Joel of Jerusalem Aug/Sep 1989
In Ecclesiastes 1:9b–10 it is written, “there is no new thing under the sun. Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? It hath been already of old time, which was before us.” But I believe that there is something new under the sun these days.
Recently David Levy, the Foreign Field Director for The Friends of Israel, visited Israel for several weeks. He has written several brochures for the Mission over the years, and one entitled “How Would You Recognize the Messiah?” was recently translated into the Hebrew language. One day while David was in Israel he and I decided to go into center city Jerusalem and pass out copies of this brochure. In Israel, however, we do not have the freedom which exists in other countries to distribute religious literature, especially Christian literature, and so before we left my home we prayed that the Lord would be with us, protect us, guide us, and give us peace. Thus strengthened, we proceeded to the center of Jerusalem and began passing out copies of David’s brochure.
This certainly was not the first time I had encountered the stiff-necked Israeli people. Whenever I go out to confront the public, it is with the realization that I probably will meet with some surprises, and this time was no exception. We were successful in giving copies of the brochure to many young people, and then came the first surprise. I was approached by an ultra-orthodox man who requested several copies of the booklet. I gladly gave them to him, and he immediately began to debate the contents with us without even opening one copy. He asked who had authored the booklet, and upon learning it was David he began to speak with him in passable English, but nothing he said was original. He had a small piece of paper in his hand, and every now and then he glanced down at the paper and then brought up some new point with which to attack my colleague. He asked many questions, all of which were written on his piece of paper. It was obvious that someone else had written the questions and arguments for him and had sent him out, thus armed, to attack us and others like us who seek to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ.
We spoke with this man for over an hour, and we learned that the old saying, “Paper is more patient than man,” is not necessarily true because he certainly was not patient. He had come with a small piece of paper, but we had come with the Spirit of the Lord. In such a battle, his piece of paper was useless. He continued to attack us and tell us all the things that were wrong in David’s brochure, but I told him that not one word he had said in the entire hour-long conversation corresponded with what the Bible says. When we spoke about Isaiah 53 he said, “That was not written about the Messiah but about Rabbi Akiva.” I replied, “I disagree. It is clear that it is written about Jesus Christ, about His suffering on our behalf, about how we refused to listen to His words, and about how He gave His life for us so that we would not be lost for all eternity.”
This man then asked for my address and telephone number, which I freely gave to him. However, when I asked for his address and telephone number, he was afraid to give me the information. I was happy that David and I could demonstrate that we do not fear what men can do to us because the Lord is with us to protect and strengthen us. We are not concerned about the trouble we may experience as we witness for Him because we know that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ (Rom. 8:35–39), not even the persecution this man thought he had heaped upon us.
David and I then left center city Jerusalem and went to an even more dangerous place, the ultra-orthodox section of the city, the holy of holies There we met the most fanatic religious ones. They speak Yiddish rather than Hebrew, and we call them zebras because of the striped clothing they wear. We entered several yeshivas (religious schools) and left a few of David’s booklets.
Finally we came to the most fanatic, dangerous yeshiva, and I was sure we would meet with trouble there. But then I learned that there is something new under the sun. I began to speak with one of the students, a zebra, and asked, “Do you believe that the Messiah will come? Or do you believe that He will return?” He asked, “What do you mean?” I must admit that it was not easy for me to answer, but I knew that as a servant of the Lord I had to be strong. I told him, “I believe that the Messiah has already been here and that He will return.” I was waiting for him to begin to attack me, especially since I was on his home turf, but now I experienced something new under the sun. He said, in a very soft voice, “I believe as you do that the Messiah will return!” It was hard for me to believe my ears, so I asked again, “Do you really believe that the Messiah will return?” “Yes,” he said, “but as you know there are many differences of opinion on this subject. It is a matter of great controversy, but it is all for God’s sake, and so it is good.” I then asked if he had any other thoughts on the subject, and he replied, “I will be happy if what I just told you is fulfilled.” I replied, “I too want the same thing.” It was apparent that in his long hours of study God had shown Himself to this young man and had opened his eyes to the truth concerning His Son Jesus, the Messiah. We then went on to speak with a few of the other students, but they did not believe as he did.
When we left the yeshiva, David and I were very encouraged by our visit. We immediately stopped to pray for this young man, and we continue to pray for him every day. We are also praying that there are others like him among the yeshiva students in Jerusalem. Of course, only the Lord knows, but there is great power in prayer, and this is what we must do—David Levy, myself, our families, and you. We must all pray for these dear ones, some of whom apparently believe the truth but are afraid to acknowledge the Lord publicly.
I plan to return to that yeshiva soon, and perhaps, through the power of prayer, I will be able to report that more of the students have seen the light which is in the Lord our Savior. I thank God that He gave David and me the courage to go among the wolves and to experience the blessing of the Lord even there.