God Speaks to America
April 28th, 1985 @ 10:50 AM
GOD SPEAKS TO AMERICA
Dr. W. A. Criswell
4-28-85 10:50 a.m.
Now we are going to look at chapters 25 to 32 in the Book of Ezekiel. It is entitled God Speaks To America. We sometimes fall into the persuasion that the prophets of the Bible address their words to Israel alone, but nothing could be further from the truth. The Lord God who sits above the heavens and on the throne of the universe addresses His message through the prophets to all the peoples, and kindreds, and tribes, and nations of the world. The reason we think that God speaks to Israel alone through His prophets is that they were first in the judgments of Almighty God, because they were the chosen family, and the chosen people God judged them first.
Amos chapter 3, verses 1 and 2, 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." But the Lord God of the nations of the earth through His prophets addresses all of the cities and peoples of the planet.
Isaiah, for example, in chapter 10, addresses Assyria; in chapter 13, Babylon; in chapter 14, Philistia; in chapter 15, Moab; in chapter 17, Damascus; in chapter 18, Ethiopia; in chapter 19, Egypt; in chapter 21, Edom and Arabia; and in chapter 23, Tyre – the great city of Tyre.
Jeremiah in chapter 46 addresses the prophecy from God to Egypt; 47, to Philistia; 48, to Moab; and in chapter , to Ammon, to Damascus, to Arabia, and to Elam.
Daniel addresses his message to all the nations of all time to the consummation of the age. Joel speaks of "The Day of the Lord" and the end of history. Obadiah’s prophecy is to Edom alone. Jonah is sent from God to a heathen nation and to a pagan city, Nineveh. Nahum concerns Nineveh, the ancient capital of Assyria, alone. Habakkuk speaks of the Babylonian invasion.
And Zephaniah is addressed to Philistia, to Moab, to Ammon, to Ethiopia, and to Assyria. The whole gamut and spectrum of human life and destiny are presented in the prophets, the message from God to the nations of the world.
So it is in Ezekiel. Ezekiel 25 speaks of Ammon, of Moab, of Edom and Philistia. And from 26, 27, and 28, the prophecy concerns the mighty, merchandising, marine city of Tyre. Verses 20 to 26 concerns Sidon [Ezekiel] 28; chapters 29,30, 31, and 32 concerns Egypt.
When we, therefore, look at the message of God to the nations of the world, we are looking at the message of God to us. Why were these nations brought under such severe condemnation? For the same reason that God shall judge us today. The two great sections of this prophecy in Ezekiel are composed of messages to Tyre and to Egypt. Now, why are they brought under such severe judgment and condemnation of God? Well, look at that: in chapter 28, verse 9, Tyre says: "I am God. I am God." But God says: "Thou art a man, and no God, in the hand of him that slayeth thee."
Or look again in the next chapter, chapter 29, verse 9: the Pharaoh of Egypt, the king of Egypt, says, "I made the River Nile. The river is mine, and I made it." You stagger at those things! They usurp the place of Almighty God! We are no different: we read God out of our political life, out of our educational life, out of our merchandising life. And any gesture that there might be the imponderables of God in our deliberations of state is a sop. We assume the prerogatives of God, and God shall surely judge us.
So we are going to look at the two great parts of this prophecy, the first that concerns Tyre and the second one that concerns Egypt. Tyre was a mighty, majestic, powerful, rich, mercantile, merchandising, marine city located on the eastern edge, eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea. With one hand, she beckoned all of the trade of that vast inland Orient beyond her, and with the other hand, she included the great merchandising fleets of the world. Her mighty masts guiding her ships to all of the ports of the civilized world brought riches beyond compare to the great city of Tyre. It was built in two vast areas: one was on the mainland, and the other was on an island just beyond the mainland – and seemingly impregnable.
But the prophecy in Ezekiel chapters 26, 27, and 28 – but especially 26, the prophecy in Ezekiel beginning at verse 7 and concluding at 14 – announces the coming of Nebuchadnezzar and finally the entire destruction of the city with the announcement that it will be destroyed forever. It will never be built again.
