God Speaks To America
April 28th, 1985 @ 8:15 AM
GOD SPEAKS TO AMERICA
Dr. W. A. Criswell
4-28-85 8:15 a.m.
We are grateful for the multitudes of you who share this hour over radio. This is the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas bringing the message entitled God Speaks to America.
It is an exposition of the twenty-fifth through thirty-second chapters of the Book of Ezekiel. Beginning at chapter 25 and continuing through chapter 32 [Ezekiel 25:1-32:32], Ezekiel addresses in a prophetic way, under the hand and Spirit of God, the nations surrounding Israel. We have the impression that the prophets directed their message just to Israel, which is in no wise true. The prophets addressed the nations of the whole world.
The reason that their message emphasized God’s revelation and address to Israel can be found in Amos 3:1-2. The prophet Amos says, “Hear this word that the Lord hath spoken . . . O children of Israel… You only have I known of all the families of the earth: therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities.” Because Israel was the special, chosen people of God, they were first in the judgments of the Almighty. But the address of God was to all the nations of the world.
For example, in Isaiah, chapter 10 addresses the nation of Assyria [Isaiah 10:1-34]; chapter 13, the nation of Babylonia [Isaiah 13:1-14:27]; chapter 14, the nation of Philistia [Isaiah 14:28-32]; chapter 15, the nation of Moab [Isaiah 15:1-16:14]; chapter 17, the nation of Syria [Isaiah 17:1-14]; chapter 18, the nation of Ethiopia; chapter 19, the nation of Egypt [Isaiah 19:1-20:6]; chapter 21, the nations of Edom and Arabia [Isaiah 18:1-7]; and chapter 23, the address is to Tyre [Isaiah 23:1-18].
When you look at the prophet Jeremiah, 46 is addressed to Egypt [Jeremiah 46:1-28], 47 to Philistia [Jeremiah 47:1-7], 48 to Moab [Jeremiah 48:1-47] and 49 to Ammon, Damascus, Arabia, and Elam [Jeremiah 49:1-39]. When we look at the remainder of the prophets, Daniel addresses the whole course of human history to the consummation of the age [Daniel 1:1-12:13]. Joel addresses the “Day of the Lord” and the consummation of all history [Joel 1:1-3:21]. Obadiah is addressed to Edom alone [Obadiah 1-21]. Jonah, as you know, concerns God’s message to the heathen nations of the world, and especially to the capital of Assyria, Nineveh. Nahum has to do with Nineveh alone [Nahum 1:1-3:19]. Habakkuk speaks of Babylon and her invasion [Habakkuk 1:1-3:19]. Zephaniah speaks of Philistia, Moab, Ammon, Ethiopia and Assyria [Zephaniah 2:1-15]. And as I begin, Ezekiel, in chapters 25-32 addresses Ammon, Moab, Edom, Philstia, Tyre, Zidon and Egypt [Ezekiel 25:1-32:32].
Just a reminder to us, that the address of the Lord God is to Israel first because they came unto the judgment of the Almighty, being His chosen people [Amos 3:1-2]. But God’s prophetic message and revelation is to all the nations of the world.
Now they came under judgment, these nations to whom Ezekiel addresses the message of God, because they usurped the place of Almighty God. Most of the address of Ezekiel is to Tyre and to Egypt; listen to what the ruler of Tyre says, who represents the people. “You say, I am God; but thou art a man and no god. And the hand of Him that slayeth thee is in this immediate future” [Ezekiel 28:2-10]. We look at that in astonishment, but we’re the same way. We usurp the place of Almighty God.
All right, look at Egypt in 29:9; “The land of Egypt shall be desolate and waste; because Pharaoh saith, The Nile River is mine, and I have made it” [Ezekiel 29:9]. We look at these things in astonishment! “How could nations so usurp the place of Almighty God?” Well, how do we do it? I would think that the nations of the world read God out! And if they mention Him at all, they do it in a condescension and gracious manner, as a sop. But as for God being looked upon as the Ruler and the majestic Power that guides the life of the people, it’s folly wide the mark, and that’s why the judgment of Almighty God.
So we begin here with Tyre, the judgment of God upon Tyre [Ezekiel 26:1-28:26]. Tyre was the marvelous, marine-merchandising city of the ancient world. It was located at the eastern end of the Mediterranean. And with one hand they commanded all of the trade of that vast inland; and with the other hand, they beckoned the trade of the maritime fleets of the world. All of it centered there in Tyre. It was a city built upon the mainland and a city built upon an island, just beyond the mainland. It was glorious, rich, pompous, powerful, none like it in that ancient world.
