Joel of Jerusalem Apr/May 1984
THE WRATH OF MAN BRINGS PRAISE TO GOD!
There is a bad wind blowing around the Hebrew Christians in Israel these days. Many fanatical people have joined forces and have sworn to fight a holy war against those of us who have received the Lord as our Savior, and they are very busy now. Why? Because they have collected our names and addresses and have determined to pay each one of us a visit. It is a nice hobby, don’t you think? And from such a hobby comes much aggression. By working at their hobby, these people are sure that their names will be written in the book of life, and they are so nice and so concerned about us that they want us to also be written in the book of life. How faithful they are!
But, can someone teach others when he himself needs to be taught? And so, at this time when these people are so busy with their collection of names, how important it is that we who believe in the Lord are busy and faithful also. We must be happy that there are such people interested in us and wanting to contact us. Of course, they do not come as good friends, but they do want to get to know us personally. And I am even more interested in getting to know them! Well, everything comes with time, and one day, as if a dream had come true, some of these people came to my home. They represented themselves very nicely, and their first question was, “Do you know who we are?” “If you are here at my home,” I responded, “it doesn’t matter to me who you are. You are welcome. After all, Abraham didn’t ask who his guests were and, as you know, they were angels [Gen. 18]. For all I know, you may also be angels!”
When they heard this they asked if I believed in the Bible. “Yes,” I replied. “For me, the Bible is the most important book in the world.” They were surprised to hear this and asked, “Do you realize what you just said? Haven’t you made a mistake?” “Why do you ask this?” I questioned, and they answered, “We know that people like you – people who have left the faith of our fathers – have no right to even speak about the holy book!” “Does that mean that you read the Bible everyday?” I asked, and they replied, “That is not important. What is important is that we are busy with the Word of God.” “Well, if you do not read the Bible, then what do you read? I want to know.” With this they became very irritated and said, “’You have left our faith, and we have no obligation to teach you the Word of God.” I then asked, “Do you know what is written in your own Talmud?” They were again surprised to hear me speak of their holy writings and said, “Tell us what you know.” I replied, “It is written, ‘If you have studied the Law much, do not claim credit to yourself.’ Also, ‘Who studies the Law, and does not teach it to others, resembles a myrtle in the desert.’ This is the way you are.” “Us?” they asked. “Yes, you – and now tell me what you read that makes you so smart”
“Have you ever heard of the Oral Law?” they asked. “Yes, I have.” “Good, because that is what we read, and it is what all good Jews should know.” “No!” I responded. “That is not true.” “How can you say that?” they asked, surprised once again at what I was telling them. “The Oral Law is not important to me,” I told them. They were very unhappy to hear such news. “What can be more important than the Oral Law?” “The written Law! In the written Law we are given the Ten Commandments. Do you also follow them?” “Of course not,” they replied. “No one can do that.” “If that is so, then why have you taken upon yourselves even more than the Ten Commandments? As if they were not enough, you have adopted for yourselves even more troubles – things which are against the will of God.” “What are you talking about?” they asked. “I am speaking of the 613 Customs in your Oral Law. We all know that the Ten Commandments are impossible to keep, even though there are only ten of them, no more than your ten fingers, one commandment for each finger. How, then, can you expect to keep 613? They are nothing more than false beliefs or superstitions. You are poor people who need someone to help you, and I can tell you that you have come to the right place.” “Of course we have,” they said. “Your name is right here on our list.”
“That is not what I mean,” I told them. “I mean that you have come to the right place to get the help you need. You must understand that the Bible, our holy book, was not given to only one special group of people. Everyone has a right to it – you and I and everyone else in the world – because it is written, ‘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.’ Even little children know this verse.” “lt sounds very nice. Where is it found?” they asked. “It is found in the New Testament, in John 3:16.” “Then it does not belong to us!” they said. “And why not?” I asked. “Because the New Testament is a Christian book and has nothing to do with our people or our Bible.” I then said, “You mentioned ‘our Bible,’ and yet you say you never read it because you follow the Oral Law. This is wrong and it is very sad, but it is not you who are guilty. The guilty ones are those who have taught you these things. But now you are in my home, and I will not read to you from those many books which are full of false teachings. I want to read to you from the Holy Bible, and there you will find something which you could never find in the books which you have studied all your lives.” “And what is it that we will find there?” “Brotherly love toward one another, and only those who believe in the Lord Jesus as their Savior can know the true meaning of brotherly love.”
