Joel of Jerusalem Feb/Mar 1987
I was recently walking along the street in the old city of Jerusalem, and I saw two young orthodox Jewish students carrying what appeared to be a very heavy package. It was so big that every few moments they would stop and put the package down so they could rest before going on. After watching them for a while, I approached them and asked if I could help. They didn’t answer, but when I asked what was in the heavy package they answered, “This is a package of good deeds.” I was sure that it must contain clothing for poor people, and so I commended them saying, “That is a good deed you are doing. May the Lord bless you.” After all, they were very young boys, and even though they were orthodox Jews, they deserved to be commended for doing a good deed.
Then one of the boys asked, “Do you know what is in this big package?” “Clothing for poor people,” I responded. “Oh, no!” they said. “What we have here is very holy. They are the books of commentaries for the ultra-orthodox students.” When I heard that I said, “lf you were to ask me now what is in your package, I would tell you that it is a big package of misdeeds.” “How can you say that about the roots of our faith?” they asked. I responded with another question, “What part does the Law have in our lives? I am referring to the Law which we received from God through Moses on Mount Sinai. Which is more important for us, that Law or the so-called laws contained in your heavy package?” They said, “You have asked a very hard question, and we cannot answer it; but if you want an answer, come with us. If you would like, you may help us carry our books along the way. We will go to see our rabbis, and we are sure they will give you the right answer to your question.” I agreed to go with them, and as we walked I had a good opportunity to share the Word of God with them.
We finally arrived at their holy of holies, and the students said to their rabbi, “This man helped us to carry all these books here.” The rabbi was very appreciative and thanked me. Then the students said, “This kind man has also asked us a question which we cannot answer, and so we would like you to answer him.” The rabbi said, “I will be very happy to answer any question which pertains to our faith. What is your question?”
I asked,”Rabbi, why do you spend all of your life and encourage your young students to spend their lives studying these books which have no value – no value for you or these young boys, and certainly no value for God?” “Who are you, to speak to me like this?” he demanded. “Do you have anything further to say?” “Yes,” I replied. “I want to tell you that I am very sorry to see such young boys following after false teachings. It is true that we are a very wise people, but, on the other side of the coin, we are in many ways more backward than any other nation on earth.”
“You are speaking in riddles,” the rabbi said. “Give me a clear explanation of what you are talking about.” I then took out the small Bible which I always carry with me and said, “You don’t even know what is written in this book.” He replied, “There is so much written in it that I don’t know what you want me to tell you.” I said, “In Deuteronomy 6:16-17 it is written, ‘Ye shall not put the LORD your God to the test, as ye tested him in Massah. Ye shall diligently keep the commandments of the Lord your God. . .’ But what are you doing? Instead of keeping God’s commandments, you have taken upon yourself a great, heavy burden which has no value. You have invested your entire life in the study of commentaries which have been passed down by men from generation to generation; but the Word of God, which is so holy, you have cast away. What’s more, you have tested God because what you are doing is against His will. If you would read the truth found in the Bible, you would realize that you have wasted your life.”
By this time several other people had gathered around and were listening in on our conversation. They began to take part in the discussion, but they were not very polite to me. The first question they asked was, “Are you a Meshumed [apostate]?” “No! I have been a complete Jew since the time I came to know the Lord according to the way He has instructed us in the Bible, His holy Word. I am sorry for you because you have been living in such deep darkness, and what’s more, you are taking others with you. These young boys could be saved, but because of you they will be lost. As we say, when the shepherd strays, the sheep will stray after him; and you have all gone astray. But there is a way to escape the darkness and come into the light.” I then read for them Isaiah, chapter 53, emphasizing verse 6, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way. . .” I then said, “Now tell me, who are the apostates? It cannot be those of us who believe what is written in Deuteronomy 6:14, ‘Ye shall not go after other gods, of the gods of the people who are round about you.’”
This was too much for them, and they said, “We are Jews, but you are not because you believe in another god.” I asked, “How is it possible for one who believes and follows all that is written in the Bible to believe in another god? Never! But I have shown you living facts from God’s own Word which prove that it is you who are the apostates. If you will take up your books again, this time with an open mind and heart before the Lord, He will show you the folly of your beliefs.”
They were all very quiet now, and after a while I said, “Since you do not seem to have anything more to say, let me again read for you Deuteronomy 6:16, ‘Ye shall not put the LORD your God to the test, as ye tested him in Massah.’ If you will put your trust in the Lord, and in Him alone, He will give you what you can never receive by devoting your lives to studying these false teachings. Think about this.” “You have certainly given us much to think about,” they admitted.
Please pray with me that these students, along with their rabbis and teachers, will close their books of commentaries and traditions and open God’s Word, which alone has the answers to all of the questions of life, and through which they can find the real way to God and the salvation which He freely gives to all who will receive His Son and our Messiah, the Lord Jesus.