Peace Between Arab and Jew
November 14th, 1982 @ 10:50 AM
PEACE BETWEEN ARAB AND JEW
Dr. W. A. Criswell
11-14-82 10:50 a.m.
And the dear Lord bless not only the great throng in the sanctuary of God’s house today, but the great multitudes of you who are sharing this hour on radio and on television. This is the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, delivering the fifth and the last message on berithology. One of the most unusual providences that I have ever experienced in my long pastoral life has been the just now we are in this study of God’s covenants with Israel. These outlines for the doctrinal series of sermons that will cover about three years were made years and years ago. And I divided the study, the great doctrines of the Bible, into fifteen sections; and the section of which this is the last and the fifth sermon, is entitled Berithology. Berith, the Hebrew word for "covenant"; and berithology the study of God’s covenants with Israel. The first sermon was entitled, Has God Cast Away His People? The way the apostle Paul introduces his study of Israel, Has God Cast Away His People? The second message, The Problem of Israel’s Unbelief; the third message, Israel in the Remembrance of God; last Sunday, Israel’s Agony and Glory; and this Lord’s Day, the fifth and the last message, The Peace that God has Promised between Arab and Jew. It is an exposition of the prophetic purposes of God in the Middle East as the Lord revealed those purposes to the prophet Isaiah. And the remarkable prophecy is in Isaiah chapter 19, beginning at verse 18, and continuing to the end of the chapter. I have read the prophecy, almost a countless number of times. And there is never a time that I read it that I do not find myself overwhelmed in amazement before it. Isaiah 19, beginning at verse 18:
In that day shall five cities in the land of Egypt speak the language of Zion, the language of worship, the language of Canaan, and swear to the Lord of hosts; one of the cities shall be called, the City of Destruction.
In that day shall there be an altar to the Lord in the midst of the land of Egypt, and an obelisk at the border thereof dedicated to the Lord Jehovah. It shall be for a sign and for a witness unto the Lord of hosts in the land of Egypt: for they shall cry unto the Lord because of their oppressors, and He shall send them a Savior, and a Great One, and He shall deliver them. And the Lord shall be known to Egypt, and the Egyptians shall know the Lord in that day, they shall do sacrifice and oblation; yea, they shall vow a vow unto the Lord, and perform it.
And the Lord shall smite Egypt: He shall smite and heal it: and they shall return even to the Lord, and He shall be entreated of them, and shall heal them.
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 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 shall bless, saying, Blessed be Egypt My people, and Assyria the work of My hands, and Israel Mine inheritance.
We shall speak first, and notice first, the people of that prophecy: Israel. There wasn’t any nation of Israel until recent times. Yet this prophecy speaks of the nation Israel. From 70 AD, in the destruction of the nation under Titus, until May of 1948, there was no nation of Israel. Yet God speaks of Israel, a nation. You see God’s clock moves at a different pace from ours. We look at that clock and there’s a minute, and an hour, and maybe a second hand, and it moves by the second and the minute and the hour. But God’s clock moves by the millennium, by the thousand years. "A thousand years as a day, and a day as a thousand years" [2 Peter 3:8]. And maybe a thousand years at a second. Click, a thousand years. Click, a thousand years. Click, a thousand years. It may seem to us long in fulfillment; but before God all history is ever present. And God speaks of the nation Israel [Isaiah 19:24], though for centuries and centuries in the immediate past there has been no nation Israel. But that’s God, and His Word never falls to the ground [Isaiah 55:11].
He speaks of Egypt. That’s the people of the Nile Valley. And He speaks of Assyria [Isaiah 19:24-25]. Assyria refers to the Semitic Arabic world of that great Middle East. The Assyrian is Iraq, and Syria, and Lebanon, and Jordan, and Saudi Arabia; the Arabic Semitic world. And the prophecy concerns those three: the Assyrian in the Mesopotamian Valley, the Egyptian in the Nile Valley, and the nation of Israel in between [Isaiah 19:18-25].
