*a little poem inspired during my silent retreat last weekend
Hosea 11:1-12; Matthew 2:13-15
“When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son. The more they were called, the more they went away; they kept sacrificing to the Baals and burning offerings to idols. Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk; I took them up by their arms, but they did not know that I healed them.” – Hosea 11:1-3
“Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.’ And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt and remained there until the death of Herod.This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet,’Out of Egypt I called my son.'” – Matthew 2:13-15
there were two sons. both were loved by the Father and both became refugees to escape death as children. one would go back so the other wouldn’t have to.
one was rescued from Egypt to Israel but did not recognize his Faithful Father who had delivered him and continually loved him. another was rescued from Israel to Egypt, recognized His Faithful Father who delivered him and continually loved him. the son that continually walks away from God the Father is us, especially those who have already met the Father. the Son whose heart is one with the Father is Jesus. Our Father, out of love, sent His Faithful Son to rescue his unfaithful sons.
in what ways has He delivered us, in what ways has He been our refuge, and in what way has He faithfully loved us…even when we haven’t?
thank you Lord that you are our eternal refuge.
12“To the angel of the church in Pergamum write:
These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword. 13I know where you live—where Satan has his throne. Yet you remain true to my name. You did not renounce your faith in me, even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was put to death in your city—where Satan lives. 14Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: You have people there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin by eating food sacrificed to idols and by committing sexual immorality. 15Likewise you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. 16Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth. 17He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it.
WHAT DOES THIS PASSAGE TELL US ABOUT JESUS?
v. 12 “him who has the sharp double edged sword”
the sword represents judgment in the Old Testament. if you consider Hebrews 4:12-13 specifically, the double edged sword is the word of God (that makes sense as earlier in revelations a sword is pictured as coming out of Jesus’ mouth) that can judge heart. Either way its related to judgment, which Jesus has the authority, right, and power to administer.
*we like to think of the bible in the words it gives us of comfort but we must not forget that the words of the bible also serve to judge. God made us so He of all people, has the right to judge us. We (I) need to let His word do the work of examining and cutting our hearts, and not be so casual or flippant about it. I got to really hear it and let it sink deep in me or there will be hell to pay.
WHAT IS GOING RIGHT WITH THIS CHURCH?
In the midst of a very worldly city, the church in Pergamum (which interestingly means “thoroughly married”) still holds on to Christ. They still go to church. They have not denied him even in the face of persecution and danger.
*its crazy that Jesus says that this church is in the city where he says Satan’s throne is. that satan feels at home in this city. its where he rules. imagine that: the city where you live is where satan lives. to hold onto ones faith in such a place is hard but good.
WHAT IS GOING WRONG WITH THIS CHURCH? WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?
The church may be true to Christ, but there are people that hold on to false teachings and evil practices. As a whole they may hold to Christ but are trying to hold on to other things too that are not of him. they are mixing. they have other loves and lovers.
* its interesting and scary to me that Satan has his “throne” in a place that is not completely pagan. it’s a city where he also has crept into the church. his influence is everywhere, and even undetected where he most should be. Has Satan’s influence crept into our churches, our lives without us being aware of it?
Both sins Jesus addresses (food sacrificed to idols and sexual immorality) are sins of mixing and have to do with not being solely faithful to God. holding onto him and another is actually not really holding onto him (we cant wholeheartedly serve two masters).
– Eating food sacrificed to idols – although Paul in 1 Corinthians 8 essentially doesn’t have a problem with it per se, this seems to be a people who still somehow associated it with worship of other things. So they were in essence participating in pagan worship of false gods.
– Sexual immorality – the greek word for this word is porneo. the more equivalent word for it in our English language is fornication which means any sex outside the covenant of marriage. this covers a whole host of sexual behaviors, not just what society considers “deviant” sexual behavior. it means having sex with anyone / anything you are not married to. So this would cover pre-marital sex too. people do it all the time in this day and age and Christians are not exempt. in this area for sure the church isn’t blameless. this sexual immorality could be physical unfaithfulness as well as spiritual unfaithfulness (especially from the context of worship of idols, giving our love to other things)
*physical unfaithfulness – by the grace of God I haven’t physically been unfaithful. However, that doesn’t mean im off the hook. Jesus says just looking at anyone lustfully, that im not married to, is the same as unfaithfulness…its in the heart. im guilty. to be honest, i struggle with this more than I’d like to admit. more than even my slothfulness, this is what i hate most about myself. i adore my wife, but sometimes my eyes and mind wander. why is faithfulness so hard for me? for guys? for humankind? the divorce rates loom over our heads, like a fearful echo of a deeper flaw. i’ve told my wife my problem. it hurts her. obviously. when i see my wife shed these tears it feels like my chest is caving in. she’s my best human friend and my lover. but even more than that, it hurts God (see Hosea). i expect and take for granted that God is faithful to me. why do I forget this so quickly? why do I not value faithfulness like Joseph, who loved God so deeply and recognized his goodness so profoundly that it was unthinkable for him to go against God? i have a problem and i want to change. one thing i know for sure is that i can’t just make my desires go away; i must fill my heart with a greater person on which to pour my desires…God…the greatest, highest, worthiest that I could give my heart to and indeed the source of all beauty. God fill my heart up with you, so much that I would want nothing else but you and what you give.
