Simon Elman, ‘Jesus redeemed me from my sin’
Simon Elman struggled with questions about the suffering he saw already early in his life. In his search for answers he learned that sin is personal and that Jesus is the promised Messiah who came to take upon Himself the punishment for our sin.
Subtitles from youtube video
Shalom. My name is Simon. I was born into a religious Jewish family in London. My paternal grandparents came from Russia and my maternal grandparents came from Poland. And I am the second generation born in London. I grew up in a Jewish family and we learned all the Bible stories and like all Jewish children I learned the Sh’ma from Deuteronomy chapter 6 ‘Sh’ma Yisrael Adonai Eloheinu Adonai Eḥad’, ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.’ I learned and believed that God is one, He is the King of the universe, He is eternal. That is the God that I came to know and love, an eternal God but I didn’t yet know Him personally. Things were about to change. It is often said that suffering brings reality to life and I am never sure which is harder, whether we suffer ourselves or we see those we love suffer. In my case it was watching those I love, members of my close family, suffer. When I was fourteen, my father died suddenly from a heart attack and a couple of years later my brother died from a long-term illness. The shock of that caused my mother to be unwell for the remaining years of her life. I struggled with seeing such suffering so early on in my life. I couldn’t make sense of it and I wondered, “God, how can You allow this to happen?” I heard no answers so I went to our local rabbi, thinking that he would have the answer. I can remember the conversation. I said, “How can a loving God allow this to happen?” His only answer at the time was, “Well, it is ‘bashert’, it is fate. It was meant to be.” That answer did not suffice so I began looking for the answer. How can suffering come and how best can we deal with it? Judaism for me didn’t have the answer. I went through a couple of years, seeking and trying to find out. One evening I was driving in my car and I had a two hour drive so I put the radio on. I mistyped the number of the radio station and stumbled across shortwave radio, which was crackling, difficult to hear. However, it was someone who interested me. It was a Jewish Christian called Roy Masters who was speaking that night. I learned that the radio station was radio Caroline, which was a pirate radio station. It was completely illegal and at that time it was being broadcast on a ship out in the North Sea. It would put on all the programmes that the BBC at that time was unable to broadcast. I found it fascinating to hear a Jewish Christian speaking on the radio. He was asking questions such as, “In your life, do you have questions that haven’t yet been answered? Do you have anyone who has been suffering? Have you been suffering?” As I heard these questions my ears pricked up and I thought, “This is interesting.” He also went on that evening to speak about Jesus, Yeshua and this was the first time that I had ever heard about Yeshua. Coming from a Jewish home, I had been protected and I had not heard about Jesus. In our school we were taken out from assemblies and having grown up in the synagogue I would not have heard of Jesus or come into contact with Him. So I was interested to hear more. On further evenings I would come home from work, put the radio on and I enjoyed hearing about this man Jesus. The first thing I learned was that He was Jewish and that his friends, the disciples, were also Jewish. I learned that Mary and Joseph were Jewish, that was a revelation to me as I had presumed they were Catholic, but I had learned that they were Jewish. Therefore I became interested in what I was hearing and I was hearing Scripture readings. I got my Tanakh down from my bookshelf that I was given as a gift as a Bar Mitzvah present and I began reading through that. Then on the radio they kept speaking about Matthew, the gospel of Matthew and Ephesians and I thought, “Well, I have not read any of this in my Bible.” So one day when I was out I saw, on a little market stall, that there was a little Gideon’s New Testament so I purchased that and brought it home. I had such a hunger to read the Scriptures and over a period of about three months, I enjoyed reading right the way through and at the same time each evening listening to the radio station. On the radio there was much mentioning of sin. Now I had understood sin to be corporate. Jewish people and I was one, believed not in original sin, but in corporate sin that we as a people, as a community, have sinned. My understanding of sin was born out on the day of Yom Kippur, a most holy day for Jewish people, when we would meet together in the synagogue, fast during the day and the rabbi would then take our repentance and our sin. He would offer it before God. So I had an understanding of corporate sin, community sin, but on the radio I was learning for the first time about personal sin. That it is not so much about community and God, but between me and God and for me, God was becoming very personal through Yeshua. So I began to look at my own life. I was prideful, rebellious and disobedient. I wasn’t wicked or bad, but I had come to see that God, being a holy God could not abhor sin and that sin had to be dealt with. I can remember thinking, “Well, I am sorry for my sin,” but just being sorry was not good enough. One evening, on the radio, I heard for the first time that Jesus had come two thousand years ago not only to show us God’s love, but to take upon Himself our punishment for sin. As someone Jewish, I found it difficult at first to comprehend, but as I listened to the radio programmes it made perfect sense to me that Jesus was the promised Messiah, that through the messianic prophecy He had been prophesied and been spoken of. God is a God of promise and what He said will happen, has happened and will happen again. So I had confidence that what I was reading and what I was hearing was of the Lord above. One evening a speaker on the radio said, “Now, if you haven’t given your life to the Lord, then we urge you to do so now. If you would like to put your hand on the radio, we will pray for you to receive the Lord into your life. For it is not about us, it is about His life in us.” I wanted that life that God had promised. I was not unhappy with my own life, but I knew that it was not the best it could be. So on 1st November 1979, I put my hand on the radio and I prayed, “Lord, I don’t know whether I should be doing this, because I am Jewish”, but I think the Lord understood, “I am sorry for my sin. I realise that sin is personal and the way I have been living and things I have been saying and doing have not pleased You. Would You please take my sin and thank You for dealing with it and Lord Jesus, please will You come into my life?” I received no special feelings at that moment in time, but I knew from what I had been reading in the Bible and what I had been hearing on the radio that just by coming to God, that the Lord would do a wondrous thing. I can testify all these years on that that is what the Lord has done, He put His life into me. The word of God says that He has taken out my heart of stone and put in a heart of flesh. I can now say that it is no longer I that live, but Yeshua that lives within me. That is what He wants for each of us, not that we should struggle and strive through this life but that His life can be lived in us and through us. However, God is a holy God and we can be unholy because of who we are and how we are and the fact that sin reigns in us.If I can say anything today, I would pray that you would come to the Lord and give your heart to Him, because He promises a better life, an eternal life. That was the choice that I had, do I keep my old life or do I give my life over to the Lord? Thirty-four years ago, that was the choice I made and the wonderful thing is that I am still Jewish, I haven’t become anything else than what I once was. I was born Jewish and I am still Jewish. I am just someone who is Jewish, believes in the Jewish Messiah and I pray that you one day will too.