Sunday, February 21, 2021

The Time Eraser

                                                                                     street in ancient Laodicea

If I wrote a note to a friend commenting that I was so tired of this isolation, I would not have to add that I was talking about the Covid restrictions - she would immediately know. 
 BUT .. if for some reason my note was preserved for a thousand years and someone found it so many years later, they would be rather confused about  the isolation  that I referred to and might wonder if I was in a prison cell sentenced to solitary confinement. 

Time often erases information that at the time it is shared needs no explanation. 

We sometimes struggle in understanding some Bible passages for exactly the same reason. The scriptures were written  to people who understood what the writer was referring to without needing detailed clarification. But for us in another time, another culture, another language we can easily miss the intended meaning of certain scriptures. 

In recent times knowledge has greatly increased regarding details of ancient history, credit largely going to the discoveries of modern archeologists. Those uncovered details now allow us to fill in some of  the cultural  gap in our understanding. 

For example .... We now have a fresh understanding  of  what Jesus was talking about in his letter  to the church in Laodicea.  He comments in Rev. 3:15,16 --  "I wish you were either hot or cold, but because you are lukewarm I will spew you out of my mouth."   That statement would have immediately resonated with the Laodiceans as they read it, but to us it has been  a blank statement that we have grappled with to understand.  

Laodicea was a rich and prosperous city on a major trade route. It had a thriving textile production and had was admired for its finances and banking.  But there was one thing they could not control - access to good drinking water. 

Some miles away was the city of Colossae that enjoyed the cold, clear, pure water from mountain streams.  In the other direction were the hot springs of Hieropolis, known for their healing minerals. The Laodiceans were very familiar with these two cities and I'm sure envied them.     

Since they however had no fresh source of water , water had to be brought in by viaducts.  Not only was the incoming water lukewarm but it was also full of sediment.   It was not pleasant to drink  -- and  it would have been a shock to them that Jesus would compare them to this despicable water !  Unthinkable!!
 Jesus put His finger on the problem in a way they could not miss His meaning. 
Of course Jesus would rather they were like cold pure water, that satisfied thirst or like the hot healing water.   But the lukewarm gritty water was not desirable at all and neither were the Laodiceans. 

There is another analogy in Jesus' comparison to gritty, lukewarm water.   When we 'hew our own cisterns of water "  (Jer. 2:13)  we forsake the fountain of living water.  And when we compromise with the world, seeking its pleasures more than Christ,  we find that the resulting 'water' is gritty and disgustingly  lukewarm in its ability to satisfy.   

Only the Fountain of Living Water can satisfy - that springs up within us  into eternal life! If we drink from this water, we will never be lukewarm or in danger of Jesus spewing us out !!  

"Whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst.
 But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water
springing up into everlasting life." 
John 4:14