A Report To the Church

Nehemiah

A Report To the Church

September 11th, 1955 @ 10:50 AM

Nehemiah 8:1-3

And all the people gathered themselves together as one man into the street that was before the water gate; and they spake unto Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses, which the LORD had commanded to Israel. And Ezra the priest brought the law before the congregation both of men and women, and all that could hear with understanding, upon the first day of the seventh month. And he read therein before the street that was before the water gate from the morning until midday, before the men and the women, and those that could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive unto the book of the law.
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A REPORT TO THE CHURCH

Dr. W. A. Criswell

Nehemiah 8:1-3

9-11-55    10:50 a.m.

 

 

Now, the message this morning is the Book and the Judgments of God.

 

After they had passed throughout Pisidia, they came to Pamphylia.

And when they had preached the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia:

And thence they sailed to Antioch, from whence they had been commended to the grace of God for the work for which they fulfilled.

And when they were come, and had gathered the church together, they were rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how He had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles.

And there they abode a long time with the disciples.

[Acts 14:24-28]

 

And that is what we are going to do this morning.

Now, if you want to turn to it, my Scripture reading is in the eighth chapter of the Book of Nehemiah:

 

And all of the people gathered themselves together as one man into the street that was before the Water Gate; and they spake unto Ezra the scribe to bring the book [of the Law of Moses], which the Lord had commanded to Israel.

And Ezra the scribe stood upon a pulpit of wood, which they had made for the purpose…(verse 4)

And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all of the people … and when he opened it, all of the people stood up.

, And he read therein before the street that was before the Water Gate from the morning until the midday, before the men and the women, and those that could understand; and the ears of all of the people were attentive unto the book,

[Nehemiah 8:1, 4, 5, 3]

 

First, we shall speak of the nation and the Book; walking down the streets, the main streets of Paris, oh, four-thirty, five o’clock in the evening, on every side, in every newsstand, pornographic literature openly flagrantly, unashamedly displayed, Cartesians stopping every man on the street, just walking down Paris, thinking of the city, and looking at its buildings, the most beautiful city in the world, they have said; it is untouched by war.  The bombs fell on Coventry.  Those terrible V-weapons destroyed large parts of London.  But Paris was untouched.  She was untouched because she opened her gates to Hitlerite slavery.  She refused to resist.  She opened her heart and her soul to whatever evil tyranny and Nazi domination might bring.

And as I walked down the streets of the beautiful city of Paris, untouched by the ravages of war, I contrasted it in my soul with London and with Coventry and with England.  In the terrible and cruel and merciless day, when England stood alone, her armies had been defeated on the Continent.  Her cities were being ravaged by the increasing fall of the V-weapon, and she stood trembling before the prospect of invasion at any hour and at any moment.  At that time, there was no nation in the earth standing by England.  And in those merciless and ruthless days, Winston Churchill stood up and said, "We shall fight on the beaches.  We shall fight in the fields.  We shall fight in the streets.  We shall defend every house.  We will never surrender!"

Whence that will to resist?  Where does the spirit come to challenge evil against insuperable and insurmountable odds?  It comes from a people of the Book.  You cannot enslave a nation or a population who have before them an open Bible.  There is no nation in the earth today that is dominated by communist tyranny who has had an open Book – the nation and the Book.

I went to Albert Hall to register for the Baptist World Alliance.  I was told you must go to Central Hall, which is in front of Westminister Abbey.  I went to Central Hall in the afternoon to register and to attend the afternoon session of the Congress which usually – one of which was usually held in Central Hall.  There was no service there.  They did not have any session that afternoon.

So I walked around the district called Whitehall, where the Parliament buildings are, where Westminister Abbey is – the heart of England.  And being very tired and weary and not feeling well, I walked into Westminister Abbey, to be seated and to rest.  I was by myself.  So I sat down on a chair at the side, in the large nave of the Abbey.  I was seated there tired and weary and resting.  And I lifted up my face and saw, on the other side of the aisle – I saw this inscription, "In thankful commemoration of William Tyndale, 10-1536, translator of the Holy Scriptures into the language of the English people; a martyr, an exile in the cause of liberty and pure religion."

