Zvi Feb/Mar 1996
In Isaiah 1:2 it is written, “I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me.”
I was recently waiting at the bus stop to go into town, and a very old man was standing in line with me. When the bus came along, I noticed that he needed help to board, and so I assisted him and sat next to him on the short ride into Jerusalem. During the ride, I asked him how old he was, and he replied, “I am much too old—94!” I then asked, “Why are you going into town by yourself?” He said, “As it is written in the Talmud, in Aboth 1:14,‘If I am not for myself, who is for me?’” “Where are your children?” I asked, and he answered, “If I waited for my children to help me get into town, I would never get there.”
I then asked, “Do your children go to the synagogue?” “Of course,” he replied. “They are all like me—law-observing, sin-fearing people.” “If that is so,” I said, “then how do they feel about what is written in Exodus 20:12,‘Honor thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee’? Are they doing this? Are they honoring you?” He replied, “It is very hard these days to find such children.” I told him, “If, as you say, your children observe the law, where are they now when you need them?”
At about that time, we arrived at our destination, and as I helped him from the bus, I said, “If your children were really following the commands of the Lord, they would not leave you alone.” He said, “I cannot do anything for myself. I am 94 years old, and every day I wait for the end. I have no hope!” I then told him what King David said in his time of trouble: “Cast me not away from thy presence, and take not thy holy Spirit from me” (Ps. 51:11). I went on to say, “Even in your old age, you can be fruitful for the Lord, as it is written in Psalm 92:14,‘They shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be fat and flourishing.’”
This old man commented, “I know the entire Book of Psalms by rote, but I never thought about that portion before.” I responded, “That is because you know the book by heart, but you do not have it in your heart. Therefore, you don’t remember the most important words of the Lord, and you do not know what He expects of us.”
We spoke for a long time, then he asked, “Do you go to the synagogue often?” “No,” I replied. “If that is so, then how do you pray?” he asked. I answered, “From the depths of my heart, and the Lord hears and answers my prayers. I do not read prayers that have been written for me by other people.”
I then told him, “I have four adult children, and every one of them respects my wife and me as their mother and father. This is because they worship the living God rather than following false teachers.” He then asked, “What do you call your synagogue?” I replied, “As it is written in Isaiah 56:7, we call it a‘house of prayer.’ We know that if our prayers come from deep within our hearts, rather than out of books, the Lord will hear and answer us.”
Then he really opened up his heart and said, “I have five children, and not one of them brings me any satisfaction as a father.” I said, “Our God is a God of love and mercy, and He will bestow His love and mercy on those who will receive Him.” I then read John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” He listened very carefully and then asked where this passage was written. I told him it was from the New Testament and immediately read to him about the love and mercy of God from Isaiah 53:5 and 10: “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon him, and with his stripes we are healed… Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief.”
Suddenly it seemed as if this old man were young again. He was so interested in what God had done for us and asked why He would do this. He asked many questions and listened carefully to my answers from the Scripture. I took him step by step through the plan of salvation, using mostly Old Testament Scriptures because he was not familiar with the New Testament. We were sitting in a public park, and although he was much older than me, he was listening—hanging on my every word—like a youngster in school.
Finally he asked, “How can it be that I have read these passages so many times over the years, and none of this meaning ever came into my mind?” I opened the Bible for him, and although he is 94 years old, with the help of his glasses he can see very clearly, and he read some of the passages for himself. Then he said, “I wonder why, over these many years, I have never studied Isaiah 53.” I told him, “It is because your false leaders discourage you from doing so. They don’t even read it in the synagogues.”
This old man had a long white beard and looked like he could have been one of the ancient prophets of Israel. But inside he was empty. Everyone calls him “Rabbi” to honor him, and I also spoke to him with respect because of his great age. Perhaps that was why he started to ask questions about subjects he had never considered before. I told him, “You cannot be saved by killing a chicken, which the religious Jews do on the Day of Atonement. As it is written in Isaiah 52:3,‘For thus saith the Lord, Ye have sold yourselves for nothing, and ye shall be redeemed without money.’”
Because of the importance of this verse, I let him read it for himself. Finally he asked, “Then how can you be saved?” I replied, “Through the blood of our Savior, Jesus Christ.” Again I read to him the entire 53rd chapter of Isaiah, so that it would root itself deeply into his mind and, even more so, into his heart.
After spending several hours together in the public park, I led him back to the bus stop. When we parted, he said, “I will never forget our time together. Thank you!” I pray that as he reads the Scriptures now, the Spirit of God will open his eyes and heart and that he will come to salvation while there is still time.