The prophecy concerns the tormenting and implacable enemies of the people of God, of Israel. History refers to that vast area over there as the Fertile Crescent: starting at Bozrah, at the mouth of the Euphrates, Tigris Rivers, at the head of the Arabian Persian Gulf, in Iraq, starting at the head of the Persian Gulf, and going in a great crescent, in a great semicircle, all the way down to the Nile Valley. History refers to that as the Fertile Crescent. And in the middle of that Fertile Crescent, right in the middle of it, is Palestine, is Israel, the nation of the people of God. And through all of those ancient centuries, Israel was tormented, and conquered, and depleted, and decimated, and enslaved by those two empires on either side of her: the Assyrian Babylonian empires in the Mesopotamian Valley and the Egyptian empire in the Nile Valley. Under the Pharaohs Shishaq and Zerah, and Tirhakaha and Necho, Pharaoh Necho, who slew good King Josiah [2 Kings 23:19]; and after them, in the conquest of Alexander the Great, the Ptolemies, one after the other. Then on the other side of that Fertile Crescent, the bitter and ruthless Assyrian, under Tiglath-Pileser, who was the first great conqueror to come into the land; then Shalmaneser and Sargon, who in 722 BC carried away the northern tribes into captivity and destroyed the northern nation forever [2 Kings 17:18]. Then Sennacherib, who held Jerusalem as a man would hold a object in a vise, and who is delivered by an angel from heaven, answering the prayer of righteous King Hezekiah [2 Kings 19:4-19]; and that night one angel passed over the camp of Sennacherib, and one hundred eighty-five thousand of his soldiers died that night [2 Kings 19:35]. Then Esarhaddon [Ezra 4:2], and Asburbanipal [Ezra 4:10]; then Nebuchadnezzar, who destroyed the Southern Kingdom and burned the temple of the Lord, and carried the people into captivity [2 Kings 25:1-11]. And after the Assyrian Babylonian, the Akkadian, the Sumerian, after Alexander the Great’s conquest, the Seleucidae, Seleucid and Antiochus, the most infamous of whom was Antiochus Epiphanes, who figures in the story told in First and Second Maccabees. Thus in ancient times, crushed and decimated and ground to powder, the nation of Israel between those two great empires, one on the north, and one on the south.
And that present struggle has continued in sorrow to this present day; in the nation Israel, in 1948, 19, the War of Independence; in 1956, the Sinaitic war; in 1967, the Six Day war; in 1970, the War of Attrition; in 1973, the Yom Kippur war; and in 1982, the PLO war in southern Lebanon. Thus unabated, through the ages and through the centuries, the confrontation, and the sorrow, and the decimation, and the inexorable implacable bitterness among the nations and peoples of the Near East; and in the heart of it, and the middle of it, the nation of Israel.
In this present time, that conflict has taken an unusually traumatic and bitter turn. In immediate centuries past, the Jew has shared in the traits and traditions and history of the Arab. They have been closely woven together in life, in purpose, in destiny. It is today, in our time that the problem of the Middle East has turned into another direction, one particularly bitter. It’s become a problem of the refugee – not of the making of the Arab and the Jew, but the result of the oppression of nations and peoples beyond them. I’ve just made the observation that in these immediate centuries past the Jew has shared in the tradition, and in the traits, and in the culture, and in the national aspirations of the Arabic people; they’ve been together. In these past centuries, while the Jew was confined to the ghettos of Europe, he was an honored member of the Arabic culture and life in the Middle East. In the Arabic world, in the Semitic world, the Jew, while he was in prison in the ghettos of Europe, in the Arabic world he was minister of government, he was a scholar, he was a philosopher, he was an academician, he was a physician, he was a man of great importance and standing in the Arabic world. When the European community of nations was in the Dark Ages, the medieval ages, the brilliance of Arabic civilization and culture and science flourished.
For example, do you not use the Arabic numerals, do you not? Do you use Roman numerals, except on a clock? Don’t you use Arabic numerals? Do you ever use a zero? That’s an Arabic word. They discovered, invented, the zero, which is the greatest mathematical discovery in the story of mathematical genius. The Arabic world was flourishing when the Western European world was in its Dark Ages. And in that flourishing of the Arabic world, the Jew had a noble part. He was among them philosopher, and scientist, and teacher, and physician, and academician. In that Arabic world, the Jew in those centuries past was often presented with the honorary title of [Pascha] or pasha, a Turkish nomenclature of great reception and honor. For example, Moses Maimonides, Maimonides, one of the great philosophers and teachers of all the ages, Moses Maimonides was a Jewish physician, personal to Saladin, who headed the Arabic world in the twelfth century, whose capital was at Cairo. He was a Jew. In this last generation, the minister of finance in the Egyptian government was Cattawi Pasha, a Jew. The two lived together and honored each other, and contributed to the advancement of medicine and science and scholarship.
