How a Jew Found The Messiah
The moment I uttered these words, my burden rolled off my back and I knew that I was free. Joy now flooded into my heart and I began to praise the Lord. He had taught me a new song.
by Moshe Radcliff
[On September 25th H.R. Moshe Radcliff died. His testimony appeared in the Presbyterian Standard (July-September 1998) and is published by kind permission.]
I was born into a Jewish family in prosperous Vienna, Austria on the 5th April 1930. Although my parents did not strictly observe the Jewish religion, father took my brother and me to synagogue occasionally. Mother never went. We were also taught to repeat the ‘Shemah’ (Deut.6:4ff) in Hebrew every night before we went to sleep. In my early years it meant nothing to me, as I did not understand it.
Then came the Anschluss to shatter our secure world. Our parents immediately explained the implications of this grave event, and warned us that because the Nazis were persecuting the Jews we would be leaving Austria as soon as possible to escape out of their clutches. And so we did on the 22nd December 1938.
Move to Australia
We made our new home in Sydney, Australia. Our parents’ first concern was to find jobs. Father continued to take us to synagogue on most Saturdays. For the rest, we only observed the minimum of Jewish practices more out of tradition than out of conviction and faith.
God, however, had a different plan for me. Even as a child I tried to grapple with the big questions: "Who is the God that we are worshipping?" "Why were the Jewish people persecuted?" After all we are the chosen people of God. My parents, as most Jews, cynically replied: "Chosen for what? Chosen to be persecuted!" I could not accept this. I had begun to believe in God as He has revealed Himself in the Old Testament. Not that I read my OT; as I did not possess one, but the Rabbi taught us the usual Bible stories. In my childish mind I was convinced that God and the OT were true. This brought me into constant conflict with the family. Father was more reserved in his opposition. Mother and my older brother, however, scoffed at me for my faith.
Sad to say, as we grew older the conflict between my brother and myself became deeper and sharper, and we constantly argued about God, the Bible and religion. He persisted in his unbelief and I in my faith. To add to my difficulties he began to swallow the theory of evolution, and I held firmly to the Biblical revelation of Creation. I was constantly told that the Bible account of creation was only for a primitive people who did not know any better. It was then that I first tried to pray. We had begun to learn some of the horrors of the Concentration Camps and I knew that some of our family were incarcerated in them. I therefore prayed most earnestly that God would do a miracle and deliver the Jews from the Nazis as He did from Egypt by the hand of Moses. I was sure that God was well able to do so if it were His will. I did not tell anyone about this for fear of being ridiculed.
Loathing the Name of Jesus
The Rabbi visited us regularly to instruct us for our ‘Bar Mitzwah’ (i.e. the Jewish ceremony when a boy turns thirteen, and when according to rabbinic teaching he becomes an adult and responsible for his own sins). He carefully taught us the teaching of rabbinic Judaism (rather than the Bible) and tried to convince us that the Jewish religion, as taught by the rabbis in the Talmud, was the only right one, and that all other religions, particularly the Christian religion, were false. He taught us to despise Jesus Christ, and had no good word to speak of Him. He insisted that the Hebrew letters of His Name meant "Let his name be accursed". The Rabbi further insisted that all our troubles as Jews came from the Christians persecuting the Jews in the most cruel fashion imaginable over the past centuries because we were "Christ-killers". We were not taught that many Protestants and Evangelicals had a deep concern and love for the Jewish people and prayed and worked for their conversion. This had the desired profound effect on me, and so I began to loathe the Name that I now love so dearly. I assured my Rabbi that I would never become a Christian. I also had a growing desire to become a more observant and orthodox Jew and considered becoming a Rabbi. Not surprisingly, this brought me into further conflict with the family.
I cannot remember that it was ever impressed upon me that true religion was of the heart. I did not understand that God did not merely require the outward observance of certain rituals but rather a clean heart and a holy life. I therefore lived in ignorance of the Truth. However, God was working out His eternal purpose in me and for me, and by the secret working of the Holy Spirit, He taught me that all was not well between Him and me. Whenever Psalm 24 was sung in the synagogue it was as though an arrow pierced my heart – I knew that my hands were not clean and my heart not pure. I managed, however, to put these thoughts out of my mind for the time being; but only for a short time.
In my teenage years I practised certain evil habits, of which I am too ashamed even to make mention. I knew that what I was doing was wrong in the sight of God and of man but I enjoyed the pleasures of sin and therefore had no intention to change my lifestyle. This gave me a bad reputation at school and was an additional reason for some of the bullying I received. I was also bullied because I was Jewish. Being very short I was their easy victim. In spite of this I was befriended by four boys, who professed faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour. They tried to show me from Scripture that the Lord Jesus Christ was the very Messiah for whom I was waiting. I argued against them. They invited me to the Crusader classes that were held every Monday during the lunch hour. I reluctantly accepted their invitation for the one reason that by going I would get away from the bullies. Many of the speakers that spoke at the Crusader meetings also showed me the truth concerning Christ. I still remember some of the literature that they lent me. In my pride I kept on rejecting what they said, even though I knew that what they said rang true. My heart was hard. I often mocked them for their faith, but they persevered in their witness for Christ. They gave me a Bible and I began to read it but when I came to the New Testament I wrote blasphemous remarks in it. Even today my heart is sore that I could write such remarks. I hardly need to mention that I did not tell my family that I attended these meetings or showed any interest in Christianity.