That was unthinkable when Ezekiel uttered those words! But Nebuchadnezzar came, and for thirteen years he besieged and battered the Tyrean port on the mainland, and after thirteen years he destroyed it completely. But he was not able to touch the city on the island out there on the Mediterranean. Their fleets were too massive, and their defenses were too impregnable, and Nebuchadnezzar was never able to touch the marine city in the sea.
But the prophecy of Ezekiel said the entire city would be destroyed, all of it, and its timbers and its stones would be cast into the waters [Ezekiel 26:12]. God’s word never falls to the ground! Give it time; give it time – God is not hastened. God’s word is forever enduring. It is fixed in heaven forever [Psalm 119:89]. God said the city shall be completely destroyed: and two hundred forty years later – after Nebuchadnezzar had destroyed the mainland – two hundred forty years later, Alexander the Great came with his army, and he took – just exactly as Ezekiel had said hundreds and hundreds of years before – verse 12: "They shall lay thy stones and thy timber and thy dust in the midst of the water,And I will make thee like a top of a rock: Thou shalt be a place to spread nets; and thou shalt be built no more" [Ezekiel 26:14].
Alexander the Great came, and he took the stones and the timbers and the debris of the city of Tyre that had been built on the mainland and destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar; he took that vast destructive debris and made a massive mote, a causeway from the mainland out to the city in the ocean, in the Mediterranean. And Alexander the Great destroyed the city forever. It is today, it is today a barren rock on which fishermen dry and mend their nets, just exactly as Ezekiel had said.
Where are the gleaming towers of Tyre? The island city after the destruction of the mainland was more glorious, and pompous, and majestic, and rich, and wealthy than it had ever been before. Where are those gleaming towers today? Where are those chariots that roared through her city? Where are those masts of her great shipping and merchandising fleet? They are gone– "Sic transit gloria mundi," thus passeth the glory of the world. That is the prophecy of Ezekiel concerning Tyre.
We turn now to the prophecy of Ezekiel concerning Egypt: 29, 30, 31 and 32. There are some things about this prophecy that amaze me because it concerned a nation that we can look at today. Ezekiel said Tyre would be utterly and completely annihilated. It will cease to exist from the face of the earth, but not so Egypt. What the prophet says about Egypt is seen in verses 15 and 16 of chapter 29. He says concerning Egypt there shall be there a low nation: "It shall be the lowest of the kingdoms; neither shall it exalt itself anymore above the nations, for I will diminish them, that they shall no more rule over the nations."
Now when Ezekiel said that, Egypt was one of the great, mighty, governing, ruling, conquering kingdoms of the world! But Ezekiel said she will be down here at the bottom. Well, look at Egypt today. If you were naming the great powers of the world today, would you name Egypt? It would never occur to you. There are so many nations mightier than Egypt – Egypt is down here.
There’s another little incidental thing in Isaiah chapter 19, verse 17: "The land of Judah shall be a terror unto Egypt." Now when [Isaiah] wrote that, Egypt was one of the great kingdoms of the world; the greatest kingdom in the world, and little Judah, little Judah down here, little tiny Judah – how many of you were alive in 1967, would you hold up your hand? I was alive in 1967. Well, that’s a lot of us; most of us. Do you remember, 1967, the Six-Day War in June of that year? Little Israel came down after the attack of those Arab neighbors, little Israel came down and cut the armies of Egypt into shreds, and stopped at the Suez Canal, and could have crossed over that small water barrier, and have destroyed the entire land of Egypt – just as Ezekiel said.
It staggers me! These things were written thousands of years before 1967. "Little Judah shall be a terror to Egypt" [Isaiah 19:17]. One of the most unusual things you’ll ever read in the Bible is Ezekiel 32, beginning at verse 17 to verse 32, the end of the chapter. That is a funeral dirge, a funeral dirge. It is a description, and a vivid one, of all of these people in Hades, down there in hell, as they are welcoming the Pharaoh and the people and the armies of Egypt down into the nether world – an amazing, an amazing prophecy!
