There is not much left of the ancient city of Thyatira — just a few stones and crumbling walls in the middle of the modern Turkish village of Akhisar. During a recent visit there, I looked around briefly, sat down, and began trying to think of some memory key that would serve me for future reference to the place.
I did not have to wait long. A group of school children, nine or ten or years old, came walking by the site, and two little girls stepped over a low retaining wall, sat down beside me, and began to practice their English on me.
We talked a little while, and they went on their way. I tried to say “Goodbye” to them in Turkish, which probably sounded to them something like, “Olives are donkeys.” And they said, “Guuuudbye, Meester Donald,” with an o as in donut. Ever since, I have thought of the city of Thyatira as “the city of the two little girls — and the two women.”
The two little girls you now know. The two women are Lydia and Jezebel, from the pages of the New Testament, and from Thyatira. Lydia was the fine lady to whom Paul presented the gospel of Jesus by a river side in Philippi. She was a traveling merchant, a seller of purple, whose home was actually in Thyatira (Acts 16:14-15). Jezebel (probably not her real name) was a filthy woman of Thyatira who tried to corrupt the members of the church there, teaching them to worship idols and commit fornication (Rev. 2:18-23).
Lydia and Jezebel were poles apart. One serves, to this day, as an example of all that is praiseworthy in a human being. The other is a disgusting reminder of her murderous, idolatrous Old Testament namesake, Jezebel, the corrupt wife of King Ahab (1 Kings 16:29-31; 21:25). Why were these two women of Thyatira so dissimilar?
Two factors pretty well explain the difference: 1) knowledge of the gospel; 2) attitude. Lydia did not know the gospel of Jesus, as Jezebel must have. She was a practicing Jewess. Yet her attitude toward her Creator was such that she obeyed all the truth she knew, and she was quick to obey the additional truth she learned from Paul. Jezebel lived among Christians and surely knew the gospel very well. But her attitude was terrible.
Since visiting Thyatira I have wondered what sort of lives the two little girls there will live. Maybe one of them will turn out to be a Lydia. Maybe the other will be a Jezebel. I do not know. My visit with them was over in a matter of minutes.
Yet I believe that the Lord will make an opportunity for either or both of them to hear and obey the gospel of the Savior in due time, if their attitude is like Lydia’s. Far away in that 99.9% Muslim land I believe those two little girls have a better shot at eternal salvation than many women, and many men, in this country who have a knowledge of the gospel but an attitude like Jezebel’s.