a wheel within a wheel
After a very long journey and by God’s grace, Eric and I finally made it back to North Carolina. I apologize for the lull in communication since I last penned a report on February 28th, the day after we arrived in Jerusalem. We were very busy, and so much happened for the Word of God and the Testimony of Jesus the Messiah along this journey that I really don’t know where, how, or IF to begin. Suffice it to say that we were blessed to have our wives join us in Israel for 10 days; Brother Tim Mejia from California also came alongside the work for a couple of weeks (as he has done many times in the past); the journeys to and from the airport in Halifax, Nova Scotia were not what we anticipated; and we made numerous connections with Israeli backpackers we met in South America and South Asia last year. Little was what we expected, but all was a blessing and an answer to the prayers of those holding the ropes. Thank you.
I have recently been meditating upon the vision of the Prophet found in Ezekiel Chapter 1. Here, Ezekiel was 30 years old, and it had been five years since he, King Jehoiachin, the royal family, and 10,000 Jews had been taken captive into Babylon. It was 592BC, and the destruction of the Temple and the City of Jerusalem was still about seven years out. Ahead of this final desolation, the Lord showed Ezekiel some things “in the land of the Chaldeans by the river Chebar” (Ezekiel 1:3). The Prophet saw a stormy infolding fire, like a great cloud, come down out of the north (1:4). Then, out of the midst of this fiery essence appeared four living creatures (the same cherubim that John sees in the throne room of God in Revelation 4-5). These creatures bridged heaven and earth by way of dreadfully tall wheels, the work of which was “as it were a wheel in the middle of a wheel” (1:16). These wheels turned about in such a way that these creatures could change directions without turning, and they went to and fro upon the earth. Above their heads was the firmament (John’s see of glass in Revelation 4-5), and above that firmament was the throne of God and a celestial rainbow (same thing John saw in Revelation 4:2-3). For the Prophet and ahead of the impending destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, this opening vision highlighted three eternal truths, truths which we would do well to remember in these last days:
The approaching storm of fire out of the north declares that God’s judgment is coming! The captivities of 605BC (which included Daniel and his three Hebrew friends) and 597BC (King Jehoiachin, Ezekiel, and 10,000 Jews) were only a taste of what was yet to come. The same can be said of Israel, the United States, and the world today: consummate judgment is coming. And the darknesses that surround us in 2019 are only a small, small taste of what is to come.
The cherubim and their wheels remind that behind all the events of earth are the purposed operations of heaven. There is a literal spiritual realm, my friends, and that which happens in the physical is always connected to events in the spiritual, and that quite literally. The wheels connect the earth to the spiritual beings, and the spiritual beings are connected to the Throne of the Sovereign Lord who sits above all. In other words, there are spiritual operations behind all judgment. The Western mind is so consumed with materialism that it has a hard time understanding that something doesn’t have to be physical to be real or, for that matter, literal. There is a literal spiritual reality. There are literal spiritual entities that are not physical. And, these are always operating behind the scenes, some to facilitate and some to hinder (cf. Daniel 10). In other words, the events of nations are always much bigger than Nebuchadnezzar, King Zedekiah, and Solomon’s Temple (Ezekiel’s day); Netanyahu, Benny Gantz and the Golan Heights (Israel today); and Democrat devils, President Trump, and the Mueller Report (United States today).
Above the wheels and the cherubim is the firmament, and above that firmament is the throne of God, the likeness of His glory, framed by a celestial rainbow. Behind the literal physical realm is a literal spiritual realm, and above all this is the Sovereign Creator, the Divine Hand of Providence. In other words, whether it be Jerusalem in 586 BC, Washington DC in 2019, or the Modern State of Israel in the Tribulation (what Jeremiah calls the Time of Jacob’s Trouble, Jeremiah 30:7; this takes place after Israel is regathered into the land in a state of unbelief—the very thing we see today, Jeremiah 30:3), nothing falls apart, IT FALLS INTO PLACE. In all judgment, there is Providence, and in His righteous wrath, as indicated by the celestial rainbow, God remembers mercy toward His covenant people. All such judgment yields a consummate outcome of final blessing for the nation of Israel and for the New Testament Church, two entities that the Lord Himself has promised to preserve (cf. Malachi 3:6; Matthew 16:18).
