When Everything Changed
How a Young Israeli Tax Collector Found the Messiah
By Marty Shoub

Guy reading from the Congregation's torah Scroll
Guy Cohen and I cross the busy intersection on Akko's main thoroughfare. We stand on the corner in front of a local restaurant, the world cup of soccer is on and a few patrons are gathered around a flat screen watching the game. Guy points down at the corner and says, "This is where everything changed." The street scene is typical of many Israeli towns - nothing in the features surrounding us bear tribute to the momentous changes that took place there some 13 years ago, but for Guy, and I dare say for the city of Akko, this non-descript street corner is a watershed of significance in the Kingdom of God. What happened on that street corner? We need to step back another 13 years or so to find out.

Guy Cohen is the congregational leader of Katzir Asher (Harvest of Asher) and a second generation resident of the city of Akko. Guy's great grandfather, a Rabbi from Casablanca immigrated to Akko some sixty years ago. Guy's large extended family all settled in the city and growing up Guy was surrounded by aunts and uncles and cousins galore. Each successive generation was a little less religious than the proceeding one but Guy was the eldest son of the eldest son and this priestly family (cohen is the Hebrew word for priest) expected him to set a tone and example for his generation. Guy was enrolled in an orthodox religious school and spent a lot of his formative years with his orthodox paternal grandparents. As his Bar Mitzvah approached Guy's heart was stirred to serve the God of his forefathers. Like many earnest young people, Guy was passionate and intense, "I was a radical, I became 'ultra-orthodox,' even more so than my grandparents. I wanted to know God strongly, to seek the Torah - to know what the Word of God says and how I can really follow ..."

Guy's youthful enthusiasm troubled his father who wondered if his son was becoming too extreme. Guy was outspoken in his new faith and could see that his family did not meet the stringent standards of his teachers. It is one thing for a young man full of zeal to find fault with others outside his new religious stream it is quite another matter when the leaders of that same stream display the same weaknesses and failures they claim to be above. Guy's faith took a jolt when on his first Yom Kippur after being Bar Mitzva'd he witnessed the leaders of his synagogue conducting an auction before chanting the holiest of prayers. Guy explained, "My heart was broken, were they saying only people with money were welcome? What about the poor?"

Like many young, sincere believers who run up against the inconsistencies of their elders, Guy began to ask questions. He was particularly puzzled by Zechariah's description of the Messiah's entrance into Jerusalem, "Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, Lowly and riding on a donkey, A colt, the foal of a donkey." (Zechariah 9:9) Guy wondered why the Great King would come back to His people and city riding on a donkey. Surely, He would have a motorcade befitting His stature or maybe a red carpet laid out on the tarmac below His private jet. Guy asked his Rabbi how this could be so. A clever man, adept at nuanced rabbinical hermeneutics he solved the conundrum for his young talmid. The Hebrew word for donkey is kha-moor (), by switching around two letters (the mem, and the vav, ) the word changes from khamoor to kho-mer (), which is the Hebrew word for material; a broad generic sort of word that could stand for anything, yacht, limousine, jet, helicopter. Guy need not worry about the apparent oddity of the text's description because the Messiah can return riding on or in any material He so chooses. Guy was not satisfied with his Rabbi's interpretive gymnastics. His doubt began to grow.

Guy pointing to "the spot"
One evening Guy sat down along the old Akko harbor and called out to God. He could not make sense of the state of affairs in Israel. We had returned from our two millennia of exile just as the prophets had promised but where was the promised Messiah? Guy tried to live a pure life and be true to the traditions of his fathers but everywhere he looked he saw inconsistency and a righteousness that fell well short of what he read in the Torah. Guy was 18 years old and he made a startling decision: "That evening I took the Kippah off my head and told myself, 'enough, no more orthodoxy.'" Guy was not abandoning his desire to serve the God of Israel but he would not do so according to the ways of the Rabbis. Guy earnestly longed for the Messiah. He pledged to seek him anywhere He may be found - with one exception: Like many sincere young Jews seeking truth beyond their own traditions it was anything but Christianity, anyone but Jesus.

Guy settled in to a more traditional Judaism, much like the way his father before him had chosen. Military service was followed by a job with the Israeli tax authority. It was lunch hour and he had stepped out of his office onto Akko's main thoroughfare. As is customary in Israel, a man approached Guy and offered him some religious material. Guy accepted the little book, expecting it to be a tract espousing rabbinic spirituality; As his eyes glanced at the title, he knew it was something different, something forbidden. He quickly turned around to give the book back but in the second or two between accepting the book and turning to hand it back the man had disappeared! Guy turned all around but the man was nowhere to be seen. Perplexed, Guy franticly ran down all the side streets to check if perhaps he had somehow magically slipped around the corner - he was not there either. In an instant the "man" had vanished.

"This is where I ran after the man"
Guy was alone, holding a copy of the Gospel of Matthew in his hand. Curiosity got the better of him and he opened it at random to read Matthew 5:29 "If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell." These were strong words that appealed to Guy's zeal for righteousness. He was intrigued. He thought to himself, "Well, he was a Rabbi and he was Jewish after all ... Perhaps it would be OK to read, just for educational purposes." The clincher came when Guy read chapter 21:

"'Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Loose them and bring them to Me' ... All this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying: "Tell the daughter of Zion, 'Behold, your King is coming to you, Lowly, and sitting on a donkey, A colt, the foal of a donkey.'"" (Matthew 21:2-5)

Instantly, Guy understood the Zechariah passage that had so perplexed him as a young teenager; there was no need to explain away the text. The Messiah had indeed come to Jerusalem, riding on "a colt, the foal of a donkey." As this revelation dawned on Guy he felt the presence of the Holy Spirit and he had faith to believe what he had been seeking for since his Bar Mitzvah. What the prophets predicted was not an empty promise. The Messiah had come and now had come to this young man who longed for truth - Everything changed when Guy Cohen met Yeshua of Nazareth, the King of Israel.

Guy Cohen is now the congregational leader of Katzir Asher. For more information please check out their website: www.harvestofasher.org

 

By Marty Shoub



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Comments:
12:29 21Jul10 James -
So awesome how God the Father works in the hearts of men, to draw them to Himself. Rich blessings in Yeshua to Guy and his entire household.

Also in this issue of the newsletter:
Daniel Juster: Why Liberals Have Turned Against Israel
Moshe Morrison: Jews Do Not Believe In Jesus!
Isaiah 19 - On a Highway of Restoration