JOURNEY TO JERUSALEM
A tale by Johny Noer
THE JOURNEY TO JERUSALEM
… neither do I exercise myself in great matters or in things to high for me (Psalm 131).
The greatest and most divine revelations are often given in unknown and low conditions. Prophets, kings and different men of God – even the Lord himself and also his apostles – bear witness to the fact that the divine light shines most clearly in the smallest rooms. Jacob, the patriarch had a stone under his head, when he laid upon a naked field and saw heaven open and angels of God descending and ascending. Elisa was provided a small room with a chair, a table and a lamp by a Gentile woman. King David had to hide in caves, and Jesus was born in a stable. The apostles Paul and John had their greatest revelation, when they were in narrow prison-cells or exiled on desert islands.
That’s probably why David sings, "Lord, my hart is not haughty, nor mine eyes lofty: neither do I exercise myself in great matters or in things too high for me. Surely I have behaved and quieted myself as a child that is weaned of his mother; my soul is even as a weaned child. Let Israel hope in the Lord from henceforth and for ever (Psalm 131).
The content of this small book is dealing with matters, which would all be too high for any writer.
The coming exodus of the Jews from the land of the north, the building of the New Temple, Messiah’s coming to the Jews and the arrival of the Man of Sin, the Antichrist, are all matters ‘too high for us’.
That’s why we will not exercise in these things. We should like just to be doing our daily work and continue in the sound fundamentals of our most holy faith, and only if the Lord in His grace by some action of the Holy Spirit opens up such divine matters to our heart, we should endeavour to enter into them…
When Moses kept the flock of Jetro, his father-in-law ‘he suddenly came to the mountain of God, even to Horeb’ (Ex.3:1). While Moses was doing his daily work and continuing in his small occupation, God in his grace revealed himself to him. Moses was not seeking such things. He was just going on with his daily occupation, and then one day God suddenly spoke.
Nurnberg, July 1985
"Then He arose and rebuked the wind and the raging of the water: and they ceased, and there was a calm" (Luke 8:24)
The wind was getting harder and colder. In violent rushes it was whipping water from the North Sea over the quay. The mastheads from the hundreds of small fishing boats seeking shelter in the harbour of Esbjerg were like busy indicators on a vast barometer measuring high atmospheric pressure. It was going to be a stormy night!
Little did I know how stormy it was going to be. Only years later did I realise that the violent commotions in the weather did not arise in the atmosphere only. They came from space. Somewhere out there in distant regions far remote from planet earth, something evil was planned against us and what we were doing. This ‘something’ hated us and wanted to destroy us, because we were about to do something, which was greater than we had ever dreamed of.
It was the 15th of December 1980. Already during the week before, I could feel the tensions. The convoy had experienced difficulties in getting into the small town of Grinsted, on the west coast of Denmark. We had planned farewell meetings, and a bus full of warm-hearted Christians had arrived from as far as the natal town of the well-know fairytale writer, Hans Christian Anderson, Odense; but we were still struggling on the roads. A heavy fall of snow and an icy hand of frost had made our progress impossible. Tractors were stuck, and large trailers were slipping and sliding on icy pearled roads. An old west-coast farmer stopped and tried to figure out what was written with huge letters on the heavy school-caravan, while it attempted to force a hillside in the snowstorm. "Pilgrims to Jerusalem", he murmured and shook his head. "It’s a long way to go!" He wiped glittering crystal flakes from his eyes and had another look on the huge letters: ‘Pilgrims to Jerusalem’. He shook his head a second time and murmured again: "It’s a long way to go!" When the steaming engine passed him, he changed into a white pillar, and looked like one of those old white-bearded prophets; his words indeed becoming prophesy, ‘Jerusalem is a long way to go!’
