Joel of Jerusalem Apr/May 1985
There is a very big competition raging in Israel at this time. It is not a competition in the business world, but something which has never been seen before in this nation – a competition to see who can bring more people to repentance. It is good that there is such great interest in seeing people return to the Lord, but to my knowledge there is only one way to do this, and that is to open your heart to the Lord so that He can come in. But, as we often say, two angels are not sent on one mission.
Unfortunately, this great desire to bring people to repentance is not from God or in accordance with His Word. Instead, it is a competition among the many Yeshivas (religious schools). They do everything they can to bring new people into their respective Yeshivas, but once they get them there, they do not teach them from the Torah (Genesis to Deuteronomy), but, rather, they teach them from the book which to them is the most important, the Talmud. In time, they give them instructions about how to be a good Jew, which involves changing their appearance by growing long beards and curls. They feel that because of these external changes they are the most religious people in the world and are even more powerful than the famous rabbis. It is for this reason that there is such a competition among the religious schools to bring people to repentance, people who will become like them with long beards and curls and who will make the respective schools more influential.
Recently some of these people came to my home, and when I answered the door one of them asked, “Why have you not repented as we have?” This approach came as a shock to me, because I never ask anyone why he is not saved without knowing anything about him. You can never tell just by looking at a person whether or not he is saved. So I asked, “How do you know that I have not repented and that I am not saved?” One of them said, “We can see it with our own eyes.” “How?” I asked, and he said, “You are not like us. You do not have a beard and curls.” “Is that all?” I asked, and he replied, “Yes, but that is a very important part of being saved.”
Then I told them, “You can meet people with long beards and longer curls than yours in prison, and they are not there because they have been fighting a holy war. Oh no, they are in prison because they have broken the laws of men, not to mention the law of God.” One of them asked, “Who are you that you speak with such confidence?” I responded, “It is good that you asked this, and I am glad to give you the answer. I am so sure and full of trust because I know that I am truly saved. The long beard and curls, which you consider so important, are to me nothing more than camouflage or pretension. By your outward appearance you can impress people, but you cannot impress God. It is written, ‘. . . man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart’ [1 Sam. 16:7]. You are like actors in a play, but you are really lazy and want to eat bread which you have not earned. You are all very healthy men, and yet you spend your whole lives in the religious schools studying your worthless books of tradition which have been passed down from generation to generation, and you think that living this type of life and having a beard and curls will save you. What’s more, you think that other people should provide you with the necessities of life. I am very sorry for you, and you have come to the wrong address this time in your effort to bring someone to repentance!” One of the men said, “If there is no one here who needs our help, we will go somewhere else, but before we leave we would like to know who you are and what you believe.” I told them, “There is nothing special about me. I am just as you see me, one from the population of the chosen people, just like yourselves. And it is easy to tell you what I believe. We do not have many gods, but only one God, as it is written, ‘I am the Lord thy God . . . Thou shalt have no other gods before me’ [Ex. 20:2-3]. It is in this God, the living God, that I believe. Now that I have told you about myself, please tell me about yourselves. Why do you go to people with such bad news and expect them to believe it and thereby be saved?” “What are you talking about? Who told you this foolish story?” they asked. I replied, “It is written in Sotah [a part of the Talmud], ‘No man sins unless a spirit of madness enters into him.’ These are not my words, they are taken from your own Talmud.” When they heard this they became very interested and wanted to know even more about me. I told them, “You must not believe what you read in those books. People who believe in the Lord, as I do, are not wild beasts, which is what you have been taught.”
At this point my wife and I invited them to the table to have a bite to eat with us. This was the first step in breaking the ice. After we had eaten, one of the men said, “Now tell us about your faith.” I responded, “First, I want you to know that I did not come to have faith in God through the fictitious stories you read day by day. All the knowledge I have received is from the Bible. After reading it, followed by much prayer and seeking the Lord, He saved me and filled me with His Holy Spirit. And you are free to do this as well, my friends. What He did for me He is ready to do for you, if you will only open your hearts and allow Him to come in.”
After listening very carefully to me, someone asked, “Who told you all of this?” I replied, “No one told me, I read it for myself in the Bible, God’s holy Word. If you would only begin to read the Scriptures, instead of your precious books of tradition, then you would not have to ask such questions. You would be able to find the answers for yourselves.” Unfortunately, they still did not understand what I was telling them, and they continued to ask how I had come to believe as I do. I finally said, “Since you are so interested, I want you to know that I am even more interested in explaining it to you. As we say, more than the calf wants suck, the cow wants to suckle. So it is with me, but I have been waiting for an opportunity to speak freely with you, and I believe that time has come.
One of the men said, “You told us that your faith in Jesus came from the Bible. Can you show us even the smallest sign of Jesus in our Old Testament Scriptures?” I told him, “I have just the sign you are looking for. It is written of in Isaiah 7:14, ‘Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, the virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.’ This is only one sign. I can show you many more, and the Bible is available to you if you will only open it and read it for yourselves. I beg you to do this, and then open your hearts to the Lord in prayer. Believe me, if you do this, the Lord in His mercy will save you and fill you with His Holy Spirit. Then you will truly be one of His children and spiritual things which before were a mystery to you will become very clear. You will no longer have to read from your volumes of tradition and then run to the rabbis for explanations or interpretations.”
Then someone asked, “How can you pray to the Lord when you do not even have a prayer book in your home?” I told him, “For a true believer in the Lord, his prayer book is in his heart. We are ready at any moment to open our hearts before Him in prayer. The difference is that your prayers come from the lips but ours come from the heart.”
Please pray with me that the seeds of truth planted that day will germinate and bring these people to repentance — true repentance by putting their faith and trust in the Lord Jesus and following after His ways.