Thus, we can take heart when things don’t turn out as we expect. The wheel within a wheel rolls to and fro without turning; and above it all is the Divine Hand of Providence. As one old commentator in an old, old book puts it (Most commentaries worth reading are dated 1960 or earlier . . . one man’s opinion):
When the tragedy of Jerusalem’s ruin came, Ezekiel was not to let his faith go to pieces, thinking that Jehovah, after all, had proved unable to preserve His own chosen city, that the reins had been snatched from His grasp, and that the gods of the heathen were mighty. He was to know that before ever the judgment fell it was foreknown and actually predetermined, that behind it was the operation of supernatural power, and that beyond it would be an outcome of final blessing (J. Sidlow Baxter).
The same can be said to us as we go about to serve the Lord is dark days, in these last days, for “we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness” (II Peter 3:13). Accept it, our neat little schedules and ministry plans will often fall apart under a wheel within a wheel. But, the throne and its celestial rainbow still sits above the firmament. We experienced this reality first-hand along our journey to Israel and back.
The road-tramping excursion to Nova Scotia and back was 4,202 miles (with 4 weeks in Israel sandwiched in between) and along a route in which we had hoped to find Israelis working kiosks in a slough of shopping malls, thereby distributing multiple copies of the Hebrew Scriptures as we have done in times past. Back in 2016, we combed 37 shopping malls between here and Alaska and had encounters with Israelis in 51% of those malls: 30 Tanakhim (Hebrew Old Testaments) and 20 Hebrew New Testaments went into the hands of lost sheep from the House of Israel. In 2017, to California and back, we combed 42 malls and had encounters in 55% of them: 30 Tanakhim, 23 Hebrew New Testaments went out. Last November, we hit up 16 malls in the Northeast and still had a 27% success rate, distributing 6 Tanakhim and 8 New Testaments. This time, we had an encounter in Winston-Salem, the very first place we stopped. It was a fruitful conversation, but the young man and the young woman refused to take copies of the Scriptures. After this, we combed 18 more malls in the United States and Canada and . . . NADA, not a single encounter. We were initially discouraged, but the wheel within a wheel can move forward in any direction without having to turn, and the LORD who sits above all always has His reasons. He calls us to obedience; the results are His. This is plainly spelled out in the Great Commission.
OUR REPSONSIBILITY: “Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15).
GOD’S PROBLEM: “He the believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:16).
Notwithstanding, there was a divine appointment in a New Hampshire Dunkin’ Donuts where a young man gladly received an English Bible. Also, we met a Jewish woman from Central Vermont who is searching and received a Hebrew-English Tanakh AND a New Testament. Just the other day, she sent this message: “I just want you to know how much I appreciate you giving me those Bibles. It was really generous, and you have no idea what they mean to me.” Please pray for this daughter of Abraham.
Moreover, the Lord put a Jewish believer into our path who helps pastor a small home church in Vermont. He and his family opened their home to us on the way up and along the return trip. We enjoyed some great fellowship; we were able to encourage the church body in some areas; and because he himself has Jewish contacts, we were able to leave him with a couple cases of Hebrew Bibles. The Lord also had us stop to encourage a couple of Christian brothers who are going through some very difficult times. Please pray for these. There really was some good fellowship with believing families along the way, edifying worship with local bodies of Christ, and opportunities to crumb with tracts and share the Gospel amongst the Gentiles. It was also a blessing to have my teenage daughter fly up to Halifax and make the return trip with me and Eric. We shared good times camping, hiking, and sowing seeds.
Not long after arriving in Israel, Eric and I went into a shopping mall to find a strong coffee before making a wearisome drive to Netanya in afternoon traffic. At the entrance, I quipped: “Maybe we can finally find some Israelis in one of these shopping malls.” Of course, it wasn’t a problem. And over there, something as simple as a Hebrew New Testament sitting out on your table can be a powerful witness and provoke curiosity.
