Clouds Parting Revealing the Heavens

A daily devotion for July 11th

A Church in Trouble

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. I know your afflictions and your poverty — yet you are rich! I know about the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.

Rev 2:8-9

This is a church in trouble. The name Smyrna means myrrh. It is a fitting name because myrrh is a perfume, the fragrance of which is released by crushing. Here was a church being crushed through persecution. It was tough to be a Christian in Smyrna because they had to live constantly between two extremes. There was within the church a rich and loving fellowship, which must have greatly warmed their hearts and strengthened their faith, but outside they faced continuous cruel and persistent hostility. The Christians of Smyrna lived within these two extremes.

But notice how the Lord reveals himself to them. He says, I am the First and the Last. I am the one who died and who lives. Those are extremes: first and last; death and life. Jesus presents himself as the Lord of the extremes. He encompasses all the forces and events between these two extremes. It must have been a great encouragement to the Christians at Smyrna to receive this word from their Lord.

There is an ascending scale of troubles harassing the church. The first thing the Lord says is, I know your afflictions. The Greek word means distresses. It is a picture of crushing, unending pressure upon them. Every day they were hounded and harassed on every side. They were humiliated and attacked without mercy.

The second thing Jesus says is, I know your poverty. We do not know what made them poor. Smyrna was a prosperous city, but it may have been that this poverty was caused by the persecutions they were experiencing. Their homes perhaps had been pillaged, their possessions taken away. Yet the Lord says their fellowship within the congregation and their families was rich indeed.

I well recall during the Great Depression, when I was in high school, that we did not have much to eat. We had no luxuries. We could not afford to buy anything but the most basics; even clothing came with great difficulty. But we had a wonderful time together. We did not have television; we had radio, but where I lived radios were battery operated and used sparingly. Yet we had a wonderfully rich time, because we enjoyed each other. We learned again the simple joys of family fellowship.

Thirdly, Jesus says, I know the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. There was a smear campaign going on against these Christians. Since the Christians talked about eating and drinking the body and blood of Christ, they were accused of being cannibals. Also, because they refused to visit the pagan temples, they were called atheists. This slander is what produced much of the persecution of the early Christians. It came, we are told here, from false Jews. These were physical descendants of Abraham and they had a synagogue there in Smyrna, but they persecuted these believers, proving they did not have the faith of Abraham.

Thank you, Lord, that you know. You know all that I going through and you provide a richness even in the midst of my afflictions. Amen.

Life Application

In the midst of your afflictions, what are the ways you see the richness of the Lord’s provision?

This Daily Devotion was Inspired by one of Ray's Messages

Smyrna and Pergamum -- The Pressured Church

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