Zvi Aug/Sep 1994
I recently was in Eilat, in the south of Israel, visiting my daughter and her family. Because it is located on the Dead Sea, Eilat is a popular resort area, and many people from Europe go there for the therapeutic value of the water.
Whenever I visit Eilat, I enjoy walking along the beach and meeting new people. Among the many I met on my recent visit were two men who did not seem particularly happy when I tried to strike up a conversation with them. They looked very disheveled, and when I tried to speak with them about faith in God they became upset. “You can see the sorry state of our lives,” one of them said. “How then can you speak to us about faith? You are nicely dressed and do not appear to have any troubles. We are worlds apart from someone like you. We have done so many bad things in our lives that God could never forgive us or forget our sins.”
At that time I took out my small Bible and read one of its most familiar verses: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (Jn. 3:16). I then explained, “This passage does not say that God will accept people based on who they are or what they have done in the past. God said ‘whosoever,’ and the only condition is that you believe on His Son. If you will accept the Lord Jesus as your Savior, God will immediately forgive and forget whatever you have done up to that point in your life, and He will give you the means of receiving forgiveness of any sins you commit in the future.”
The man spoke up again, this time more earnestly. “We are very insignificant to God, and it will not help us now to come before Him and ask Him to forgive us.” I then asked, “What in the world have you done? Did you kill someone?” “No,” the other man said, “but we are poor and homeless. We live here on this beach, and we are so dirty that people hate to even look at us.” I then read to them the comforting words of Psalm 118:22, “The stone which the builders refused is become the head of the corner.” “Don’t say that you are beyond hope, my friends,” I told them. “Believe me, in God’s sight you are of as much value as any other person ever born into this world. God’s Son was rejected by the Jewish leaders, but God the Father did not reject Him. Rather, through His death and resurrection He became the Messiah and Savior of the world.”
After more conversation they asked, “What do you want us to do?” I answered, “For me you do not have to do anything. What you must do is for yourselves. You must come to God, worship Him, be faithful to Him, and bear fruit for His glory. If you do, I am sure you will no longer question, ‘Who are we?’ or say, ‘We have no value before God.’ Instead you will be glad to be called servants of the Lord. Regardless of what you safe when you look in the mirror, you will be children of God and will never again doubt your worth before Him.”
At that time they became more open with me, and, without my asking, they began to tell me about themselves. They told me they were alcoholics and that they had lost their families, their homes, everything they ever had because of that evil bottle of vodka. They said, “There is no doctor who can cure us of this chronic disease.” I responded, “Quite to the contrary, it would be very easy for you to stop drinking.” They were surprised and asked, “How?” “You do not have to go to a doctor. You can stop on your own,” I replied. Becoming impatient, they again asked, “How? Tell us now!” I said, “Open your hearts before God. He will listen and answer your prayer. He will make it possible for you to turn from that poison—alcohol.”
By now they were very curious about me and asked, “Are you a pastor or something like that?” I replied, “No, I am not a pastor, but, as a believer in Christ, it is my obligation to go to people who are in trouble and try to help them. All I want to do is help you be weaned from your destructive addiction to alcohol.” Again they asked, “What do we have to do?” I told them, “Open your hearts to God, and He will do the rest.” “Shall we do it right here or wait until we go to bed?” they asked. I could not tell if they were being serious or mocking, so I said, “You must understand that this decision is yours alone to make. God is full of love and compassion, and He is ready to forgive you. If you think you would be doing me a personal favor by asking God for forgiveness, you are making a big mistake. If you are not serious about this, I’ll be glad to leave you alone.” “No, we are very serious,” they assured me.
“Good,” I responded. “In that case you can go to a quiet spot on this very beach and pray silently in your hearts, so that only God Himself can hear. You need not pray in a loud voice because, as it is written, ‘man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart’ (1 Sam. 16:7). And please understand that it is not because of me that you should pray to God but because of your own needs. I will not listen to you. Just talk freely from your hearts to the Lord. Tell Him of your sins and ask Him to forgive you and become your Savior.” “Will you wait here for us?” they asked, and I assured them I would.
The two men then walked along the beach until they found a spot with no people around. I waited and watched for more than a half hour as they both sat quietly under the hot sun with their heads slightly bowed and very serious expressions on their faces. Of course, as I waited I prayed that the Lord would open their eyes and hearts and draw them to Himself.
Eventually they got up and returned, and, praise God, that which I would not have believed when I first met them had truly happened. They had come to the Lord of their own free will. Whereas before they were without any hope in this life, they were now full of hope because they had put their trust in God. These two men, who just a short time before appeared to have lost the image of God in which they were created and looked no better than the dust of the earth, now wore happy expressions on their faces. They were full of joy because the Lord had taken away their stony hearts and given them hearts of flesh (Ezek. 36:26). The Lord had given them a new heart and a new Spirit, the Spirit of the living God, and they were rejoicing in Him. And so, of course, was I!