In these last farewell-meetings there was a warm spirit of love from the friends, who came to say goodbye. But frost had begun to cover our own camp. I could see it in the eyes of some of the tired men coming in from the cold. Problems were towering up in front of us. Unexpected financial problems. Spiritual problems. Family problems. Problems with relatives who would not let their dear ones depart – even problems between persons and families in the pilgrimage. The storm was not only raging outside; it was beginning to thrust its way into our own midst. A dangerous iceberg of confrontation had to be passed, before we reached harbour in Esbjerg, where all the vehicles were to be embarked on the enormous ferryboat ‘Dana Regina’, bound for England. These problems were however, only the tip of the iceberg. The dangerous rock was hidden under the surface. In the last 48 hours before the convoy took over 200 square meters of the boat deck of ‘Dana Regina’, I knew where we would hit the underwater ice rock. But I had never dreamed of the power of the shaking which would be caused by the collision.
The actual clashing happened in a ‘family-meeting’. After a short time of prayer, one of the men stood up and said, "God is against us!"
Outside the wind force was about 12. Inside, there was deadly silence. The man, who was speaking, was a former preacher from the movement called ‘Inner Mission’. He was known in many parts of Jutland for his stand against sin, and his words of holiness of life. Besides his wife and a younger son, he had also an elder son and a daughter-in-law in the pilgrimage. This whole family was very dear to my heart, and I had respect for the man who was speaking. His voice trembled, while he stroked a hand through his red hair.
"God is against us!" he sighed.
The impact of such words can never be measured by people who know nothing about ‘holiness of life’. All the men and women who that night, were sitting in the large room of the eleven meter long trailer, were people seeking for such a life. They had given up houses and land, work and possessions, because they earnestly wanted to do the will of God. They were all ready to break up their positions with their families and children to walk out in a life of faith. They had agreed to leave homes and relatives and country in order to go towards Jerusalem. They did it because they were firmly convinced that we are living in the last days. They all passionately wanted to come into the calling of God. And now one of the most respected men in the group stood up and said, "God is against us!" It was evident that he was not speaking for himself only. Several of the men silently nodded their heads. Nobody said anything, but it was written on many thoughtful faces: "God is against us!"
My heart was beating rapidly. It seemed as if a project with years of hard work and spiritual preparation had come to an end.
If God was against us, we could not go on. If God was not any longer for us, we should only be able to continue the pilgrimage a few days on the other side of the North Sea. We would never reach Jerusalem. Then our hopes and dreams were as good as dead.
I asked for a window to be opened. I could hardly breathe, but my respiration didn’t however, improve because of the fresh air. Everybody in the small room was under immense spiritual pressure. I had a feeling I knew what was about to happen. As we slowly approached the harbour of Esbjerg, the storm had increased. Not only the storm outside, but the cold wind had by now reached our hearts. Not only a hurricane of material problems; a tempest was now about to break in the spiritual. It whirled around one question only; was this storm from God or from the Devil? Was God trying to stop us or was it the Devil?
Another man stood up. He had the same profession as Jesus; he was a carpenter. For weeks he had been working day and night to get the last large trailers finished. He had joined the pilgrimage, together with his dear wife and two lovely children. He was a small, strong man with a silent character.
"God is against us!" he said.
One of the women burst into tears and was silently taken outside by her husband.
I looked down into the black leather cover of my closed Bible. I thought of different storms in the book. The old prophet Jonah was disobedient to God and wanted to get away, but the Lord aroused a storm; God was against him. Jesus went into a boat to get to the other side of the lake, but a storm broke out and the ship was about to sink. A word of the Son of Man was shouted into the tempestuous wind, and everything became calm; the Devil was against Him. This conflict was not new; it was as old as the history of man. Christians and Jews through all generations suffering persecutions and tribulations have been asking the same question, "Is it God or the Devil who is against us?" Missionaries facing tremendous hindrances in every corner of the world, have bowed their knees and sighed, "Is it you, God? Or is it the Devil?"