There were chairs on the other side of the aisle.  So after being seated there a while, I walked across the aisle and sat down and looked on the other side.  And this is what I saw: John Wesley, Charles Wesley, and underneath there was a sculptured picture of a large crowd in an open-air square in some town.  And before them was John Wesley standing, preaching.  In one hand he held a Book, the Bible, and his right hand was uplifted in a prayer, in appeal, and in an invitation.  And underneath, the words: "I look on all of the world as my parish," and "God buries His workman, but carries on His work" – a people and a nation of the Book.

After a while, I went to the House of Lords, which is just across the street, and I sat down and listened to their debate.  That’s the most beautifully decorated government house I have ever seen.  On that end is the throne where the king or the queen sits when one is in attendance upon the House of Lords.  And on the other end, this side, there is a large picture.  What is that picture?  It is beautifully done by a magnificent artist.  It is the picture of the king of England.  His crown is laid aside, and he is kneeling.  And in front of him is a minister of the gospel of the Son of God.  And in the minister’s hand is an open Book.  And I looked to see where the Book was opened.  It was at John 1:1: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."  And up and beyond was the cross, shedding its light full upon the pages of the sacred Scriptures – a nation of the Book.

What were the lords debating about?  Three of their number were prelates.  In the three of the three, the middle one was the bishop of Garvey.  The bishop of Garvey arose and made an appeal, in behalf of the poor colliers as he called them – we would say coal miners – pleading for justice and righteousness to be done by the poor coal miners of Wales and of England.  The rest of the afternoon, the House of Lords answered the bishop of Garvey, giving him economic reasons why the poor miners could not be helped.  The bishop of Garvey rose, made his closing address and ended it with this sentence, "God’s principles – God’s principles of justice and righteousness overrule man’s principles of economics" – a people of the Book.

Where does the spirit arise to challenge evil wherever she raises her head?  In slavery, in tyranny, in dictatorship, in awful merciless and ruthless cruelty, our world is challenged.  The people who dare to stand and face that flood of indescribable evil are the people of the Book; England, absolutely unafraid, America, absolutely unafraid.  And our sister nations like us, who have in their midst an open church, and an unfettered pulpit, and the preacher with an open Bible in his hand – the nation and the Book.

I now speak of war and the Book.  While in England, the Geneva Conference was held in Switzerland.  And like you, I eagerly read every day the newspaper of London, one of the newspapers of London.  And I followed that conference with great and deep interest.  One day, there came out in the headlines of all of the great newspapers of London, "Ike; I Am Tired of War."  And one newspaper in London had his picture drawn – a cartoonist had drawn it, a large picture of the President of the United States and that sentence he spoke at the Geneva Conference.  "I am tired of war."

The peoples of Europe have an indescribable longing for peace.  Having been through two terrible world wars, their souls go to God in prayer and intercession daily, in behalf of the peace of the world.  And in that prayer and in that fervent hope, the peoples of America also share, that we might have peace.  But what lies ahead?  What are the prospects of peace?  One of the most magnificent monuments I’ve ever seen in my life, and one of the most effective, is called The Angel of Peace.

It is in Munich, Germany.  It is built at the head of a great, wide avenue.  It is tall.  It is wonderfully executed.  It was built after World War I by the governments of Britain, and France, and the United States, and the Allied powers.  That was a war to end wars.  It was a war to make the world safe for democracy.  And when that war was fought and it was over, the nations of the world felt that, forever now, we would have peace and prosperity.

I just wonder what that angel thought, so beautifully wrought, so magnificently executed – I wonder what that angel of peace thought when, on top of that tall and beautiful column, she watched the destruction of the vast city of Munich, the capital of German Bavaria?

