What Does God Speak?
February 3rd, 1974 @ 10:50 AM
WHAT DOES GOD SPEAK?
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2-3-74 10:50 a.m.
This is the beginning of our annual conference on Israel and prophecy: it will last through Wednesday noon; tonight, in the morning, tomorrow evening, Tuesday morning, Tuesday evening, and Wednesday morning. And the subject is When God Speaks Peace to Israel. The eighty-fifth Psalm is a psalm that the Israel people sang when they returned back to their homeland from their Babylonian captivity:
Lord, Thou has been favorable unto Thy land: Thou has brought back the captivity of Israel.
Thou hast forgiven the iniquity of Thy people; Thou has covered all their sin. Thou has taken away all Thy wrath: Thou has turned Thyself from the fierceness of Thine anger . . . .
Wilt Thou not revive us again: that Thy people may rejoice in Thee?
Show us Thy mercy, O Lord, and grant us Thy salvation.
I will hear what the Lord Jehovah will speak . . .
What does He speak? I am listening:
I will hear what God Jehovah will speak.
What does He speak?
He will speak peace unto His people, and to His saints . . .
Surely, surely His salvation is nigh them that fear Him; that glory may dwell in our land.
What does God speak? What does He say? We would doubtless think some earth-shaking message that literally moves the foundations of the heavens and of the earth. And when I read, what does God say, what does He speak? “He will speak—shalom—peace to His people.” I see that this is the immeasurable and illimitable need of the world: “God shall speak peace to His people” [Psalm 85:8].
We shall first look at the struggle and the tragedy of the peoples of the Middle East. There is a refrain that I heard in every country that I visited in the Middle East. And I have heard it again and again and again. It is the little simple word, “We need peace.” I hear it in Israel from one side of the little nation to the other. They need to reclaim the land, to irrigate the deserts, to re-forest the hills, to assimilate the refugees, to build the nation. And when the wealth and manpower of the nation is taken away and wasted in war and in armament, the cry of the people is: “We need peace!” And how much more poignant is that lament when death by slaughter, by warfare, visits an Israeli home: “We need peace.”
When you go to Egypt and talk to a discerning Egyptian, you will hear that same refrain. “We need peace.” There are something like thirty million people in Egypt. And practically all thirty million of them live in wretchedness and in poverty. The wealth of the nation is now being devoted to the Soviet Union in exchange for armament. The Soviet Union is a vampire; it will bleed a little country to death. It brings poverty and misery forever, wherever the hand of the Soviet Union touches. It is so in Czechoslovakia; it is so in Hungary; it is so in Egypt. The wealth of the nation that should be used for the building up of the people is pre-empted by the Russians. The finest cotton in the world is grown in Egypt. But Egypt has mortgaged their cotton and all the other produce of their land to the Russians for the foreseeable future. They are in debt forever, and Russia bleeds them to death. It is a like thing as we see in Cuba; Cuba is reduced to slavery before the Russians forever. The sugar cane crop that Cuba could produce is pre-empted by the Russians. They owe it to Russia; they are in debt—they are mortgaged—they will never get out. And the country is reduced to abject poverty and misery. The cry of the Egyptian, “We need peace.”
It is the cry of the Lebanese. Little Lebanon of about two million people is the banking center and the financial center of all the Levant. But with bombings, and with violence, and with their borders violated, and with the Palestinian refugees there fomenting hatred and trouble; little Lebanon is brought to the abyss of catastrophe. And sitting down with the discerning business Lebanese, I hear him repeat those same words: “We need peace.”
In Damascus—which is one of the bitterest spots in the earth—Damascus for thousands of years has been the merchandising center of all the Middle East. If one were to seek silks, piece goods, Damascene cloth, furniture, they would go to Damascus. It was the mart for all of that great area of the earth. But now the Damascenes are losing billions and billions and billions of dollars. And they also are reduced to want and to poverty. And you hear that refrain among discerning Damascenes: “We need peace.”
