Zvi May/Jun 2006
Many years ago new immigrants moved into our neighborhood in Jerusalem. One family in particular became special to us because they spoke about the faith. Yet they did not like people who believed in Christ, even though they were not religious themselves. Several years ago they moved away, and we never heard from them again.
Not long ago my wife and I were waiting for a bus, and whom should we see but our former neighbors. As we boarded together, we began to inquire about each other’s families. In a loud voice, our friend said, “You know, we are very happy to tell you that our son repented!”
I was certain they meant their son had come to know the Lord and was baptized. But when they showed us his picture, there he was, wearing a long beard and the black clothing of the ultra-Orthodox!
“What do you say about this?” the mother asked me.
“I say this is nice clothing for the Purim carnival.” Now the mother was no longer happy.
“Why do you say such a thing? He is now very religious,” the father said. So I explained that to repent means to come before the Lord with a broken heart and to turn from the evil way to the path of righteousness. Repentance does not involve changing one’s clothing but, rather, changing one’s heart.
“He is not serving the Lord according to the Bible,” I told them. “He is serving men. He does what the rabbis tell him, not what the Bible tells him.”
“Why do you say such a thing?” the mother asked.
So I asked them, “What is more important? To worship God according to the Bible or according to the fictitious stories contained in rabbinical commentaries?”
“The Bible, of course,” they both replied.
So I quickly opened my Bible to Jeremiah 17:7–8, where it is written, “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lᴏʀᴅ, and whose hope is in the Lᴏʀᴅ. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters.”
As I spoke, others on the bus began listening to our lengthy conversation and asked me to read the passage aloud. Then I gave my Bible to others on the bus and asked them to read verses 5–6, which say, “Thus says the Lᴏʀᴅ: ‘Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart departs from the Lᴏʀᴅ. For he shall be like a shrub in the desert.’”
“So,” I asked, “in whom shall we trust? In those who disguise themselves so that they will appear holy or in God, who is holy?” Suddenly the atmosphere in the bus became very tense. More and more people joined the conversation.
“How can you come here and start to speak about faith?” someone asked. “You do not even cover your head!”
I replied, “When Moses went up to Mount Sinai and God gave him the Torah—the most holy commandments—and Moses stood before God Himself, did God ask him, ‘Why did you come up here without your head covered?’ Moses came to God with his heart. And this is the most important thing to the Lord. Everything else I call diversionary tactics. Clothing, beards, head coverings. These are like camouflage to make you believe that someone is holy when his heart is still far from God.
“I come to you plainly. I do not have a long beard or try to persuade you that I am holy by wearing special clothes. Nor do I bring a stack of fictitious stories. I come to you with one small book: the Word of God. In here it is written how we should worship the Lord. So take a good look and see what it says.”
I began to read to them from Deuteronomy, where it is written, “You shall fear the Lᴏʀᴅ your God and serve Him….You shall not go after other gods,” (6:13–14). Everyone on the bus grew quiet.
“Yes, you are to repent,” I told them. “But you are to repent before the Lord and follow Him alone. Only through Him can we be forgiven of all that we have done.”
When the bus finally came to the station, everyone began to say, “What a pity. We would have listened much longer, but now we must go.” I told them to study God’s Word so they can go to Him by faith. “He is waiting for you,” I said.