We have had our Geneva Conference, and there is a spirit of hope once again in the hearts of men.  And Russia has brought soothing words and platitudinous remarks of her intentions.  But I also can remember when, in Washington, D.C., on the sixth of December, there was in Washington, at that time, a commission of peace from the imperial government of Japan.  And they recessed their talks of peace on Saturday, December sixth, and were preparing to take them up again and to continue them on Monday, December the eighth of 1941.

And on Sunday, December 7, the day before the talks of peace were to continue, there fell out of the skies over Pearl Harbor and over Hickam Field in the Philippine Islands, there fell the terrible bombs of the Japanese military.  That same and identical thing lies back of the peaceful palaver of the ungodly and unscrupulous dictatorship that controls the destiny of the Soviet world.  And we are gullible.  And we are lacking in intelligence.  And we are not following what lies certainly ahead when we allow ourselves to be persuaded by those men who talk pretty words at a peace table in a beautiful city called Geneva.

"Why are you so sure of that?"  I am as sure of that as I am the Word of the living God.  Jeremiah said, "They cried, Peace, peace; when there is no peace" [Jeremiah 6:14, 8:11].  Because of the strength of the Western powers, Russia, finding herself unable to compete in the race, has turned quiet and docile like a tiger that’s on a little island when the floodwaters have destroyed the forest and the cities.  But it is still the tiger.  It is still cruel.  It is still anti-God.  It is still against everything that we believe in.  And Russian diplomacy is ever pointed toward the domination of the world!

We arrived here in Dallas on Wednesday night.  Thursday morning, in the Dallas News, I read this article from the congressman of California, Congressman Holt.  He described his experiences in the Soviet Union.  And Holt said that during his entire time in Russia, he was not able to see anything off the beaten path.  There is no freedom for the tourist going there.  You see what they want you to see!  And then they come back and say marvelous things about the Soviet Union.  But you never see their slave camps!  You never see their concentration camps!  You never see their terrible factories!  You never see the awful tyranny and slavery by which their people are ground to death under an impossible dictatorship.  And their only hope lies that we will be true to the basic freedoms that belong by the Word of God and under heaven to every man that lives.  That’s the reason that I am insulted by our Baptist so-called leaders who go to the Soviet Union.

While I was in Athens – there is a paper from Athens, Greece – I bought a paper in Athens, Greece.  And this is the headline, "Baptist Parson Startled by Religion in the Soviet Union."  Then the under-headline, "Large Numbers of Young People," and then, the next – the third headline, "Four American Baptist clergymen have left Moscow en route home, expressing amazement of the number of sincere young people in churches in the Soviet Union."

Then the article reads, "The Reverend Mr. Theodore F. Adams, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Richmond, Virginia, president of the Baptist World Alliance, told the press there are half a million Baptists in Russia, and a surprising number of young men and women in the churches."  He said that older women made up most of the congregation, but pointed out that the same rule held in the United States.  And that’s a flagrant misrepresentation!  I’d like for him to see this morning how many of the people in this congregation – and we are in Old First Baptist Church – how many of us here are not old women?  It would surprise him.

And I’m not saying anything against our blessed old mothers.  God be praised for them.  But for a man to say that, even in our country, our congregations are made up of old women is a flagrant misrepresentation.  Then he says – the Reverend Mr. Adams said, "Russians certainly have full freedom of worship," end quote.

May I point out to you something that our Baptist people do when they go to Russia?  And there’s a stream of you every once in over there.  When those first Baptist ministers went to Russia several years ago, they came back saying, "There are five million Baptist people in Russia.  They have full religious liberty."  All right, a few years passed and the next group went over there.  And they came back saying, "There are three million Baptist people in Russia.  And they have full religious liberty."  All right, this group goes over there and they came back saying, "There are one-half million Baptist people in Russia.  And they have full religious liberty."  The next group that goes over there will come back and have to say, "There’s not a Baptist in Russia.  But they have full religious liberty!"