Little Cypress is torn between the Greek Christian on the one side and the Muslim Turk on the other. The capital of Cyprus is Nicosia. And Nicosia is divided in two by a great barricade with the army of the United Nations to guard both sides. In a taxi, you come to the barricades saying to the taxi driver, “I would like to visit the Turkish side of Nicosia.” He will go to the demarcation line and say, “I can go no further.” Then you get out, walk through the barricade and the police checkpoint, then get a Turkish-Muslim taxi driver and visit the Turkish side of the city. And sitting down with Cypriots—Greek Cypriots—they will say, “The tragedy of the island: the Turks smuggle into Cyprus arms and guns and ammunitions, and our country is torn apart.” Then they repeat that same phrase, “We need peace.”
Why is it that peace does not come? The hatreds of those races has been fanned for years and centuries. I was in Tripoli, the capital of Libya. And I was in a chair at a shoe-shine stand, and there was a Libyan shining my shoes. The Jewish people of Libya, of Tripoli, had been expelled. They were forced out for fear of their lives, and just a few remain. One of them was there, and the shoe-shine man, looking at him, pointed to me and said in his broken English, “See him? See him? He Jew, if he no go, we—“and then he made a sign like slitting his throat. Where does he go? Where does he have a homeland? Hounded and hated and cast out of the entire Arab world, he turns his face to the home of his fathers. But when he turns his face to the home of his fathers, the same bitter Arab encirclement swears to push him into the sea. Where does he go? And the hatred for the Jew is fanned and kept alive day after day. When Ishmael tormented and mocked little Isaac, Sarah said, “It is enough. It is enough” [Genesis 21:9-10]. But that mocking and that derisive hatred has characterize the Arab attitude toward the Jew ever since, and it is regnant today. The flames of hatred are fanned just as in the days of the Hatfields and the McCoys in the mountains of eastern Kentucky: a feud that will not die.
The last time I was in Cairo, I picked up a newspaper. It was written, printed in Arabic and in English. And being also in English, I could read it. So I read the headline of the Egyptian Gazette, and the headline screams, “Israeli Army Fires on Jericho Schoolgirls.” The Israeli army is taking their guns and shooting down schoolgirls in the Arab city of Jericho. It just happened to be that right after that I was in Jericho, and I took that headline with me. And I asked the authorities in Jericho, “What of this headline?” And this is what happened: there was a fanatic of some kind that got into the high school. And that fanatic led some of those girls to quit their classes and to demonstrate against something they did not like. And the Israeli soldiers broke up the demonstration and sent the girls back to class and back to school where they belonged. And that is the incident that the Egyptian Gazette headlined as being a massacre of Arab school girls in Jericho by the Israeli soldiers. They fan that flame of hatred by day and by night.
Some of the things that are perpetrated in the attitudes and media of the Arab world are unthinkable. Look: I could not imagine a man more despicable, more representative of satanic hurt—destruction—than Adolph Eichmann. He is the man who under Hitler was the instrument for the destruction of six million Jews; yet that man, Adolph Eichmann, is a hero in the Arab world. The bitterness and the hatred are fanned and augmented day by day. Is there any better way? “I will hear what God Jehovah will speak.” What does He speak? “He will speak peace—shalom—unto His people. . . Surely, surely salvation is nigh . . . And the glory of God will dwell in our land” [Psalm 85:8-9]. Peace; some other way than to fight and to kill and to destroy.
I was in the Amazon jungle in Ecuador. I went down there to visit the Aucas—the Stone Age Indians—who all their lives had known nothing but to bathe their hands in human blood. The Aucas had killed five white missionaries who had landed in a little plane to bring them the gospel message of Christ. They were converted out of their murderous living into the sweet, humble fellowship of Jesus Christ. I just wanted to see that for myself; my eyes to look upon it. So I went down there and visited the Auca Indians. The two women, Rachel Saint and Betty Elliott had gone fearlessly into the tribe to proclaim the gospel of Jesus. The brother of Rachel Saint was one of the five they had murdered. The husband of Betty Elliott was one of the five who was murdered. And Kimo was the first convert; Kimo is a fine looking man, his body so brown, bronzed, just the very picture of agility, of athletic prowess. Kimo was in our pulpit and sat down in that second chair—he was the first one.
And I asked Kimo, “How was it that you became a Christian?”
And Kimo replied, “When the two came to tell us about the Lord, I listened to their words. And I thought in my heart, ‘all of my life I have known nothing but blood and murder.’” He was one who had killed those five missionaries.