Learning a Trade
At the age of sixteen I left school and learned a trade. Sad to say I went deeper and deeper into sin. Thankfully the Lord restrained me from doing all that was in my heart. Often I was annoyed that I was frustrated in my endeavours to sin. (Today I am thankful to the Lord for restraining me, for had He given me a free rein, it might have proved my utter ruin.) Strangely, I never lost my religious sentiments. Any convictions of sin were pushed aside, but they soon returned. I could not fool myself concerning my double life, and I knew that I could not fool God and that He saw and knew everything that I was doing. Every year on the Day of Atonement I went to the synagogue; I kept the fast and joined in the general confession for sins. Secretly, I resolved to "turn over a new leaf" and live a clean life. I found this impossible. For one thing I was too weak to keep my resolution for the power of sin was too strong for me. Secondly, I loved my sin too much really to give it up. Before many days had passed I was as bad as ever. So I went on further and further into sin. For all this I knew that I would be brought into the judgment of God. The Lord, however, who is rich in mercy, was preparing me for the day of my salvation.
Conviction of Sin
The crisis came on the Day of Atonement, September 1950. On leaving the synagogue at the end of the day, having dutifully fasted and made my usual resolutions, I suddenly realised that God was too holy to deal with sinners and their sins on a "let’s-forget-it" basis. Sin was evil in His sight. From that moment I knew that my sins were not forgiven. I knew that our holy God required something more than mere resolutions and vain attempts on my part to change myself. This alarmed me. The conviction of sin grew stronger and stronger and I cried to the Almighty to have mercy upon me. David’s experience in Psalm 32:3-4 became my own. Night after night I lay sleepless in my bed crying to God to have mercy upon me. In my great distress, I went to see my Rabbi and asked him for help to get rid of this burden of sin. He was rather surprised that this should trouble me and did not know what to say to me except to do "good works" which God would accept to atone for my sins. I knew, however, that this was not sufficient. On reflecting upon the Lord’s dealings with me at this time, I recognise that He showed me particularly His own uncompromising holiness and my exceeding great sinfulness. For that reason He cannot deal lightly with sin – my sin.
Why were the Jews Persecuted?
Another problem began to demand my attention. "Why were the Jews persecuted? Why had we lost our Land for almost 2000 years? Why was the Temple in ruins and we barred from the Western Wall?" I reasoned with myself that we had tried to follow God, we had observed the Talmud. By that time, through reading the Old Testament, I became disaffected with the Talmud and began to think that there was really no authority for it. I had to reject the Rabbi’s teaching that the Talmud was given at Mount Sinai at the time of the giving of the Ten Commandments. I believed that the OT was the Word of God but I could no longer with my heart give the same consent to the Talmud. It came to me that the OT – particularly Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28 – threatened such holocausts as we have experienced only for one sin – apostasy I also knew that God cannot lie and therefore we must be guilty of departing from Him. This frightened me and I began to ask myself, "How have we departed from Him?" As I wrestled with this question I became very agitated. Then one night, struggling under the conviction of sin, it suddenly came to me: "What sin can be so great as rejecting the Messiah? Was Jesus the Messiah? Had we crucified the Messiah?" This was agonising, and I knew that I must know the answer. Memories of the long-forgotten Crusader classes came flooding back to me. The conviction of the sin that we had rejected the Messiah with the conviction of my personal sins became almost unbearable. I cried to God day and night to put me out of misery. I cried to the Lord to have mercy upon me. I desperately had to know the answer. I knew that I needed the forgiveness of my sin. The question remained: To whom shall I turn, where shall I go? I almost despaired of crying to God and yet I could not stop.
My distress was great and in despair I walked through the streets of Sydney visiting first one Christian minister and then another, demanding that they tell me the Truth concerning the Lord Jesus Christ. In the Lord’s strange dealing with me, the ministers I called on were all unbelieving men and modernists. I did not understand then that there were such men. I somehow thought that all ministers would have the answer and would try to help me. Well, I was disappointed. They all sent me away and could not understand what was troubling me. One minister was particularly rude to me and told me that as a Jew I had no right even to think about Christ and chased me away. "No man cared for my soul" (Ps.142:4). I was confused but I could not give up my search. I was driven on. The Lord graciously had a better purpose for me and the time of my deliverance drew near.
