JOURNEY TO JERUSALEM
A tale by Johny Noer
"Behold, I and the children, whom the Lord hath given me are for signs and for wonders in Israel from the Lord of hosts, which dwelleth in Mount Zion" (Isaiah 8:18)
The story about Daniel, and how he got his name, was a great encouragement to Gisèle. Some time after she included this little event in a small written testimony, which she had later printed on our old copying machine in the camp. When the English brother, who was doing the printing, asked how the cover of the small pamphlet should be, she answered immediately, ‘The cover must have a design of the beautiful French lily."
"French, I can understand", I interrupted dryly, "but why the lily?"
"Because the lily is a sign of purity", Gisèle answered smiling. "Does not the Song of Salomon speak about ‘the lily of the valley’ – and does not Jesus advise us to ‘consider the lilies of the field’?"
"Well, yes", I answered, "but how much teaching is in that stuff?" Jokingly I lifted a finger, "The Bible doesn’t allow women to teach..!"
"Please", Gisèle said, "You are writing so much and this is the only thing I have ever written. It’s my testimony; I know you will agree with every word; I am just writing about our family and our children and the things on which we have decided together."
I looked suspicious.
"It’s on ‘holiness of life’, she said persuadingly, knowing that she was touching a soft spot in my defence.
"All right", I said, "I will read through the manuscript."
A few days later I handed the handwritings back to Gisèle, "I have made a few corrections", I said, "but I can’t do very much about it. It’s a little naïve in its style."
"That doesn’t matter", Gisèle said happily, "That’s the way we women talk. You have your readers and you will come to see that I will have mine…"
And she was right! Sometimes I have even been a little jealous about this matter: I have seen women stop their housework, sit down and read while children were crying around them. I have seen pastors studying this small 15-pages booklet with interest, I have heard about patients in hospital wards having their lamps lit, while others were sleeping, people have had this little thing from our old copying-machine translated and beautifully printed in their own languages, and once the story was read on the Irish radio.
The small writing of Gisèle is about our family; she is touching a subject, which is important but hard for men to speak about, and as it has to do with our common vision for Jerusalem, I better let her speak for herself. The story with the French lily on the cover starts like this:
For several years the Lord has spoken to me concerning a specific area in my life. Today I would like to give it as a testimony. I want to share with others a conviction which little by little has grown in my heart.
The reason why I believe, that I should do it, is it is something the world is not silent about. Strong powers are speaking today, and they try more and more to bring their influence into people’s lives. But God’s Holy Spirit is also speaking – and I am happy that I have had the privilege to hear his voice in my heart. That is what I want to testify about.
My theme is one which women often speak to each other about…
We speak about our children and we talk about what it is to have children, and some talk about how they can avoid having children.
With grief I remember such conversations. They will be difficult to forget, because they are still being said and the words and the reasons are still the same.
"We are newly married, and we are not going to have children for some time."
"First we want to work and earn money, get established – and then we will perhaps have a couple of children."
"Before we were married, we decided that we should not have any children."
"Now we have three children – and that’s enough!"
When I hear such words, I often think of the passage in Scripture, where the apostle James warns Christians against projecting their lives to avoid the way of faith. He writes: "Go to now, ye hat say, today or tomorrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: Whereas ye know not what shall be on tomorrow. For what is your live? It is even a vapour that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. For that ye ought to say: If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this or that." (James 4:13-15).
As soon as a birth has taken place, it is the routine of our modern society that the doctor dressed in a white coat comes to the bedside with his notebook and asks questions. One of the unavoidable ones is this: "What do you want to use to avoid a new pregnancy?" Firstly, I cannot understand how this question can be asked among people who are not closely acquainted, and secondly, I cannot see how it can be asked before a young mother has had time to say if she wants more children.
When I was expecting my first child, I was in such a consultation with my doctor. The questions came one after another, cold and heartless: "Do you want to keep the child?"
I looked speechless at the white coat in front of me.
"You could have an abortion."
I silently shook my head. The man with the stethoscope round his neck knew nothing about my life. He did not know at that time, that I had only been married for five months. He did not know about the sadness which had come over me when after three months of marriage I was still not pregnant. He did not know that with anxiety and tears, I had come before the Lord and asked him to do for me what is written in the Bible, - that ‘God opened the womb’. He did not know anything about that wave of joy and expectancy which flowed through me, when shortly afterwards I could state that God had heard my prayer. The doctor just said: "Do you want "it" removed?"
The same situation arose when I was expecting my third child, which proved to be a lovely boy. There were some problems during the pregnancy, for which I had to get a doctor’s help. An operation was suggested without any hesitation: "We may have to perform an abortion!"
I felt a stream of sorrow, pain and a ‘holy anger’ stirred up inside me and everything in me cried: "No! I do not understand why any one should be obliged to accept such words."