Now in this twenty-sixth chapter of the Book of Ezekiel and continuing through the twenty-eighth chapter is the prophecy of God concerning Tyre [Ezekiel 26:1-28:26]. I wish I had time to read it, but I just can point it out. He says first, that in judgment upon the city, Nebuchadnezzar is coming, and he with his mighty men and his chariots will overwhelm the great metropolis. Well, it took many, many, many years for that to come to pass. Nebuchadnezzar came with his Babylonian army, and he besieged the mainland part of Tyre for thirteen years. And at the end of thirteen years, he destroyed completely the mainland city of Tyre [Ezekiel 26:1-11].
But what of the rest of this prophecy? In verses 12 and 13:
They shall make a spoil of thy riches, and make a prey of thy merchandise: and break down thy walls, and destroy thy pleasant houses: and they shall lay thy stones and thy timber and thy dust in the midst of the water.
And I will cause the noise of thy songs to cease; and the sound of thy harps shall be heard no more.
And I will make thee like the top of a rock: thou shalt be a place to spread nets upon; thou shalt be built no more: for I the Lord have spoken it.
Well what of that? Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the mainland city of Tyre, but the island city was unapproachable by him. He had no great fleet to go out there and to encompass the Tyrian city on the island. But Ezekiel said, “They shall throw the stones and the timbers of the city in the water; and the whole thing will be like a barren rock on which these fisherman dry their nets” [Ezekiel 26:12-14]. God’s word never falls to the ground [Isaiah 40:8]. Remember that forever.
Two hundred forty years later, two hundred forty years later, after Nebuchadnezzar had destroyed the mainland city [Ezekiel 26:1-11], and Ezekiel says, “They are going to throw the rocks and the timbers and the place is going to be a rock on which fisherman dry their nets” [Ezekiel 26:12-14], two hundred forty years later Alexander the Great came, and he took the rocks and the building stones and the great timbers of that ancient, destroyed city on the mainland, and he built with that debris a mighty moat, a causeway out to the island city. And Alexander the Great destroyed every segment of the Tyrian island city. No longer gleaming towers, no longer roaring chariots through the streets, no longer the great mighty mass of the fleet; sic transit gloria mundi; thus passeth the glory of the world. And Ezekiel says, “It will never be rebuilt” [Ezekiel 26:14]. They can’t even actually locate it, the mainland city of Tyre, to this day. And the island city is a vast rock upon which fishermen dry and mend their nets; just as the Lord God said [Ezekiel 26:14].
Egypt; there’s a long section concerning Egypt, [chapters] 29, 30, 31 and 32, Egypt [Ezekiel 29-32]. I wish we had time really to go into these great prophecies. It is, to me, unimaginable that these men of God can prophesy the life of a great nation to the end of time, through the consummation of the age, but they do it.
First prophecy about Egypt in chapter 29, verses 14 and 15:
There shall be a low nation; Egypt shall be.
It shall be the lowest of the kingdoms: neither shall it exalt itself any more above the nations: for I will diminish them, that they shall no more rule over the nations.
What do you think about that? Would you say, if you listed the great nations of the world, that Egypt is up there, the greatest kingdom of all the nations of the world, would you? It would be unthinkable. When Ezekiel wrote that prophecy, Egypt was there as one of the great nations of the world. But God said, “Because of your sin and iniquity, you are going to be among the lowest nations of this earth” [Ezekiel 29:15].
And Isaiah said something that I can’t believe. “The land of Judah,” in Isaiah 19:17, “The land of Judah shall be a terror unto Egypt.” How could in the day when Egypt was one of the great kingdoms of the world, how could little, tiny Judah be a “terror unto Egypt”? [Isaiah 19:17].
Were you alive in 1967? Were you? How many of you were alive in 1967? Hold up your hand. Well, that’s most of us, all except you children back here. Do you remember in 1967 when the armies of Judah tore apart the armies, and the tanks, and the guns, and the marching legions of Egypt? Do you remember that? And they came to the Suez Canal and stopped of their own accord. They could have easily swept into the whole land of Egypt. Can you believe that? A little tiny people called Judah here, by Israel, a “terror to Egypt.” It’s almost unthinkable what the prophets say.
