that cross is what you see in Jerusalem. The Crusaders chose it. It was the insignia of the crusader, and it’s called the Crusader’s cross. It is so seen in Jerusalem that today they call it the Jerusalem cross. It’s the Greek Orthodox cross. And the impression they made upon the human race and upon the Christian faith, I cannot but admire a people so devoted to the Lord in the way they love Him and in the way they worship Him.
You know, as I look at that country, all of the Levant, the Middle East and the Near East, Africa and clear east to the shores of the Pacific Ocean, sometimes when I think of it and look at it, I am plunged into impenetrable despair.
I heard a missionary one time say that he did not know of a woman Muslim, Mohammedan convert to the Christian faith in the world. All of North Africa, all of Saudi Arabia, all of Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, clear through Indonesia, it is Muslim. And beyond the Muslim, the Mohammedan, there stretches the vast areas of the anti-God, anti-Christ, anti-church communists, represented by Eastern Europe, by Russia, and by that mammoth giant China.
And as I look at it, the missionary is denied openly, publicly, and increasingly so in so-called neutral nations like India. What is the future of the faith? It looks as dark as midnight, as we present the cause of Christ through that great vast part of the earth, from the western shores of Africa to the shores of the Pacific Ocean. Practically all of that vast, vast part of the globe is anti-Christian and so much of it anti-God.
Where does victory lie? It lies in the choice and sovereign God, and it lies in no other place. "Well, pastor, do you despair to the giving up of hope?" No, for I believe in God. I do not believe that the triumph ultimately lies in darkness, in the host of Satan, and in those who deny the lordship of our Savior Christ. I think the victory belongs to Jesus. I think Satan will be defeated. I say that by faith, not by what I see, not by the sense of what I observe. I believe it, and I accept it by faith, but by faith alone! Satan will not triumph, and darkness will not win.
About three or four days ago we were driving by the Bay of Salamis where the great sea battle between the Persians and the Greeks was fought, a battle that determined whether civilization should be Oriental or Occidental, whether it should be Oriental or Western.
And as you know, the Greeks won it, as in Marathon in 0 Miltiades and his little band annihilated the Persian army. So in 480 BC, Xerxes, after his father had been defeated at Marathon, Xerxes came with an invincible fleet. The Persian ships were numerous. They were large, and the little tiny Greek fleet to oppose it was small indeed. And there on a hill, and I looked at that hill, there on that hill overlooking the Bay of Salamis, Xerxes built a golden throne, and he sat there on that throne where he could overlook the Bay of Salamis and where he could see the victory of his invincible navy.
But Themistocles, the naval commander of the little Greek fleet, so maneuvered those great, gigantic Persian ships, that out in an open sea they would have been helpless before – he maneuvered them into that small strait. And as the Persian fleet came through one at a time, he destroyed the ships one at a time. And that day in 480 BC the Greeks forever laid to rest the ideas of conquest and grandeur of the Persian Empire, and civilization turned Western.
I have said there are two things that have made our culture and civilization what it is. One: when the apostle Paul wanted to turn east, and the Holy Spirit would not let him but turned him west and finally to Macedonia, to Greece, and to Rome [Acts 16:7-10]; that made civilization Western.
Second: what made civilization Western was the victory of Themistocles in the naval battle of Salamis. And as I looked at that little mountain on which Xerxes built his golden throne in order to have a panoramic view of the victory of his Persian navy – but he came down from that throne and returned to his Oriental harem in confusion and defeat. So I think Satan, who seemingly sits on a golden throne and seemingly has the nations of the world at his feet, and our Lord Christ seems so despised and rejected, I think the day is coming when he will come down off of that throne and will be thrown into the everlasting abyss of night and darkness [Revelation 20:9-10; 14-15]. And Christ, though His kingdom in the earth seems so small and His numbers compare to those who are against Him, the numbers who follow our Lord seem so little, yet the victory belongs to Him.
