Victory Through Repentance

1 Kings

Victory Through Repentance

February 24th, 1991 @ 10:50 AM

And it came to pass after many days, that the word of the LORD came to Elijah in the third year, saying, Go, shew thyself unto Ahab; and I will send rain upon the earth. And Elijah went to shew himself unto Ahab. And there was a sore famine in Samaria. And Ahab called Obadiah, which was the governor of his house. (Now Obadiah feared the LORD greatly: For it was so, when Jezebel cut off the prophets of the LORD, that Obadiah took an hundred prophets, and hid them by fifty in a cave, and fed them with bread and water.) And Ahab said unto Obadiah, Go into the land, unto all fountains of water, and unto all brooks: peradventure we may find grass to save the horses and mules alive, that we lose not all the beasts. So they divided the land between them to pass throughout it: Ahab went one way by himself, and Obadiah went another way by himself. And as Obadiah was in the way, behold, Elijah met him: and he knew him, and fell on his face, and said, Art thou that my lord Elijah? And he answered him, I am: go, tell thy lord, Behold, Elijah is here. And he said, What have I sinned, that thou wouldest deliver thy servant into the hand of Ahab, to slay me? As the LORD thy God liveth, there is no nation or kingdom, whither my lord hath not sent to seek thee: and when they said, He is not there; he took an oath of the kingdom and nation, that they found thee not. And now thou sayest, Go, tell thy lord, Behold, Elijah is here. And it shall come to pass, as soon as I am gone from thee, that the Spirit of the LORD shall carry thee whither I know not; and so when I come and tell Ahab, and he cannot find thee, he shall slay me: but I thy servant fear the LORD from my youth. Was it not told my lord what I did when Jezebel slew the prophets of the LORD, how I hid an hundred men of the LORD'S prophets by fifty in a cave, and fed them with bread and water? And now thou sayest, Go, tell thy lord, Behold, Elijah is here: and he shall slay me. And Elijah said, As the LORD of hosts liveth, before whom I stand, I will surely shew myself unto him to day. So Obadiah went to meet Ahab, and told him: and Ahab went to meet Elijah. And it came to pass, when Ahab saw Elijah, that Ahab said unto him, Art thou he that troubleth Israel? And he answered, I have not troubled Israel; but thou, and thy father's house, in that ye have forsaken the commandments of the LORD, and thou hast followed Baalim. Now therefore send, and gather to me all Israel unto mount Carmel, and the prophets of Baal four hundred and fifty, and the prophets of the groves four hundred, which eat at Jezebel's table. So Ahab sent unto all the children of Israel, and gathered the prophets together unto mount Carmel. And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? if the LORD be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. And the people answered him not a word. Then said Elijah unto the people, I, even I only, remain a prophet of the LORD; but Baal's prophets are four hundred and fifty men. Let them therefore give us two bullocks; and let them choose one bullock for themselves, and cut it in pieces, and lay it on wood, and put no fire under: and I will dress the other bullock, and lay it on wood, and put no fire under: And call ye on the name of your gods, and I will call on the name of the LORD: and the God that answereth by fire, let him be God. And all the people answered and said, It is well spoken. And Elijah said unto the prophets of Baal, Choose you one bullock for yourselves, and dress it first; for ye are many; and call on the name of your gods, but put no fire under. And they took the bullock which was given them, and they dressed it, and called on the name of Baal from morning even until noon, saying, O Baal, hear us. But there was no voice, nor any that answered. And they leaped upon the altar which was made. And it came to pass at noon, that Elijah mocked them, and said, Cry aloud: for he is a god; either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is in a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awaked. And they cried aloud, and cut themselves after their manner with knives and lancets, till the blood gushed out upon them. And it came to pass, when midday was past, and they prophesied until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that there was neither voice, nor any to answer, nor any that regarded. And Elijah said unto all the people, Come near unto me. And all the people came near unto him. And he repaired the altar of the LORD that was broken down. And Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, unto whom the word of the LORD came, saying, Israel shall be thy name: And with the stones he built an altar in the name of the LORD: and he made a trench about the altar, as great as would contain two measures of seed. And he put the wood in order, and cut the bullock in pieces, and laid him on the wood, and said, Fill four