Personal Testimony

My name is Shmuel Suran. I am a Messianic Jew living in Jerusalem, a Jew that believes that Yeshua is the promised Jewish Messiah. I was born in N.Y.C. in 1945 and was raised in a traditional Jewish home. My parents were also born in the U.S.A while my grandparents immigrated from Russia and Poland to America. Some of my fondest memories as a young child in the U.S.A. were connected to the Jewish Holidays. The commemoration of the Pesach was by far the most special Jewish holiday for me. Pesach remembers the the great delivererance or redemption of the Jewish people out of Egypt and every year our family would gather together at my grandparents home to celebrate the Pesach Feast.

Celebrating the Seder Meal and reading from the Haggadah we were told the story of the Pesach, the Exodus from Egypt of the Jewish people nearly 3500 years ago. We were told how we were once slaves in Pharaoh's Egypt and how the Lord brought us out of Egyptian bondage and slavery with great signs and wonders on the night of the Pesach. And how the Lord divided the Red Sea and caused our fathers to pass over on dry ground. And how the Lord led our fathers to Mt. Sinai and gave us the Torah, the Law of Moses and the Ten Commandments. And how He led us 40 years in the wilderness and feed us manna from heaven. And finally how He gave us the promised land, Eretz Yisrael, the land that He had promised to give to our fathers as an inheritance.

In every Jewish home during the Seder Meal according to Jewish tradition there is an empty chair placed at the table called Elijah's chair. And a cup filled with wine is placed in front of the chair and is called Elijah's cup. Toward the end of the meal the expectation is that Elijah the prophet would appear and enter the house announcing the coming of the Messiah...but Elijah never came to my house. And so my messianic dreams and hopes passed away as I grew older. Also I should mention here that during my youth I grew up with the same idea that most Jews had concerning Yeshua, that Yeshua the Messiah was the God of Christianity and that he had something to do with the Vatican, the Pope, Mary and Rome but nothing to do with us.... because we were Jewish... and so I was told that Jesus wasn't for the Jewish people.

Like every young Jewish boy I followed the Jewish traditions and celebrated my Bar Mitzvah, when I was 13 years old. That means that when you become 13, you stand in the synagogue and recite passages from the Torah and Haftorah (the Law and the Prophets) before God, your family and friends. The rabbi teaches you; you learn to read from the Torah and to recite prayers. On that day you are responsible for keeping the Laws of Moses. On the day of my Bar Mitzvah the passage to be read was Ezekiel 36:16-38, which speaks about the Restoration of Israel: "For I will take you from among the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you will be clean....I will give you a new heart...You will live in the land I gave to your fathers; you will be my people, and I will be your God".

On that day I had a deep encounter with God in the synagogue reading from the scriptures. As I read the portion of the prophet Ezekiel I felt the presence of God upon me. But I did not want to follow Rabbinical Judaism and so I left the synagogue and for the next 13 years I began searching for the meaning and purpose of life. I couldn't accept the Orthodox Jewish way of life but what else was there? I wanted to discover for myself what life had to offer me. During the next 5 years I spent most of my time pursuing athletics playing basketball, football and baseball. I became a kind of high school hero and was the most valuable player on my team.After high school, I began studying sociology in the University and was exposed to many different humanistic philosophies; i.e. Marx, Engels, Freud, Darwin....Plato, Socrates, Aristotle and other well known world philosophers who tried to solve the problems of mankind and the world but independant of God.

My studies caused me to think about questions that I had never asked before like who am I? Where did I come from? Where am I going? Does God exist? Is there a heaven and hell? I was living in the 1960's, the generation of the Beatles, drugs, and rock and roll and we were searching for the meaning and purpose of life. I had searched for the real meaning and purpose of life during those years but I didn't find it. I came to the conclusion that there was no absolute truth, that life had no real meaning, that the best you could do was eat, drink and be happy. I wasn't even sure any more if God existed. I received my BA degree and took a job as a school teacher in an inner-city school where the students came from society's underpriviledged which was for me the reason that I took that job...I was sort of a social worker. This was also the time of the Vietnam war, the time when my generation was protesting strongly against the war, materialism, and the hypocrisy of Western society. I was a teacher for three and a half years...and during those years I continued partying and doing what the Bible refers to about the prodigal son as "wasting his substance with riotous living".