But may I turn myself now to one thing in this prophecy concerning Egypt; and that encompasses the great and mighty cities of ancient Egypt. We’re going to look at chapter 30, chapter 30, beginning now at verse 13, "Thus saith the Lord God; I will also destroy the idols, and I will cause their images to cease out of Noph." Noph is ancient Memphis, and Memphis is the first capital of Egypt; the ancient and glorious city of Memphis. Now let’s continue: "And I will make Pathros" – don’t even know where that is – "desolate, and will set fire to Zoan" – that was an ancient capital up there next to the Mediterranean Sea; doesn’t even exist anymore – "and I will execute judgment on No" – that’s Thebes, the ancient, ancient, ancient, and great, mighty city of Thebes; all you see there now are the ruins of those vast temples of Luxor and Karnak at Thebes. "And I will pour My fury upon Sin": that’s Pelusium, Pelusium on the sea, and Sin; Thebes down there at the other end where the Nile enters that country of Egypt; from one side to the other, He is saying [Ezekiel 30:13-15].
Now look at verse 17: he mentions the men of Aven. Aven is Hierapolis, the city of the sun – these cities do not exist anymore – and Pibeseth, that was a city in the Delta. And he speaks of, in verse 18, Tehaphnehes; Herodotus describes that city. He visited Tehaphnehes in Egypt.
Well, what of these vast cities, tremendous cities? Look at verse 4: "Her foundation shall be broken down," chapter 30, verse 4. Look at verse 6: "The pride of her power shall come down." Look at verse 18: "The pomp of her strength shall cease." And look at verse 21, "I have broken the arm of the king of Egypt; and it shall not be bound up to be healed." Those cities are gone!
When I was last in Cairo, I said to some of those people there who were conducting the tour of the city, “I want to go to Memphis.”
"Memphis? Where would that be?"
" Why, it is just outside of Cairo; Memphis."
"But there is nothing there to see. Memphis, it is gone."
After the 8:15 service, one of my wonderful deacons came up to me. Pilot – retired from Branniff for a generation – Orval Rogers said to me, “I was in a plane following the Nile River over Egypt.” And he said, “I said to the pilot, ‘I want you to show me Memphis.’ And the pilot said, ‘I never heard of it.'” The great mighty capital of ancient Egypt: "I never heard of it." You can’t see it.
Did you ever read in literature, in English literature, this magnificent sonnet by Shelly, "Ozymandias?":
I met a traveler from an antique land
– Egypt –
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 Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!’
Nothing else remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretched far away."
Sic transit gloria mundi, thus passeth the glory of the world – the judgment of God upon the nations and the cities that forget Him; that usurp His place.
Do you ever think of the great, mighty cities of the ancient world and what has become of them? Where is Nineveh, the vast capital of the Assyrian Empire? The armies of Alexander the Great marched over Nineveh and never realized that a mighty city and a great civilization were buried beneath their feet. If you were to visit the ruins of Babylon today, it’s a heap of dust in the desert. Where is Ephesus, the great Greek city of Asia, the Roman province of Asia?
I was walking down the streets of Rome and paused to look in a vast excavation, such as you would see down here in the middle of Dallas, digging down. Not being able to speak Italian, I couldn’t find out why the excavation. It was a vast thing, and deep. And to my amazement, down there on the bottom of that excavation, a hundred feet down it seemed to me, there were great, mighty arches buried there – a civilization lost, destroyed, gone.
The scepter of the world is held in the hands of our cities. Samaria was the ancient nation of Israel. Jerusalem was the ancient city of Judah. Nineveh was Assyria. Babylon was Chaldea. Carthage was North Africa. Rome was the empire. Today, London is England. Paris is France. Tokyo is Japan. Mexico City is Mexico. New York and Los Angeles are America. And Houston and Dallas and San Antonio are Texas. As these cities turned, and as they moved, and as they choose, and as they go, so goes the state and the nation and the destiny of the peoples of our land.
O God, standing here in the midst of a great metropolitan city, the radio and newspaper last week said that Dallas is growing at the rate of five-thousand new people a week. Standing here – great God in heaven – we who live by the imponderables, what shall be the destiny in the judgment of God upon us and our people? Could it be that our great banks could ever fail? Could it be that our mighty institutions could ever be destroyed? Could it be that from the blue skies above us there might rain down terror and flaming fire from the heavens? Could it be? He is someone blind to history, who cannot hear these great cities of the past speak to us, who thinks that it could not happen to our great cities in America. We live in the imponderables of Almighty God, living in the judgments of the Lord.