barrels with water, and pour it on the burnt sacrifice, and on the wood. And he said, Do it the second time. And they did it the second time. And he said, Do it the third time. And they did it the third time. And the water ran round about the altar; and he filled the trench also with water. And it came to pass at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that Elijah the prophet came near, and said, LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things at thy word. Hear me, O LORD, hear me, that this people may know that thou art the LORD God, and that thou hast turned their heart back again. Then the fire of the LORD fell, and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces: and they said, The LORD, he is the God; the LORD, he is the God. And Elijah said unto them, Take the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape. And they took them: and Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon, and slew them there. And Elijah said unto Ahab, Get thee up, eat and drink; for there is a sound of abundance of rain. So Ahab went up to eat and to drink. And Elijah went up to the top of Carmel; and he cast himself down upon the earth, and put his face between his knees, And said to his servant, Go up now, look toward the sea. And he went up, and looked, and said, There is nothing. And he said, Go again seven times. And it came to pass at the seventh time, that he said, Behold, there ariseth a little cloud out of the sea, like a man's hand. And he said, Go up, say unto Ahab, Prepare thy chariot, and get thee down, that the rain stop thee not. And it came to pass in the mean while, that the heaven was black with clouds and wind, and there was a great rain. And Ahab rode, and went to Jezreel. And the hand of the LORD was on Elijah; and he girded up his loins, and ran before Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel. And Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and withal how he had slain all the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger unto Elijah, saying, So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I make not thy life as the life of one of them by to morrow about this time. And when he saw that, he arose, and went for his life, and came to Beersheba, which belongeth to Judah, and left his servant there. But he himself went a day's journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree: and he requested for himself that he might die; and said, It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers. And as he lay and slept under a juniper tree, behold, then an angel touched him, and said unto him, Arise and eat. And he looked, and, behold, there was a cake baken on the coals, and a cruse of water at his head. And he did eat and drink, and laid him down again. And the angel of the LORD came again the second time, and touched him, and said, Arise and eat; because the journey is too great for thee. And he arose, and did eat and drink, and went in the strength of that meat forty days and forty nights unto Horeb the mount of God. And he came thither unto a cave, and lodged there; and, behold, the word of the LORD came to him, and he said unto him, What doest thou here, Elijah? And he said, I have been very jealous for the LORD God of hosts: for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away. And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the LORD. And, behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake: And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice. And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah? And he said, I have been very jealous for the LORD God of hosts: because the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away. And the LORD said unto him, Go, return on thy way to the wilderness of Damascus: and when thou comest, anoint Hazael to be king over Syria: And Jehu the son of Nimshi shalt thou anoint to be king over Israel: and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abelmeholah shalt thou anoint to be prophet in thy room. And it shall come to pass, that him that escapeth the sword of Hazael shall Jehu slay: and him that escapeth from the sword of Jehu shall Elisha slay. Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him. So he departed thence, and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, who was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen before him, and he with the twelfth: and Elijah passed by him, and cast his mantle upon him. And he left the oxen, and ran after Elijah, and said, Let me, I pray thee, kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow thee. And he said unto him, Go back again: for what have I done to thee? And he returned back from him, and took a yoke of oxen, and slew them, and boiled their flesh with the instruments of the oxen, and gave unto the people, and they did eat. Then he arose, and went after Elijah, and ministered unto him.
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Dr. W. A. Criswell 

