“...a white stone… a new name”
(Third of Seven in Series)
Ever since the beginning, there have been successes and failures when it comes
to how men and women have approached their relationship with God. Not all of
the failures failed due to idolatry or atheism. Sometimes it is merely a
matter of neglect, or stubbornness, or arrogance. Some have simply not taken
the time to prepare for a successful life of true faith. All who fail do so
for a reason. Those that succeed likewise do so for a reason. Success or
failure do not happen in a vacuum. Neither randomly “just happens.”
The problems are often caused by a lack of dedication or love as some try to
simply do as little as possible. Others simply put off needful changes or
obligations. Sometimes it is a matter of ego. Some have failed because they
have allowed themselves to be deceived by others into believing something
false. Some have simply not taken the time to prepare for a successful life of
Jesus said to the disciples at Pergamum, “To him who overcomes, to him I will
give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and a new
name written on the stone which no one knows but he who receives it.”
God gave manna to Israel in the wilderness (Exodus 16:11-15). This was during
the Exodus from Egypt. A whole nation of people needed sustenance to survive
in a barren wilderness in order to reach Canaan. Only God could have preserved
such a great number of people in the desert and wastelands. He did so with a
food called manna which would fall from the sky and water from rocks. The word
“manna” means “What is it?” which probably refers to the initial reaction of
the people when they found it all around one morning. The Old Testament often
refers to this event suggesting that it shows how God cares for His people In
fact, a pot of it was kept in the ark of the covenant to remind the people of
God's care (Exodus 16:33,34; Hebrews 9:4). When the people saw the ark, they
would remember the things it contained and what they represented.
The point: the people would not have survived without it. God gave them
everything necessary which they could not provide for themselves, but then
expected them to trust and obey Him by doing the things they could. Jesus uses
this figure to tell us something that is similar.
“Hidden manna” refers to that which sustains and strengthens us as Christians
in our faith. By faith disciples can overcome even the most difficult of
circumstances. The persecution of the church at Pergamum had been great. One
of the members of that body had been executed (Revelation 2:13). But even in
the most peaceful of times, there is a danger of becoming complacent and
surrendering. People deny the Lord sometimes under threat, but at other times
just through neglect.
We need God's manna to sustain us in the wilderness of this world as we
journey toward our spiritual promised land. If we supply the faith, God will
supply our strength.
Jesus is our “bread of life” (John 6:47-51). Jesus and the things he provides
is to the spirit what physical bread is to the body. It fills the emptiness
and satisfies deep human longings. It instills confidence and hope. Jesus
refers to eating his flesh and drinking his blood - not literally, but
figuratively through receiving His word and example into our hearts. Going
through the motions won't do it. (John 6:52-58). One must fully receive Jesus.
Some think life can be successful without this part. It can't. Many pampered
bodies are home to starving souls. How blessed is one who realizes their
soul's need for this bread, for that is necessary to be filled (Matthew 5:6).
“Filled” - “Strengthened” - “Hope” - “Purpose” - “Confidence” - “Endurance”
are some of the results of receiving this hidden manna (Philippians 4:11-13;
Ephesians 3:16; 6:10).
White stones were used for several things in the ancient world. With what
would have these disciples at Pergamum have associated with a “white stone” as
promised them by Jesus if they overcome?
The word means a small pebble, so that helps. In ancient courts, the accused
were acquitted or condemned by vote of a jury, council or panel. The voting
member would cast a white pebble for “acquittal” or a black pebble for
“guilty”. Members of tribunals condemning Christians would have cast “black
stones” against them. At Pergamum, evidently black stones had been cast when
judging Antipas. He was put to death. But Jesus says, “I will give one who
overcomes a “white stone”; that is, He declares such a one as vindicated, pure
and guiltless. It does not matter if the world condemns you if the one who has
the keys of death sets you free! When facing ridicule or worse, remember that.
The Lord will give you vindication and victory if you overcome by faith!
(Revelation 1:18; Romans 8:31-34; 38-39; Hebrews 7:25: 10:38-39).
A New Name
The promise of being given “a new name” probably refers to the new status one
who has been born of God and has overcome. Lots of things are said to be
“new”… there is a “new heavens and earth” where the redeemed sing “a new song”
as “new creatures” who are walking in “newness of life”.
Exalted with Christ in eternity will bring wonderful changes. And now, by
faith, we glimpse glories to come in our joy and confidence as faithful
Christians. We are sustained with manna now, but look forward to the “land
flowing with milk and honey” .And it is true that no one can know you but you.
Right now, you either know what I am talking about - or you don't. You know
Jesus, or you do not. You understand the joys of discipleship, or you do not.
No one on this earth knows you but you.
Overcoming by faith means being steadfast, diligent and dedicated. (1 John
5:3,4). It is to those who overcome that Jesus promises access to the tree of
life and that the second death will not hurt them. He also promises hidden
manna and a white stone. What wonderful hope these things symbolize!
By Jon W. Quinn
From Expository Files 18.3; March 2011