Our Friends in Israel: Our Greatest Need
February 3rd, 1974 @ 8:15 AM
OUR FRIENDS IN ISRAEL:
OUR GREATEST NEED
W. A. Criswell
2-03-74 8:15 a.m.
The radio brings to you the services of our First Baptist Church. And this is the pastor bringing the message entitled Our Greatest Need. It is a message of introduction to our week of conference on Israel and prophecy. Tonight and then in the daytime and in the evening Monday and Tuesday through Wednesday noon, that conference will proceed.
The message is taken out of the Psalms, and especially Psalms 85:
"Lord, Thou hast been favorable unto Thy land; Thou hast brought back the captivity of Jacob.
Thou hast forgiven the iniquity of Thy people; Thou hast covered all their sin.
Thou hast taken away all Thy wrath: Thou hast turned Thyself from the fierceness of Thine anger.
Turn us, O God of our salvation, and cause Thine anger toward us to cease.
Wilt Thou be angry with us for ever? Wilt Thou draw out thine anger toward all generations?
Wilt Thou not revive us again: that Thy people may rejoice in Thee?
Shew us Thy mercy, O Lord, and grant us thy salvation.
I will hear what God the Lord,"
"What God Jehovah," the personal name for the Lord – in my class on Wednesday night I am going especially to bring that out. God has a name, a personal name, just as you have a name. You are somebody. God is somebody. You are a personality, an individual. God is a personality and an individual. And here you have it in this little text, "I will hear what God the Lord, the Jehovah."
Jehovah is a manufactured name. have taken the consonants of Yahweh and added to it the vowels of Adonai, and it comes out Jehovah. But it is a good thing that American Revised Version did when they placed the name there. In the King James Version, it’s always Lord, but you don’t get the idea of His personal name in Lord. Yahweh is translated Lord in the King James Version, but in the revised version, it is Jehovah.
And the purpose of the Jehovah was that we could get the idea of the name of God. "I will hear what God the Lord; I will hear what God, Jehovah, will speak; for He will speak peace unto His people, and to His saints." I will listen to what God, Jehovah will say. What does God say? God will say peace, Shalom.
Now that is not an earth-shaking text you would think, but actually, it is the illimitable, immeasurable need of this world and has been since men first took up a stone ax, and a wooden club, and began to destroy their own kind in bitterness, and hatred, and in organized war. "I will hear what God, Jehovah will speak." What does He say? He will speak peace unto His people, and to His saints. This brings to us the background of the text and then its focus in our day and generation.
The Psalm was written by someone – we do not know who – the Psalm was written by someone who belonged to the returning captives from Babylon. Coming back home after the long, wearisome years of slavery, they write this Psalm, "Lord, thou hast been favorable unto Thy land; Thou hast brought back the captivity of Jacob." We’ve come back home. "Now Lord, having come back, speak!"
And what does God speak? "I will hear what Jehovah will speak; He will speak Shalom to His people and to His saints." Now that is an identical theme as you find today; the returning of the people from the diasporas all over this world; going back home, back to the land of their fathers. God’s chosen family regathering in the chosen land, what do they need?
As they prayed here, "Lord, speak," and what does God speak? Peace. This, I have said, is the illimitable and immeasurable need of the Middle East. The people have been tortured by the ravages of conflict and war. The whole area is like an armed camp. They need peace and as I have gone from place to place, land to land, country to country, I hear that sentence over and over again. We need peace. I hear it in Israel. We need peace.
There is land to be reclaimed. There are deserts to be irrigated. There are hills to be reforested. There are refugees to be assimilated. There is a nation to rebuild and they cry of the Israelis is one cry. We need peace.
To your great surprise, you will also hear that same refrain in Egypt. We need peace. Egypt is a land of unspeakable poverty. Out of a population of about thirty million, there are about thirty million who are wretchedly poor. The years and the years of their present life have brought to them strictures of military confrontation.
And in back of it, you find the hand of Russia. Egypt has pawned its soul to the Soviet Union. The finest cotton in the world is raised in the Nile delta but they have promised and mortgaged their cotton crops to the Soviet Union for the foreseeable future.
Russia is like a vampire. Whenever they are able to find their prey, whether it be Czechoslovakia or Hungary or Egypt, they suck the blood out of the nation and leave it poverty-stricken forever. They are doing that to Cuba. Cuba is a wretched, and poverty-stricken, and helpless nation with no future for Cuba has so mortgaged its life to Russia until they will remain poor forever.