*spiritual unfaithfulness – In what ways am I mixing up my faith? I may say I am Christian but in what ways am I compromising my faith and what He treasures by participating in the impure ways of the world? Now we know he wants us in the world but what does it mean to not be of it? as we live in a secular society under a secular government we ought to be good citizens (as God expects us to submit to the governing powers he has put in place to the extent that they do not contradict His law, as well as examples like in Jeremiah 29 where believers live in a pagan society God directs them to seek the shalom (peace) and prosperity of the city). This does not mean however that we participate in everything. So what activities/practices/teachings of the world should we abstain from then? from what the world adores instead of God. or more specifically, from what draws our hearts away from adoring loving Him. why is that i can get more excited about a movie then spending time with him? why is that people at church are totally down to hang out and talk but once it’s a prayer meeting people split like the plague has come? are we more about what the world values or about what he values? Do I love him most? What else may I, and as church, be giving my (our) hearts too?
WHAT WILL HAPPEN IF THINGS DON’T CHANGE?
He will come to us in judgement. We ought to cut off whatever is drawing us away from him, or he will cut it off…or worse we will have been cut off without knowing it.
WHAT WILL HAPPEN FOR THOSE WHO DO CHANGE?
(All of the following interpretations have been found in Fruchtenbaums commentary)
they will recieve:
Hidden manna can mean
– messianic reference (keener), true spiritual sustenance without labor
– Christ himself, the true bread from heaven
The White stone can mean
– symbol of acquittal, not guilty in ancient courtrooms (keener)
– membership into a private place in the roman world (mcarthur)
the New name can mean
– transformed identity
those who are truly faithful to him will receive all the special benefits of intimacy with Him, the one they have loved most.
To the Church in Smyrna
8“To the angel of the church in Smyrna write:
These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again. 9I know your afflictions and your poverty—yet you are rich! I know the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. 10Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life. 11He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death.
WHAT DOES THIS PASSAGE TELL US ABOUT JESUS?
v. 8 – He is the First and the Last. This title was used of God in the OT (Isaiah 44:6, 48:12, 41:4) equating Jesus with God. the First and Last of what? Of everything. He is the first word as well as the last word on all things. He is the creator and the completer.
*Do I live with Christ as the First and the Last of all things in my life? Of me? Too often I think of him as on the side of my world and I forget I am just an agent in His world. It is so comforting when I relinquish myself to recognize that whatever situation I find myself in, He is the first and the last word on the matter.
v. 8 – he died and came to life again.
Christ is the only one who rose himself from the dead. He is the only one who actually defeated death, so that those who trust in him might also be raised.
*I can entrust my future, my life, into his hands as I fully embrace that he can carry me beyond death. His resurrection proved that He was telling the truth, that he has authority even over death.
WHAT IS GOING RIGHT WITH THIS CHURCH?
In all accounts, from the world’s perspective, this church is in the pits…it is in a totally undesirable situation: afflicted, slandered, poor, and persecuted to the point of death. Yet THIS is the church for which Jesus has no criticism. This is the church that Jesus considers rich. They are true to Jesus. In the midst of the most terrible suffering, they have shown how loyal they are to Jesus. Indeed is this possibly how they have been so refined?
*this total upside down value system of God just continues to blow my mind. I still don’t think we get it. I don’t get it. I don’t like being uncomfortable. I don’t like to be slandered…and this for doing right. It infuriates my sense of justice. It sucks to be poor. As for persecution…what do I even know about real persecution? Now I don’t think that Jesus is saying that these things are good in it of themselves, yet these things have a way of really showing our true colors…what we really hold on to. I think in this way the Smyrnans are rich. They know where true life comes from, they don’t have any delusional/false securities. When grapes are crushed, sweet juice is revealed. When jars of clay are crushed, the treasure inside is revealed. When we are crushed what will come out? This reminds me of the story of how James, the brother of the writer of this revelation, died. The very person that was responsible for bringing James to the authorities to be killed, was so moved by James’ faith, he asked for James forgiveness and they were beheaded together. God help me to be true to you, to hold onto to YOU in the midst of suffering.
WHAT WILL HAPPEN IF THEY CONTINUE?
He sees their suffering but does he promise that suffering will relent for their faithfulness? No, in fact he tells them that even more suffering will come. However, even if they die, they will have shown their true faith and would receive “the crown of life.” By going faithfully toward death they are actually going toward true life. By facing the hurt in this life, they will not be hurt at all by the second death.
*I need a transformation of my paradigm…by dying to myself now I can have real life. By holding onto my security now more than Christ, I will be letting go of eternal security (Luke 9:23-27).