Naftali ben Avraham, an orthodox Jew from the Chabad, often asked his rabbi: ‘how can God forgive sins?’ The rabbi had no satisfactory answer. By studying the Word of God in the Old and New Testament he discovers that when we confess our sin, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sin.
Subtitles from youtube video
Shalom. My name is Naftali Ben Avraham. I was born in Haifa, in Palestine, which is today Israel. I was born to a Chabad family, a Lubavitch family, and grew up in all the ways of the ultra-orthodox grouping. And then in 1967 there was a big war in the Middle East, which lasted for only six days. And our battalion, I was an Israeli soldier, our battalion was at the foot of the Mitla Pass. And at this point our job was to defend Israel from any Egyptian attack from the south. This Egyptian tank came up over the pass, up towards the pass height, and an Israeli armour piercing shell hit the tank and the tank caught on fire. Now, if you are in a tank which is caught on fire, the best thing to do is to climb out as quickly as possible because the ammunition inside becomes volatile and eventually explodes and then it is not a good idea to be in that tank at that point. Well, as this Egyptian soldier was trying to climb out of the tank, Israeli machine gun fire from another corner came and hit this poor man. And at this point it was the first time in my life that I heard the voice of God. Although I was very religious, keeping the mitzvoth, going to shul, laying tefillin every day. All these things, yet I had never heard the voice of God. In fact I didn’t even think God spoke to people. I thought God was in heaven, man is on earth. Therefore let your words be few, as it says in Ecclesiastics.
I wasn’t a bad man, I was a religious man. I wasn’t on drugs or on alcohol, neither did I go after girls or anything like that. But as I read the Torah, I read in the Nevi’im and the prophet Isaiah: ‘I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, your transgressions, and, as a cloud, your sins: return unto Me, for I have redeemed you.’ Or in the Tehillim, the Psalms I read: ‘Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord imputes no iniquity and in whose spirit there is no guile.’ But that wasn’t my experience. I read about this, but it wasn’t my experience. And I often asked the rabbi, “How can I know, that when I stand before the Almighty, He will accept me?” And the rav just said, “Lay the tefillin, keep the mitzvoth, come to shul.” “But rav, I have been doing that since I was knee-high to a grasshopper. You know that I have been doing that.”
“My son, no one can know. Just do your best to keep the mitzvoth and maybe God will be merciful when you stand before Him.” Well that was no good for me and in the moment, when this poor man died, this Egyptian man died and God spoke to me. All He said was, “What if you were in that tank?” And in that moment I realised that all my laying tefillin, all my keeping the mitzvoth, was like dirt, like filthy rags, in God’s holy sight, in HaShem’s holy sight. So, what was I to do? And the more I thought about it, the more I strove to be religious, the more guilty I felt. And these promises just didn’t mean anything to me, but then I read in Jeremiah another warning ‘The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, who can know it?’ Ha, that’s my heart, but how can I change that and know that my sin is forgiven? That was the big problem. And the more I tried, the more I couldn’t do it.
And then I decided I would go to England. And in England somebody gave me a whole Bible with that heretical bit at the back, the New Testament. And when I saw this, I thought, “Ooo, I had better ask the rav if I can read it.” and so I said, “Rav, can I read this?” And he had a big beard, not a short one like mine, and he said, “My son, if you read this, you’ll be cursed.” Well, I didn’t want to be cursed, who wants to be cursed? So he suggested I throw it away or give it away. Well I couldn’t do that it held the Torah, couldn’t do that, no, no. So I put it in my bedroom and then the day came when I wanted to read it, but I didn’t want to be cursed. Then I had this brainwave of an idea. I’d take the Bible down, I’d get an electric torch, and I’d go into bed and put the blanket over the top of me and I began reading the Bible by torch and now God can’t see me. It’s daft, it’s like a child saying, “You can’t see me.” But that is actually what I did and I was amazed, what it said. This is the gospel of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham and then it was followed by all our kings. “What are the Gentiles doing with our book?” I was amazed. You can read right through that first gospel in two, three hours, as I did that night. And this character Jesus, who kept coming up, really drew me and yet I knew it wasn’t Jewish. What was I to do?
Anyway, I phoned up the man who gave me the Bible. And he invited me to his home on the Sunday and he said, “You come and spend the day with us.” So I said, “Ok” and I went to his home and within half an hour of arriving in the home, he gives me a front door key and he says, “Look, even if we are not here, please let yourself in because the house belongs to God. We are only stewards of what belongs to God.” And then half an hour later he says, “We are going to church, are you coming?” I said, “No, I am Jewish. I never go to church.” “All right,” he said, “make yourself at home and we will be back in two hours.” By that evening, they all gathered around and they read a bit from Genesis about Abraham and I got a bit angry and I said, “Oi! Abraham is our prophet, you’ve got your Jesus.” And he said, “What do you say every Shabbat? Shema Israel Adonai Eloheinu, Adonai echad. Hear o Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your strength. And you shall have no other gods before me.” “Right,” he said, “why do you say it?” Well, I just scratched my head, “Rabbi Moshe says it, Moses says we have to say it and anyway it is tradition.” “No,” he said, “You say it because it is true. There is only one true God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and we Gentiles, we are so privileged to worship your God.” Wow! The first time I heard that.
That evening I sat in the car, straight up to the rabbi. “Rav, rav, do you know that the Christians worship our God?” “No they don’t, they worship Jesus.” But that was the first step and gradually I went to that house many times. And eventually they invited me to the young people’s meeting and explained to me in some detail of what the Old Testament, as they call it, the Tanakh as we call it, says and I was amazed to read such portions. And amazed to read in Ezekiel ‘For why will you die, o house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of a sinner. Repent, get a new heart and a new spirit, for why will you die, o house of Israel. Repent.’ And when I read that, I realised that I had to do something. With one of my friends I went on my knees and I prayed what the Christians call a sinner’s prayer because by this time the burden was so big, like a big boulder on my shoulders. And God forgave my sin. In that home I learned many things. I saw, for example, that each one had a Bible and each one had a little bit underlined here and there and to me that was very offensive because for us this is a holy Bible and we even have a yad, like a finger, to read it with. And here were the Christians doing graffiti all over what they say is holy, I couldn’t understand that. So lots of little things like this led me to be curious and I did have difficulty, coming from Lubavitch background.
It was not easy to accept Yeshua as my personal Saviour, but I found that it is not by might, nor by power, nor by spirit, nor by searching, nor by trying hard, nor by being diligent, but by my Spirit says the Lord in Zechariah. When I read that I realised God had to come down and open our eyes. We can’t even see these truths except God in grace come down and open our hearts to see that we are sinners and be able to confess our sin. And it is only as we do that, that the New Testament teaches quite plainly if we confess our sin, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sin and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. And as I did that with my friend, peace and joy came flooding in. But of course that is only the beginning, after that you have to live out this new life that God gives you, this new heart and new spirit, but it is only the beginning. You are then beginning to swim against the tide and that is when the problems really begin. So I ask you to try it, just bring this verse to God and say, “Lord, You have promised if we confess our sin, You said I am faithful and just to forgive us our sin, You said in Isaiah: I will blot out your sin like a cloud. You said in the Psalms, ‘I will pardon the man who comes to Me. Blessed is the man whose sins are not attributed to him.’” Try it, take God at His Word, say, “God you have promised, I want to be clean before you, so that I can know when I come and stand before you, no skeletons in the cupboard. Everything’s been dealt with. Hallelujah. Amen.”