But today that difference between Arab and Jew has turned into a bitter trauma; not arising out of them, but arising out of the oppression of other nations and other peoples. The Jew in Europe, in a ghetto, seeking some open door of freedom and liberty and finally brought to a passionate desire for that open door under the oppressive hand of Adolph Hitler, when he slaughtered five to six million of those Jews in the ghettos; they were desperate seeking some kind of a homeland. The American nation closed the door of America to that oppressed Jew. So he turned with passionate hope toward the land promised to his fathers, to Israel, to Palestine. Out of the ghettos of Europe had come what is called "the Zionist movement" under Theodor Herzl, in 1897. As they turned their hearts homeward, seeking freedom and life and existence, at first they began buying the land in Israel, in Palestine. Then as time went on, there was bitter opposition to it; fomented, for one thing, by Russia. Whenever you find in the world trouble, such as El Salvador, or Honduras, or the Middle East, put it down: the slimy dark evil atheistic hand of Russia is moving in it, all over the world. They thrive on terrorism, and blackmail, and espionage, and murder, and war. That’s Russia. As the days developed, there became a bitter confrontation between the exodus, the incoming of the Jew from the ghetto of Europe, who was seeking a place to live, and the Arab who was already there. So out of the refugee problem of the European ghetto, the Jew came to his homeland, according to the Word of God. He will be gathered back in the land promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob [Isaiah 11:11-12; Ezra 37:11-25]. Then the second refugee problem: in the War of Independence, in 1948 and 19, in that war there was created a refugee problem with the Palestinian Arab, one million of them, scattered around the borders of the nation of Israel. And there they are to this present time: the refugee Jew turning his face in hope toward his homeland; and the refugee Palestinian Arab, who looks upon the same place and the same town and the same field as his own, he being cast out.
Is there any hope? Is there any promise? Does God say anything? He does. And that is the purport and the purpose and the summation and the heart of this great prophecy given to Isaiah from the Lord God. There is coming a day, there is to be a day, in which five cities in the land of Egypt [Isaiah 19:18] – I think "five" refers to a number including all of them; like the number "seven" churches in the Apocalypse refers to all the churches [Revelation 2:1-3:22], five refers to all of the cities in the land of Egypt – "they shall speak the language of Zion, the language of Canaan, the language of worship [Isaiah 19:18]. And they shall swear to the Lord of hosts, all of their covenants will be made in the presence of God. And one of those cities shall be called the City of Destruction [Isaiah 19:18]; it is a play upon Hebrew words: they shall burn their idols, all of them, and they shall worship the Lord God alone. And one of those cities will be dedicated to the destruction, and the burning, and the annihilation, and the pulverization of all of those idols.
In that day there shall be an altar to the Lord in the midst of the land of Egypt, and an obelisk at the border between Israel and Egypt.
And that obelisk shall be dedicated to the God of both peoples, to Jehovah the Lord.
And it shall be for a sign and for a witness unto the Lord of hosts in the land of Egypt: for they shall cry unto the Lord because of their oppressors, and God will send them a great Savior – just as He sent to us [1 John 4:14], just as He shall send to Israel [Acts 3:26; Romans 11:26] – God shall send them also that same great Mighty Savior, and He shall deliver them.
And the Lord shall be known in Egypt, and the Egyptians shall know the Lord in that day, and they shall do sacrifice and oblation before the great Jehovah God.
And the Lord shall smite Egypt – whom the Lord loveth, He chasteneth [Hebrews 12:6] – the Lord shall smite Egypt: and in that smiting they will cry unto the Lord, and God will be entreated of them, and shall heal them. In that day, there shall be a highway out of Egypt to Assyria – to the Arabic world – and the Egyptian and the Assyrian shall serve the Lord God together.