I looked up and listened. Surely it was only my imagination, but now it occurred to me that a wind of extreme violence, of more than 70 miles per hour was howling and ‘laughing’ outside. Inside, strong men were wavering. I could see by the troubled faces around me, that the tempestuous sea was undermining rocks of faith and sure convictions. What had seemed clear guidance and God’s calling just a few months ago, was now about to be scattered in the storm. My eyes went from one to another of the men sitting around the long table. I loved every one of them. Honestly they met my regard – and I realised that some great oaks would fall that night.
I stood up. "God is not against us", I said. "The darkness is against us! God, who has called us to go to Jerusalem, has with signs and wonders brought us to this place." I noticed that my hand trembled as I reached for the black leather Bible. I opened it and read with a loud voice, "The calling of God is without repentance!" As I closed the book, I felt a strange warm glow in my hart. "The Lord God, who has called us, would never bring us to this place, and then suddenly turn against us. This pilgrimage will continue until we reach the Holy City. God is not against us!"
I said a great deal more, but my voice died in the storm. When a few hours later, the door of the caravan swung open, we could hear a roaring from the North Sea. One by one or in couples the group disappeared in the dark between the tractors and the wagons. It was no longer a united flock. Vast and eternal damage was done. A terrible blow from the universe had hit us.
I went out into the black night. The air was full of salt from the sea. "Oh, God! I prayed, "What’s going on? You have told me to bring down these people to Jerusalem. You said in your Holy Word, ‘with men of other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people’ – and now everything is going to be split apart even before we leave the country. Stop this storm, please, before it is too late!" I looked up into the dark sky. Not a star was to be seen. I could hear and smell and feel it: The storm was far from over. It would grow worse after dawn…
Next morning a television-crew drew into the camp. They had heard about the ‘religious nomads’ and wanted a story. "Don’t be afraid", the producer said, a young lady with a winning smile; "we won’t do you any harm. I understand if you are a little scared of the press; they haven’t been too good to you in the last few weeks. But you haven’t been too good to us either", she laughed and handed me a bunch of press-cuttings. "You have said some strong words on the judgment of God and all that."
I nodded. "What do you want us to do?" I asked.
"Just to have your tractors placed in front of that great sign, ‘Pilgrims to Jerusalem’, and all those rotating; then I want you to preach some of those strong things that have been reported in the press."
"It’s nationwide", she said. "It will hit every television-screen in Denmark. You’ll get your message home to the nation before you leave."
"All right", I said. "I will just have to speak with the brethren."
"The brethren?" she said with big eyes. "Who are they?"
"Well, they are the men who are leading the flock."
Her blue eyes became bigger. "Does that mean that the women haven’t got anything to say?"
I tried to avoid the question. "Well, not exactly in this matter"… she broke me off; "All right, I understand, Mr. Noer! Never mind, let’s get down to business: We will make the equipment ready. But it’s a terrible storm, don’t you think?
"Yes", I replied quietly. "It’s a terrible storm…"
While the television-crew was working, I received a registered letter from a former helper of our mission. The letter, delivered by special mail, said: "We can prophecy to you that you shall never reach Jerusalem!"
The door swung open, and someone shouted, "The boat will probably not leave tonight. The sea is too rough!"
I placed my hands on the letter. "You know about this letter, Lord", I said. "You know whether this prophecy is true. You know if we shall ever reach Jerusalem."
"Ready, Mr. Noer?" It was the blond television-lady. "All the tractors are lined up with yellow lights. We just need you. But you must come quickly; we can hardly hold the cameras in this wind. Be sure to have all your people with you."
The carpenter met me between the wagons. "I am not taking part in that television-show", he said. His eyes were like steel. "We are several families, not taking part… and we are not taking part at all!"
"What do you mean by that?"
"We’ll tell you", he said and turned around and went back to his caravan.
