By Chad Napier, Crosswalk.com
Our land, communities, churches, and lives desperately need a spiritual revival sent from the only source one can originate – from above. The pastors and many within the church have a sincere desire for a dedicated return of God’s people to His Word and His house. What are the marks and signs of a true and lasting return to a state of blessing from our Lord?
The prophet Ezra wrote as the children of God were reunited with their promised land, but quickly fell back into disobedience by committing sins of idolatry and “comingling” with the people from the other nations. In 9:8, he wrote, “now, for a brief moment, the LORD our God has been gracious in leaving us a remnant and giving us a firm place in his sanctuary, and so our God gives light to our eyes and a little relief in our bondage. ”
What a great blessing is the realization of “a little space of grace” in all our lives. In one verse, the prophet poignantly reflected the faithfulness of the covenant God Yahweh and the need for the people to quickly return to Him, i.e. a revival. His people identified as a “remnant” are given a means of escape because of His mercy. Irrespective of the degree of enlightenment of the prophet, Ezra understood the provision contemplated by the “nail in his holy place” which opens the believer’s eyes to the refuge we have in the Lord. Our spiritual birth and awakening were through the nails piercing the body of our Savior Jesus Christ and victory over the grave. He is our holy place and the foundation of the local church. Accordingly, any revival will take place because of Him and His mercies toward a disobedient and broken people.
Similarly, Psalm 85 was written following the return of God’s people to His land following a stint of captivity. In many ways, the depressed feeling during a season of backsliding is worse than the feeling of lostness prior to salvation because true enlightenment had never been realized. Just as God’s people are the subject of both the prophet and the psalmist, the church is the focus of our desire for revival. The salvation of the lost is an appreciated consequence of a revival, but the primary purpose is a rejuvenation within the church and a proper standing with the Heavenly Father.
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An effective revival begins with the fervent petitioning of God’s people for power and guidance of the Holy Spirit through the church, the pastor, and appointed spiritual leaders. The prayer of the psalmist in Hymn 85 is in the form of a song that acknowledged the past works of the Lord in both His deliverance and sustenance.
He declared, “thou has been favorable unto thy land,” “brought back the captivity of Jacob,” “forgiven the iniquity of thy people,” and “covered all their sin.” Our prayer testifies to His forgiveness and our deliverance through the “nail in his holy place,” which was the means “thou hast taken away all thy wrath” and “turned thyself from the fierceness of thine anger.” The presence of a revival is a blessing of God’s mercy because of His presence, but also a stemming of His anger toward a disobedient people.
In verse four, the psalmist has a desire for repentance and petitions for the Lord to “turn us, O God of our salvation, and cause thine anger toward us to cease.” Turning away from sin and correctly seeing our sin as God sees our sin is not the work of man, but the effectual working of the Holy Spirit. Repentance is seeing the truth of our actions and seeing our sins in the same vision as the Lord views our sins.
2 Chronicles 7:14 is a verse to the church and predicates a nation’s healing and restoration on its people, humbling and turning from sinful behavior. Genuine repentance is necessary for the desired spiritual healing within the church.
Another indicator of a true revival is the rejoicing of His faithfulness in the restoration of His people. Stronger Christians build powerful churches. Vibrant churches, in turn, are impactful upon her communities. These impacts are certainly something to rejoice about.
Paul wrote in Romans 5:2 that “through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. ” Yes, the rejoicing is a result of the restoration of our brothers and sisters in Christ is based only on the hope found in the glory of God.
4. Enumeration and Remembrance of All His Mercies
In Ezra 9:9, the prophet noted, “Though we are slaves, our God has not forsaken us in our bondage. He has shown us kindness in the sight of the kings of Persia: He has granted us new life to rebuild the house of our God and repair its ruins, and he has given us a wall of protection in Judah and Jerusalem. ” Our life is a testimony of the continual mercies of our Savior. He gave us a “space of mercy” while we were yet sinners to come unto the saving grace of His love from His cleansing blood.
A restoration from the Lord is a blessing stemming solely from His grace and mercy. He is under no obligation. The granting of His mercy is an aspect of His providence as Paul in Romans 9:15 iterated the Lord’s message to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” Thus, through His grace, “the Lord shall give that which is good; and our land shall yield her increase.” His mercies have continued throughout our life, and any revival will be because of His mercy.
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5. Desire for His Presence
True revival can be identified by a desire for the Lord and His direction in our homes, churches, community, schools, and in our government. We are reminded that “surely his salvation is nigh to them that fear him; that glory may dwell in our land.” The “fear” identified in verse nine denotes an understanding of the detrimental consequence of keeping Him out or “quenching” His teachings and impact. This deliverance is certainly nigh both positionally and spiritually to those who will give heed to His Word.
A spiritual revival has the presence of the Holy Spirit, which gives light unto darkness and exposes our sin. An unholy man cannot serve a holy God as Joshua, in His final address, warned the children of Israel in Joshua 24:19, “You are not able to serve the LORD. He is a holy God; he is a jealous God. He will not forgive your rebellion and your sins.” The manifested glory and provision of God will be absent until we have a desire for separation, holiness, and righteousness.
6. Desire for Spiritual Stability
Revival has an innate desire for the avoidance of a return to “captivity” or the previous distant state from the Lord. The psalmist understood that obedience from the spoken peace of “God the Lord” is the provision necessary for keeping “them not [to] turn again to folly.” The children of Israel had the habit of returning to idolatry and disobedience soon after a great deliverance or an abundant manifestation of the Lord’s favorable presence.
Remembering the torment of a broken relationship from the Most High is an important aspect of obedience. True revival is marked by a desire not to need another spiritual revival.
7. Echoing of Agreement
True revival is marked by truth and righteousness, not man-made smoke and mirrors. In verses 10-11, the psalmist poignantly pens, “mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other. Truth shall spring out of the earth; and righteousness shall look down from heaven.”
Spurgeon, in his commentary of Psalms, wrote, “the Lord whose just severity inflicted the smart, now in pity sends peace to bind up the wound.” He explained that the natural man, in his knowledge and lack of spirituality, cannot “rightly estimate the solution of spiritual problems – they are far above and out of their sight.” Beautifully, Spurgeon wrote that the “Spirit’s work even now creates a hollowed harmony between his church below, and the sovereign righteousness above.”
No evangelist can take responsibility for the rejuvenation of God’s people. During the early growth of the church and the manifested power of the Holy Spirit, critics in Acts 5:38-39 understood, “if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.” Just as a true Holy Ghost revival cannot be stopped by man, one cannot be started by man either.
8. Desire to Follow His Lead
In conclusion, verse 13 tells us, “Righteousness shall go before him; and shall set us in the way of his steps.” Bible commentator and teacher, David Guzik, described this picture as God being the head of a comet, and we serve as the trailing tail. The church should have the desire to have that same nearness in following His direction.
Led by the spirit, the prophet Ezekiel sat down in the valley of dry bones. The bodies were given “sinews and flesh” following the commanded noise and shaking. It wasn’t until the Holy Spirit breathed upon the slain that breath inhabit their bodies. The Lord then informed Ezekiel of his plan to “take the children of Israel from among the heathen” “and bring them into their own land.” There they would be united and made into “one nation in the land.”
This restoration and revival would result in them not defiling “themselves any more with their idols, nor with their detestable things, nor with any of their transgressions: but I will save them out of all their dwelling places, wherein they have sinned, and will cleanse them: so shall they be my people, and I will be their God.” An effectual and sustained revival begins with the quickening through the Holy Ghost and results in the obedience of His people.
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