Joel of Jerusalem Jun/Jul 1984
Here in this land, from which the Word of the Lord first came forth, it is especially important to preach the gospel of the Lord to those who are so deaf. They are not physically deaf, but they hate to hear the truth about the Lord. They hear only what they want to hear, and, as I have said before, Jerusalem is not New York. You cannot speak to Jews in Jerusalem as freely as you would speak to Jews in other parts of the world.
After living here for thirty-six years, I am known by many people. Some, when they meet me, use the familiar greeting of all Israelis, “Shalom,” and they are friendly toward me even though they know I believe in the Lord. There are others, however, who have also known me for a longtime, and when they meet me they say something like, “Are you still alive? People like you would be better off dead!”
When I received one such greeting recently, I replied, “No, my dear, that is not so.” “’Don’t call me dear!” he shouted. “I am not your friend.” I said, “You are not my friend now, but perhaps tomorrow you will be.” “Never!” he responded. “You are an apostate, and I am a Jew. How can we be friends?” I told him, “It is for this reason that it is written, ‘I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord’ [Ps. 118:17].” “What can you, as a Christian, possibly tell me about the Lord?” he asked.
I saw this as a good opening and said, “The Lord created all men in His image. We are all equal, and we all have the same rights.” “How do you know this?” he asked, and I replied, “I know because I have believed in the Lord, and He has given me things I never had before — salvation, love and peace in my heart. All of these things I received through His Holy Spirit. Hearing words like these comes as a shock to people such as yourself, because you don’t know about the Holy Spirit or being born again. It is for this reason that the Lord has kept me alive through the Holocaust and four wars here in Israel, so that I can come to you and others like you and tell you of His mighty deeds to all people in the world. From this land the Word of the Lord has gone forth to all nations on the earth.”
He then asked, “Do you think you can tell me what to believe? You want me to accept this new faith which you believe in. You want me to believe in Jesus.” I responded, “You have believed a deep mistake for a very long time. The Lord Jesus did not come to make a new faith. He came to give us everlasting life.” This was more than he could tolerate, and he asked if I were speaking from a mental illness. I answered, “In time we shall know who speaks through a mental illness, and you shall also know that it is not my duty to be in competition with you to determine who is more wise. In the Talmud it is written, ‘You sages, give heed to your words.’ And the prophet wrote, ‘Thus saith the Lord, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom . . .’ [Jer. 9:23]. I can speak with you as an equal because we belong to the same Father, and a father does not show partiality among his children.”
“No! We are not equal,” he said, “because you believe in a different faith than I do.” Again I told him, “The Lord did not come to make a new faith. He came to give us everlasting life through His suffering on our behalf.” “Oh, yes, I know all about His suffering,” he said. “He simply died, and everyone knows that when a man is dead he is dead. He has no more value.” I then asked, “Would you like me to read to you about His suffering and what He accomplished through that suffering?” “Yes,” he answered, and I opened my Bible to the 53rd chapter of Isaiah, the chapter which the Jews are not permitted to study and which they call “the forbidden chapter.” As I read to him, starting with Isaiah 52:10, I was surprised to see how this one who was so sure of himself was now so interested in hearing about the Lord.
I can truly say that everyday I see the truth in that verse, “Blessed is the man who trusteth in the lord, and whose hope the lord is” (Jer. 17:7). This man who had been so antagonistic toward me and had even called me unkind names was now, thank the Lord, beginning to speak with me as with a good friend, even though he was still very far from knowing the truth about the Lord. I can understand this, because I realize that such people have spent their entire lives without ever hearing the truth about the Lord Jesus. They know only what they have been told by their revered rabbis and what they have read in their many books of tradition handed down from generation to generation. It is from these sources that they have received their instruction in the faith, and it has become holy to them. When I come to them with many facts from the Bible, they become curious and want to know more about the Lord. It is all so new to them, and of course all people are interested in something new. It is important to make these people understand that Christians do not believe in a new faith, as they have been told. We don’t believe in other gods, but in the one true God.