Third: Mr. Kando said through his interpreter and friend Saad, "I want you to come over here and sit on this Persian rug. We want to talk to you." When the shepherd boy found the Dead Sea Scrolls, he brought them to Mr. Kando. He’s a Christian Arab. He belongs to the ancient Syriac church. He has six boys, and they have a shop in Jerusalem in the Arab sector. And the shepherd boy brought those Dead Sea Scrolls to Mr. Kando. And he through his friend, Mr. Saad, sold them, and that opened the greatest archaeological epoch, I think, in the history of mankind. I haven’t time to tell you why I think so. But there never has been an archaeological discovery, in my opinion, comparable to that of the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls. It confirmed the Word of God.
Anyway, through Mr. Saad the interpreter, Mr. Kando said, "Come and sit down on this Persian rug. I want to talk to you." So I sat down and Mr. Saad here, and he drew up a little stool immediately in front of me, and his boys gathered around.
He said, "I want you to tell me why you are called Baptist. Where did you get that name Baptist, and what does it mean, Baptist?"
I said, "Sir, practically all of the Christian communions sprinkle infants, but down there in the Jordan River" and I pointed toward it, "John ho baptistes, John the one that God sent to baptize [John 1:32-33], there in the River Jordan, upon a confession of faith, he baptized his converts. And because we ask first a confession of faith on the part of those who ask to be baptized, not unconscious infants, but on a confession of faith we ask them publicly and openly, giving their hearts to Christ, as in the New Testament, to be baptized, buried with the Lord and raised with the Lord. Therefore we are called Baptists because we baptize."
"In our church," I said, "We have a course of study, and we try teaching the child that no child is baptized until the youngster is at least about nine years of age. We are Baptists because on a confession of faith, as before John the Baptist, they are baptized, buried, and raised with the Lord. We are called Baptists."
Then Mr. Kando through his interpreter said, "But what of a child that would die before he was old enough to be baptized? What of original sin? What if the child dies before he is baptized?"
And I said, "Sir, what washes away sin is not water. Nor is it what a man is able to do for us. What washes sin away is the blood of Christ [1 John 1:7; Revelation 1:5]. And the apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:22: ‘As in Adam all die, all of us, so in Christ are we all made alive,’ all of us. The little baby, the child, all of us are made alive, all of us are safe in Christ. Original sin, the sin of our forefathers, inherited sin is washed away in the atoning grace and blood of Jesus Christ" [1 John 2:2].
Then I said, "That’s why we must repent for our sins. I am not lost because of my father’s sins, or my mother’s sins, nor am I lost because of my forefather’s sins, for that is all washed away in the atoning blood of Christ. But when I sin – and there is a time when a child reaches the age of accountability and becomes conscious of his sin – when I sin, then I must come to God for myself and ask God to forgive me for myself. And on that confession of faith that I ask God to forgive me, and I ask Christ to save me, and I give myself in belief and commitment to the Lord Jesus, then on that confession and upon that committal, I am baptized in the name of the triune God [Matthew 28:19, 20]. That’s what it is to be a Baptist."
And Mr. Kando said to Mr. Saad, who smilingly said to me, "Mr. Kando says to tell you that’s what he believes."
O God, bless that old Arab Christian, and God bless you who no less and likewise receive the faith once delivered to the saints [Jude 3], revealed to us in this holy and inspired Book. "Upon a confession of faith I ask to be baptized, and in God’s grace and love, it is the commitment of my life to follow Him the rest of my days, to the hour of my death, and beyond that grave into the glory of a world that under His hands is yet to come."
Do you believe that? Do you? If you’ve never made that confession, would you make it today? In a moment we shall stand to sing our hymn of appeal, and while we stand to sing it, a family you, a couple you, or just one somebody you, make the decision now, and in a moment when we stand up to sing, stand up walking down that stairway or coming down that aisle. And God bless you and angels attend your way as you come, while we stand and sing.