Zvi Jun/Jul 1994
My wife and I recently visited her mother in the hospital. Now past 90 years old, she is like most of the other people in that particular hospital. They can no longer care for themselves, spend most of their waking hours in wheelchairs, speak very little, and appear to be very bitter. There are no smiles on their lips and no indications that they enjoy life. Most of them seem to be counting the days until they die. As I viewed this sorrowful picture, I asked myself, “Can it be that I was sent here not only to visit my mother-in-law, but to bring encouragement to these other people as well?”
I quickly made friends with many of them, and several conversations ensued. These Jewish people had come from both Arab and European countries, and so I spoke with some in Arabic and with others in Yiddish and other European languages. They immediately seemed to like me, probably because I made them feel that they still have value in this life and that they are very important in the eyes of God. Soon there were expressions of happiness on their faces.
I asked them if they remembered anything about the Bible. Most replied that they pray only from their prayer books, and they said they sometimes have to listen, against their will, to rabbis who visit the hospital and tell the old stories and traditions handed down through the centuries. One of the men said, “Listening to the rabbis does not make us happy or bring us joy, but you, in just a short time, have actually made us smile.”
I then read some verses from the Bible to show them that even in old age they can be fruitful. “I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread” (Ps. 37:25); Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head, and honor the face of the old man, and fear thy God: I am the Lᴏʀᴅ” (Lev. 19:32). I went on to tell them, “You can see how important you are, even at your advanced age. And you can be even more important if you will turn back to the Lord. Don’t dwell on your old age and your good deeds here on earth. Rather, return to the Lord and obey His commandments during whatever time you have left.”
Now they began to pay close attention to what I was saying, but one man asked, “Do you expect me to forget in one minute everything I have done over 96 years of life?” “Yes,” I replied, “and it can be done if you will open your heart before the Almighty God and say, ‘O God, forgive me.’ As it is written in Jeremiah 31:34, ‘saith the Lᴏʀᴅ, … I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.’” Many of them wanted to see for themselves where this verse was written, even though most have very poor eyesight, so I was glad to pass around the small Hebrew Bible I always carry with me.
In speaking with these people I realized that most have been forsaken by their families, and, as I said before, they are unhappy and counting the hours before they leave this life. Unfortunately, none of them knows what the future holds. And so I continued to speak with them, telling them that they do not have to be bitter because anyone who truly believes in the Lord will never be forsaken by Him but will have everlasting life in His presence. As it is written in Job 19:25 and 26, “I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth; And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God.” I said, “You must do as it is written in Amos 5:4, ‘Seek ye me, and ye shall live.’ In the Lord there is no death, only life!”
As I read the Bible, I could tell from the expressions on their faces that they had never heard these things before. No one had ever given them any hope of joy in the Lord. They had been told things that brought only sorrow, which is why they were sitting in that place, looking so forlorn, counting the days and hours until the end. But when I started to speak with them, bringing them the message of joy in the Lord, they forgot about counting and, instead, began to ask me questions about the future. They wanted assurance that the things I had told them were really true.
I then asked, “Do you believe what is written in the Psalms?” Many of them, especially the men, had spent many hours reading the Psalms, but they admitted, “We never paid much attention to what we read.” I then started reading some of the Psalms to them—slowly, clearly, and loudly, so that their nearly deaf ears could hear. I ended with Psalm 23, putting special emphasis on the end of verse 6, “and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” When I finished reading, some of them said, “We have read those passages many times, but they never entered into our hearts as they have today.”
Just then my wife said, “Zvi, today is Friday, and we must get to the shops before they close for the Sabbath.” I looked at my watch and realized that I had been speaking with these people for more than three hours, but it seemed like just a short time. These elderly people seemed sad that I had to leave, and so I said to my wife, “Give me a few more minutes with my new friends.” I then asked, “Do you have any more questions before I leave?” One of them asked, “How can you be so sure that you will ‘dwell in the house of the LORD forever’?” I replied, “Everything I read was from the Holy Bible, which was written by the Holy Spirit of God. And, as it is written in Psalm 119:89, ‘Forever, O Lᴏʀᴅ, thy word is settled in heaven.’ If you do not believe in the living God, all you have to do is open your hearts to Him, put your trust in Him, and you will have the same assurance of the future. As it is clearly written in Psalm 118:17, ‘I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lᴏʀᴅ.’”
These people then started to sing a song of joy to the Lord. I was so thrilled that in a few short hours they had gone from silence and sorrow to joyful singing. Pray for me as I return to the hospital and continue witnessing to these dear people. Pray also that they will recognize the truth about the Lord and accept Him as their Messiah and Savior before their earthly journey is over. It would make me so happy to know that my new friends will “dwell in the house of the Lᴏʀᴅ forever.”