Blue Jeans became a symbol of youth culture in the 50’s and 60’s and most of us still wear blue jeans at some stage. While synthetic dyes are used today, originally the colour came from indigo dye which is a plant-based dye. Long before blue jeans became popular indigo dye was highly valued and was the main industry in a city called Thyatira.
This series of posts is based on the letter to the seven churches in the first three chapters of Revelation. Look back to see messages to the churches in Ephesus, Smyrna, and Pergamum. This post is about the message to the city of Thyatira.
The ancient city of Thyatira, in western Turkey is situated in a valley that served as a valuable transport route through Asia Minor. It is now now the city of Akhisar and is situated on the highway that runs between Izmir and Istanbul, Turkey’s most important ports. But it’s always been on important trade routes, and was an industrial city back in the time when John wrote his letter to the church at Thyatira. Among other things it was the centre of an industry in dyeing cloth, and in particular the indigo trade. In Acts 16 we discover that a woman by the name of Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from Thyatira, was one of the foundation members of the Philippi Church in Greece. Indigo made its name in Thyatira, a long time before blue jeans became popular.
There have been a couple of other archeological clues to the history of Thyatira. Inscriptions found in the old city tell us that this was a major centre of guilds. In addition to dyeing guilds, inscriptions tell us there were guilds of wool-workers, linen-workers, makers of outer garments, leather-workers, tanners, potters, bakers, slave-dealers, and bronze-smiths.
We also know from coins that have been found that Thyatira had a military history, but at the time of John’s letter that city’s military strength was probably only a memory. In fact, history tells us the city may not have been as powerful as it seemed. To a city that has a memory of military strength but is now relatively weak in military terms, Jesus is introduced as someone of great strength. The letter commences: These are the words of the Son of God, whose eyes are like blazing fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze. I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first.
This is followed by a warning about a woman who clearly had a position of leadership in the church but was leading people away to idolatory and immorality. In a society where employment was dependent on being a part of guilds, this woman, along with others, would have encouraged people to participate in the great banquets run by the guilds at which all the idols and statues around the room were toasted, and as the night progressed would degenerate into drunkenness and immorality. It was seen as just a normal part of life and necessary to a person’s acceptance as a tradesperson.
The call to the church at Thyatira was the same as Jesus call to us today. We need to allow the eyes of Jesus to look into every part of our lives …. our work, our social life, our church life, and our thoughts to see that we are remaining faithful to Jesus. In the olden days before power steering, as you drove your car you would be continually correcting the steering wheel to stay on track. Repentance on a daily basis recognises the potential to be drawn away from the truth, and the need to keep short accounts with God.
Thyatira was a city whose military strength was only a distant memory. In their weakness they were told that Jesus would be their strength. The characteristic of Jesus is the All Powerful One. The characteristic of a victorious church is an obedient church. Now at the end of the letter is the promise of a reward for a victorious church. It talks about them being given authority over the nations. From a position of weakness there is the promise of strength. But it’s not military strength. It’s strength that comes from Jesus.
This church, overwhelmed by weakness and infiltrated by people who were bringing it down by their idolatry and immorality, were promised that they could be victorious. Jesus comes to bring hope; the resurrected Lord Jesus, as promised to the church in Thyatira, is the bright morning star who outshines all others.
This is the latest in a series of posts based on the letter to the seven churches as recorded in Revelation chapters 1 to 3 in the New Testament. You can read it for yourself here. Go on to read Listen Up, Church #5