A Strange Encounter
In my confused and stressed state of mind I once more went into the City to do some shopping for myself. Though I did not know it, the Lord was guiding my footsteps. I made a ‘mistake’ and walked into the wrong building. As I went in by the door a Chinese Salvation Army Officer came out. I did not know him, for I had never seen him before and did not speak to him. He, however, put His hand upon my shoulder and, looking me straight in the eyes, said: "Young man, you are looking for Christ!" I was surprised and taken aback, and stammered, "No! I am a Jew!" He insisted, however, that I was looking for Christ and invited me to hear him out. So I went with him to his office and we talked together. I told him all my heart and from the Scriptures he pointed me to Christ as the only Saviour from my sins and the only One who could relieve me from my burden. I listened to him and knew that he was right. On parting he asked me to come back to him for further discussion. He pressed on me the urgency of the matter and that without Christ there is no forgiveness. I was in two minds whether to go back to see him or not, nevertheless, the Holy Spirit took me back to him. The more I spoke with him, the more my heart warmed to the Truth that he was telling me. The agony of my heart and spirit increased, and I could not cease to cry to God both in the day and night to have mercy on me and to show me the Truth. I could not sleep, I could not keep my mind on anything else. It affected my health but I did not tell anyone what was troubling me. I also knew that should I be converted and believe on Christ I would immediately be cut off from my family. This frightened me and I reasoned that this would be too high a price to pay, so I resisted God’s Spirit – but I had no rest. In His grace the Holy Spirit continued to strive with me and I became more and more convinced that this Jesus was my Messiah and only Saviour, and that I had to follow Him even at the cost of losing my family. Oh, how unbearable was the agony of my soul!
I went away for my annual holidays in February, 1951, with this question unresolved. I could not enjoy myself, for day and night I was troubled concerning my sins and the truth concerning the Lord Jesus Christ. Deliverance was now at hand. As the agony of my soul increased, the more I cried to the Lord to have mercy on me.
Peace and Joy
When I retired to bed on the night of the 27th February, I cried to the Lord that I must know the answer. I dared not to go to sleep without knowing the answer. I had come to a complete end of myself. The Lord, who is always pitiful, had mercy on me in the early hours of February 28th, 1951, and He powerfully revealed to my heart and mind the Lord Jesus Christ bleeding for my sins on the cross and it was as though my heart melted. I could no longer resist the Holy Spirit and He drove me to my knees. The only words that I could say were: "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God!" I cannot remember ever having heard or read these words before and therefore I know now that I was taught them by the Holy Spirit. Flesh and blood did not reveal them unto me but my Father who is in heaven. The moment I uttered these words, my burden rolled off my back and I knew that I was free. Joy now flooded into my heart and I began to praise the Lord. He had taught me a new song.
The days that followed I was full of joy and could not stop praising God. I could not stop to tell everyone whom I met what the Lord had done for my soul. People must have thought me strange, but the Lord Jesus had become my Saviour. I had very little understanding concerning the Truth but I knew Him: "Come and hear, all ye that fear God, and I will declare what he hath done for my soul" (Ps.66:16). I also found that the power of sin was broken. It was not a deliberate decision on my part that made me give up some of my sins but I lost interest in them: their pleasure had disappeared and I loathed them and knew that their power was broken.
My return home from holiday was with mixed feelings. My worst fears came true. My family used all sorts of pressure – emotional, physical and even legal – to stop me from following Christ and to return to Judaism. I found myself in very difficult circumstances. I vacillated. My secret and public worship was very intermittent. The result was that I soon lost my joy in the Lord. My friends, however, were praying for me, our great High Priest was praying for me, and He who had begun the good work in me was to complete it. The struggle was great. I knew that I could not halt between two opinions. I had to decide either to serve the Lord or to forsake Him forever.
By this time I had met an evangelical and godly minister of the Church of England who was a great help and encouragement to me and I came to the conclusion that it I should join any church at all it should be the Church of England. Although I was in this undecided state of mind I nevertheless asked for baptism, willing to take the consequences. After the baptismal service, when the minister and I spent some time in prayer together, I realised that I had gone the way of no return and that I had to commit myself wholly to the Lord. By His grace I was enabled to do so. The Lord heard me and it was then that He also sent me forth to preach the Gospel.
God has not cast away His People
My conversion is a clear proof that God has not cast away His people whom He foreknew. The Jewish people are still beloved for their fathers’ sake, and although today He is gathering them in "one by one" (ls.27:12) the day will most certainly come when "all Israel shall be saved, as it is written" (Rom.11:26ff). God’s Covenant with Abraham was an everlasting Covenant and He will not leave off His working until all is fulfilled. I have no reason to boast but just to admire the Lord’s grace.
Thus the Lord has led me according to His eternal purpose from the foundation of the world. He had planned my conversion to the very time and place. It was He who first began working in me. It was He who put the first thoughts concerning Himself into my mind. It was He who enabled me to believe the truth of His Word in the Bible. It was He who had His eye upon me even when I strayed in all the paths of sin and kept me from going too far. It was He who convicted me of my evil ways and the evil of my doings. It was He who revealed Christ to me. I will now raise up my Ebenezer to Him that all who read my Testimony might praise the Name of the Lord and put their trust in Him.
The Lord’s dealing with me is also an example of the truth of Psalm 76:10. It was due to the wickedness of man’s wrath that we were driven out of Austria. Because of Roman Catholicism ii would have been unlikely that I would ever have heard the Gospel there. Thus He brought me to a land where I did hear – and hearing, believed. He always does all things well.