Rabbi Asher Levy and Rabbi Max Wertheimer
Asher served as a rabbi for 35 years, after entering theological school at the age of fifteen and being ordained in Romania at the age of twenty one. Success in his ministry did not bring happiness, though and, despite outward appearances, he was empty inside.
One day he poured his heart out to a fellow Jew, not knowing that his confidant was a believer in Jesus. His advice was to read Isaiah 53 and this stirred Asher on a voyage of discovery through the Hebrew Scriptures. Signposts on the way were, “he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities.” Then, also in Isaiah, “for unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulders: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgement and with justice from henceforth even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this”. (Isaiah 9:6, 7). He also read: “Hear ye now, O house of David; is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will ye weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:13, 14).
Such Old testament scriptures helped Asher to understand that Jesus was and is the Messiah in whom all the prophecies were fulfilled. This was confirmed to him when he had completed his reading of the New Testament. He came to the conclusion that Jesus of Nazareth was a Jew of the seed of Abraham and David, that He was born of a Jewish virgin in the Jewish town of Bethlehem, of a Jewish tribe, the tribe of Judah.
Asher was not conscious of following a Saviour of the Gentiles, but one for his own people too. In his own words, he states, “I feel that I am still a Jew and shall always be a Jew. I have not renounced our inheritance of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Like Paul, I can say after my acceptance of Christ as my Saviour: “Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? So am I!’ (2 Corinthians 11:22). Thus, I repeat with pride the word of Romans 1:16: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.” Asher still witnesses to these facts as he lives and works today.
Max too had an Orthodox Jewish upbringing, brought up, in Germany, by devout parents and his religious training starting at the age of five. But he fell away while working through an apprenticeship and drifted from the faith of his fathers. His parents sent him to America to knock some sense into him, where he studied at the Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. He immersed himself in Hebrew, Judaism and Jewish history and was eventually ordained as a Rabbi in the reformed tradition, throwing himself into his vocation with passion and great energy.
So confident was he in his faith and calling that he accepted an invitation to speak at a pastors conference at the Christian Church of Dayton in 1895, where he told them why he was a Jew and would not believe in their Christ as his Messiah and Saviour. His religious views acknowledged no need of an atoning sacrifice for sin, guided instead by an ethical religious system. In the audience sat a devout Christian who was deeply stirred as she listened. “O God,” she prayed, “bring Dr. Wertheimer to realise his utter need of that Saviour he proudly rejects. Bring him, if necessary, to the very depths in order that he may know his need of my Lord, Jesus the Messiah.”
Life was good for Rabbi Max. An attractive capable wife, wonderful children, a beautiful home, a comfortable income, a place of prominence in the community, even two servants! Then a wake-up call. His wife became ill and died and his life unraveled, his dreams shattered, finding himself walking the streets, striving to forget the void in his heart and life. He found himself questioning God, his assurances crumbling. He compared himself to Job, when he cried “my days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle, and are spent without hope” (Job 7:6).
He resigned as rabbi and dedicated himself to studying his religious heritage. Judaism answered no questions, it satisfied no craving of his heart. Then he opened the New Testament, to compare it with the Hebrew Scriptures. One passage screamed at him, Isaiah 53. “By His knowledge shall My righteous servant justify many, for He shall bear their iniquities.” He noticed that here was the only mention of that phrase, “My righteous servant” that he could find. It is found nowhere else in the Word of God. We find: “David, my servant”; “Isaiah, my servant”; “Daniel, my servant” but here was “My righteous servant.”
Max was determined to identify this “righteous servant”. He decided that, contrary to what he had been taught, it is not Israel, because the prophet declares Israel to be ‘a sinful nation’, ‘a people laden with iniquity’, ‘a leprous nation’. The righteous servant of Jehovah must be One Who is holy. If it isn’t Israel, who could it be?” He also discarded Isaiah himself in this role (“a man of unclean lips” Isaiah 6) but was led to Isaiah 50:6, where he read, “I gave My back to the smiters.” It was God Himself speaking! Max decided to re-read the whole book of Isaiah, but stopped at the verse in Chapter nine, “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulders; His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.”
Max had reached the point of understanding. After months of searching he was convinced that Jesus was the righteous servant of God (Jehovah Tsidkenu). Then, in his own words, “the Lord our righteousness!” I cried: “Lord, I believe that Thou as Jehovah Yeshua hast made the atonement for me. I believe that Jehovah Yeshua died for me! I believe Thou hast made provision for me! I believe Thou hast the ability and power! From henceforth I will publicly confess Yeshua as my Saviour and Lord!”
On March 30, I904, he publicly confessed Christ in the Central Baptist Church and commenced his new calling as a preacher of the Gospel. He studied at Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, followed by his ordination as a pastor. His first call came from Ada, Ohio, where he served as pastor for five years, then at The New Covenant Mission in Pittsburgh. After two-and-a-half years of this ministry, he was convinced that God was calling him to preach to both Jew and Gentile, depending upon the Lord for the support of his family.
(This is an abridged extract from Steve’s book Jesus Man of Many Names)