“All of my life I’ve known nothing but bloodshed and murder, and I thought as I listened, ‘There must be some better way.’ And I turned and I said to my other Auca friends, ‘There must be some better way. I am resolved to turn.’”
It is hard for us to realize, but there was a day when this church was nothing but a seething mass of hatred and bitterness. The people turned one another out. They had conferences and withdrew fellowship from each other after acrimonious and burning castigations. One of the great splits in this church poured over into the denomination and split the denomination. And it has got two bodies today in the state of Texas—all out of this church. In the years of that long ago before the days of Dr. Truett, the church gave itself to bitterness and acrimony. One of the leaders in those days was named R. C. Buckner; he was one of the men who wrote with a vitriolic pen, and he shared in those bitter sessions. Do you know R. C. Buckner like that today? No, there came a time in the life of that great, good man when he said, “I shall turn.” And he became what is known to us as “Father Buckner,” the sweet, gentle, emissary of heaven to help little children. There is a better way.
My grandfather on my mother’s side was a physician in the Civil War, in the War Between the States. I grew up in a home listening to my mother as she would reflect the spirit of the Confederacy in their bitterness toward the Union army, and, of course, the bitterness of the North toward the South. And that bitterness became so deep and so divisive until there was war between the men in the blue and the men in the gray. And they took rifles and ammunition, and brother killed brother as they fought in America. Surely, surely, there must be some better way. High above the city of Chattanooga, Tennessee, and the great Moccasin Bend of the Tennessee River is Lookout Mountain, and on top of Lookout Mountain there is a tall, tall monument. It is a great towering shaft. And on the top of it there is a soldier in blue and a soldier in gray, and the flag of the United States of America is unfurled between them. They are shaking hands, the man in blue and 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
Awaiting the judgment day.
Love and tears for the blue.
Tears and love for the gray.
[“The Blue and the Gray,” Francis Miles Finch]
There must be some better way. And the Lord Jehovah “shall speak peace to His people” [Psalm 85:8].
My first visit to Jerusalem was right after the war that made the nation come to the birth. And they had won just a little part of western Jerusalem. As I was walking through the streets of western Jerusalem, I thought I saw a parade going by in front of me. When I came to the curb and stopped, it was not a parade as you would think for, but it was a procession of tears and of cries and of lamentations. There had been returned to the Israeli government thirty bodies of Jewish soldiers, who had been slain in battle. And those thirty Jewish soldiers were in thirty home-made coffins. And the coffins were on the back side of dilapidated trucks. And following the trucks was David Ben-Gurion, the prime minister of Israel. And following him there were old dilapidated buses of a vintage, it seemed to me, forty years ago. They were filled with the families; the fathers, and mothers, and wives, and children of the thirty Israeli soldiers who had been killed. And as the procession went by, you could hear the soft crying and wailing of the families who had lost their sons, their husbands. Is there not some better way? Is there not some hope? I will hear what the Lord Jehovah will speak. What does He speak? What does He say? He will “speak—shalom—peace to His people”. . . And “glory shall dwell in our land” [Psalm 85:8-9].
When peace comes to Jerusalem, our Lord will come, and there will be peace for the whole earth [Isaiah 2:4]. “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem . . . peace be within thy walls . . . For my brethren and companion’s sakes, I will say: Peace be within thee.” This in the one hundred twenty-second [Psalm 122:6-8]. “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem” [Psalm 122:6], is an identical thing as the Lord taught us in the model prayer: “Pray: ‘Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven’” [Matthew 6:10]. For there shall be peace in Jerusalem, and there shall be peace in the earth when the Prince of Peace descends from heaven to be King over all the nations of the world [Isaiah 9:6; Revelation 12:5].
There are five things that the Bible says will come to pass when the King Messiah, when the Prince of Peace shall bring shalom—glory to the land of Israel and blessing to us in the whole earth. Number one: there shall be a rejuvenation, a recreation of the entire animal kingdom. God never meant for animals to eat each other, to live off of each other, to drink each other’s blood. But when the Lord shall come, the vicious, and violent, and carnivorous animal will be quiet, and peaceful, and tame like a lamb. Listen to the prophecy: “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” [Isaiah 11:6- 7]. When He comes, the shedding of animal blood will be no more. They will return to that primeval domesticity, quietness that they knew in the garden of Paradise [Genesis 2:29-30].