Because this man and I were having our conversation in a public place, from time to time other people came past and listened in, and some even wanted to take part in the discussion. Everyone wants to prove himself more wise than the next person, and in such a discussion you will hear many interesting points being made. For instance, one man said, “Israel is not the right place for a Christian. If you want to speak about Jesus, go to Europe or some other place in the world, but not here in Israel!” “You speak very nicely,” I said, “and for that remark you should receive a special award.” I then asked the entire group, “Do you know where the first information about the Lord came from?” They all started looking at one another very uncomfortably, and no one said a word. They were all as quiet as fish. Finally someone said, “Since you asked the question, you must know the answer.” I told them, “The first information about the Lord Jesus came from your own holy Bible.” “No! No! That is not true” they all shouted together, just like a mixed chorus. I then told them, “I have not come to you with a gun and told you that you must receive the Lord. If you say that you believe in the holy Bible but you do not believe every word that is written there, you are making a big mistake. You must follow the Lord according to the Bible or you cannot call yourselves good Jews.” Again they sounded like a great chorus as they said, “How can we believe in Jesus and still say that we are Jews?”
I asked them, “Are you going to believe what you read in the Bible or what you read in the books written by the rabbis? You can see for yourselves how many different ideas and opinions are contained in those many books. How do you know which rabbi is right? And who is a complete Jew — the one who has spent his whole life studying those books filled with superstitions, or the one who believes in the Lord according to the holy Bible?” They were all very unhappy to hear the truth from an apostate such as I. I told them many times, “You must know from where you have come and to where you are going.”
At this time they started a discussion among themselves, and it was pitiful to hear. They were like blind people groping around in the darkness, and there was no one who could lead them out into the light, because they were all so hardhearted. I had never met people with such deep hatred for those of us who believe in the Lord Jesus. They kept repeating, “Jesus came to make a new faith, and because you believe in Him you have left the faith of our fathers.” Again I told them that Jesus did not come to make a new faith but, rather, He came to save us and to give us everlasting life. I said, “If you would look in the Bible, instead of in your books of tradition, you would see this very clearly.”
One of them said, “You are talking about the New Testament, but that does not belong to our holy Bible.” I told him, “That is another area where you are mistaken. If you would read Jeremiah 31:31, you would learn that the New Testament is spoken of there, for it reads, ‘Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant [brith hadashah] with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah.’ The term New Testament, which is so hated by the people of this nation, is actually the Hebrew phrase brith hadashah and is the new covenant referred to by Jeremiah. Jesus said, ‘Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets; I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no way pass from the law, till all be fulfilled’ [Mt. 5:17-18]. You can see from this the great difference between what you have been taught and what Jesus actually said to His followers when He walked in this very land. You have been brainwashed by your false teachers. Satan has gained entrance and is dancing among you, and you with him. You are filled with vanity, and from this comes many evil things, such as superstition, slander and talebearing, which the Lord speaks against in Leviticus 19:16, ‘Thou shall not go up and down as a talebearer among thy people . . .’ The Lord hates all these things, and we can read in Numbers 13:32 what happens to people who follow after such practices, ‘. . . The land, through which we have gone to search it, is a land that eateth up the inhabitants thereof . . .’ ”
I was very surprised to see that all these people were listening very closely to what I was saying, and I asked, “Now what do you think about all of this? Do you still think the Lord Jesus came to make a new faith? Or do you now realize that He came to fulfill all that was written in the Old Testament Scriptures? He came to give us that which we had lost — faith. Without faith in the Lord we are lost forever.”
They then said, “Whether we like saying it or not, we must admit that you are right! We are sorry about what has happened here today.” I told them, “I am not sorry but happy. Through such a discussion we can learn much and come to a true understanding of the Lord. Also, you can see that even though just a short time ago you were my sworn enemies, now, through the love of the Lord, we can speak together as friends. If you will strive to learn more about the Lord and His great love for all mankind, then you will be able to stand against the false teachers which abound in our midst, and the glory of the Lord will be revealed in you.” They all said together just one short word, “Amen,” and I said, “Amen” also.