“I know all the things you do, and I have opened a door for you that no one can close. You have little strength, yet you obeyed My word and did not deny Me. Look, I will force those who belong to Satan’s synagogue—those liars who say they are Jews but are not—to come and bow down at your feet. They will acknowledge that you are the ones I love.”
Revelation 3:8-9 NLT
Encouragement and love. Jesus’ message to the Philadelphians couldn’t have been better. And there is that door again. Jesus is holding it open for them and we know from the previous verse that only He has the key to this door. “You have little strength” conjures up a picture of a small group of inoffensive but determined Christians. Physically they lacked the ability to defend themselves. They probably lacked influence in their society. A number of them may have been slaves. The reference to “Satan’s synagogue” indicated that they were perhaps suffering persecution. But in all of this they stood firm in their faith. Staying obedient to God’s Word. And always declaring His Lordship in their lives. What an example. And Jesus said He would vindicate them, by forcing the false Jews to bow down to them, acknowledging that the Philadelphians were the ones that Jesus loved.
There are several examples of “little strength” in the Bible. I’m reminded of Jeremiah, who stood up against the religious leaders of his day, pointing out their corruption and apostasy, receiving threats and even direct action in return. We read in Jeremiah 20 how he was whipped and put in stocks, because of his faith. He had “little strength” but persevered in faith. And there is that wonderful chapter in Hebrews about the faithful, those with “little strength”, who suffered greatly in the face of persecution. In 1 Corinthians 1:27 we read, “But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong”. The Philadelphians knew by faith that with God on their side, they were invincible, even though they had “little strength”.
Jesus had strong words for the local Jewish synagogue. A place of worship and connection with God instead appeared to be populated by Jews who were worshipping someone else. How did that come about? Jesus Himself encountered people in synagogues who were so fixed in their ideas that they were unable to accept a visitation from God Himself. We read in Mark 3:5-6, “He looked around at them angrily and was deeply saddened by their hard hearts. Then he said to the man, “Hold out your hand.” So the man held out his hand, and it was restored! At once the Pharisees went away and met with the supporters of Herod to plot how to kill Jesus”. A synagogue containing leaders who were so hardened in their hearts that they wanted Jesus to be killed for breaking their sabbath laws. Sadly, I know churches today that would be unable to accommodate a Jesus in their midst. Upsetting their liturgies. Disturbing the furniture. Challenging the status quo.
For the pilgrim today, God knows that we have “little strength”. But all He asks of us is that we are obedient to Him and His Word, and that we don’t deny Him in the face of difficult situations. Thankfully, in our Western societies we don’t suffer the physical persecution experienced by our bothers and sisters in places like Afghanistan or North Korea, but we can still come up against others hostile to our faith. There are always some who ridicule us in our workplaces, schools and universities. And, sad to say, even in our churches. But God sees the big picture and He knows our hearts and one day we will hear those wonderful words, “Well done, My good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:23).
Dear Lord Jesus. We thank You for Your encouragement. We thank You for standing with us when the going gets tough. And we thank You for equipping us with Your Heavenly resources, day by day. Amen.