Five million of them – and then, the next go around; three million of them – and then this go around, one-half million of them.  And yet, they say full religious liberty!  Our Baptist people in Russia are being decimated by every channel and every means that the Soviet Union could know and improvise!

Now, I say, I read this in Athens.  And there in Athens, they know the terrible scourge of communism.  In this last world war, when we were allied with Russia, we were helping Russia buy guns and tanks and weapons of war, buy planes and petrol.  In every way we knew how, we were helping Russia.  What was Russia doing?  Those Greek people said to me, when the Russians, the communists, came into Greece, they didn’t fight the Germans.  The Germans were already way back, driven up toward their homeland.  But when the Russians came to Greece, they fought Greeks!  And one of the men stood and with a sweep of his hand said, "Look at the marks of a civil war we had, precipitated in our native land by Russia and communism."

They live in dread and in fear and in terror of that horrible scourge that lies just beyond their border.  As for us, we have no compromise with communism in any place, in any state, in any nation, in any society, in any cultural order.  It has no place under God!  And what we need is a world of nations that are a people who dare to stand up and challenge communism, tyranny, slavery, evil, whenever it raises up its head.  And please God, that is the position of the United States of America, and that is the hope of the enslaved nations of this world.

Now, may I return to the Book?  The Book and war; there is not a member of the American consulate in Munich but will tell you there are no Germans but who believe that a war is inevitable.  How would you be if a foreign power had taken away Texas, and Oklahoma, and Louisiana, and Arkansas, and tied it on to Old Mexico, and we were driven back north, the graves of our forefathers down here, our homes down here, our children reared down here, and all of our land in the hands of an enemy.  What would you do?  You’d do just like the German does today.  He’d wait and abide the time when he would wrest from communist control the Eastern provinces of his Faderland.

What does the Book say?  In the ninth chapter of the Book of Daniel, you have an outline of the course of the history of the world.  And you listen to Gabriel – and the man Gabriel said, "And unto the end war is determined" [Daniel 9:26].  May I quote from the Lord Jesus Christ in the twenty-fourth [chapter] of Matthew?

 

You shall hear of wars and rumors of wars; see that ye be not troubled; for these things must come to pass…

Nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom shall rise against kingdom…

, Except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved; but for the elect’s sake, those days shall be shortened.

[Matthew 24:6-7, 22]

 

Now from the sixteenth of the Revelation, "And I saw three unclean spirits come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet" [Revelation 16:13].  The dragon is the Revelation word for the devil, the serpent.  The beast represents the political power, and the false prophet, of course, the false church.  You will have a great false church at the end of time.

 

The dragon, and the beast, and the prophet:

 

And they are the spirits of evil ones, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and to the whole world, to gather them to the battle of the great day of God Almighty…

And He gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon – the Hill of Megiddo.

[Revelation 16:14, 16]

 

The great, final battle of the Lord to be fought in that great valley of Megiddo – they call it today the Plain of Esdraelon.

In the journey before, we went through the pass of Megiddo, stood at the little hill of Megiddo.  On this journey, we stood on the other side of that great Plain of Esdraelon, where the great battles of the world in the ages past have been fought.  And as I stood there and looked over that great level plain – on one side the mountains of Samaria, of Gilboa, of Jezreel, and on the other side, the mountains of Galilee and in between, that great plaine where God’s Book says shall be the great and final battle of the Lord: the battle of Armageddon.

God’s Word says it isn’t peace.  God’s Book says it will be war.  God’s Book says it’s tribulation, it’s darkness, it’s trouble.  God’s Book says it’s all of those things that follow after the red horseman, and the black horseman, and the pale horseman, riding, riding, riding [Revelation 6:2-8].  I heard the secretary of the Arab League say this question of Jew and Arab, "For a while it is armistice, but, ultimately, it has to be settled by force of arms."