Someone dragged me into the circle of cameras. Again I had the feeling that something cyclonic was raging, not only from the North Sea, but from the universe. I was confused. I didn’t know what to say. A sort of ‘clap-tree’ smacked before my nose, somebody shouted a number, and the cameramen were ‘zooming in’ on me…
Then the same warm glow was in my hart as the night before. My thoughts became crystal-clear. Word I had preached in the last two years in twenty-nine cities of Denmark came to my mind. I remembered messages I had spoken against my own little nation and its huge pornography-export. I saw ‘the big top’ (as we called the tent) and heard my own voice speaking against 30,000 killings of unborn babies every year. I mentioned it all, and hardly noticed that the tall blond lady producer was waving her hand to stop me. "Say it again", she shouted.
"The part about Israel! Move a little to the left, so that you are standing under the letters ‘to Jerusalem’ and say it again. The part about Israel! Allright? Ready!" The ‘clap-tree’ smacked before my nose.
"Within a short time", I started again, "Denmark will be involved in the greatest treachery in her history. She will deny her old friendship with Israel. Our foreign ministers over the last decades have all prepared the way. Now we are ready to give in to the pressure from the Arab States and the nations of the Common Market. Too late we will understand that to break with God’s chosen people, is the most expensive failure we have ever made. Thus we will become one of the nations ready for the judgment of God!"
A third part of the pilgrimage was left on the shore when ‘Dana Regina’ turned into the up tempestuous sea. In the last desperate hours, the young, beautiful wife of our organist went from family to family warning them: "We stay back! This journey is like the journey of Jonah in the Bible; there will be material damage. Yes, God is against us!"
The young men heard it and took no chances. I saw them chaining the large trailers, tractors and land-rovers to the boat deck.
At three o’clock in the morning I woke up. The storm had ceased. Everything was calm. I looked around the cabin. All the children were sleeping. Gisèle was lying with the smallest ones to prevent them from falling out of bed. "Why did all this happen?" I complained in silent prayer. "Why should all these precious people leave us? Did You not tell me to bring them to Jerusalem?"
I listened to the silent respiration of the children and the rhythmic sound from the machine. Suddenly, however, I also heart a gentle voice within me. "Bring them down unto the water, and I will try them for thee there." I crept out of the bed and got hold of my Bible. In the light of a lamp outside the cabin I read the whole verse from Judges chapter 7, verse 4: "Bring them down unto the water, and I will try them for thee there: and it shall be, that of whom I say, This shall go with thee, the same shall go with thee, and of whomsoever I say unto thee, This shall not go with thee, the same shall not go."
Peace flooded into my hart. I bowed down and worshipped and went back to bed and slept.
At three o’clock that same morning, George Müller, our experienced deep-sea-fisherman, went up on deck to watch the December-storm. Years ago George gave his life to God during such a hurricane, when the storm was about to crush his boat with 32 men, against the rocks off Iceland. That night he prayed, and an audible voice spoke to him and said, "This night thou shalt not perish!" And suddenly the sea was calm!
"… and the same thing happened last night", George Müller told us in the morning. "Suddenly the sea was calm. I stood watching the storm, and from one moment to the next, it stopped. It was like a might hand came upon the waves of the sea."
We all sat listening to George, while in bright sunshine; we were approaching Harwich, England: "It was like God would tell me – and all of us – that He is the master of sea and storm, and that He is not against us. He is for us!"
His words were like beautiful music. Everybody smiled, and some took each others hands. Outside it was like springtime, and soon the first tractors were humming through the English landscape. Direction Manningtree: the first step towards Jerusalem!
Soon it would be know if God was for us or against us. Supplies of diesel, food and money would run out in a few days. With no church or mission-organisation behind us, our destiny was sure! If God didn’t help with some miracles, it was only a matter of time. When we left Denmark, everybody had cut off all personal income. Even old peoples’ pensions and children-allowances had been stopped. "God will have to be our only source", we said. "If he cannot uphold us on this long journey, it’s better to stay at home."
After Manningtree we should arrive in Saffron Walden. And in Saffron Walden everything was bound to come to a standstill. There were simply no means to go on. Where was God? Was He for us or against us?