Happy Sunday! 🙂
I hope you have all had a blessed week and have experienced the love and peace of God.
I feel God has placed this desire in my heart to write about the seven churches in the book of Revelation, and it is my prayer that the Holy Spirit will inspire me to address them all. They are a series of seven letters written by Jesus to the seven churches in Asia Minor (Present Day—Turkey)
I will start with the letter to Pergamum because this was a message that really connected with me.
The Letter by Christ to the Church in Pergamum according to Revelation 2
12 And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write; These things saith He which hath the sharp sword with two edges;
13 I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan‘s seat is: and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth.
14 But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication.
15 So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes, which thing I hate.
16 Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.
17 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.
Who was Balaam?
The summarized story
When the children of Israel had been led by God out of Egypt, they came to settle in the plains of Moab. The fame of the Israelites had been heard throughout the lands because of what God had wrought through them, and how he had delivered them out of Egypt with a mighty hand.
As they journeyed to their promised land, they also defeated the Amorites and the people of Bashan who were the neighbours to the Moabites.
When Balac, the King of the Moabites heard that the children of Israel had settled in the plains of Moab, he was afraid. He sent messengers to a man named Balaam. He desired Balaam to curse the children of Israel.
Come now therefore, I pray thee, curse me this people; for they are too mighty for me: peradventure I shall prevail, that we may smite them, and that I may drive them out of the land: for I wot that he whom thou blessest is blessed, and he whom thou cursest is cursed. Numbers 22:6
When the messengers delivered the message. Balaam waited on God’s counsel and God told Him not to curse the children of Israel for they are His blessed people.
And so he did. And when the messengers went back to deliver the message, Balac sent back other messengers more honorable than the first, pressing him to come to him, offering a bribe so that he would curse the children of Israel.
Balaam enquired of the Lord on this. God told Him that if the messengers came to Him, he should go with them and He would give him the words to speak.
But Balaam went to Balac instead of waiting as God instructed him. God was angry with him. On His way, God sent an angel to kill him, but his donkey saved him. Then God revealed to Balaam his intention to kill him, were it not for the donkey saving him. And Balaam repented.
God instructed him that he should pronounce a blessing over the people of Israel before Balac. Balaam did as God told Him to do. However, Balac tried to bribe him again so as to go against the Word of God and to curse the people instead.
For I will promote thee unto very great honour, and I will do whatsoever thou sayest unto me: come therefore, I pray thee, curse me this people. Numbers 22:17
Balaam enquired of the Lord again on this, but the Lord told him to bless the people of Israel. Balac kept pressuring him with the same compromise and he kept enquiring of the Lord, but God kept telling him the same thing. With an affirmation God told Him,
And Balaam did as God instructed.
Later in Numbers 31 we find Moses displeased with the actions of the captains and leaders of Israel who were sent to war against the Midianites because they brought back some of the midianite women and children who were to be slain.
15 And Moses said unto them, Have ye saved all the women alive?
16 Behold, these caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to commit trespass against the LORD in the matter of Peor, and there was a plague among the congregation of the LORD.
Why is Balaam faulted by others in scripture? Including Jesus?
I believe Balaam had an issue with compromise which He never truly repented of. Though he was able to deliver the message God had instructed him to speak, everytime Balac offered him honor and promotion, he kept going back to God to see if God would change His mind perhaps for the goodies offered by Balac.
I believe as well Balaam’s fault was not His weakness or the fact that He had to go back to keep enquiring of God. His fault was that he did not take his weaknesses to God.
Now, back to the church in Pergamum, the church had held fast to the name of Jesus. Jesus commended them for this, He recognized that the very throne of Satan was present where they lived. He also reminded them about how much they had held on to Him even in the days where one of His faithful servant, called Antipas, was killed for his faith.
However, Jesus notes that the church had among them those who like Balaam, were not firm in faith and this would have eventually infected the whole church and caused them to stumble and fall away from their faith. Note, He says, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication.
Reading through the chapter of Revelation 17, we find a woman termed as the ‘great whore’ accused of committing fornication with people who did not know God.
I have always found the use of the term fornication by God an interesting one, when addressing the falling away of His people from Him. Fornication is the act of having sexual relations outside marriage. And the church has always been the bride of Christ, betrothed and set apart to be married.
And as we all know, fornication is always the beginning of the end of any engagement. For if one hast enjoined himself with various persons, they become one with them. And this was happening to the Church in Pergamum.
Pergamum was a city that was filled with pagan worship. There were temples built within the city for the worship of the greek gods.
Image Credit: Turkey Destinations
The church of Pergamum, like Balaam, had held fast the name of Jesus, but it was becoming more and more hard for them to live out their Christian faith in the city.
Within the church, were those who were not entirely rooted in Jesus. There were those who desired earthly pleasures more than their faith, their hearts were inclined to be joined with unbelievers and this would eventually lead them to compromise their faith in Christ.
Being a Christian in Pergamum, placed you in a position of spectacle. Following Jesus meant to give up a lot, including attending social gatherings as they were filled with lascivious practices because the whole city was filled with pagan worship. This caused them to be a secluded people and some of them, were not able to stand firm in faith because to fit in, meant they had to compromise.
This message is extremely relevant today just as it was in the time Jesus addressed the church of Pergamum. For we live in a time where we have so many distractions and seductions in the world. The idol worship may not necessarily be that of zeus or aphrodite but it has become more and more inconspicuous.
It is a powerful message because it speaks to us about holding fast in faith and standing firm in the Lord despite the pressures to compromise. For the pressures of life will not always be there, be it peer pressure, the pressures at work or the pressures faced in our daily circumstances. But the Word of God which is eternal will always be there, it will never pass away. Note, at the beginning of the letter Jesus introduces Himself as, the sharp sword with two edges.
His Word was the authority and not the doctrines introduced in the church.
The reason I also noted this message as a personal one is because, I thought a compromise was something monumental in faith. But not so, a compromise starts with the little things.
That thing we know we ought to do but fail to do it because something else has come up, or that thing we know we ought not to do but convince ourselves it is harmless since we have confidence in the strength of our faith, for it to affect us.
Though they seem harmless, it is wise to note that it is possible for a small fire to burn down an entire city. Compromises brought down Solomon even in the might of his wisdom which He had received from God.
I notice Balaam was not faulted for his weakness but what he did as a result of His weakness. God never judges our weaknesses. In fact, He desires we take our weaknesses to Him so that through them, He may be glorified.
Even despite the errors noted in the church of Pergamum, I love that Jesus never left it without hope. And at times we get discouraged when God reproves and rebukes us. However, it takes spiritual maturity to understand that a parent who rebukes never does it out of malice or anger, but out of love.
5 And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him:
6 For whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth.
7 If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?
8 But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.
9 Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?
10 For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but He for our profit, that we might be partakers of His holiness.
11 Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.
12 Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees;
13 And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed.
To end this letter,
Jesus promises them that overcome, will He give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knows saving he that receives it.
It is interesting Jesus relates one of His promises to the food God provided for the Israelites in the wilderness. Where there was no food or water, God Himself provided. And Jesus says, “He will give to eat the hidden manna.” He will provide whatever is necessary in the wilderness experiences, in the dry and parched times of life and even under pressures. He promises that we should trust in His provision and not be moved.
I believe this promise too, extends further into eternal life.
And God has vowed that He will never abandon nor shame them that hope in Him.
Wishing you all a blessed Sunday as we meditate on the areas of weakness that we haven’t given God to work on.
May all your hearts rest in the peace of Jesus Christ.
Featured Image Credit : Turkey Destinations