Gabriel’s Story

Gabriel’s story, from Twelve Smooth Stones

Gabriel’s thoughts and blind steps had taken him to a park in an unfamiliar part of the city. As he looked around, he realized he had no idea where he was. Music floated across the air and seemed to draw him toward it. People were singing, singing about God. The thought made him curious. It was an unknown tune, but the words were now clear:

There is a place of quiet rest,

Near to the heart of God,

A place where sin cannot molest,

Near to the heart of God.

The words and sweet melody were like a balm on his tortured soul. He looked into the faces of each singer. Such a sweet peace and joy lingered on each brow. Every eye was earnest with the belief that was being sung. Then he heard it—

O Jesus, blest Redeemer,

Sent from the heart of God,

Hold us who wait before Thee

Near to the heart of God.

The forbidden name! He nearly turned and ran, but the words held him in his place.

There is a place of comfort sweet,

Near to the heart of God,

A place where we our Savior meet,

Near to the heart of God.

There is a place of full release,

Near to the heart of God,

A place where all is joy and peace,

Near to the heart of God.

The words “joy and peace” seemed to echo in his brain. When was the last time he had joy or peace? The thought was bitter to him. As his thoughts tumbled around in his mind, the group finished and was starting to mill about in the crowd that had formed. Gabriel turned to leave and found he was looking up into the face of a young man not much older than himself. “You look like you need a friend.”

Gabriel stared into two pools of compassion. “I’ve just received some shocking news,” he spoke, but it didn’t sound like his voice, and he wondered if he had truly said anything.

The young man held out his hand. “Jason Himmel.”

Gabriel looked at the offered hand, shook it, and said, “Gabriel Bachman.”

“Would you like to talk?” The question was posed with no threat, no urgency, just friendship, and Gabriel could only nod.

They walked a bit as Jason began the conversation. He simply told Gabriel a little about himself, then posed questions that had Gabriel pouring out his whole story. Jason was a good listener—many had told him so—but this young man’s story tore at his heart, giving him a deep love for his new friend.

“I watched you as we sang. I thought you were going to leave.” Jason looked at him from his end of the bench where they had settled.

“I’m Jewish. The name,” he couldn’t say it. “It is a hated name to us.”

Jason chose his words wisely. “He has many names. Did you know that the angels at His birth told His human father to name Him Emmanuel?”

Gabriel looked up in surprise. He had never heard such a thing.

Jason continued, “Emmanuel means ‘God with us.’ ” He paused to let the thought sink into Gabriel’s mind.

“God with us? I don’t understand.”

Starting with the Old Testament, Jason began to show Gabriel the words of Moses, Isaiah, Daniel and many of the prophets that foretold the Messiah’s coming.

Gabriel was familiar with many of the prophecies. “I understand all that. I too am looking for the Messiah,” Gabriel said softly.

Jason paused for a moment, looking deep into Gabriel’s eyes. “He has come, Gabriel. He is the one we sang about. He is our source of joy and peace. Does your religion bring you joy and peace?”

Joy? Peace? Gabriel wondered if he even remembered what the words meant. He shook his head sadly.

“Gabriel, you have a form of godliness, but you deny the power of God.”

It was true. Gabriel thought of the emptiness that he often felt in his heart. He had thought it was only because of losing Esther, and then Deborah, but it went past that. He thought that after his graduation from the university and his security in a good job, then he would have the contentment for which he longed.

When he had married, there was a sense of peace, and certainly, there were happy moments. And when little Deborah had been born, he had felt awesomeness at the thought that she was his. But his wife’s death had made it impossible for him to have any real peace or joy. He realized for the first time that nothing had ever filled the void in his heart.

“God calls to each of us, Gabriel, no matter our religion. He says, I am the way, the truth and the life. No man cometh unto the father, but by me.’ ”

Jason continued talking about his precious Savior as Gabriel listened with rapt attention. He turned back and forth, from one Old Testament prophecy to its fulfillment in the New Testament, amazing Gabriel that a man so young would know so much about the book he held in his hands.

“I understand all you are saying, and I am familiar with much of the Scripture that you have shared. I do believe in the Messiah, just as Abraham did. I am just still looking forward to His coming.”