I want to close the message, if I may, with an appeal: that we above all others, we here in the heart of this city, under God, seek its salvation, its life and destiny in the will and purpose of the Lord Almighty, the great masses of people in the city, thousands and thousands, and then finally millions.
Where the nearest suburb and the city proper meet
My window-sill is level with the faces in the street
Drifting past, drifting past,
to the beat of weary feet,
While I sorrow for the owners of those faces in 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, we at ease in Zion, our hearts in turn shall beat in terror
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]
These thousands and thousands that live in the city, that walk on those streets – where, how, when the destiny of those uncounted multitudes of people, Lord God – and You placed us in the heart of it, in the midst of it, in the very soul and life of it, and certainly in its destiny!
What we need – and it must come from God – is a compassionate heart that includes the vast multitudes of the city: the thousands of families, the children, the youth, the life.
I was reading this last week T. Dewitt Talmadge, a preacher without peer in the generations past, pastor in Brooklyn, New York; the only preacher that ever lived, when he delivered his sermon on Sunday, on Monday, it was printed in the newspapers of America from New York to Los Angeles – T. Dewitt Talmadge, a marvelous minister of Christ. Anyway, reading Dewitt Talmadge, I read this in one of his sermons. He doesn’t say, but I had the feeling as I read it, that it concerned him; that he is the preacher in it.
In New York was a woman, condemned and convicted for crime and incarcerated in a cell in a jail in New York. Her mother from the street – homeless, helpless – came to see her daughter in the cell. And in one of those providences of life, while the mother was there visiting her incarcerated child, she died; she suddenly died. Having no home, having no people, and her daughter in the jail, they had the memorial service for the mother in the cell. They put the coffin in the cell where the daughter was incarcerated, and they called for a minister to conduct the memorial service. And the minister came – and because he described it so minutely and compassionately, I just suppose it must have been he, T. Dewitt Talmadge – he came and conducted that service in that cell in a jail in New York City.
And the minister did this: after the words of memory, he asked the daughter if she would put her hand on the brow of her mother, and asked her to raise her other hand toward heaven, and say to God in heaven, "I ask You to come into my heart. I ask You to help me, and to bless me, and to save me," and she did it. Then, when she had, with her hand on the brow of her mother and the other hand toward God in heaven, given her life to the Savior, the minister then said, “May the Lord bless you, and keep you, and give you every precious gift that only heaven could afford to bestow. And may your life be filled with joy and gladness. Bless you, my sweet daughter. Bless you.”
In the years that passed, she was giving a testimony in church, and she said, “When that minister blessed me and spoke to me so tenderly and preciously and compassionately, it was the first time in my life I had ever heard such words, the first time I had ever been blessed, and the first time I had ever been encouraged to give my heart and life to the Lord.”
When I read it, I thought, "Dear Lord in heaven, are there uncounted multitudes here in our city who have never heard the compassionate appeal and invitation of our Lord Jesus. "The Lord bless you and keep you, the Lord lift up His countenance upon you, the Lord make His face to shine upon you, the Lord save you and keep you" [Numbers 6:22-26].
O God, that there might be in us that compassionate disposition, and interest, and loving, and prayerful care that includes the great masses of our city, and where I am and where you are, in our daily walk and talk, to speak a good word for Jesus; to invite, to pray for, to remember, to bless. And maybe in our intercessions, the judgment of God that fell so severely on those cities of the past will be abated and interdicted, and instead of judgment and fiery flaming destruction, shall come the loving presence and the rewarding gifts of our wonderful Savior. O Lord, grant it that it may be! Do it, Lord, for us!
GOD SPEAKS TO AMERICA
Dr. W. A. Criswell
I. God through His prophets addresses all nations
A. Divine judgment fell first upon chosen people
B. Judgment is universal
II. The reason for the judgment
A. Prince of Tyre
B. Pharaoh of Egypt
III. The prophecies came true
A. Complete destruction of Tyre
B. Egypt not destroyed, but diminished
1. The cities and monuments of Egypt
C. Great cities of antiquity
D. As the cities of the world go, so goes the destiny of the peoples of the land