Have you ever heard radio commentator Paul Harvey’s engaging teaser, The rest of the story”? The first part of Harvey’s story always provides a bit of mystery, always leaves us hanging until he tells, “the rest of the story.” Life is often like that. We hear something. We wonder what it means or how it all will work out, but we are often left hanging. Much of the Christian life is lived in that “in between” zone. The first part of the story does not always appear hopeful or encouraging. That is why we need to live by faith and not by sight; faith gives us confidence to trust God for the rest of the story. Faith assures us that He knows what is best, that He wants what is best and that He will do what is best. Eventually, in His time, we will understand the rest of the story.
“The rest of the story” is sometimes surprising, but it always demonstrates that God is in control, that He is writing the stories of life to bring honor and glory to Himself. I have watched this happen several times in the last few months as news stories have hit the press regarding Israel, Jews and Jesus. I wanted to report to you on “the rest of these stories.”
- In the town of Ariel on Israel’s West Bank, Ami, the son of Messianic pastor David Ortiz was seriously injured by a terrorist bomb delivered to his home. The bomb was hidden in a gift basket, traditionally given at the Jewish festival of Purim. Strong evidence points to anti-missionaries as the perpetrators, but as of this writing, no suspects have been arrested, and there have been allegations of a possible cover-up.
And now, the rest of the story. Sixteen-year-old Ami survived an explosion that easily could have killed him, and is making a slow, steady recovery. News of his ordeal has raised public awareness of Jews believing in Jesus in Israel and around the world. Christians have recognized, perhaps more than any time in recent history, that Jewish believers are being persecuted in some communities of the world, and are praying for them in earnest.
Further, numerous news articles, mostly favorable toward Messianic Jews, have appeared in the Israeli press. Channel One of National Israel Television aired a significant documentary on the entire story; it portrayed Jewish believers in Jesus in a positive light and even explained the gospel in a wonderful way. You can view that story with English subtitles here.
There is no denying that this was a heinous act that has caused great suffering; yet God turned the tragedy into an event that has rallied prayer support for believers in Israel, and has brought the gospel to the attention of many who would not otherwise have heard it.
- Anti-missionaries in Israel tried to disqualify a young Jewish believer in Yeshua from Israel’s annual Global Bible Quiz for Jewish Youth. They apparently feared that if the teenager won, it would reflect so well on Messianic Jews as to tempt other Israelis to consider Jesus. These anti-missionaries pressured the sponsors of the event (the Israel Ministry of Education and the Israeli army) to expel Bat-El Levy. They managed to persuade both of Israel’s Chief Rabbis to demand a boycott of the Bible Quiz if the girl was allowed to compete.
And now, the rest of the story. Bat-El was not expelled from the quiz. The sponsors refused to give in to pressure and the Chief Rabbis’ demands for a boycott apparently failed inasmuch as the quiz was just as well attended as usual. All anti-missionaries’ attempts to have her barred backfired. The Ministry of Education made it clear that they accepted Bat-El Levy as Jewish, regardless of the fact that she believes in Jesus. And thanks to the opposition, the event became a major news story in Israel and around the world. Bat-El did not win the competition, but tens of thousands of Israelis heard about Jews believing in Jesus. It seems as though the majority have sided with the Ministry of Education and ongoing discussions have ensued in the media.
- Hundreds of New Testaments, supposedly distributed by missionaries–though we have been unable to learn of any group that distributed them–were publicly burned in a bonfire next to a synagogue in Or Yehuda, near Tel Aviv. Deputy Mayor Uzi Aharon was reportedly responsible for instigating the burning of the New Testaments by a group of religious Jews in the community.
And now, the rest of the story. Jewish groups all around the world uniformly condemned the burning of the New Testaments. Even the Anti-Defamation League, an organization that routinely repudiates attempts to share the gospel with Jewish people, condemned it. In a press release on their website they declared, “We call on rabbis and Jewish leaders of all streams and parties to denounce this incident, and remind them of the importance of having respect for other faiths.”
While our recent public opinion poll (as seen in last month’s RealTime) showed that most Israelis know very little about Jesus or the New Testament, the Or Yehuda incident has led to countless international news stories, provoking Israeli curiosity concerning this “forbidden” book. The controversy also created a unique opportunity for our Jews for Jesus Israel director, who was interviewed by press in the U.S., including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution as well as on national Russian and Ukrainian Television.
These three events and stories occurred shortly before, during and after our first Behold Your God Israel campaign in the order that I’ve presented them. Each in their way seemed to work together to pique the interest of those we sought to reach. (See our “Thank You for Praying” section.)
I believe that all these stories are part of a greater story, the rest of which we have yet to hear. Could it be that God transformed each attempt to squelch the gospel so that it not only amplified evangelistic opportunities, but also tamped down the efforts of our opposition? We had prepared for a great deal of anti-missionary activity during this campaign, and while groups and individuals certainly did oppose us, their efforts did not reach the levels we had expected. That is a part of the story that God may someday reveal, as He will so many other things that are presently unknown to us. But in the meantime, aren’t you glad to know that God is the One who will write all the endings? We can look forward to the day when He will tell us all “the rest of the story.”