Egypt is like that. They have pawned their soul to the Russians. They are in debt to the Russians forever. And the cry of Egypt is we need peace. The money that should go for the elevation of the standard of living of the people is given to Russia in exchange for military hardware.
That same refrain I hear in Lebanon. Lebanon is a little country, just about two million people. It is the banking center, the merchandising center, the business center of the Lebals. If you were in a country like Iraq, or Eastern Turkey, or Iran, or Syria, or anywhere in that vast area, you would smuggle what you had to sell to the world through Beirut, the capital of Lebanon.
Eating dinner with a fine, gifted, Lebanese business man, he will say, "We need peace. With bombings, and violence, and our borders violated and these rusty refugees from Palestine here and the pushing and the thrusting of bitterness of the Arab world, we are torn asunder. And our business life is ruined. We need peace."
When you go to Damascus, the capital of Syria, here again is the wretchedness of unspeakable poverty and the propagation of hatred and bitterness. Damascus used to be the great, market center of all the Middle East. If you were buying piece goods down the seam, if you were buying beautiful furniture, you would go to Damascus. Syria is losing billions and billions of dollars because of the awesome confrontation into which she has been caught up by her fanatical leaders and the hand of Russia. Her cry, "We need peace!"
When you go to little Cyprus – the capital of Cyprus is Nicosia and right through the middle of Nicosia is an awesome barricade – on this side, the Christian-Greek lives and on this side, the Mohammedan-Turk lives. You can get in a taxi and say, "I’d like to visit the Turkish side of Nicosia," and the taxi will bring you thus far and then say to you, "I can go no further."
Going through the barricade which is guarded by the army of the United Nations and their camp there; going through the barricade, then a Turkish, Muslim taxi driver will take you wherever you’d like to visit in Turkish Nicosia. And the hatred and the bitterness between the two parts of the city is deep and everlasting. And sitting down with a Greek Cyprian, he will say, "The infiltration of guns, and bombs, and armor from Turkey into Cyprus is a tragedy for our island," and then again that same word, "We need peace."
Why does not peace come? The reason lies in bitternesses and hatreds inherited through generations that are fanned today and kept alive today by unscrupulous and abhoric fanatics. For example, seated on a chair in a shoe-shine parlor, there is a Libyan, a man of Tripoli, shining my shoes. And I see in Tripoli, the Jews have been set out. They have been expelled. And all who could escape have escaped.
But when I was there, a few were left. So the shoe-shine man, who could speak just a little English; he points out to me, he says, "See, him a Jew! Him a Jew!" Then he says so me, "If he no go, if he no go" – and then he did that – he cut his throat. They seek to escape for their lives, the Jewish community of Tripoli, of Cairo, of Baghdad, of Damascus, of the whole Arab world. They seek to escape for their lives.
Where do they go? If they go to Palestine, to the holy land, to the Promised Land, to the land of their fathers, what does the Arab do? He is no less vindictive, blood-thirsty against the Jews in Palestine as he was in Libya. Where does he go? "If he no go, we cut his throat!" And that bitterness is fanned and fanned and fanned.
It’s kept alive by day and by night, like the feud in the mountains of Kentucky between the Hatfield’s and the McCoy’s. So are the feud between the Arab and the Jews since the days that Ishmael mocked and made fun of little Isaac and Sarah said, "It is enough! It is enough!"
Since that day, two thousand years before Christ, they have fanned that flame of hatred and bitterness. For example, in Cairo, I bought a newspaper that is written in Arabic and in English. It’s is called the Egyptian Gazette. And the headline is: "Israeli Army Fires on Jericho School Girls." The Israeli army, the article says, took guns and shot down school girls in Jericho.
As you know, Jericho is an Arab town. It just happened to be that right after that, immediately after that, I was in Jericho and I took that headline with me. And I asked the authorities in Jericho, "What of this?" And here is what happened.
Some fanatic got into the high school at Jericho and persuaded some of those girls to leave class to demonstrate against something they didn’t like. And the Israeli soldiers – they have compulsory education in Israel – the Israeli soldiers broke up the demonstration and made those girls go back to school where they belonged. And that is the story that the Egyptian Gazette turns into a massacre; fanning the flame that the Israeli soldiers is shooting down innocent, Arab, school girls in Jericho.
To us, Adolph Eichmann is a symbol of what is the lowest and most bestial in humanity. A man who presided under the hand of Hitler over the extermination of six million Jews, yet Adolph Eichmann is a hero in the Arab world – fanning the flame.
