Ephraim (or Israel) is like a dove,
silly and without sense,
calling to Egypt, going to Assyria.
As they go, I will spread over them my net;
I will bring them down like birds of the heavens;
I will discipline them according to the report made to their congregation.
Woe to them, for they have strayed from me!
Destruction to them, for they have rebelled against me!
I would redeem them,
but they speak lies against me (Hosea 7:11-14).
From the first sin committed in the garden, God has always given His people the opportunity to repent. God is our Father, and he longs for our repentance – not just our initial turning to Him in salvation, but an ongoing, returning and surrendering before Him.
Israel did not respond to God’s patient kindness, so He disciplined the nation in the form of a foreign invader. Why? To bring about repentance!
God’s desire for repentance is at the center of the book of Revelation.
In today’s reading, Jesus begins his letters to the seven churches. Even though Jesus’ words were addressed to a specific church, we must not fool ourselves into thinking His words were not for us…for He ended each letter with the same exhortation, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches,” teaching us that His words were meant for all churches in all times.
Jesus’ words to the churches were encouraging because he shared details which revealed he was intimately acquainted with their strengths and weaknesses. He knew them. But we should be sobered by his warnings – especially to Ephesus and Pergamum. Both churches were warned to repent of their accommodation with the world. We as the modern church must strive against the waves of our culture that threaten to dilute the call to repentance, faith and holiness! Jesus warned that our churches would die in the wake of compromise.
Another sobering truth that we glean from Jesus’ letters is the extreme suffering each church was undergoing, not the least of which was in Smyrna. Jesus says to them that “for 10 days you shall have tribulation” (2:10). Like most numerical references in Revelation, this number is figurative and teaches that the time of tribulation has a set time – it is limited. Many of the Christians in Smyrna would be put to death for their faith, but Jesus promised them the “crown of life” and ironically, even though they would endure the “first death,” they would not face “the second death” or the final judgment for those who die outside of Christ (2:11).
Most encouraging is the promise given to each church who “conquers” or “overcomes.” The promise is different for each church – but applicable to every one who perseveres and overcomes the temptations and suffering in this world.
Are you one who “overcomes”? Are you willing to sacrifice the wealth and riches of this world to gain the riches of God’s eternal Kingdom? Are you willing to walk through the narrow gate of repentance to “eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God” (Rev. 2:7)?
May we be among those who conquer life’s trials and persevere in faith to enter into the presence of our KING!