And in that day, Israel shall be the third with Egypt and Assyria, even a blessing in the midst of the land:
Whom the Lord of hosts shall bless, saying, Blessed be Egypt My people, and blessed be Assyria, the work of My hands, and blessed be Israel My firstborn, My inheritance.
Can you believe such a thing as that? Looking and reading and seeing what we look and see and hold today, could such a thing come to pass?
God never forgets His covenant promises; and this is one. Genesis 17:20, "As for Ishmael, I have heard thee, Abraham; Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly . . . And I will make him a great nation." Mohammed spoke of himself and all of his followers as being descendents from Ishmael. All the Muslim Arabic world, all of it, looks upon themselves as being descendents of Ishmael. And the Bible, without exception, looks upon the Arab as a descendent of Ishmael. Whether he be Egyptian, or Saudi Arabian, or Syrian, or Jordanian, or Lebanese, or Iraqi, they all look upon themselves as the descendents of Ishmael. And God says, "Abraham, I promise, I will make of Ishmael a great nation, and twelve princes shall come from his loins" [Genesis 17:20]. And God has been faithful to that. Those nations of the Middle East, Egypt, and those in Assyria that I’ve named, are the descendents of Ishmael. "I will make of thee a great nation. And I will bless thee [Genesis 17:20]; I will bless thee." That’s what God promised. And does God forget His promise? Does He break His sacred covenant? Does He?
I was flying along the shores of the Persian Arabian Gulf, and there out the window of the plane I saw a waste, desert, sterile, empty land. And I said to the man, "What is that country there?"
And he said, "That is Saudi Arabia."
And another time I was flying down the Red Sea, and there looking out the window I saw a country, sterile and barren and waste and desert, and I said, "What is that country?"
And the man said to me, "That is Saudi Arabia." What do we know of Saudi Arabia? What do we know of Kuwait? What do we know of Iraq? This is what we know: they are the richest nations among the family of nations of the world. Who put that oil there? There? Why isn’t it under the Sahara? Who put that oil there? God put it there. God did that. God said, in a sacred covenant, "I will make a great nation out of Ishmael; twelve princes born of him," the Arabic Semitic world, "And I will bless him" [Genesis 17:20]. God hasn’t forgot that sacred promise. And they literally hold the destiny of the industrial nations of the world in their hands. Oil! That’s God. That’s God. "I will bless Isaac and Jacob and Israel, My people [Isaiah 19:25]. I will bless Ishmael, and Egypt, and Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait, and Iraq, My, the work of My hands" [Isaiah 19:25]. That’s God.
And if I can believe the Holy Scriptures, which I do, God says that day is coming when the Jew will be saved, the nation will be saved.
· Paul wrote in Romans 11:26, "And so all Israel shall be saved."
· And in Zechariah the prophet, twelfth chapter, beginning at verse 10, reading through to the thirteenth chapter, verse 1, "They shall look upon Him whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn before Him, as one mourneth for his only son that was lost" [Zechariah 12:10]. "And there shall be opened a fountain for cleansing and salvation in Israel" [Zechariah 13:1].
· "And a nation shall be born in a day" [Isaiah 66:8].
· Israel shall be saved [Isaiah 19:25]. The Semitic Arabic world will be saved. In that day Israel shall be the third with Egypt and with Assyria, even a blessing in the midst of the land: whom the Lord of hosts shall bless, saying, Blessed be Egypt My people, and Assyria the work of My hands, and Israel My firstborn" [Isaiah 19:24-25]. Assyria and the Semitic Arabic world will be saved in that coming day.
And what of us who are called Gentiles, who are not Semitic, we’re not Arab, we’re not Jewish, what of us? The great prophet Isaiah said, in Isaiah :6, "I will give Thee for a light to the Gentiles, that Thou mayest be My salvation unto the end of the earth." We also shall be saved. "The light of the knowledge of God that shined in the face of Jesus Christ hath shined upon us, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in His wonderful face" [2 Corinthians 4:6]. We can be saved also.
Was that not the cry of the black Ethiopian eunuch? Standing before Philip the evangelist, "I am an emasculated man. I am a dry branch, and my skin is black. Can a black man and a eunuch, an emasculated man, can he be saved?" And Philip replies, "If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest." And he replied, "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God," and he was saved [Acts 8:35-39].