It was during that time in my life that God began dealing with me in a personal way. On Rosh Hashana, the High Holiday I was arrested for cultivating a field of marajuana and went to prison for three days. The Jewish feast Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, according to Jewish tradition is the day that God judges the world and humanity for the coming year. On that day of all days I was arrested! Well it was a very traumatic experience for me and because it happened to me on Rosh Hashana, it caused me to wonder whether or not this was the hand of God soverignly judging my life...and I had the strangest feeling that He was!!! And so the event on Rosh Hashana caused me to begin thinking again about God for the first time in many years. Was there really a God? How could I be certain if He existed? I began reading my Jewish prayer book the Siddur which awakened something deep inside me. As I read the psalms and prayers, God began to awaken my Jewish soul. I began believing in the God of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob.There was an inner certainty in my soul and I was slowly becoming conscious of the existence of the God of Israel. God knew exactly which way to speak to me. He touched my Jewish heart through the reading of the Word. I knew the truth was in God's Word and not in the philosophies which I studied at University.

In my heart there was a struggle going on between light and darkness, good and evil, truth and the lie. And as I continued to read from the Psalms God began to speak to me in a very personal way. I realized that David spoke about God as if He was a personal God. He seemed to have a deep personal relationship with God. That touched me deeply. The next few weeks were very exciting for me as I began to read the Tenach, Genesis, Exodus....The Psalms and Proverbs. The Psalms of David were especially precious to me. One day while I was sitting in my classroom I began reading Psalm 40:1-4 "I waited patiently for the Lord; He turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of a horrible pit. out of the mud and mire. He set my feet upon a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth a song of praise to our God. Many shall see and put their trust in the Lord. Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust".

As I read this Psalm I began to identify with what David was saying. My own personal circumstances were like a horrible pit...and it was as if God was speaking directly to me through His Word. "Shmuel I am bringing you out of a horrible pit...and I'm going to set your feet upon a rock and establish your goings...ans put a new song in your mouth of praise to our God. And then I read the verse "Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust...Trust in the Lord! Well I didn't really understand what that meant but I decided I was going to trust God. That day was a turning point in my life and God showed me that it was time to leave my teaching profession and that He was calling me to resign and begin trusting in Him. Not knowing what would happen to me...what I would be doing or where I would be going I handed in my resignation of my job that same day...and began trusting God based upon Psalm 40:4 "Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust". During the following week after resigning from my job and trusting in the Lord an incredible happening took place that would change the whole course of my life. I was simply doing some shopping downtown, just browsing around, and went into a bookshop that sold paintings. Well a certain painting caught my attention. It was the famous painting of Leonardo DaVinci called the Last Supper which portrays Yeshua and His disciples celebrating the Passover.

I already mentioned that the Passover had been the most important Jewish feast day for me from my childhood. And also I thought that Yeshua was the God of the Gentiles, and that he had something to do with the Roman Catholic Church, the Pope and Mary but that He had nothing to do with the Jewish people. So why was Yeshua celebrating the Jewish Pesach I asked myself? So I went home that evening pondering about Yeshua. What did He have to do with the Pesach? I couldn't understand it. You see I had never read the New Testament and I didn't have the slightest idea who this Jesus of Nazareth fact I grew up thinking that Jesus was a Christian and not a Jew! And so the following day I decided to find out who this Jesus was and I found a copy of the New Testament and began to read from the Gospel according to Matthew. The text I began reading was Matthew 1:1 and I read"The record of the geneology of Yeshua the Messiah, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham"! The Son of David, the Son of Abraham... Oh my God,Yeshua was a Jew! I was astonished! I was stunned!

