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The Testimony Of Rabbi Phillips

By Lionel Leslie, April 29, 1997 Printer Friendly Version

Surely He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows, yet we did esteem Him stricken, smitten of GOD, and afflicted.  But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him, and with His stripes we are healed. 
Phillip Phillips had the good fortune like so many Jews have to descend from a pious family, and at an early age he became acquainted with the literature of his nation.  Later he became Rabbi of a Synagogue in New York.  One Friday evening he entered the Synagogue just at the moment the Cantor was singing the words, O Bridegroom, meet the Bride.  Let us go forward to bring in the Sabbath.  Arise from the dust; put on your beautiful garments, My people, through the son of Jesse from Bethlehem comes salvation to my soul.  And Phillips earnestly longed for salvation.  His heart was full of fear that he might not be saved.  He took refuge in his books.  He read all the Jewish writings: the Mishna and the Gemara, the Midrash Rabbah, and the Targum, an Aramaic translation of the Bible, and numerous other writings.  Yet nothing could satisfy the longings of his heart.  No where could he get information on the matter.  In whom could he confide?  He could not think of any member of his congregation who could help him, and there was the possibility that he might be suspected of wanting to forsake the Jewish religion.

Now it so happened that just during that time of fear and doubt, the converted Rabbi, Jacob Freshman, was working in New York.  He was a director of a Mission to the Jews.  It was his privilege to lead many Jewish souls to the Saviour through his earnest ministry.  Phillips felt himself attracted to this man, but he did not risk going to him during the day because he knew that it would be a very dangerous thing for him, a Rabbi, to visit such a man openly.  Consequently he decided to go there late one night.  On his way he met the well-known evangelist, D.L. Moody with whom he had been friendly for a long time.  They greeted each other very friendly, and with surprise his friend asked him, Rabbi, what compels you to go out so late in the night?  Phillips told him that he was on his way to the Reverend Freshman.  He is away on a mission tour, said Moody, and he will probably be away for a couple of weeks.  Then, as Phillips relates, Moody continued, Rabbi, why do you not stay at home and enjoy the fruit of your table?  Friend, you are restless.  I can notice that.  My spirit tells me, ‘You are a Nicodemus’.  At once he saw that he had said the right thing, and rejoiced, Praise the LORD!  Moody told him also that he and Dr. Rosvally, the well-known physician, had prayed for his conversion.  He requested him to read the New Testament.  But Phillips refused because he was afraid of persecution should the Jews hear of it.  Moody, however, was not easy to get rid of and he offered the Rabbi a New Testament which he had on him, asking Phillips to read the First Chapter of the Gospel according to Saint Matthew.  Still he refused, saying it would be impossible for him to believe in the ‘JESUS’ of Moody; but in the end, he accepted the Book.

And what a discovery he did make then!  He had thought to find therein a fountain of pride, selfishness, hatred, and violence; and instead he only found love, humbleness and peacefulness.  Instead of stones, he found pearls.  Where he was afraid of thorns, there roses diffused their scent.  Where he thought to read of life’s burden, there he read of blessedness, resurrection, and heavenly treasures.  Now he could understand the narratives of the Old Testament in the wonderful light of the New Testament.  As GOD had led his fathers in the wilderness in a pillar of cloud by day and in a pillar of fire by night, so he saw in YESHUA the Guide who has to lead us human beings on the way of salvation. 

He realized that the half had not been told to him, and he was converted to this ‘JESUS’ as his Saviour and GOD in whom he saw the Redeemer of Israel and of the whole human race.  He humbled himself and came to YESHUA as a poor sinner who did not deserve anything, but could just ask for grace.  He trusted implicitly GOD’s promises, and could at last understand the words of Isaiah 53, verses 4 and 5: Surely He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows, yet we did esteem Him stricken, smitten of GOD, and afflicted.  But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him, and with His stripes we are healed. 

Soon he was getting his share of persecution.  That his friends did not understand him, that his profession of the Christian faith was put down to blindness, that people asked him how much money he had been paid to become a Christian, caused him a great deal of pain.  But he knew that he could not expect anything else from them.  The unkindest blow came from his mother, who wrote to him as follows: Phillip, you are no longer my son.  We have buried you figuratively.  You have deserted your father’s religion and the Synagogue for the deceiver Jesus, and therefore a curse will be upon you.  This letter wounded the son deeply although he knew that a Jew has to give up everything when he decides to follow YESHUA.

The more his people hated and despised him, the more fervently he loved them and prayed for them.  After three weeks he was able to send his mother a kind and loving reply to her letter, and could only long for the day when he could take the message of the Cross to his dear ones.  His one desire was then to become a minister of religion, and to preach the Gospel of JESUS Christ, a desire that was realized through the help of GOD; for many years he served as His Master, faithfully.

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