Not only that but the last, the thirty-second chapter of Ezekiel, from 17 to the end of the chapter, and I wish we had time to speak of that. That is a funeral dirge and one of the most unusual you could ever read in the Bible. Down there, he depicts the open world of the netherland, the open world of Hades, and the Egyptians are being welcomed. And Pharaoh is being welcomed into hell by all other nations that are already fallen, and are down there! [Ezekiel 32:17-32] What an amazing, what an amazing prophecy!
Now I’m going to take the rest of the time to do one other thing. Egypt was a tremendous nation of vast and pompous and mighty cities, great cities. And the thirtieth chapter of the Book of Ezekiel is addressed in judgment upon those mighty cities [Ezekiel 30]. Now we’re going to name some of them. We’re going to speak of them. “Thus saith the Lord God”—in verse 13 of chapter 30—“I will destroy thy idols. I will cause their images to cease out of Noph” [Ezekiel 30:13]. Noph is the word for “Memphis.” Memphis is the name of the first capital of Egypt, a great a mighty city. Now if you’ve ever been to Cairo, I imagine you’d be just as I was. I said, “I want to go to Memphis. I want to look at it.” Man, there’s not anything to look at! Not anything to look at. No need to go out there where Memphis was, there’s nothing to look at, Memphis. Memphis was the first capital of the great nation of Egypt, gone! Then he says, “And I will make Pathros desolate” [Ezekiel 30:14], don’t even know where that is. “And set fire to Zoan” [Ezekiel 30:14], that was up there on the Mediterranean and another of the ancient capitals of Egypt. “And will set judgment upon No” [Ezekiel 30:14]; No is the name for Thebes, Thebes, one of the ancient capitals of Egypt, Thebes, where those great ruins of Luxor and Karnak are to be seen, vast temples of ruin. And he says, “The young men of Aven” [Ezekiel 30:17], that’s Greek Hierapolis, the “City of the Sun,” which is also up there in near Cairo and Pibeseth” [Ezekiel 30:17] one of the cities in the Delta. “And Tehaphnehes” [Ezekiel 30:18], which Herodotus describes. And this is what Ezekiel says of these mighty cities:
- Her foundation shall be broken [Ezekiel 30:4].
- The pride of her power shall come down [Ezekiel 30:6].
- The pomp of her strength shall cease [Ezekiel 30:18].
- And I have broken the arm of the king; and it shall not be bound up or healed [Ezekiel 30:21].
That’s what God said about those great cities of Egypt [Ezekiel 30:13-18].
Now listen to one the famous sonnets of literature. Shelley names it “Ozymandias.” Listen to it:
I met a traveler from an antique land—
Who said: two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things.
And on the pedestal these words appear.
“My name is Ozymandis, king of kings:
Look on my mighty works and despair!”
Nothing else remains: round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretched far away.
[from “Ozymandias,” Percy Bysse Shelley]
These great cities of the ancient world, where are they? Babylon, a heap in the desert; Nineveh, the army of Alexander the Great marched over Nineveh and did not know that a great city lay beneath their feet. Where are those great cities of antiquity? Memphis, Thebes, Tehaphnehes, Ephesus, the Greek cities of Asia Minor, imperial Rome.
I was walking through Rome such as you would downtown Dallas, and they were making an excavation for some kind of a subway or a building or whatever. Not being able to speak Italian, I couldn’t find out. I was just walking along and there was an enormous excavation. And down there on the bottom of that excavation, it seemed to me a hundred feet deep, I looked at great, beautiful arches buried in that city a hundred feet beneath the street. Where are those great cities of the past?
Now I have to conclude. Can you think that maybe, through the Lord God, they speak to us today, these ancient cities whose glory and pomp one time rose up to God in heaven? Do they speak to us today? Isn’t it true that the great cities hold the scepters of the world?
- Samaria was the Northern Kingdom of Israel.
- Jerusalem was the Southern Kingdom of Judah.
- Nineveh was the great, mighty empire of Assyria.
- Babylon was Chaldea.
- Athens was Hellas.
- Carthage was North Africa.
- Rome was the Empire.
I think Mexico City is Mexico. I think Tokyo is Japan. I think London is England. I think Paris is France. I think New York and Los Angeles are America. And I think Houston and Dallas and San Antonio are Texas. These great cities hold the nation in the palm of their hands. And as these great cities go, so go the destiny of the nation.
And that’s why, maybe it’s because I’m here, but that’s why—God help us and look upon us—that’s why I feel the burden and the assignment and the prophetic call to bring before God our great, mighty city of Dallas.
Where the nearest suburb and the city proper meet
My window-sill is level with the faces on the street
Drifting past, drifting past,
To the beat of weary feet,
While I sorrow for the owners of those faces on the street.
