Songs From The Arena

September 2, 2014
by Joel Jongkind

Most of us who have worked or travelled in Israel, Greece, Turkey, or Italy have on our sightseeing tours been in the ruins of the different arenas, sometimes called theatres, of that time. These structures were able to accommodate many people, anywhere from eight to thirty thousand. The people came there to see gladiators fight to the death or to see Christians devoured by lions. There were also public meetings of some kind or another on many occasions.

For instance, in Acts 19 we have the story of Demetrius the silversmith who called his tradesmen together because the Christians were ruining the sale of the statues of the goddess Diana, not only in Ephesus but throughout the whole area. Discussions were held to try to put a stop to this. One thing led to another, and they arrested two Christians:

Acts 19:29 – So the whole city was filled with confusion, and rushed into the theater with one accord, having seized Gaius and Aristarchus, Macedonians, Paul's travel companions. (NKJV)

Paul wanted to go to the arena himself to plead for their freedom, but his followers would not allow him to do that, because they knew what might happen if he did. It seems that Paul never preached in the arena in Ephesus. If he had, he would have preached to a very big audience, and songs of praise would have been heard, for sure.

We were in the arena in Ephesus some years ago, and it was and still is a magnificent structure. We were there with a group of Christians on a tour of that area, and when we were in the arena, our leader suggested that we sing a hymn. Centuries ago, our brothers and sisters in Christ, awaiting their death in that very same place, huddled together, so history teaches us, sometimes singing hymns of praise to God for all that He had done in their lives, and quietly awaiting to be united with the Lord.

As a non-singer, I separated myself from the group and went as high up on the seats as I could go, to the very top, high above the group down below on the sand of the arena. I wanted to film the place from some distance. I could hear every word that they were saying. It is no wonder that they held gatherings there, as well as spectacles.

And then our group started to sing How great Thou art. Their voices filled the whole arena, loud and clear and vibrant. Other tourists stopped to listen:

    O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder
    Consider all the worlds Thy hands have made,
    I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
    Thy power throughout the universe displayed.
    Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee,
    How great Thou art! How great Thou art!
           Stuart K. Hine

One of our group sang the descant at the end of the song, and those wonderful words of truth rang around the ruins of that place.

If those Christian martyrs could sing hymns of praise even as they faced a cruel death, what a challenge it is to us to "give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." (1 Thessalonians 5:18 ESV)

Prayer: Our Father in heaven, it is with thankful hearts that we are able to sing praises to Your name in worship, and even in places where others died for their faith. We thank You for those who wrote the words of the hymns which express Your greatness and Your saving grace. We thank You in Jesus' name. Amen.

About the author:

Joel Jongkind <austria67@bmts.com>
Meaford, Ontario, Canada

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1 Comment

  • PresbyCan Feedback says:

    Amen Joel from another non singer.


    Joel,
    You paint a perfect pictures with your words. I can hear your group singing and you at the top of the arena. Good words from you today. Thank you.
    (Texas)


    Dear Joel,
    I am going through a personal crisis and at times see no hope but again your words encourages me to trust in The Lord and not give up.
    Many thanks for this and your other wise words.


    I love this story! Having been in some similar ruins myself I can well imagine what it was like. Thanks for the good reminder to give thanks no matter the circumstances. We’re certainly living through some of those tough circumstances here in our family when thanking God isn’t easy, but we’re still thanking Him for His work in our lives.


    Dear Joel;
    Thank you for the reminder and the history lesson. The words brought tears to my eyes, as I think of the imminent death that awaited our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. And, I also think of the many brothers and sisters in Christ, who today, are still facing certain death and torture for their faith. Bring peace, O Lord, to our world.


    Dear Joel,
    Thank you for your devotional today. I’ve never been to the coloseum or arena in the Bible lands. My traveling days are limited to within Canada due to health reasons.
    I thank you for your first hand description of your experience there.
    I read a book about Christians who hid in the catacombs. It chronicled one young Christian boy who eventually was found and ended up inside the arena facing a wild animal and who died a myrtar.
    I often wonder if that kind of persecution hit North America today, how many Christians would stay faithful to the end and how many would buckle under the pressure? I would hope I would stay faithful to the end.


    Joel: A very touching, appropriate and meaningful subject you have chosen for this morning’s Devotional. By the way, I always leave the best to last, the PresbyCan’s daily Devotionals, after I have deleted all the other emails awaiting me each morning.
    I have shuttered over the years when each time I read descriptions of the deaths awaiting those early faithful Christians. There were those I’m sure who ‘gave in’ rather than subject themselves to the fate designed for them as new believers. Today? There are so many of us who turn from Him with much lesser excuses.
    Thanks for reminding us of what we have inherited and what heroic examples of belief. I wonder (because of today’s modern distractions) if Christ would settle for less from those who have chosen to seriously follow what He expects of us as He spoke through Scripture?


    Very poignant got a little emotional there for a minute.


    Brother Joel,
    Thank you for sharing this wonderful experience.
    Your words allowed me to view the theatre with your traveling companions below and myself staring at the stars and moon that FATHER placed as a reminder of HIS power to hang all the celestial bodies. It makes it easy to open my witness to a group or individual. I explain the vastness of the celestial canopy, and our earthly questions will be answered when we are in the presence of FATHER.
    Again, Thank You for the sharing of this devotional and the preceding ones you have written & shared. You and the other authors allow me to start my day with reminders of where my focus should be & the closeness of FATHER who waits for us to return to the path that leads to HIS companionship.

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