Zvi May/Jun 2007
It seems that people come to Israel from the ends of the earth. We have many Arabs in our area of Jerusalem and also many Jewish people who consider themselves extremely religious. We have been living in the same neighborhood for 33 years, so many people know us. We try to be friendly with everyone.
Not long ago one of our Jewish neighbors met me on the street and declared, “Zvi, one day I would like you to come to visit us at our home.”
So I asked him, “Which day is best for you? Tell me, and I shall be happy to come.”
“Friday,” he replied. “The best day is Friday because it will give us an opportunity to learn something about the great holy day of the Sabbath.”
I know it is difficult to speak with some people about the Lord, but I had been waiting a long time to be invited to this home so that I could have a good conversation with my friend about faith in Christ. I told him I would be there.
When Friday arrived, I went to his home. He and his wife received me warmly, and my neighbor asked, “Do you know why I invited you?”
I answered, “Because we are good neighbors and friends.”
“No,” he said. “I invited you to listen to one of our great rabbis preach on television about Shabbat (the Sabbath). He teaches people how to pray and from which books to pray. All these things are very important.”
And what else did this neighbor do? He invited some of his Orthodox friends so he would not be alone with me and would have help when he needed to answer my questions.
So the rabbi began to preach. He spoke about prayers and the books people must have, and he told everyone which prayers (according to him) are the ones God receives best in heaven. The people who invited me told me, “Listen good, so you will know how to pray; what to say; which prayers to use in the mornings, afternoons, and evenings; and where all these prayers are written.”
I listened for two hours. They were certain that, because I was silent, they had put me in my place. Finally they began to ask me questions. “What do you have to say about all you have heard?” one man asked.
“What I have to say is written in Ecclesiastes 1:2: ‘Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.’”
“How can you say such a thing?” they asked with surprise. “You have seen who spoke about prayer. He is a great and famous rabbi. And what you say is ‘vanity’? Of course, you do not pray! And how can you pray when you do not even have a prayer book?”
“Many years ago,” I told them, “our great prophets were here in Israel. Did they pray using your prayer books, or did they pray from the depths of their hearts? And God heard their prayers. My faith is in the Lord, who hears us when we pray from our hearts. I bow down only before Him, who is God Almighty. I do not put my faith in what men say about prayer, no matter how famous you say they are.”
But these men were determined to prove that they knew more than I did. Some of the men there knew me because we had had a long discussion about faith in Christ many months earlier. They knew in whom I believe. So one said, “Of course, you are telling us what you have learned from this Christian book, the New Testament, where it is written about This Man, Jesus!”
I replied, “How blind you are. You do not even know where it is written that we should pray with our hearts.” So I opened my Bible and read to them from a chapter they knew very well, Deuteronomy 6:
You shall love the Lᴏʀᴅ your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart (vv. 5–6).
They looked at each other with great shame. But they did not give up trying to convince me I was wrong. One man replied, “But as we know, those who believe in This Man, Jesus, they have strayed from the Bible. They believe in their Christian books, not in the Bible.”
This time I showed them my Bible. It is the complete Bible, Old and New Testaments, all in Hebrew. They were extremely surprised that we who believe in Christ read the Bible. After a few hours of discussion, several men finally asked, “How did you come to know the Lord, as you say?”
I told them it was because I read the Bible only, not a big stack of other books. But they were not happy to hear this. They became angry and started shouting that there was no way I could believe in Jesus by reading the Hebrew Scriptures.
So I opened my Bible to Isaiah 53 and read it to them. They asked why I was reading to them from the New Testament. I showed them that I was reading from one of the major prophets of Israel. They looked at my Bible and began to read Isaiah 53 for themselves.
“We’ll have to ask our rabbis about this,” one said. “But you believe in This One who was born in Bethlehem. Isn’t He your God? Where is it written that God was to be born in Bethlehem?”
“If you would believe what is written in the Bible,” I told them, “you would not be asking such questions.” So I told them to look in my Bible and read Micah 5:2:
But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting.
After they read they all were quiet. Pray that God will help them to see with their hearts and understand that Jesus is God—and that He loves them.