Joel of Jerusalem Jun/Jul 1981
Here in Israel it seems we are paying taxes even for the air we breathe. The more we earn, the more taxes they take and, as if this is not enough, I was recently called to the tax office for an audit. This was the first time for me, and I didn’t know what to expect.
I went on the appointed day, and the first thing the man did was ask my name. When I told him, he commented, “You have a very good name and a very popular one.” “Thank you,” I said. By this I could tell that he was a very religious Jew. I asked him why I had been called here, and he replied, “You know why, it is because of taxes.” Upon checking my records more carefully though, he found that I did not have to pay anything more after all, because the proper amount had been deducted from my wages by my employer.
He then gave me a small slip of paper that said everything was in order, and on this paper he wrote the day, month and year. When I saw this I said, “You are a religious Jew and yet you use the date of the Christians. Why is this?” The man laughed and said, “You are the first one who has ever come to me with this joke.” “This is not a joke, it is true,” I told him. “Can you illustrate that for me?” he asked. “Yes, very easily,” I replied. “We are now in the year 1981, and it is approximately that many years since the time Jesus came. Also, we say B.C. and A.D., meaning before and after He came. In this way all the world follows after Him – if not in true faith, at least in remembering how many years it has been since He was on the earth. I wonder why it is that we use this Christian date when we have our own date, 5741.” “How do you know that?” the man asked, continuing, “I can never remember our date.” I told him, “It is good then that I have come to remind you of it and also to tell you that without even knowing it, you are following after Christ day by day. Even better than this, though, you should know that there is really only one way to follow after Him, and that is not by using His date but by following after His way.”
He was very surprised to hear me say this and asked, “Where are we? Am I dreaming?” “No, you are not dreaming,” I told him, “and even if you do not know where you are, I know where I am. I am in Israel, and who is it that we give thanks to for our daily bread here in Israel?” “To our Father in Heaven,” he replied. I told him, “That is a good answer, but are you sure that you are saved, that your sins are forgiven?”
This was more than he wanted to hear and he said, “You speak too much. Our conversation was about taxes and nothing more. Now you want to know all about me.” “No, that is none of my business,” I told him. “I only want to help you open your eyes so that you will realize that all is not taxes. Today we are here talking about taxes, but tomorrow we may not be here at all. If we are called before the Lord tomorrow and must give an account of what we have done here on earth, you will have to say, ‘My work was only taxes and nothing more.’ I also have a job, but that is not all I do. We must also give people the opportunity to know to whom they must come to be saved. After all, we do not know how long we have here on this earth.”
He then asked, “Do you think I called you here today just so that you could preach to me?” “Yes, I do,” I replied. “Maybe it was not your will that I should come here to preach to you, but it was His will.” “How do you know this?” he asked. I answered, “You can see that I owe nothing on my taxes, so it must be that I am here to give you my testimony about the Lord, our Savior.” “But you must know that I am a religious Jew,” he said, “and I am very far away from what you want me to believe. I don’t even know anything about your Jesus.”
“That is good,” I told him, “because now I have a chance to tell you about Him. As you work here in the tax office, many times a day you write His date, and now you shall know what date it is you are using day by day, from where it is taken and from whom. This is what I want you to understand. Why is it that here in this office you do not use the real date? It is because, as you have already said, most people don’t know the Israeli date of 5741. Instead, you use the date which refers to the Lord, and now I want you to know more about Him than just His date. I want you to know how to find Him and how you can be saved by Him.”
“No!” he shouted. “Get out of here. How can you speak in this office about a new faith? We have enough to do to follow our old faith, so much that we cannot keep it all, and now you want us to follow a new one?” I responded, “I haven’t come to you with anything new. As it is written, ‘. . . there is no new thing under the sun’ [Eccl. 1:9]. You can also see what is written in Jeremiah 31:27-33.” I then read this passage to him and he said, “This is good because it is written in our own Bible.”
After this, one of the other clerks in the office came up to him and said, “You had better be ready for this man. He will tell you that you must be baptized and become a Christian.” I then knew that I was under cross fire, but it was not the first time and it will not be the last. They were more than surprised when I opened the Bible and showed them that we are indeed to be baptized in pure water, as it is written in Ezekiel 36:25. I read this passage especially to them, along with the preceding and following verses, because it is very clear and is taken from the Old Testament, which I knew they would accept. “For I will take you from among the nations, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land. Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean; from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you . . .” (Ezek. 36:24-26). I then told the second man, “You did not make a mistake when you said we must be baptized. If you want to be obedient to the Lord, you must be baptized. I haven’t told you this from myself, it is written in the Holy Bible and you, as religious Jews, should think about this.”
Then they asked, “Are you baptized?” “Yes,” I answered. “How could I speak to you about the Lord if I myself was unclean? What’s more, the Lord has promised to those who will come to him, ‘. . . I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh’ [ Ezek. 11:19]. Here you have a very clear picture of the Lord’s forgiveness. He is always ready to forgive, but men like you, even though you know the Bible, nevertheless make yourselves poor. With you it is, ‘Out of sight, out of mind.’ Also, what the eyes do not see the heart does not grieve for. But this is only for a short time, because sooner or later the end will come. The Lord sees you day by day, and you cannot say, ‘Oh, forgive me Lord, I never heard about you.’ No! There are many times when the Lord warns you. This you can see in Habakkuk 1:2. I know that you are waiting for someone to come and remove the dust from your eyes. Well, here I am! You can see now that you called me here with a warning, and in return I have given you one. I am sure that it you will remove the dust from your eyes, you will be able to see the right way. Then you will see that you have been chosen from among the nations.”
They said, “This has been a very interesting discussion, and it is good that you came here today. We have learned something new. We should pay your taxes for you for such a testimony as you have given us. Please leave your address with us.” I replied, “You have my address and also my telephone number. You can call me if you ever want to talk again. I will be glad to speak with you. Also, I am happy that you have learned about the true date, where it has come from and to whom it belongs. Now that you know all this, don’t be satisfied only to use His date, but start to follow in His footsteps.” I can truly say that they were glad to hear this.