“Marhaba, Tony,” said the voice that by its very tenor awakened the keenest expressions of love and adoration in the heart of the recent arrival in heaven.
Looking puzzled, Dr. Tony Maalouf said, “I wasn’t expecting that! I thought in heaven we probably all spoke Hebrew. To hear an Arabic greeting was not what I was anticipating.”
The One who had spoken in such resonant tones said, “Well, but Tony, you should know that we all speak in Arabic in heaven just as fluently as you did as a boy in Lebanon.”
“Well, but aren’t the Jews the chosen people? I even wrote books about that while back on earth.”
“Oh, yes,” came the Voice once again, “but you are missing a word in your statement. The Jews often forgot this themselves, but they were not the chosen people because they were so special beyond all the people on the earth but rather because they were given a special message to tell the world about its Messiah. Once you understand that, you have an insight into the plan and purpose of God.”
Now, of course, I have no idea how Tony Maalouf’s initial conversation in heaven transpired, but I can imagine something like that exchange. Tony Maalouf was one remarkably unique human being. He slipped across the River Jordan and into the arms of the Savior on August 26 and was welcomed to all the things that God has prepared for those who love Him. We can’t know much about that yet, but we can know a great deal about a remarkable life.
Born in Syria, Tony Maalouf grew up with a unique opportunity to come to know the Lord of life. Not only did he become a follower of Christ, but also he became a great preacher and teacher of the way of the Nazarene. Maalouf, as indicated in his book Arabs in the Shadow of Israel: The Unfolding of God’s Plan for Ishmael’s Line, demonstrated the plan and purpose of God with the Jewish people, while simultaneously remembering that our Lord has a profound commitment to Ishmael and to the Arab people as well.
Proceeding to Dallas Theological Seminary, Tony became a thorough student of God’s Word; and having grasped the essence of the theological tradition at Dallas, he became a teacher of missions, particularly that part of missions focused on the Middle East. As very few people who have ever lived, Tony Maalouf had a heart for what God was doing among the Arab nations. He became an evangelist to many and a teacher of all.
Tony’s labor of love at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary across the years was beyond any adequate explanation. With his wife Lamis, he travelled widely in the Middle East, was a substantive authority on all happening within the Arab world, and continued to maintain his loyalty to Ishmael’s offspring without ever developing bitterness toward the Jews—or for that matter, anyone else. He was noted for his tender love toward all men, his devotion to his family, and his faithfulness to his church. All of us who have served Southwestern Seminary in recent decades have missed him greatly in the days of his illness and will miss him even more in the days that now lie ahead. But the truth is that he has left his mark upon us all.
None of us who have known and worked with Tony Maalouf will ever be the same again. This son of Ishmael has honored Christ in every conceivable way. In heaven above, may God bless you in all of the unique ways that you have been a blessing to others and even more.