And so I began to read Mathew's Gospel with great interest. I made a serious attempt to put aside all my preconceived ideas about who Yeshua was. When I read about the miraculous birth of Yeshua and that it was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah "that a virgin would conceive and bear a Son and he would be called Immanuel...God with us" ...I saw the connection between the Old Testament Messianic Prophesies and the New Testament fullfillment. This awakened my interest even further. As I read the Gospel according to Matthew I began reading about Yeshua of Nazareth, a Jew who was preaching in the synagogues and cities and towns in Galilee the Gospel of the Kingdom of Heaven or "the good news" to His people. He was a man of great compassion healing the sick, who caused the lame to walk and the blind to see, the deaf to hear...and raised the dead by the power of God. I read about His teachings and His life and ministry and how multitudes followed Him throughout the Galilee and many believed that He was the promised Messiah. I was deeply moved by His life and teaching and ministry.

Finally I came to the place in Matthew where Yeshua and His disciples celebrated the Last Supper or the Jewish Pesach feast. I remember wondering why Yeshua had been so removed from our Jewish history? What was the relationship between Yeshua and the Jewish people? Well I then read through the events that followed the Pesach, the New Covenant that He made with His disciples, the betrayal by Judas His trusted friend, His trial before the High Priest and before Pontius Pilate and the judgement of crucifixion...death upon the cross. It was at the Crucifixion of Yeshua that God finally revealed to me who Yeshua was. As I read the account of the crucifixion of Yeshua I came to the place where He was crucified and the accusation that was nailed to the cross above His head which said, "This is Yeshua, THE KING OF THE JEWS". (MATT.27:37) When I read those words I was perplexed. Why did they write This is Yeshua, "THE KING OF THE JEWS", and not this is Yeshua "the False Messiah", or "the False Prophet" or "the blasphemer" or any of the accusations that had been brought against Him? Why THE KING OF THE JEWS ?

I wondered and pondered who was this Yeshua of Nazareth? I thought about 1900 years of Christianity and 1900 years of Judaism...and I was stuggling in my Jewish mind with the paradox of "How could the God of Christianity be THE KING OF THE JEWS"? As I was struggling with this paradox, slowly God was lifting the veil of spiritual blindness over my mind and removing the blindness. As I was beholding Him nailed to the cross, suffering and bleeding, dying as the King of the Jews, suddenly in a moment of time I recognized Him...Yeshua to be the King of the Jews!!! It is written in one account of the crucifixion that as Yeshua gave up His Spirit and the veil of the Temple was torn in two from top to bottom and the earth shook and the rocks split and the tombs were was as if the veil was torn away from my mind and the earth shook and the rocks split in my heart and in a moment of time I recognized Yeshua to be my King!

It was an emotional moment for me as I was in the process of being born again. As I continued to read the Gospel I came to my unspeakable joy to the account of Yeshua's Resurrection from the dead! I knew nothing about it; it was completely new to me. I read how the angel of the Lord descended from heaven and said to Mary Magdalene at the tomb,..."I know that you are looking for Yeshua who was crucified. He is not here; He has risen from the dead"...I was so overjoyed that I shouted for joy! He hadn't only died, but had risen from the dead! I could do nothing else but kneel down and surrender my whole life to Yeshua. There and then I became His disciple. Although I had given up on my messianic hopes and expectations as a teenager, now I had trusted in the Lord and found Yeshua as my promised Jewish Messiah.