In the Syrian Desert, I had the car stopped and I watched. There were teenage boys. They looked to me from about fourteen to sixteen years of age; teenage boys in the Syrian Desert marching under a drill sergeant. And he was barking out the commands in Arabic and they’d march, halt, and turn. They were using sticks for guns. They didn’t have any weapons and they had no uniforms.
They were manifestly, wretchedly, raggedly poor but they were getting ready. The teenager is preparing and by now, he is one of the soldiers in the army. The flame is fanned and the hatred is kept alive. "I will hear what God, Jehovah will speak; He will speak peace to His people and to His saints."
Is there not some better way than the brutality and the awesomeness, the tragedy, the unspeakable sorrow of war and bloodshed? War takes away the food that ought to be raised. It takes away the necessities of life by which families exist. When the energies and wealth of a nation go in for armament, nobody is blessed. We need peace. Is there not some better way than to war, than to fight, than to kill?
Down in the Aucas, in Ecuador as you know, I visited those Stone Age Indians in that Amazon jungle. I just wanted to see for myself the power of the Gospel. To take Stone Age Indians; who all their lives had dipped their hands in human blood; and in the power of Christ, they were brought to humble discipleship in Christ.
One of the Aucas that impressed me the most was Kimo. He was beautifully built, bronze in color; a typical stone age looking Indian; but a fine man and now a leader in the church. Kimo sat right there in this pulpit, coming to visit us when he was in America. I asked Kimo how it was that he became a Christian. He was the first one to turn. He was one who had killed those five white missionaries who landed in a little plane where the Aucas lived; and he helped slay them.
I asked Kimo how it was he became a Christian. And when those two women, Rachel Saint and Betty Elliot – Rachel’s husband was one of the five killed; Betty Elliot’s husband killed – when those two women came into the tribe, boldly, fearlessly, and preached the Gospel of the grace of the Son of God, Kimo listened to them.
And Kimo said to me, "I had known nothing in my life but spearings, and killing, and blood, and murder. I had known nothing but that in all my life." He said, "As I listened to them, it came into my heart that there must be some better way and I’m going to try it." And he made the announcement to his fellow Aucas, "I’m going to turn, I’m going to try some better way, this way, Christ’s way."
It’s hard for us to believe that there was a time, a long time ago, when this church was torn by bitterness dissention. Before the days of Dr. Truett, the church was a camp thoroughfare, this church. Out of the split, bitter in this church, came the split in the denomination. The influence of the church was so great, it divided the entire Baptist denomination in Texas and we have two denominations out of the bitterness in this church.
One of the leaders in that was by the name of R. C. Buckner. They turned one another out of the church and Buckner was one of the men turned out of the church. Bitter, full of vindictive words and writings and all that they could do to lambaste each other. As the days passed, Buckner turned. He became another man, and we know him today only as Father Buckner, the kind, sweet, heavenly gift to needy and orphaned children. Buckner became another man, another kind of a man; humble, gentle following the blessed Jesus.
There was a time when the United States, our beloved country was torn by internal strife; so violent and so bitter became that confrontation that war was declared. From the North, from the South, one in blue and one in gray, brother against brother, they began to slay one another in a vowed purpose and stated war. Is there not some better way?
The tallest mountain around Chattanooga is Lookout Mountain. Below it bends in a great moccasin turn the Tennessee River. And the tallest mountain and the tallest monument on that tallest mountain is an impressive one; a great shaft that goes up, and up, and up, and up. And on top of the shaft, there is a soldier that is dressed in blue on this side. And there is a soldier dressed in gray on this side. And between them, the flag of the United States is unfurled.
And the man in blue is shaking hands with the man in gray:
No more shall the war cry sever, nor the winding river run red. We banish our anger forever when we laurel the graves of the dead. Under the sod and the dew waiting the judgment day, love and tears for the blue, tears and love for the gray.
There must be some better way.
The first time I was in Jerusalem, the Jewish people had just won the Western segment of the city. And as I walked through the streets of the western section of Jerusalem, I was stopped by what I thought was a parade as I approached them. When I came to the curb and looked, it was a different kind of a parade.
There were thirty Israeli soldiers whose bodies the Israeli government had been able to secure. And there were thirty coffins; rude, rude coffins on trucks. And back of those trucks carrying those thirty coffins that held thirty Israeli boys, there was first David Ben-Gurion, then the prime minister of Israel and his family. And then back of them, in dilapidated buses that seemed to me of the village of forty years ago, there were the families of the thirty Israeli soldiers. And as the procession went slowly through the streets; the trucks carrying the coffins and the families in those dilapidated buses; the soft crying and weeping of the families would break your heart. What will He speak? He will speak peace to His people.
