“Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches. To everyone who is victorious I will give some of the manna that has been hidden away in heaven. And I will give to each one a white stone, and on the stone will be engraved a new name that no one understands except the one who receives it.”
Revelation 2:17 NLT
Jesus finishes His message to the Pergamum church with the non-negotiable instruction that we “must listen to the Spirit”. Looking at the converse, that means the Pergamums, at times, failed to listen to what God was saying to them. The same applies to modern churchgoers today, I’m sure. And because we don’t hear Him, we are unable to follow His instructions. I always think of God’s faithful servant in Damascus, Ananias. He heard the gentle whisper of the Holy Spirit and listened to what God was saying about a man called Saul, who had been blinded by an encounter with Jesus on the Damascus Road. Ananias had an always-on connection with God. He was ready to listen to the Holy Spirit and was able to discern what He was saying, to the extent that he was confident enough to put into practice what to some would have been a very unpopular request.
To the pilgrim today we should carefully note the sequence. Firstly, we must have “ears to hear”. This means we must have a connection with God, with spiritual ears trained and ready to hear when God speaks. Secondly, we must “listen to the Spirit”. It is not enough to hear Him when He speaks. We must “listen”. This means we must concentrate on what God is saying, making sure we are hearing right. How many times has my wife spoken to me only to find I haven’t been listening? Confession time? Thirdly, having heard, having listened, we must make sure we “understand what He is saying”. This means we must convert what we hear into the thoughts and actions that God intends.
Moving on, we have a reference to “manna”. Manna was the food supplied by God to sustain the Israelite nation during their journey between Egypt and the promised land. We can read all about it in Exodus 16. The name “manna” is a Hebrew word meaning “What is it?”. But, as a food, it was unique and amazing. It was a miracle food containing all the nutrients required by a human being. And the miraculous extended to the way it was supplied. Just enough. Just for the day ahead. Much too can be written about the spiritual meaning of manna, the bread from Heaven. Jesus said that the victorious would have access to manna. The victorious are those who have overcome sin, who have stayed the course, who have reached their Heavenly goal. And, to me, the manna hidden away for the victorious in Heaven will have all that is needed for a life in God’s presence.
Something else awaiting the victorious in Heaven is a white stone. Apparently, in the culture of the time, white stones were used as a sort of ID, or calling card. But more than that, the white stones had a relational significance, of friendship and commitment. And to me, quite simply, Jesus was saying that He was giving us each a token of His love, but in a very special way. You see, He will give each one of us a special name that only we know. And notice that our unique names will be engraved on the stone. Not just written with a pen, with ink that will wash or wear off in time. Engraved means that it will be there for eternity.
Sometimes, married couples or others in close friendships will have an intimate name they use for each other. But how much more amazing to have our own individual relationships with Jesus. Relationships so special that each one of us uniquely and individually has their own new name. Bringing it home to me personally, I try and imagine what it must be like to hear Jesus calling my new name. A name only Him and I know. With a love so deep that it can’t be measured. With His presence so close that He is touching me. What else can I do than fall on my knees before Him in gratitude?
Dear Lord Jesus. With a deeply grateful heart I worship You today. The wonderful God who came to this world to show me the way into Your presence. Into a life of intimacy with You. Thank You. Amen.