Jason looked at Gabriel with such earnestness, it nearly made Gabriel blush. “May I read you another passage?”

Gabriel nodded. Silently, Jason prayed for his friend, and he knew others were praying too. He began to read, “Behold, thou art called a Jew, and restest in the law, and makest thy boast of God, And knowest his will, and approvest the things that are more excellent, being instructed out of the law.

“Your Bible talks about my people,” he stated with astonishment.

“Yes. All the writers of the Bible were Jewish.” He paused, seeing that the thought had never occurred to Gabriel. “And Jesus was a Jew as well.”

Gabriel shot him a glance, then looked away, pondering all he was hearing. Why was he sitting here listening to this man? He should go, but he felt drawn to know more.

“Listen to these verses: ‘For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.’ ”

Jason’s eyes met Gabriel’s. “God sees your heart. God, the Father, who called Abraham to birth His chosen people, has already sent His Son, who perfectly fulfilled all the prophecies of His first coming.”

Again, Gabriel was taken aback. “You mean He is coming again?”

“Yes. Unfortunately, the Jews of Jesus’ day were looking for a Conquering King, not a Sacrificing Servant. The prophecies both point to Jesus: He has come as a Suffering Servant and is yet to come as the Conquering King. When He comes again, your people will recognize Him then, and many will believe. But for you, today is your time to make a decision. Can you believe that Jesus is exactly who He said He was—the Son of God?”

“I believe what you have shown me to be true,” Gabriel said quietly, but with deep conviction.

“Then will you receive His forgiveness? Will you believe that He came and died that day on the cross, and did rise from the dead, not to cover sins but to take away the sins of the world?”

Gabriel’s bruised and weary soul thirsted for all that this man offered—no, all that God was offering. Why had he never seen this before? Why were his people so blind? It was all there. He could see why it was a hated book—it held the truth that destroyed their religion. No, it held the truth that fulfilled his religion! There was no need to wait any longer.

Jason sat quietly watching the war rage across Gabriel’s face. He prayed for victory in the heart of this young Jewish man. He knew it was a lot to grasp in one night, but he also knew that God had prepared Gabriel’s heart through all the trials and disappointments that had overwhelmed him.

Gabriel clenched and unclenched his fists. His heart was racing, and he felt as though he would be torn in two, when a gentle hand reached over and took his.

“Let me pray for you.”

He could only nod; his throat was so constricted with emotion.

“Oh, Father, God of the universe. We come to Thee with hearts broken and bruised. Oh, how we need Thy help, Father. Please, send the Comforter tonight, Thy Holy Spirit, to calm Gabriel’s heart and make all things clear. Satan would like to have him, Lord, but I praise Thee that Thou art the Victor in this battle!”

Jason’s voice carried such authority. He spoke to God like no other man Gabriel knew. He could hold the tears no longer. His voice broke into sobs, and Jason’s arm reached out to hold him. He cried like a baby until there were no more tears left.

“Gabriel, He wants to hear you. He’s ready to hear you, and He will wait as long as you need.”

“But what do I say?”

“Talk to Him as a Father—a Father who loved you so much that He sent His only Son, Jesus, to die for you. Tell Him that you believe that Jesus died for your sins and that you take Him into your heart as your Savior.”

Jason held his breath, not knowing if he should have used Jesus’ name, but also knowing that Gabriel needed to understand that Jesus was his Messiah.

After what seemed an eternity, Gabriel began in a still small voice, like that of a child—not more than a whisper, “Father in heaven, Thou art my God. I have always believed in You. You have been my strength and shield, but”—he began to weep—“I didn’t know, Father. I didn’t know that—” A long pause passed before he continued. “I did not believe that Jesus was the Messiah. Oh, Father, forgive my unbelief. It’s all there, in that book—your book. Father, I believe. Please cleanse me with the blood of Your Son, Jesus.”

Jason waited a moment before he began to pray. “Oh, Father. Thou art the great and mighty God, the God of Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob. Your chosen child has called upon Thee this night, and I thank Thee. Fill him with Thy love—and joy—and a peace that passes all understanding. May he grow as a mighty branch. May his life touch the lives of many with the truth of Your precious Word. In Jesus’ name, amen.”