The Church in Thyatira
The message to the church in Thyatira in Revelation 2 ought to cause us to shudder in fear as well as to inspire obedience to the Lord alone. This is what the church needs to know–to be obedient to the Lord to the exclusion of all else, especially to the ways of the Roman and Greek religions.
And in order to understand the message, we have to remember what took place in 1 Kings 16 and 18. In 873 BC or BCE (or thereabouts), King Ahab ascended to the throne of Israel. And 1 Kings 16:30 and 16:33, we learn that King Ahab did more that was evil in the eyes of the Lord than any king that had come before him. He did more to provoke the anger of the Lord than all the kings who had come before him. And the primary reason that this happened is because he introduced the worship of Baal to the people of Israel. He had broken one of the ten commandments. He led the people into having more than the Lord alone as their God.
In chapter 18, we read that Ahab’s queen, Jezebel, has begun killing off the prophets of the Lord. In the following scenes, a dramatic event unfolds where the prophets of Baal and the prophets of the Lord (mainly Elijah) have a showdown to determine who the true God really is. And as the chapter comes to a close, we do find out definitively that it is the God of Elijah and the God of Israel, not Baal, who is God.
And so, when we get to the book of Revelation and read about the church in Thyatira, John wants to make it very clear that there is no other God beside the God of Israel, and the God who we meet in Jesus. Anyone who preaches a different god is simply preaching about idols. And so John lets this church know exactly what will happen to anyone who refuses to repent from their idolatry. They will experience great distress, and the result of their actions will be death.
But, John also knows and tells this church that those who do not pay attention to this teaching and deception, but those who choose to worship God alone will receive their authority from God. They will be able to stand where others end up falling. Because their faith is in the God who is able to make them stand before his glorious throne, without shame or blemish. They will be vindicated.
As we read about this church in Thyatira, there is a very obvious lesson to be learned: worship God alone. This is one of the first commands that God ever gives to his people, and it holds true throughout the centuries, generation after generation. While the lesson is obvious, the ramifications are much more difficult to grapple with. Because if we are going to worship God alone, it means that we have to give up a lot that clamors for our worship. We must learn how to put those things into their proper place rather than in a special place. Our own ego, our desires, our need for attention–all of these must be rooted out of our lives and placed into an appropriate context for a follower of Jesus. Even good things: family, work, commitments, marriage, national pride, etc. must all be rooted out of a place of privilege in our hearts and be ordered correctly so that we can worship God alone.
You see, this is much easier said than done, and it is very likely that as soon as we think we have done it, we learn that we have a long way to go. Something will always be seeking our hearts. Multiple somethings will be seeking our hearts. But our worship belongs to God alone. And so, this week, it is my hope that you will do the introspection and examination necessary to see what has a place in your heart. What is clamoring to be worshipped in your life? And once you recognize it, then we must begin the work of reordering it so that we can say that we truly worship God alone.