As I have mentioned, it is not only medical voices that have been speaking upon this area of my life. I have seen that there is another way to go. I can imagine that for some this sounds strange, but I must say it anyhow – because there is a Way of Faith to go…
In the early years with several children, it was sometimes difficult. Sometimes I asked myself: "Is such attitude of faith right?" Remarks from other sisters in the Lord did not make it easier:
"Now I think that must be enough!"
"You are not going to have more children, are you?"
"Listen, I have a method that can help you…"
It was only with difficulty that I could answer with a smile.
Today this is no longer a problem for me and there is not the slightest question in my mind on this matter. I have seen the hand of the Lord in the different births, and in faith I can give this whole part of my life over to God.
Is it not the Lord who is ruling over our existence? Is it not He, who is leading this ministry, in which He Himself has put me? Have I not seen His Divine guidance and help? Is it not God, who miraculously day by day gives us our daily bread? (Because we are travelling by faith, and have no provider other than the Lord). Is it not God, who is ruling over the whole universe, and still has even the smallest things under His control? Should not God, who is the Creator of everything, and upholder of everything, be able to lead the marriage-life of Christians?
When the Lord had created the first family on earth, He said to Adam and Eve, as He blessed them: "Be fruitful, and multiply."
From the first hour, fruitfulness and multiplicity has been a part of God’s blessings. For me that is a testimony, that the same God of Creation is against abortus provocatus (abortion), and all kinds of limitation.
When I was expecting my fourth child, we in our ministry for the Lord were in a difficult situation. Many of our Christian friends found it difficult to understand the way in which the Lord was leading us in our ministry – several shook their heads, when they saw that again I was expecting a baby.
But the Lord proved his love to me.
It happened in the way that the Lord spoke to my husband. We both thought the new baby would be a girl. I was dreaming about a little daughter with dark hair, and brown eyes. The name would be ‘Natasha’.
Early one morning, my husband heard a voice in our bedroom saying: "He shall be called Daniel", but he did not tell me anything until just before the birth. Soon after I had a little baby in my arms. It was a boy – and his name is Daniel!
To me it was so wonderful, that the Lord knew this boy before he was born. From the Word of God, I believe, it is the case with all babies in the mothers’ womb.
At the time of expecting my fifth child, I became sure of being pregnant far earlier than one can usually be sure. I now recognize that this early enlightenment was Divine.
I remember that a strange uneasiness came upon me. It was the same uneasiness I know from other situations, and I knew that I must seek God’s presence, because He wanted to speak to me.
When I was alone with the Lord and His word, the verses from the Book of Job chapter 23, v. 10-14 spoke strongly to my heart. It is written: "But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me. I shall come forth as gold. My feet hath held his steps, his way have I kept, and not declined. Neither have I gone back from the commandment of his lips; I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food. But he is in one mind, and who can turn him? And what his soul desireth, even that he doeth. For he performeth the thing that is appointed for me… when I consider, I am afraid of him."
When I read this from God’s Word, I suddenly understood that much of what had happened in my life was according to the will of God.
Who can ask God why He does so or so? Is He not the Lord?
As I then bowed and came under the Mighty Hand of God, a wave of peace came over me. Great and indescribable joy filled my heart. I began to praise and worship the Lord: "Thank you Lord, that you can use me according to Your will. Like Mary, I say: Behold, I am the Lord’s servant; be it unto me according to Thy Word."
Days passed, and the time for the birth was soon. One day I said to my husband: "If the child is a boy, we have no name for him."
"Yes, we have", my husband answered, "I know what we shall call the baby."
I asked, what name it was, but my husband said nothing. He only smiled and said that I should wait. "He is not born yet", he said.
My curiosity grew stronger, and I started to beg him for the name, but my husband would not answer me. Suddenly the words came into my mind very strongly. The words were these: "David’s friend."
Triumphant, I went to my husband and told him that I also knew what we should call the baby. "He shall be called the same as David’s friend!"
My husband looked at me in surprise and said: "That’s right! He shall be called Jonathan!"
I started to enquire what this name meant. Jonathan means: ‘The gift of God’.
Should we not be thankful for ‘the gift of God’?
It was a great testimony in my heart that this child was given from the Lord. I thought: It must be a pretty child; everything the Lord gives is pretty and healthy.
And it was a pretty boy! His name is Jonathan!
Just before the birth, there was a complication. But the Lord spoke in his mercy to me before it happened. The words from Isaiah 66:7 and 9 were revealed to me. It says: "Before she travailed, she brought forth; before her pain came, she was delivered of a man child. Shall I cause to bring forth, and shut the womb? saith thy God."
This word was a comfort to me, because it was discovered three weeks before the birth that the child was in a wrong position.
