March 23, 2011

Food for Thought

Zoran Novakovich, a Yugoslav border guard, could not understand why he and his comrades kept finding Russian-language Bibles hidden on trains headed toward the Soviet Union.
The iron curtain hung firmly in place at the time, dividing the Soviet Union and its equally atheistic Eastern European satellites from the rest of Europe and its religious liberty.
One day the border guards stumbled upon two sacks of leather-bound Bibles, and Zoran turned to his captain with bewilderment. “Why do these Christians keep insisting on smuggling Bibles into the Soviet Union?” he asked. “Is there such an enormous hunger for what is contained in the Bibles?”
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The captain shrugged. He didn’t know. Zoran asked the captain if he could take one of the Bibles to find out for himself why Christians persisted in sending them. The captain agreed.
Zoran devoured the Bible. He raced through the Gospels. He flipped back to the Old Testament. Then he found the story of King David’s kindness to Mephibosheth in 2 Samuel 9. He read how David searched out the last living relative of the late King Saul and invited him—a trembling cripple—to the royal court. Then Zoran read: “ ‘Don’t be afraid,’ David said to him, ‘for I will surely show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan. I will restore to you all the land that belonged to your grandfather Saul, and you will always eat at my table’ ” (verse 7).
Zoran realized that he was Mephibosheth. God was searching for him, a trembling, crippled sinner, with an invitation to eat bread at His table.
Zoran accepted Jesus and began to look for ways to assist in the smuggling of Bibles east into the Soviet Union. As soon as Communism collapsed, he began to openly collect Bibles to give away to anyone who wanted to read God’s Word.
Zoran related his story to Vasiliy Stolyar, vice president of the Euro-Asia Division, during a get-together in Belgrade in 2000. Zoran said times had changed greatly since he worked on the tightly guarded trains. He still collected Bibles to share, but nobody seemed to want them anymore. He said people were filled—not with the Bread of Life, but with worldly cares and  materialism.
The former border guard led his visitor to a room filled with unwanted Bibles. Each Bible was encased in a black leather cover, made by Zoran with his own hands. Zoran took a Bible and presented it to his visitor. On the dedication page he wrote, “In memory of our meeting.”

Vasiliy Stolyar, recalling this encounter at an elders’ meeting I attended in Moscow, raised the leather-encased Bible in his hand. It was well worn.
I got the point.
Like Mephibosheth, we are crippled and neglected. But our King has made a special effort to search us out and adopt us as His sons and daughters, just as David did for Mephibosheth: “So Mephibosheth ate at David’s table like one of the king’s sons” (verse 11).
Moreover, our King has invited us to dine with Him, starting every morning with His Word. “Taste and see that the Lord is good” (Ps. 34:8). “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (Ps. 119:103).
And that’s not all. One day soon we will sit around the banquet table in the heavenly court for our first meal with Jesus, the Bread of Life, who promises that all who come to Him will never hunger.
So how do we get to that wonderful meal? It’s simple. Jesus says today, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will go in and eat with him, and he with me” (Rev. 3:20).
Now, that’s real food for thought.
Andrew Mc Chesney is a journalist in Russia. This article was published March 24, 2011.