Number two: what shall come to pass when the Prince of Peace doth come? There shall be a change in human nature. Now men war, and hate, and murder, and shed blood, and the ground is encrimsoned with the red of human life. But when He shall come, He shall speak peace to the nations of the world [Zechariah 9:10]. One of the most remarkable prophecies in all God’s Word is in the nineteenth chapter of Isaiah. Listen to the word of the Lord: “In that day there shall be an altar to the Lord—to Jehovah—in the midst of the land of Egypt, and a pillar at the border thereof to the Lord” [Isaiah 19:19]; saying, “this is the land of God”—a sign saying you are entering the dominions of heaven—“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 . . .
In that day there shall 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 the Assyria, even a blessing in the midst of the world:
Whom the Lord of hosts shall bless saying, Blessed be Egypt My people, and Assyria the work of My hands, and Israel Mine inheritance.
What shall the Lord say when He cometh? What doth He speak? “I will listen to what God shall speak. He will speak peace to His people” [Psalm 85:8].
Third: when the Prince of Peace shall come, the agony, and the social conflicts, and the “troubledest” times of the governments of the world will be no more. For He shall be King over all the earth [Zechariah 14:9]. One of the choruses I hope our glorious choir will sing out of Handel’s “Messiah”:
For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given:
And the government shall rest upon His shoulder. . .
And of the increase of His government
And of peace there shall be no end,
Upon the throne of His father David . . . to establish it in justice forever.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts shall perform it.
And His feet shall stand in that day upon the Mount of Olives. And it shall be in that day, that living waters shall go out from Jerusalem; half to the hinder sea and half to the former sea . . .
[Zechariah 14:4, 8]
“And the Lord shall be King over all the earth” [Zechariah 14:9]; we shall have a new government, we shall have a new society. We shall have a King, His name: Messiah Jesus! His name: Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace [Isaiah 9:6]. What shall God speak? He shall speak peace to His people [Psalm 85:8].
Number four: what shall happen when the Prince of Peace, the Prince of Glory doth come? Israel will be born a nation following the living Christ, the Lord Messiah, in a day:
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.
“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” [Zechariah 13:1]. “And one shall say unto Him, What are these wounds in Thine hands? And He shall answer, ‘These are the wounds which I received in the house of My friends’” [Zechariah 13:6]. When Israel looks upon the Son of God that they rejected and delivered to be crucified [Zechariah 12:10], and they receive Him as their own, when Israel is converted—born a nation in a day [Isaiah 66:8]—what shall God speak when He speaks? He shall speak: shalom—peace to His people [Psalm 85:8].
Last: how shall it be when the Prince of Glory comes? “At the name of Jesus every knee shall bow . . . And every tongue shall confess that He is Lord Christ, to the glory of God the Father” [Philippians 2:10-11].
And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne . . . And the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands.
And they cried saying with a loud voice: Worthy
There will be another chorus that we will hear our choir sing from Handel’s “Messiah”:
Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and strength, and glory, and blessing.
And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and in the nether world . . .
I heard saying, Blessing, and honor, and glory, and power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb forever—and forever and forever and forever.
What shall He speak? What doth God say? I shall listen to hear God speak. He will speak peace to His people [Psalm 85:8]. He will fill the land of Israel with glory [Daniel 7:14]. And when God shall visit His people, He shall bring peace to the whole world [Zechariah 9:10]. And we all shall live in the glory of the Lord [John 17:22]. What blessedness! No wonder the apostle called it “the blessed hope” [Titus 2:13].
In a moment now, we sing our hymn of appeal, and while we sing it, a family, a couple, or just you, giving your heart to Christ, putting your life in the fellowship of the church, as the Spirit of Jesus shall press the appeal to your heart, come now, make it now. Make the decision in your heart now.” And when we stand up to sing, stand up coming down one of these stairways, walking down one of these aisles, “Pastor I give you my hand, I’ve given my heart to God and here I am.”
THE WORLD’S GREATEST NEED
Dr. W. A. Criswell
The cry from every land, “We need peace.”
The deep seated hatreds
Longing for peace
The millennial hope