2 Kings 18-19

2-24-91    10:50 a.m.


On radio and on television you are now part of our dear and precious First Baptist Church in Dallas.  This is the pastor bringing the message.  It is different from the one that has been announced and is published.  Last night late, I learned of the ground attack that is now launched against Iraq, and my spirit was restless in me.  I could not find quiet in my heart.  So at midnight I prepared this sermon from 2 Kings chapters 18 and19.

The first avowal—and as I read, I am going to change the name of the country from its ancient delineation to its modern nomenclature.  In ancient times it was called Assyria; today it is called Iraq.  And I am going to read the Bible and use the name of the country as it is called today.  The first avowal: that war is a judgment of Almighty God, 2 Kings 18:9:

And it came to pass in the fourth year of King Hezekiah, which was the seventh year of Hoshea the son of Elah king of Israel, that Shalmaneser king of Iraq came up against Samaria, and besieged it.

And at the end of three years they took it: even in the sixth year of Hezekiah, the ninth year of Hoshea king of Israel, Samaria was taken.

And the king of Iraq did carry away Israel unto Iraq. . .

Because they obeyed not the voice of the Lord their God, but transgressed His covenant, and all that Moses the servant of the Lord commanded, and would not hear them, nor do them.

[2 Kings 18:9-12]

And the kingdom of Samaria was destroyed forever by the king of Iraq, Shalmaneser.  War is a judgment of Almighty God [2 Kings 1:9].  There is a sovereignty that guides in the destinies of men and of nations, above all of the legislative processes and all of the preparations militarily that we make in national life.  War is a judgment of Almighty God.

I stood in Berlin after the Second World War, looked at the vast illimitable desolation, stood at the bunker where Hitler had committed suicide; a judgment of Almighty God.  And through the centuries of human history, that sovereign power and might of the Almighty God is evident in human life, in human destiny, and in human affairs.

One of the heaviest hearts I ever felt in all of my life: I was in Istanbul and watched them as they prepared for the five hundredth anniversary of the destruction of that city and the taking of that metropolis by the Mohammedan Turks.  And as I walked through the area of the Golden Horn and through the most famous church in Christendom, St. Sophia, which is now a Mohammedan mosque, I relived the day of the destruction of that great bastion of the Christian faith.  When the Turks stormed the gate of the city, the Roman emperor, rather than see it, flung himself into the battle and perished.

And the same scene, you who have visited the seven churches of Asia, Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, Laodicea [Revelation 2:1-3:22], the same loss to the Christian faith is evident.  Having found themselves untrue to the call of God, they fell prey to the judgment of the Almighty.

War is a judgment of God.  I flew over Vietnam during our conflict and confrontation there and looked down on it from the sky.  For the first time in American history, we felt the sting and the shame of defeat and failure.  How could such a  providence ever overcome and overwhelm our beloved America?

They will say in Washington, in the White House, “Let us pray.”  They will say in the Congress of the United States, “Let us pray.”  They will say in our state legislatures and in our corporate life, “Let us pray.”  But if they prayed in the schools of America, if our children prayed, it would be against the law.  War is a judgment of Almighty God.  And our own nation does not find refuge from that same mighty and omnipotent hand.  We live under the aegis of God.

The second avowal: victory is a gift from heaven.  Victory comes from the same almighty hand of God; 2 Kings 19:

It came to pass, when King Hezekiah heard it, the words of Rabshakeh, the spokesman for Sennacherib the king of Iraq, that he rent his clothes, covered himself with sackcloth, went into the house of the Lord.

And he sent Eliakim, which was over the household, and Shebna the scribe, and the elders of the priests, covered with sackcloth, to the prophet Isaiah the son of Amoz.

And they said unto him, Thus saith Hezekiah, This day is a day of trouble, and of rebuke, and blasphemy: for the children have come to the birth, and there is not strength to bring forth.

It may be the Lord thy God will hear all the words of Rabshakeh, whom the king of Iraq his master has sent to reproach the living God; and will reprove the words which the Lord thy God hath heard: wherefore lift up thy prayer for the remnant that are left.

So the servants of the king Hezekiah came to Isaiah.

And the prophet Isaiah said unto them, Thus shall you say to your master, Thus saith the Lord, Be not afraid of the words which thou hast heard, with which the servants of the king of Iraq have blasphemed Me.

Behold, I will send a blast upon him, he shall hear a rumor, shall return to his own land; and I will cause him to fall by the sword in his own land.

[2 Kings 19:1-7]


Victory is an intervention of heaven; it is a gift from God.  Isn’t that an unusual thing?  “I will send a blast upon him” [2 Kings 19:7], the imponderables of war.  The Spanish Armada came to the English Channel to destroy the country from whence my forefathers came to America.  And God looked down upon that impregnable fleet from the mighty kingdom of Spain, and the Lord God sent a wind and a tempest and a hurricane and blew it away and spared and saved England, my country of my forefathers.  God did it!

In the days of Napoleon Bonaparte in Waterloo—and I walked over that battlefield and looked at it.  Unknown to Napoleon and to his army, there was a deep, deep, wide road; and when Napoleon’s forces attacked, unknown to them, they faced the depth of that road, and his armies poured into it.  And Marshal Ney, the leader of his forces, was drunk with wine.  And Waterloo that day was lost to the victorious leader of our English forces; the intervention of God!