Over 33 days on the ground in Israel, we drove 2,911 miles (a lot in such a small country) and hiked 142 miles. Scarcely a day went by when we weren’t able to put a copy of the Hebrew Scriptures into someone’s hands. Our primary purpose for flying in and out of Nova Scotia to get to Israel was mall distributions. It didn’t pan out that way. Out primary purpose for going to Israel was to reconnect with Israeli backpackers we had encountered on the trails in South Asia and South America in 2018. That certainly DID pan out, along with much more. It seemed “as it were a wheel in the middle of a wheel” (Ezekiel 1:16). I look forward to sharing some stories and insight through a series of short posts over the coming weeks.
In the meantime, things will not slow down, and we truly appreciate your continued prayers. My family and the Trents will be traveling to South Dakota in a couple of weeks to participate in the marriage of two former Team Yeshua members. Perhaps there will be some mall encounters along the way.
We are also moving forward with Team Yeshua 2019. As with the malls, things haven’t panned out as I had anticipated, but God is sovereign. We have three volunteers committed (all teenagers) for the summer, and they will be arriving in North Carolina for orientation on June 8th. My family and I are leaving for Peru around June 1st to finalize team housing and other details before Eric Trent brings Team Yeshua to Huaraz on June 15th. The team makeup is younger than what we have been accustomed to in times past, but we are excited to see what the Lord does this new Israeli backpacker season. Team Yeshua will be in Peru until August 15th, while my family and I will remain in Huaraz until some time in October. There are still spaces open on this volunteer team. It would be ideal to have at least two more. Term of service is June 8 - August 18, and we can still accommodate last-minute inquiries. If you know any young people (preferably over 18) who would be willing to sacrifice a summer for the Lord and learn more about Jewish outreach, please have them contact us ASAP.
Please pray for the Trents, as their baby is due in mid-August. Eric will be helping us in Peru until mid-July at which time he will return to be with his wife. Sometime after the baby is born, Lord willing, they will be heading back to South Asia for the Israeli backpacker seasons there.
As always, please pray for boldness and God’s provision as we labor to fulfill our calling and put God’s Word into the hands and hearts of those who do not have it, to the Jewish people first, and also to the Gentile nations.
As mentioned, we connected in Israel with not a few we encountered in Peru, India, or Nepal in 2018. It makes us excited to think about who we might meet this summer high up in the Andes.
I often wonder what happens to the New Testaments we put into the hands of Israeli backpackers who usually have many more miles to travel after meeting us and before returning to Israel. When reconnecting with some of these in Israel, I found myself almost not wanting to ask. But over good coffee in a smoky Tel Aviv cafe, I was greatly encouraged when I did ask two young men we met almost a year ago way down in Argentina: “Do you guys still have those New Testaments we gave to you in Argentina?” One of them replied, “Are you kidding? We would never get rid of those things.” We talked for what seemed like hours that day. Toward the end, one of their friends rode up on a bicycle and joined us. I was able to reason with him a bit about righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, and in the end, he gladly received a Hebrew New Testament.
I’ll leave you for now with one final story from the road, one of the more memorable encounters. I had left a few handwritten Hebrew signs up in Huaraz, Peru when we left there last August. I was curious to see if they stayed up or if we would continue to get messages from curious Israeli travelers. Into September, October, and November, I did receive a few messages, and I just used the opportunities to communicate biblical truth, invite folks to my home in North Carolina, and transmit electronically one of our Hebrew Gospel tracts. Then, it went quiet until January. A young man was traveling alone and wanted to come over to our house for a Shabbat dinner. Obviously, we weren’t in Peru and couldn’t accommodate him, so I apologized. Long story short, this young man eventually made it back to Israel, and Eric and I were able to track him down. I messaged him: “Look, I wasn’t able to make you dinner down in Peru, so can we take you out for some good hummus here in Israel?” We met up in a Tel Aviv suburb, enjoyed some hummus with meat, and explained to him why we care about the people of Israel and why we cherish the Holy Scriptures that were given by God to the world through the Jewish people. In the end, he hugged our necks and gladly received a copy of those Scriptures for himself. Please pray for this young man, and praise God I didn’t decide to take down those signs! It was “as it were a wheel in the middle of a wheel” (Ezekiel 1:16).
Stay tuned for more reflection from this very fruitful journey . . .
Jesse Boyd, Zerayim Colportage Board