I was born in to a Jewish family in prosperous Vienna, Austria, in 1930. Although my parents did not strictly observe the Jewish religion, father took my brother and me to synagogue occasionally. Mother never went.
Then came the Anschluss to shatter our secure world. Our parents immediately explained that because the Nazis were persecuting the Jews we would have to leave Austria as soon as possible. And so we did, on 22 December 1938.
Why were the Jews persecuted?
We made our new home in Sydney, Australia. 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.
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 – the chosen people of God?’
My parents, like most Jews, replied cynically: ‘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.
The rabbi visited us regularly to instruct us for our Bar Mitzvah. He taught us to despise Jesus Christ, and insisted that all our troubles as Jews came from persecution by Christians.
This had the desired effect on me, and I began to loathe the Name that I now love so dearly. I assured my rabbi that I would never become a Christian.
No one told us that many Protestants and Evangelicals have a deep concern and love for the Jewish people, and prayed and worked for their conversion.
I cannot remember that it was ever impressed on me that true religion was of the heart. I did not understand that God requires, not the outward observance of certain rituals, but rather a clean heart and a holy life.
In my teenage years I enjoyed the pleasures of sin and had no intention of changing my lifestyle. This gave me a bad reputation at school and I was also bullied because I was Jewish.
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 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.
Conviction of sin
My crisis came on the Day of Atonement, September 1950. On leaving the synagogue at the end of the day, I suddenly realised that God was too holy to accept sinners and their sins on a ‘let’s-forget-it’ basis.
From that moment, I knew that my sins were not forgiven. The conviction of sin grew stronger and stronger and I cried to the Almighty to have mercy upon me.
Then one night, a new thought suddenly came to me: ‘What sin can be so great as rejecting the Messiah? Was Jesus the Messiah? Had I crucified the Messiah?’
The conviction that we had rejected the Messiah, along with the conviction of my personal sins, because almost unbearable.
In despair I walked through the streets of Sydney visiting first one Christian minister and then another, seeking the truth concerning Christ. But the ministers I called on were all unbelieving men and modernists.
They could not understand what was troubling me. One told me that as a Jew I had no right even to think about Christ.
A strange encounter
In my confused state of mind I went into the city to do some shopping. 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, a Chinese Salvation Army Officer came out. I had never seen him before and had no reason to speak to him. He, however, put his hand upon my shoulder and said, ‘Young man, you are looking for Christ!’
I was 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, the only one who could relieve me from my burden.
I knew that he was right, but I also knew that if I believed on Christ I would immediately be cut off from my family. This frightened me, so I resisted God’s Spirit.
Peace and joy
But in his grace, the Holy Spirit continued to strive with me. When I went to bed on the night of 27 February 1951, I cried to the Lord that I must know the answer. I had come to a complete end of myself.
The Lord heard my cry. In the early hours of 28 February, he powerfully revealed to my heart and mind that the Lord Jesus Christ bled for my sins on the cross. My heart melted.
The only words I could say were: ‘Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God!’ The moment I uttered these words, my burden rolled off my back and I knew that I was free. The power of sin was broken. Peace and joy flooded into my heart and I began to praise the Lord.
‘Come and hear, all ye that fear God, and I will declare what he hath done for my soul’ (Psalm 66:16).
Extracted from a testimony by the Rev. H. R. Moshe Radcliff, which first appeared in the Presbyterian Standard (July-September 1998).The author has since died.