I was born in Manchester of Jewish parents and so attended Jewish schools where I learnt about God from an early age. I was taught that He was omnipresent (present everywhere). Jonah thought he could escape from God but found that it was impossible. The Psalmist declared, “If I go up to the heavens, you are there” Psalm 139:8. I sensed God’s presence everywhere I went but I was not taught about a Holy God who hated sin.
Mitzvah or Messiah?
We celebrated all the festivals, such as Passover, the Day of Atonement, etc. We went along with all the traditions but I did not see God as the prophet did when he said, “…these people come near to me with their mouth and honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men.” Isaiah 29:13. Why would David say in Psalm 23:6, I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever? Once I asked my father what happens after death and he said that we all go to heaven. This satisfied my curiosity about life after death but in my Jewish schools I was never confronted with; “but your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you,” Isaiah 59:2, all my righteousness were “…as filthy rags” Isaiah 64:6 and “for there is no-one who does not sin” 2 Chronicles 6:36. I was lost and did not know God’s forgiveness.
God said that without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness, “it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.” Leviticus 17:11. Rabbis contradicted God’s Word by substituting mitzvot (good works) such as giving to charity and saying prayers. Even at the great Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) a tradition developed (after the destruction of the Second Temple) of offering special prayers that equalled sacrifices. Little did I then realize that all my good works could never measure up to God’s requirements for atonement.
Prejudice and providence
During my youth I also had ingrained in me contempt for all non-Jews who I believed to automatically be Christians. Eventually this attitude got me in trouble when at age eighteen I went to work for a month in a kibbutz. There I met a real Christian named Terry. I mockingly nicknamed him “John the Baptist” which he did not appreciate. He even complained to the director who reprimanded me for it. I complied but my attitude did not change. Providentially God had arranged a Jewish man who believed Yeshua was Messiah to be my room-mate at the kibbutz. For some reason he never spoke to me about his faith during my first stay in Israel. God was to use him later.
I returned to Israel after a few months in England, to live in another kibbutz. I met a girl there I knew in Manchester and she told me there was a Christian on the kibbutz whose name was Charlie. She said, “Be careful because he might try and convert you.” I replied, “Not me, I’m not interested.” God had other plans. It turned out that my room-mate had a terrible problem with snoring and agreed to move out. While I looked for volunteers to change rooms with him my former roommate from the first kibbutz came to visit. When I learned that he was a believer I introduced him to Charlie. God used this acquaintance to move Charlie into my room.
I don’t want to know
We started discussing the Scriptures together through I had not yet read the Bible apart from the book of Esther. Charlie did not tell me about Yeshua until one day he referred to a chapter which read like this; “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? … I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart has turned to wax; it has melted away within me… My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death…. they have pierced my hands and my feet … all who go down to the dust will kneel before him–those who cannot keep themselves alive… They will proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn–for he has done it.” After hearing this I said, “I am Jewish, I don’t want to know about Yeshua.” I had a big shock when I found out it was not in the New Testament but was written by David 1,000 years before Yeshua came (Psalm 22:1, 14-16, 29, 31). These and other prophecies such as Zechariah 12:10, Isaiah 53 and Isaiah 7:14 eventually led me to believe that Yeshua was the Messiah.
I got so excited about these new discoveries that in my exuberance I went around the streets telling everybody. I also went to see a Lubavitch Rabbi in a totally orthodox village near the airport called Kfar Habad. I wanted to discuss Daniel 9:24, 27 which records that Messiah needed to come and die before the Second Temple was destroyed. This Rabbi told me that it was King Agrippa that had fulfilled this prophecy. His answers from a commentary were so absurd that I was convinced even more that Yeshua was the Messiah. Yet I did not believe in Him at this time. I only knew about Him. Another believer at the Kibbutz named James often took me to Christian meetings in Haifa. One day he asked me, “Who do you believe Yeshua to be?” My answer was an emphatic, “the Son of God, the Messiah of Israel!” On that day, December 24, 1982, aged eighteen; I found peace with the God of my people, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob through our promised and long awaited Messiah. I was spiritually born from above. I repented of my sins and trusted Yeshua the Messiah as my Saviour. Now I can say like David, “I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever” Psalm 23:6. My prayer today is that other Jewish people will also make the great discovery that Yeshua is not just for the Gentiles; he is in fact the promised Messiah of Israel. If he isn’t for us, of all people, how can he possibly be for them?