In January 1974 I made aliyah to Eretz Yisrael based on the passage from Ezekiel 36 that I had read on my Bar Mitzvah day. I lived in Jerusalem for one and a half years and then moved to Rosh Pinna in the Galilee where I lived for 5 years pioneering a home/cell group. From there I lived in Tiberias and helped in establishing the congregation there where I also spent three years as a fisherman on the Sea of Galilee. In 1982 I met my wife Pamela and we were married and moved to Jerusalem in 1985, after living in Maalot for three years, where we are serving the Lord and are going to live until the Lord returns. I pastored a Messianic congregation called Brit Yerushalayim and Chazon Yerushalayim a Messianic Jewish Ministry while Pamela helped me to follow my calling to minister to the Jewish people. She became a well known Israeli artist and I helped Pamela as her business manager. During the past few years I also became the Pastor/Director of Chazon Yerushalayim, a ministry team of Israelis with a heart for indigenous Israeli evangelism. Our motto is "Israelis that share the gospel with other Israelis".

This is my path in life and why I live and work in bring the gospel to the Jewish people and to pray for the salvation of Israel. The salvation of Israel is the final phase of the redemption of the Jewish people. In 1948 out of the ashes of the Holocaust Israel was established as a State. God brought the Jewish people back to their land. After nineteen centuries of being scattered among the nations they came back to their own country and began the restoration of Israel in their own God-given land. In 1967, after the Six Day War, God restored the city of Jerusalem to his people. Yeshua said that Jerusalem will be trampled upon by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. (Lk. 21:24). Trampled upon by the Gentiles means that the city is subjected to Gentile rule. At the same time God began to pour out His Spirit on many Jews around the world. This was a turning point, the first clear sign of the lifting of the veil of spiritual blindness that is blinding the hearts and minds toward yeshua the past 2000 years. Zechariah 12:10 says"that God will pour upon the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, a spirit of grace and supplication...and they will look upon the one they have pierced ...and mourn for Him...and grieve bitterly...and He will open a fountain to the house of David and the inhabitants of Jeerusalem to cleanse them from sin and impurity"...(Zech. 13:1).

I really believe that we are living in the time when the spiritual blindness of the Jewish people is going to be removed. This is the next and most important phase in God's plan for Israel. During the next ten years much will change. A new generation of Sabres are living in the land. The generation of David Ben Gurion, Golda Meir, Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Rabin has passed away and their place has been taken by Sabres, young Israeli Jews who have grown up in this country. They are less resistant to the Gospel. The generation that survived the holocaust and returned to this country came with deep wounds of unbelief. But their children have grown up in this country and they see things differently. And this young generation is going through the same phases of developement as the youth in other parts of the world. Drug abuse, alternative music and lifestyle, the search for truth, opposition to war, these universal youth problems have also happened here in Israel. So I expect a great harvest over the next ten years!

I believe that Messianic Jews form the bridge between believing Christians and the Jewish people. This is an important developement in the history of the Church and Israel. Christians have a special responsibility to pray for the salvation of Israel and to stand alongside Messianic Jews. Messianic Jews are the natural branches which are grafted back into their own olive tree according to Rom.11:24. We have arrived at an important historical moment in the year 2000. God's purpose for the last days is the spiritual restoration of Israel, the final redemtion of the Jewish people. The breaking down of the wall of partition between Jews and Christians is also the deepest longing of God's heart that we might become one in Messiah (Eph.2:14-15) God's plan for Israel is that we will finally become a kingdom of priests, a holy nation... and a light for the nations. Only then we will fulfill our Messianic calling and represent God to the rest of the nations of the earth. Then the Law shall go forth from Zion and the Word of the Lord from Jerusalem(Is.2:2-3) When He returns to Jerusalem and His feet stand upon the Mount of Olives then we will behold Him and "all Israel shall be saved" and have full knowledge of who he is. For me Yeshua isn't just the promised Jewish Messiah, the King of the Jews...He is the soon coming King, the Son of God, My Lord and Saviour, My King and Redeemer, My Bridegroom and My God. The nations will come up every year to Jerusalem to worship the King (Zech.14:16) .And In that day all Israel shall be saved"(Rom. 11:26).Maranatha! Come Lord Yeshua!