General Rommel of Hitler’s army, taking all of North Africa and marching close and inside of the great city of Alexandria, found his water supply turned to salt and the army perished in defeat; the intervention of God!

That occasion, the famous poem by Rudyard Kipling, England celebrating the Diamond Jubilee of Victoria, queen for sixty years.  At that time the British Empire embraced the entire globe.  The sun never set upon the strength and might and power of the British.  And after the glory of that solid year of celebrating the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria, when it was done and all of those representatives of the nations of the world turned homeward, he wrote his poem:

God of our fathers, known of old,

Lord of our far-flung battle-line,

Beneath whose awful Hand we hold

Dominion over palm and pine—

Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,

Lest we forget—lest we forget!

The tumult and the shouting dies;

The Captains and the Kings depart:

Still stands Thine ancient sacrifice,

An humble and a contrite heart.

Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,

Lest we forget—lest we forget!

Far-call’d our navies melt away;

On dune and headland sinks the fire:

Lo, all our pomp of yesterday

Is one with Nineveh and Tyre!

Lord God, Judge of the Nations, be with us yet,

Lest we forget—lest we forget!

If, drunk with sight of power, we loose

Wild tongues that have not Thee in awe,

Such boastings as the Iraqi use,

Or lesser breeds without the Law—

Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,

Lest we forget—lest we forget!

[adapted from “Recessional,” by Rudyard Kipling, June 22, 1897]

Our destiny lies in the hands of the omnipotent God.

A third avowal: our victory comes in sackcloth and in ashes.  It comes in repentance and in devotion to God.  The king of Iraq sent Hezekiah a letter, 2 Kings 19:14:

Hezekiah received the letter at the hand of the messengers, and he took it: and went up in the house of the Lord, and spread it before God.

And Hezekiah prayed before the Lord, and said, O Lord God of Israel, who dwellest between the cherubim, Thou art God, even Thou alone. . .

Lord, bow down Thine ear, and hear: open, Lord, Thine eyes, and see: hear the words of Sennacherib, the king of Iraq, sent to reproach the living God.

O God, of a truth, the kings of Iraq have destroyed the nations and their lands.

[2 Kings 19:14-17]

Isn’t that the Lord’s truth?  I feel so sorry for those people of Kuwait.  I don’t know how to voice it.  They have cast their gods into the fire, but they weren’t any gods; they were the gods of men.

Therefore, O Lord our God, I beseech Thee, save Thou us out of his hand, that all of the kingdoms of the earth may know that Thou art the Lord God, even Thou only.

[2 Kings 19:19]

And then God’s answer: Hezekiah rent his clothes, covered himself with sackcloth, went into the house of the Lord, sent Eliakim and Shebna and the elders covered with sackcloth [2 Kings 19:1-2].

Then Isaiah—

verse 20:

the son of Amoz sent to Hezekiah, saying, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, That which thou hast prayed for Me against Sennacherib the king of Iraq I have heard.

And this is the word that the Lord [hath spoken concerning him: The virgin], the daughter of Zion [hath] despised him. . .

[2 Kings 19:20-21]


And there follows after, down to this twenty-eighth verse:

Because thy rage against Me and thy tumult is come unto Mine ears, therefore I will put My hook in his nose, and My bridle in his lips, and I will turn him back by the way by which he came.

[2 Kings 19:28]


Verse 32:

Thus saith the Lord concerning the king of Iraq, He shall not come into this city, not even shoot an arrow. . .

By the way that he came, by the same shall he return, He will not come into this city. . .

For I will defend it to save it. . .

And it came to pass that night, that the angel of the Lord went out, and smote in the camp of the Iraqi a hundred fourscore and five thousand, one hundred eighty-five thousand soldiers: and when they arose early in the morning, behold, they were all dead corpses.

So Sennacherib the king of Iraq departed and went and returned to his capital in Nineveh, in Baghdad.

And it came to pass, as he was worshiping in the house of his god, that his two sons smote him with a sword:  and he died.

[2 Kings 19: 32-37]

Victory through sackcloth and repentance.

Why are we involved in this war?  And why would I be so much in prayer in behalf of the armed forces of our wonderful country?  Here’s one reason: as you know, I am pro-Israel.