“Do you want us to become Christians?” they asked, and I responded, “It is my desire that you all come to know the truth, according to the Bible, and then we can get together again and perhaps you will change your minds.” This statement almost made them crazy, because they had not received the true facts about people who believe in the Lord Jesus. We were painted black in their eyes by the ones who had sent them. They were even told that they would see holy pictures and images in our homes. “You are free to look around my house,” I told them, “but you will not find anything like that. If I were to come to your homes, though, I am sure I would see many pictures of your holy ones.” “Yes, that is true,” they said, “and they are holy because they are our great rabbis.” “If that is so, then everyone who believes as you do should buy a big house just to have room enough for their pictures of the holy ones. I don’t need all of that. It is enough for me to have only one holy One, the One who is in Heaven. I don’t need any pictures or images, because the Lord is in my heart. To Him only do I pray, and in Him only have I put my trust.”
I then asked my guests if I had given them the information they were so interested in receiving. “No!” they said. “We want to know who brought you to this faith.” “Believe me,” I told them, “I did not come to this great faith through the Oral Law, but by the written Law, which is the Bible. And what is written there? ‘Ye shall make no idols nor carved image . . .’ [Lev. 26:1]. And now, go to your homes and take a look at your inside walls, then ask yourselves, Whom should I follow? Can these rabbis save me in the time of trouble? Of course not. As I said before, if it is information you are seeking, you have come to the right place. I would like to read something which will tell you why you have come here. It is something I am sure you have never heard before, but now is the time for you to know it. It is found in Amos 8:11, ‘Behold, the days come, saith the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord.’ For all your lives you have been following the Oral Law, which is nothing but fictitious stories. I have just read a warning from the Bible which is directed to people like yourselves. Another such warning is found in Deuteronomy 11:16, ‘Take heed to yourselves, that your heart be not deceived, and ye turn aside, and serve other gods, and worship them.’ Such warnings cannot be found among your 613 man-made commandments, and yet you think they will keep you from all dangers in life. You are making a very serious mistake. By following the Oral Law, people are being lost in everlasting sin with no way to be saved and to be truly written in the book of life; and, as it is written, ‘. . . whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire’ [Rev. 20:15]. I am sure no one wants to be lost, not even you.”
“How do you know all of this?” they asked. I replied, “Nothing that I have told you is a secret. It is written, ‘For there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; neither hidden, that shall not be known’ [Lk. 12:2]. Everything which I have said is from the living Word of God and not old stories such as you believe and which you want everyone to receive as the truth; and whoever does not accept what you say you want to persecute. The Lord never taught us to do this. He said, ‘. . . Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them who despitefully use you, and persecute you’ [Mt. 5:44]. Do you see the difference? You cannot accomplish anything through your own power, as when you arrived here and told me that if I did not follow your way you would make trouble for me. How poor you are! You need help from above, you need His mercy, and I will pray that you will also receive His salvation, which can only be found in the Savior.”
“We don’t understand what you are speaking about,” they said. I asked, “Do you want to understand? Do you want to know about Him? Let me show you what the Lord has said.” I then read Isaiah 43:11, “I, even I, am the Lord, and beside me there is no savior.” I also read verse 25 of that chapter, “I, even I, am he who blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins.” Then I asked, “Now do you know who this Savior is?” They replied, “Yes, but what you are saying is hard for us to accept.”
I told them, “There is one commandment which is especially good for us to know. It is found in Deuteronomy 6:4 and 5, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.’ Can you keep this commandment? It is only one of your ten fingers and does not even come close to the 613 commandments which you have taken upon yourselves. If you truly love God, you will not hate those who do not want to receive your beliefs and traditions, which are nothing more than vanity. You must understand that there is only one God, the One Isaiah calls, ‘. . . The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace’ [Isa. 9:6]. This is the only information I want to give you. If it is not what you expected to hear, or if you think it is against the law, then bring to me those who sent you, and I will be glad to give them these same facts.”
At the end of our discussion, these people seemed happy to have heard what I told them and said, “We will tell these things everywhere we go.” How thrilled I was to hear this, and I read to them Luke 24:47 and 48, “. . . repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And ye are witnesses of these things.” They responded, “Yes, we are witnesses!”
And so you can see that although there is much persecution of believers in Israel these days, through that persecution comes a great hope for His chosen people. We read in Isaiah 9:2, “The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light . . .” It is for this reason that I can truly say we are always ready and happy to receive such guests. Who knows, they may be angels in disguise! Please pray for these dear ones, that the light of the Lord will shine in their hearts and they will come to know and accept Him as their Messiah and Savior.
I thank the Lord for His help and enablement as I deal with such people, and I ask you to continue to uphold me in prayer, that I may “. . . be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh [me] a reason of the hope that is in [me], with meekness and fear” (1 Pet. 3:15).