Zola Levitt’s first encounter with the Jewish Messiah

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By Mark Ellis —

Zola Levitt
Zola Levitt

Raised in an Orthodox Jewish household, he attended synagogue, learned the heart language of his ancestors, and went through his bar mitzvah ceremony at 13. But as he grew in the understanding of his religion, he still felt separated from God.

“I went to Jewish school after regular school and I learned Hebrew,” said Levitt, in a recording he made before his passing in 2006. “I was always hungry again. I sang in the synagogue and became a director of the choir but I just couldn’t contact God.”

“I would talk to the Lord but I didn’t hear from him,” he added.

In grad school at Indiana University he worked in the campus news bureau and happened to meet some people from Campus Crusade for Christ. “I thought they sounded ridiculous, but they invited me to Bible study.” He told them he had already studied the Bible, but was intrigued and accepted their invitation.

“For the first time in my life I was with people who read a verse, discussed what it meant, talked about it being the Word of God, that it’s infallible, inerrant,” he recalled. “I never heard that in Hebrew School. All we did was memorize psalms and spit it back. Even at my bar mitzvah I just read a long passage. I couldn’t tell you what passage I read.”

“I put my Jewish education up against anybody, but again, it just didn’t fill me,” Levitt admitted.

After three weeks studying the Bible with Campus Crusade, Levitt had an unusual encounter that changed his life.

“I was sitting in my room late one night. I can’t say that I saw Him, but I was sitting in a dark room by myself and I knew I was not alone. I perceived some kind of figure standing there and I looked up. I couldn’t see the face but I could see some kind of figure. I knew this was a benevolent, kind figure who came to me.”

Levitt called out into the darkness, “If you’re there, show me.”

“That was my prayer. That’s all I said.” The unusual late-night visitation, combined with the Word and the Spirit working on his heart brought him to the place of surrender to Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior.

“The Word is very powerful and I was saved!” he exulted.

After a few weeks Levitt quit his job at Indiana University and traveled to Dallas, Texas to attend Explo 72, an evangelistic conference sponsored by Campus Crusade. Levitt became the news director for the massive gathering of young people, which coincided with the full flowering of the Jesus Movement.

Levitt stayed in Dallas and felt God’s assignment was to send out proposals for a book. “I had no allusions about becoming an author. I had never written a book in my life. I had never seen Israel. I had never written a spiritual song. I had never been on radio or television. I had never even addressed an audience,” but he implicitly trusted God’s direction.

“I was so new in the faith I believed Him. I did exactly what He said. I just kept doing it, but it seemed like things were getting worse and worse. On August 3, 1972 the third of the month came around and I didn’t have a dime for rent and it was due on the fifth,” he recalled.

Levitt went outside and cried out to God, “What is the plan? I’ve testified about you and these people are going to laugh at you.”

After his energetic appeal he went down and checked his mailbox. “I needed $200 for this apartment. There was a check for $500 from Moody Press. They bought the manuscript, “Satan in the Sanctuary.”

“It was down there the whole time I was yelling at the Lord. So I learned something. He’s got a plan.”

Levitt became one of the most well-known Messianic Jewish Bible teachers of his day. He hosted the weekly TV program Zola Levitt Presents. He also authored more than 50 books and composed some 200 spiritual songs. Levitt led more than 100 tours to Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Turkey, and the surrounding region. He passed to his reward on April 19, 2006 at his home in Dallas, Texas, following a two-month battle with lung cancer. He was 67 years old.

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