Recently I had the opportunity to attend a Shabbat service at a local synagogue. A friend of my younger sons was going to be taking part in the service and his family had invited us.
It was a memorable experience as we sang with the Cantor, prayed with the Rabbi and worked our way through the service. While the Rabbi did not give a sermon, as this was a special service, we did get to see a faith steeped in rich tradition and history. I could not help but be moved by the reverence and truths relayed about God in the prayer book. (Fortunately there was an English translation as my Hebrew is a bit rusty.)
These are the chosen people of God described throughout the Bible. A people who have worship God in the same basic structure for more than 2000 years.
Just like me, they too worship the only God with praise, and joy. The words of the prayers speak of the gifts of God, the peace of God and that all is to the glory of God. Dare I say, they worshiped with a reverence to often missing in the Christian church.
To worship in this setting, it was clear that God spoke to my heart. But as my spirit was lifted toward God, I had one thing pound over and over. They are missing the rest of the story.
I remember listening to Paul Harvey tell “The Rest of the Story” on the radio. Paul and his team would take a significant person in history and then proceed to research around them to find out what had happened in their life that had helped make them the person we knew. Sometimes he would do the same things with significant events in history. It should be noted that in their research they had to have at least two independent sources confirming the story for it to make it on air.
When he told the story he did not begin by revealing who or what he was talking about, but rather he would tell the unknown story they had found in their research. Only after peaking your interest and fascination with the story would he reveal who or what he was talking about to the amusement, surprise and sometimes shock of the audience. He would then conclude with his trademark “and now you know, the rest of the story.”
In much the same way I felt like I was listening to a Paul Harvey story but before the person being spoken about was revealed, the radio was shut off. I wanted to stand up and shout, that “all of these prophecies, scriptures and laws point to the man known to the world as Jesus of Nazareth.”
That is the most exciting and liberating part of the story. No longer are we justified through the law, no longer do we need sacrifices for our sins, no longer must we enter into the presence of the Lord through rituals. For God has sent the promised messiah, the living tabernacle of God, Emmanuel – God with us. (Isaiah 7:14) He has sent the one who paid the price in full for our sins as prophesied in Isaiah 53:5 “by his wounds we are healed.” Through the Messiah we are forgiven and only through the Messiah may we enter into the presence of God. “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life, no one comes to the Father, but through me.” John 14:6 It is simply through faith in the Messiah that we receive salvation. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourself, it is the gift of God – not by works, so no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9. This means we are free to not depend on our obedience to the law for salvation but to obey God for the right reasons. For the greatest commandment is to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind … And the second is like it: love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:36-40 [Deuteronomy 6:5, Leviticus 19:18]) And while He has commanded it, we do not love simply because of the command, but “we love because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:19 In addition, we obey God that He might be glorified by our actions. “Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:16.
The good news is here. All the waiting, all the hoping and all the praying have come to fruition. The Law and the Prophets have been fulfilled. (Matthew 5:17) The messiah has come and his gift of salvation is available to all who believe. (Acts 10:43)
This is Jesus of Nazareth, “the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:16)
“And now you know, the rest of the story.”