I mentioned Nicosia and the barricade that separates the Christian-Greek from the Islamic-Muslim. To my surprise, amazement, when we drove up in the taxi to the barricade, there was a sign above the police station, the UN headquarters. You’d never guess in a thousand years what that sign was. In languages, some of which I could not know – Turkish, Arabic, what – but it was also in English. And this is what the sign read: "All that is needed is a passport to peace."
With guards bristling on both sides and soldiers set there to keep the people from destroying each other, reading that sign at the police station at the headquarters of the United Nations: "All that is needed is a passport to peace." He will speak peace unto His people. When will that come? When will that come? God says, Psalm 122,
I was glad when they said unto Me, ‘Let us go into the house of the Lord.
Our feet shall stand within Thy gates, O Jerusalem.
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem. They shall prosper that love thee.
Peace be within thy walls.
For my brethren and companion sake, I will say, Peace be within thee.
There will be no peace in the world until there is peace in Jerusalem. And we are to pray for that peace. I think that this is the meaning of the Lord’s Prayer, when the Lord taught us to say, "Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth as it is in Heaven." There will be peace when the Prince of Peace comes to reign over this earth. And in the few minutes that remain, may I speak of the peace that Christ shall bring with Him when He comes down to this earth once again.
First, and I have five things here that will happen and we shall mention them quickly. Number one: There will be a change in the animal world; in the animal kingdom. Now, the animal kingdom is vicious and carnivorous, full of violence and stalking of prey. But when that day shall come, when the Lord shall come, the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the lion shall eat straw like an ox. God never intended the world to be soaked with blood, not even animal blood. It’s a mark of the wasting of Satan and when Christ shall come, the animal world shall be changed.
Number two: When our Lord shall come, when the kingdom shall come, the human world shall be changed. Listen to this amazing prophecy from Isaiah. "In that day, there shall be an altar to Jehovah in the midst of the land of Egypt, and a pillar at the border thereof to the Lord."
– A big sign saying this country is God’s country, Egypt –
"It shall be for a sign and for a witness unto Jehovah of hosts in the land of Egypt
And the Lord shall be known to Egypt, and the Egyptians shall know the Lord in that day and shall do sacrifice and oblation.
In that day shall there be a highway out of Egypt to Assyria, and the Assyrian shall come into Egypt, and the Egyptian into Assyria, and the Egyptians shall serve God with the Assyrians.
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, saying, ‘Blessed be Egypt My people, and Assyria the work of My hands, and Israel Mine inheritance’."
[Isaiah 19: 20-25]
Can you believe that, that it could ever be; all of them over there brothers in the name of Jehovah, God? What shall be when the Lord shall come?
Number three: And Israel will believe in, and accept, and worship their Son, our Savior, and the world’s Messiah. In Zechariah:
I will pour upon the house of David and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon Me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for Him, as one mourneth for his only son.
In that day, there shall be a great mourning in Jerusalem as the mourning of Hadad-rimmon in the valley of Megiddo"
when the whole nation mourned in the death of Josiah
And in that day there shall be a fountain opened to the House of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness
And one shall say, "What are these wounds in Thine hands? And He will answer, ‘These are the wounds that I received in the house of my friends’."
And a nation shall be born, converted in a day. In that day, the whole nation of Israel will bow down before the Great God and our Savior, the Lord Jesus. How shall it be when He cometh? The whole world will worship at His feet. "God hath highly exalted Him, that at the name of Jesus, every knee shall bow and every tongue confess." He is Lord to the glory of God the Father.
And I heard and I beheld and lo, the voice of many angels round about the throne; and the cherubim and the elders and the number of was ten thousand times ten thousands and thousand and thousands;
saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing.
And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth in the netherworld and such as in the sea and all that are in them heard our saying blessing, honor, glory, power be unto Him that sit upon the throne and to the Lamb, forever and ever and ever.
What shall He speak? I shall listen to what God shall speak. He shall speak Shalom to His people. And when God speaks Shalom to His people and there is peace in Jerusalem, there will be peace over the whole earth; for then, shall we see our living Lord, Israel’s Messiah, our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. O God, how preciously blessed, that we should be included in that household of faith, and that we also should belong to the family of God: they by birth, we by adoption; we and they all one in the kingdom and patience of our Lord.
We must sing our hymn of appeal, and while we sing it a family, a couple, or just you giving your heart in faith to our blessed Christ, putting your life with us in this dear church, while we sing this song, come now. Make it now. Do it now. Make the decision in your heart that on the first note of the first stanza, come. God bless you in the way as you answer with your life while we stand and while we sing.