Day and night, beginning and ending, I am pro-Jewish.  That’s where I got this Book.  It came from them.  That’s where I was introduced to my Savior, He came from them.  We could never repay our debt to Israel.  And if this Iraqi, Saddam Hussein, wins any war in the Middle East, Israel will be destroyed.  There will be no more Israel.  The first thing that Hussein will do will be to drive Israel into the sea.  Millions of those Jews, as under Hitler, six million of them were slain, so under this king of Iraq, there will be millions of Jews, every Jew in Palestine will be slain.  There will be no more Israel.

They speak of the Palestinian question.  Why is there a Palestinian question? Sweet people, right after the Second World War, I was all over Western Europe.  And in Munich, where the bombs had destroyed the Baptist church of that great city, I preached Sunday night in the basement, covered over temporarily with sheets of wood and metal, whatever they could find.  Four languages, it had to be interpreted in.  A ten-minute sermon, forty minutes long—four languages, as I preached to those people, those refugees.  Those refugees were in Western Europe by the hundreds and the hundreds of thousands!  And what did Western Europe do?  Western Europe opened their factories to them, opened their cities to them, opened their country to them, opened their villages to them, assimilated them, there was never a problem with the refugees from the Second World War.

Why do you have a problem with the Palestinian refugees?  In those days after the War of 1948, when Israel was created, I saw those Palestinian refugees living in the deserts, between rocks.  And from one rock to the other, there would be a black goat-haired cloth and the family live between.

What is the matter with the Arab nations?  They cover that part of creation.  All they had to do was to open their arms to their fellow Arabs and receive them:  “Come, here’s a place to live here.  Come, there’s a place to work here.  Come, there is a place to be cared for here.”  Instead, the Arabs have kept them out there.  And the United Nations and the United States have fed them for the decades since.  That’s why you have a Palestinian problem.  I cannot believe the hardness of heart that would look upon their brothers and let them die in the desert.  There’s a Palestinian problem.  That’s it.

And all of the things that concern this Middle East problem; great God in heaven, how we need Thy loving presence and Thy loving care and Thy precious remembrance. And God will be with us, and the Lord will stand by us, if we turn to Him for that ultimate and final answer.

And the Lord God said to me,

“These things shall be, these things shall be.

Nor help shall come from the scarlet skies

Till My people rise!

Till My people rise, My hand is weak;

I cannot speak, till My people speak;

When men are dumb, My voice is dumb—

I cannot come, until My people come.


Far over the flaming earth and sea …

The cry of My people must come to Me.

Not till their spirit break the curse,

May I claim My own in the universe …

But if My people rise, if My people rise,

I will answer them from the swarming skies.”

[excerpts from “God Prays” by Angela Morgan, 1918]

Our ultimate answer and hope lies in a prayer-answering God who looks down upon His people who cry unto Him.

General Marshall spoke of the army, so many years the chief of staff: “It is spiritual morale,” he says, “that wins the victory.  That type of spiritual morale that can only come out of the religious nature of the soldier who knows God and has the spirit of religious fervor in his soul.  I count on that type of man and on that kind of an army, one that believes in the Lord and one that looks to God for our victory.”

So let’s ask the Lord for His intervention and the baring of His strong arm to save; let’s ask Him.  You men up here on the platform, would you kneel?  And you deacons there, would you kneel?  Choir, I don’t know whether you can or not, but try, can you kneel?  All the members of the choir, orchestra, you have your instruments, see if you can kneel with your instruments.  And dear people who fill this sanctuary, wherever you are, let’s kneel.  Let’s kneel.  Let’s kneel.

Dear Lord God in heaven, at this very moment, our men and our women in the Middle East are facing death, all because of this insane madman who seeks to destroy Israel and who curses our beloved America.

O God, spare the lives of those men and women over there.  They face such terrible confrontations: land mines, artillery, the savagery of personal combat.  O God, intervene; make this battle short, please God.  And may the day soon come and the hour quickly arrive when the announcement is made to the people of America and to the whole world, “The battle is won, the day of war is over and we can go home.”  And bless the future in Thy gracious hands, both for Israel, for the Arab nations, and above us, dear God, for us here in our beloved homeland.  Humbly we pray, in Thy saving and intervening name, amen.