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A Martyr's Sheet Music. 518. Mar 3, 2024.

KEY SCRIPTURE: Revelation 2:8-11

8 And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive;

9 I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan.

10 Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.

11 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.


Of the letters to the seven churches in Revelation, this is the shortest. It consists of four verses only; 128 words in all. Not really much of a letter. Yet, what can you say to a church full of poverty-stricken people facing tribulation, imprisonment or death?

 As with the Prayer of Jabez (1 Chron 4:9-10), where very little is written but much is understood, our four key verses speak volumes about the congregants of the Church of Smyrna and their love for their Saviour.

Last Wednesday, I attended a magical evening at the Sydney Myer Music Bowl.  The MSO Sydney Myer Trust has held free concerts three or four times a year starring the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra for decades. Approximately 10,000 people ignored the 35-degree sweltering heat to enjoy the Summer Serenade of Beethoven, Tchaikovsky and Rossini.

The MSO was magnificent. As a special surprise, Lady Marigold Southey, Sydney Myer's daughter and former Lieutenant-Governor of Victoria, handed down the baton to a younger Myer family member to ensure the tradition of free concerts continues. After all, Lady Southey is now 95 years old. The point of mentioning symphonies has much to do with the church at Smyrna and with believers now.

Christians play to the music of the Holy Spirit and not the tunes of worldly beliefs. Conducting our lives in the Lord's Orchestra and according to His sheet music is both beautiful and hazardous. The world prefers and often demands we change our behaviour and worship their gods. Yet, our Maestro is eternal, and we follow his baton.   

Smyrna, like Ephesus but much older, was a beautiful harbour town visited by merchants and travellers alike. At the time of the Smyrna letter, Rome, the oppressor of the day (how wonderful when the world's oppressors finally come to an end) was steeped in a Caesar-cult or Emporer-cult, where rulers and often their families were worshipped as gods.

Many countries and religions have/had similar doctrines—Japan, China, Ancient Egypt, etc, and numerous other ancient kingdoms. Most, if not all, were attached to sun worship, fertility and war, and with a short fuse for  Christianity. Think China today or Russia under Stalin, where worshippers would share pages of a Bible between many houses, hiding them in house woodwork or brickwork for fear of torture, prison or death. This seems to be the environment at Smyrna.

John's letters arrived because the seven churches had not all been playing to the Lord's music sheet. If they were orchestra players, there were no harmonious symphonies of offerings and praise as expected of the Holy Spirit, just unlistenable spiritual distortion.

Fortunately, Smyrna was one of the churches that played true. They disregarded the worship tunes of the worldly locals, with their twisted customs and laws that favoured idolatry and licentious behaviour. They also did not consider compromise. That is, mingling their God-given Holy Spirit with other spirits to appease the ungodly regime and escape persecution. For that, they faced brutal penalties similarly dispensed in many current countries today against Christians.

The Smyrna congregation was caught in a strait. To obey the Lord in a sinful world required them to have the courage of Joshua or Jeremiah, where the Lord instructed them both to fear not. If we read scripture carefully, He instructs us to do the same —to fear not!

Fear of things other than God puts us out of tune. Something we do not want. We need to know the sound of our life as it rises toward Heaven. Does it stick to the sheet of the eternal conductor? Or is it distorted through fear?


Dear Lord, thank you for the inspiration and courage of the Church at Smyrna. We don't know any names, but remember their spirit and love for you. We know you remember each of them.

Photo by Marius Masalar


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