And cause I have to sorrow, in a land so young and fair,
To see upon those faces stamped the marks of Want and Care;
I look in vain for traces of the fresh, and bright, and sweet
In sallow, sunken faces that are drifting through the street–
Sinking down, sinking down,
To a drum’s dull, distant beat
In dens of vice and horror that are hidden from the street.
I wonder would the apathy of affluent men endure
Were all their windows level with the faces of the poor?
Ah! You at ease in Zion, your hearts in terror shall beat
When God demands a reason for the sorrows of the street.
The wrong things and the bad things,
And the sad things that we meet,
In the filthy lane and alley, of the cruel, heartless street.
I left the dreadful corner where the steps are never still,
And sought another window overlooking rill and hill;
And when the night came dreary with the driving rain and sleet,
They haunted me the shadows of those faces on the street,
Passing by, passing by,
Passing by with noiseless feet,
In that pent track of living death, the city’s cruel street.
[from “Faces In The Street,” Henry Lawson 1867-1922]
Great God, is there a lighthouse that can burn for Thee in this place and in this church? And do we not have a great prophetic call from God to reach these masses on the street, the great, vast, growing metropolis of the city of Dallas? They need us, whether they would say so or admit it or come before us and confess it, or not. Dallas needs Christ! And the Lord died for the masses of the city of Dallas. That there might be in us, the compassion of heart that would reach out to seek every soul and every heart and home and life in this great, thriving, throbbing metroplex, where this last week the paper and the radio said five thousand new people come to Dallas every week; five thousand a week.
Let me close with the compassionate heart. I was reading, this last week, T. Dewitt Talmage. T. Dewitt Talmage, a pastor in Brooklyn, New York, is the only preacher in America whose sermons appeared the following day, from one side of this continent to the other; from New York to Los Angeles. When he delivered his sermon on Sunday, on Monday his sermon appeared in all the newspapers of America.
He had a vast and compelling ministry. Well, just reading T. Dewitt Talmage, I came across this story that he told. And he told it so intimately that I could not help but think it must have concerned him, though he didn’t say so. Anyway, what he describes is a cell, a prison cell in New York, in which is confined a woman, in sentence there for some crime. Her mother, from the street, who was homeless, came to see her. And in one of those providences, inexplicable, while the mother was there in that cell visiting her incarcerated daughter, the mother died; just suddenly died.
The mother, homeless, and the daughter in the cell; the city of New York put that woman, that mother, in a coffin, and they had the service in the cell, in the jail, in the cell. And they asked a minister to come and conduct the memorial rites. Here’s where I think, though he didn’t say it, I think it was Talmage himself. The minister came and conducted the memorial service for that homeless, helpless, poor mother in that prison cell.
And at the end of the service, he said to that daughter, who was incarcerated, he said, “Would you put your hand on the brow of your mother?”
And he said, “Would you raise your other hand toward heaven? And will you tell our living Lord that you will give your heart and the rest of your life to Him. And you will trust Him and believe in Him? Will you do that?”
She said, “I will.” And with her hand on the brow of her mother and the other hand raised toward Jesus, she gave Him her heart and her life.
And the minister said, “Dear daughter, in the name of God and of our Savior and of your mother, God bless you and keep you and take care of you.”
And in a testimony in a Christian church, that sweet girl said, “That was the first time in my life that anybody ever spoke words of sweetness and kindness and blessing to me,” her whole life lived outside of the pale, and the influence, and the touch, and the love, and the compassion of our Lord and of God’s people.
Oh dear! As I read it, I thought of the multitudes that pass by. Does anyone speak to them? Does anyone have any word for them? Does anyone really care? This is our calling, our assignment. This is our prophetic ministry in this great city in which God hath cast our life and our lot.
O Master, in wisdom and in blessing, work with us. Help us to know how to do it, how to reach these families, how to gather up these children, in love and compassion, to teach them the mercy and grace of our living Lord. Do it, precious Savior; do it.
In this moment that we stand and sing our appeal, to give your heart to Jesus, a family of you, coming to put your life with us, serving Jesus, answering God’s call in your heart to be God’s messenger from Jesus, as the Spirit shall press the appeal, answer with your life, do it now. If you’re in the balcony, there’s time and to spare. In this lower floor, down one of these aisles, “Pastor, this is God’s day for me and I’m coming” [Romans 10:9-10]. Make it now; do it now. Welcome now. In our Savior’s dear name, come, while we stand and while we sing.