Cornelius the Roman centurion, cried, saying, "I am an officer in a hated and occupying and conquering army. Can I be saved?" And the angel of the Lord said to Cornelius, "Send down to Joppa for one Simon Peter, who shall come and tell thee words whereby thou and thy house may be saved" [Acts 10:5-6] – a hated Roman officer.
Lydia, a business and professional woman out of Thyatira, in Asia Minor, Lydia, a business and professional woman, "Can I be saved?" And Paul and Silas deliver to her the marvelous emancipating message from heaven [Acts 16:14-15]. Never has there been a blessing to womanhood like the glorious message of Christ: the woman, saved.
The Philippian jailer, cruel beyond any measure of duty, having beat the apostles, thrust them in an inner dungeon and put their feet in stocks and in chains [Acts 16:23-24], he falls down before the preachers of Christ’s salvation and cries, saying, "Can I be saved?" [Acts 16:30]. And they say, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house" [Acts 16:31].
And Onesimus, the runaway slave from Philemon, from Colosse, on the Lycus River, having wronged his master and stolen from his master, and fleeing away, Paul finds him in Rome, and Onesimus cries, "Can I be saved, a runaway slave who has wronged his master?" And Paul sends him back across the Roman world to Philemon in Colosse, and writes, saying, "Receive him no longer as a slave, but as a brother beloved in the Lord. And if he hath wronged thee, or oweth thee aught, lay that to my account. I will repay. I write it, me Paul, with mine own hand" [Philemon 1:15-19]. Onesimus can be saved.
And the cry of the whole world is that cry: "Is there a salvation that delivers us from the wages and the decimating power of sin? Is there a deliverance in the hour of our death? Is there hope for heaven beyond the darkness of the grave?" And the message from God’s eternal Word: we all can be saved, all of us. Before God closed the Book, He said to the sainted apostle John, in the last chapter of the Revelation, "The Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth repeat the same glad refrain, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And ho thelōn, whosoever will," anybody me, anybody you, somebody me, somebody you, "ho thelōn, whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely" [Revelation 22:17]. That is the message of God. Whether an Assyrian, a Semitic Arab, whether a Jew, whether a Gentile, whether the child of Ishmael or the child of Isaac, or the child of Ham or Japheth, all of us can belong to the family of God, all of us. And in the glory that is yet to come we shall be brothers in the Lord, in the faith, beginning now.
May we stand together? What a wonderful, wonderful gospel! What a glorious and incomparable Savior! What a preciousness in the hope, not forever consigned to war, to blood, to violence, to terrorism, to death; but lifting up our eyes to the rising Sun [Malachi 4:2], who brings light and life and immortality to our souls [2 Timothy 1:10].
O Christ, the hope of the world, the Savior of our nations and of our homes and of our hearts, God be praised. In this moment, when our people pray and wait for you, "Pastor, God has spoken to my heart today, and I am answering with my life." Make that decision now in your heart, and in a moment when we sing, "Here I am, pastor, I’m coming today." A family, a couple, just you. In the balcony round, down one of those stairways, in the press of people on this lower floor, down one of these aisles, when we sing that song, that first step you make will be the greatest step you ever made in your life, "Pastor, I’m coming; I’m on the way. Here I am." Coming to accept the Lord as your Savior, and the hope of your heart and life in heaven. Coming to put your life in our dear church. Coming to be baptized as He has commanded us in His sacred Word [Matthew 28:19-20]. Coming in answer to the drawing of the Holy Spirit for some special purpose in your life. Maybe coming just to pray, to kneel here, to reconsecrate your life to Jesus; you can either stay or go back to your seat. "But, pastor, God has spoken to me today, and I’m coming." Do it. You’ll look back upon this hour as the greatest, most meaningful moment in your life.
Our Lord, bless those who answer. May the angels attend them in the way. And we shall praise Thee for the sweet harvest God gives to His Son Jesus, and our eyes to look upon it, glad with the angels in heaven, in Thy dear and saving name, amen. While we sing, welcome. Welcome. Welcome.