Last Sunday morning in Munich, one of the young men in the Baptist church there, the finest Baptist church we saw in all of this journey – fine group of people, large congregation – the young man, after the service, standing by me said, "It will be Antichrist and he’s coming soon.  And it’ll be that last war of Armageddon.  And I think," he says, "it is coming soon."  We blind ourselves to reality when we think, now because of sweet words of peace, the days of our danger and our tribulation are past.

"Pastor, such dark, dark pictures, such terrible and awful words."  Yes, when you take the downward look, it’s always dark.  Looking down at humanity and the nations of the world, it is always hopeless.  But I have another word.  And it’s the last one: the hope and the Book.  Listen to the words of the Savior:

 

Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.

And there will be signs in the sun, and in the moon…and upon the earth distress of nations,

Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking for those things which are coming on the earth…

And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.

[Luke 21:24-28]

 

The darkness is a sign that the light is coming.  "The distress of nations and men’s hearts failing them for fear" is a sign that our victory is coming soon – our hope and the Book.

I heard Dr. John Saren, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Rio de Janeiro – I heard him preach the convention sermon in Albert Hall in London.  And in that sermon, he told this little thing out of his life.  He said he was a chaplain in the 45th Brazilian Infantry Division attached to the United States Army, fighting its way up through Italy.  He said that winter they had fought through the cold of the Apennines mountains until the depth of the snow prevented their fighting any longer.  And for two months, he said there was quiet on the Italian front in those high Apennines, because of the depth of the snow and the bitterness of the cold.

The chaplain preacher said that, after two months had passed and the snow was going away, he said he walked out and around in "no man’s land," seeking bodies of the slain who had fallen in the previous winter’s campaign.   And the pastor said, as he walked in "no man’s land," he came across a Brazilian soldier boy, a sergeant, and looking down upon him, he recognized him as a boy who had grown up in the Sunday school of the First Baptist Church in Rio.  He said he examined the boy closely.  The cold of the ice and the snow had preserved his body perfectly, even though he had been dead for two months.  And by looking around, the chaplain said, it was apparent what had happened.  The boy had no ammunition left.  He had fought until all of his ammunition was exhausted.  After his ammunition had given out, the boy apparently had arisen from his place to charge one last time with his bare rifle.  But when he rose to make the charge, he was shot in the chest.  But apparently, the boy had not died immediately, for seating himself, he had taken out of his pocket his little Bible with the Testament and with the Psalms.  And apparently, the soldier boy was reading God’s Word as his life ebbed away, for the pages of the Book were frozen together with his own blood.  And apparently, as the boy read, he found himself unable to hold up his head.  And as he read, his head bowed forward, until finally it was buried in the pages of the Book, for the Book was frozen to his face by his own blood.  And the chaplain said he looked to see where the boy was reading in God’s Word.  And looking, the boy had turned to "the Shepherd’s Psalm," Psalm 23: "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want … Yea, in the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me."

We live in a world of tribulation.  It is a world of sorrow and heartache.  It is a world of death and disaster.  It is a world of inevitable and certain war.  That’s the world we live in. 

But above that world, high above it stands the living God, the merciful Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.  His arms are ever outstretched.  His hands are open toward us and in life, in death, in age, in darkness, in weariness, in pain, in suffering, in cold, in hunger, in war, in tribulation, there He ever stands our Victor, our King, our Savior, and our hope is the blessed promise of this Book. 

I want us this morning to change our invitation song.  Let’s sing number fifteen:

 

Savior, like a shepherd lead us. 

Much we need Thy tender care. 

In Thy pleasant pastures feed us,

For our use, Thy folds prepare. 

Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus,

Thou hast bought us,

Thine we are. 

Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus,

Thou hast bought us,

And Thine we are. 

["Savior, Like A Shepherd Lead Us"; William B. Bradbury]

 

            And while we sing that shepherd hymn and while the pastor is here at the front, from the balcony, the topmost row, and from every side somebody you give his heart to the Lord, come and stand by me.  A family you, put your life in the church, come and stand by me.  One somebody you, whom the Lord calls, while we make appeal this morning, you come, while we stand and while we sing.