"It can be a difficult birth", the doctor explained, "We must be prepared for a Caesarean delivery…
In my prayer the following days, I held on to the word from Isaiah. "Shall I cause to bring forth, and shut the womb?" saith thy God. "Your word speaks about natural birth", I prayed, "not about Caesarean operations. I believe that the child shall be born in a natural way. And the Lord is faithful according to his Word. It was a natural birth, and it happened – as the Lord said in His Word – very quickly. I had almost no birth-pains before a lovely boy was born. When the doctor came, the birth had taken place.
Concerning the conception, pregnancy and birth, it is wonderful to go in faith. It is well pleasing unto God.
We are a large family.
When we sit around the table, there are a lot of children. Because we live in caravans in our travelling ministry for the Lord, there is sometimes a lack of room. When we are all together, there are seven boys and two girls. The four oldest have their own caravan with rooms of their own. The five small ones are with us – in Mum and Dad’s caravan.
Will Jonathan be the last?
My husband has often in a joking manner referred to the Word I got from the book of Job. It says: "For he performeth the thing that is appointed for me: and many such things are with him (Job 23:14).
"Notice what it says", my husband has said with a teasing smile, "and many such things are with him…"
As I write these words I can say, that this Word has been fulfilled. Now I know that a new baby is on its way, and my heart is filled with overflowing joy.
I know that this will be a new burden from the practical side of things – but even for that extra burden I will not miss the joy the new darling will bring, nor will I give away that peace and expectancy, which the Lord puts deep in my heart today.
As I have tried to explain and make clear, I believe, that the Lord’s will rule my life. It is my testimony, that this also is the case in married life. Yes, I believe that this is connected with our ministry, and the task the Lord has sent us with. We are travelling to Jerusalem. God has in his grace called us to go with the message about Jesus of Nazareth, Messiah of the Jews, to the Jewish People in Israel. Three times, the Lord has in that connection given me a word from Isaiah 8:18.
The faith I have, that the Lord is ruling our lives concerning conception, pregnancy, and birth, is not taken from my own experience and feelings. If so, problems and difficulties would soon be able to destroy that conviction. Many words from the Bible have been revealed to my heart. And finally, I would like to testify about this. In between I will write some personal comments.
Jacob had two wives, and the word of God says that he ‘loved Rachel more than Leah’. But then it says something wonderful in the following: "And when the Lord saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb: but Rachel was barren (Gen. 29:31). It was the Lord who ‘opened her womb’. And it was the Lord who made ‘barren’.
In the two following verses it says what happens when the Lord ‘opens the womb’. Here it says: "And Leach conceived, and ‘she conceived again’…"
What God does, is strong and lasting, because it is written in the next verses: "And she conceived again, and bare a son", and again: "And she conceived again and bare a son (v. 33-35).
These words can really be written as a heading over the recent years of my life.
This divine principle goes further back in the Bible. It says about Sarah: "And the Lord visited Sarah as he had spoken. For Sarah conceived, and bare Abraham a son… (Gen. 21:1-2).
Sarah knew that it was the Lord who ‘visited her’! She would have felt strange among women who speak about this today. When Sarah at one time could not have children, she said to her husband: "The Lord hath restrained me from bearing" (Gen. 16:2).
In 1. Samuel it says about Hannah, that ‘the Lord had shut up her womb’ (1:5) – but when the Lord had done what he wanted to do in her life, it says: ‘The Lord remembered her. Wherefore it came to pass, when the time was come about after Hannah conceived, that she bare a son…" (1:19-20).
It is not just the Old Testament, however, which tells about the ruling of God concerning conception and birth, but the New Testament says about Elisabeth in Luke that she was ‘barren’. Her husband, Zacharias, was told by an angel of the Lord, that ‘thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son" (1:13) – and Mary, the mother of Jesus was told by the angel Gabriel, that God knows about the conception in the life of Elisabeth. Gabriel says: "Behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called ‘barren’ (Luke 1:36)."
Because this is my testimony, that the Lord knows about the life of the woman in conception, pregnancy and birth, I am obliged to add that the Lord knew exactly the month Elisabeth was in. "This is the sixth month with her."
God knows all His creation. In the animal world he knows about every birth taking place. When God speaks to Job he says: "Knowest thou the time when the wild goats of the rock bring forth? Or canst thou mark when the hinds do calve? (Job 39:1-2).
Today, many different artificial methods are being used by couples to limit the number of children they have. For me, the word from Hebrews 13:4 has always had a warning power: "Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled…"
I do not think that to keep ‘the bed undefiled’ has only to do with divorce. I believe that it has to do with all unclean things. Also all unnatural and artificial things.
There is a word which has been ringing in my heart for some years. It says: "And ye shall be holy unto me: for I the Lord am holy, and have severed you from other people, that ye should be mine" (Lev. 20:26).
Every sentence in this word of God is clear in my heart. The word about holiness and about separation. And I long to do according to it.