It’s a term we hear thrown around in church constantly, usually so as to benefit the ministry or minister who speaks of it. In fact, it is used so often, people might not fully realize what it means, nor could they find examples of it in the pages of scripture.
Genuine “revival” comes when people see the sin around them, seek God in a place of humility, acknowledge their offense and turn from what they have become. Some may call that repentance, but saying sorry is not repentance. There needs to be a change of conduct, life and focus.
One of the best examples anywhere in scripture is found in II Kings 22 and 23. It tells of Josiah, the king who followed Manasseh (after the brief two year reign of Amon who, like Manasseh, was wicked) Manasseh and Josiah ruled Judah for a total of 87 years (55 and 32 years respectively.) One was the epitome of wickedness and the other, Josiah, a man who was tender toward the things of God. For a full look at Manasseh, look at II Kings 21.
As for Josiah, he is a better figure to study. He began his reign at age 8 and the reforms he instituted did not begin until 18 years into his reign. That was when he instituted the repair project to the Temple in Jerusalem. In the time of the repairs, a scroll was found (it was the book of The Law) and they were astonished to have found it. Think of that! To find THE Law in THE Temple was news worthy? How bad must things have become to make that the reaction?
There are two interesting, immediate reactions when the scroll was found. First, a simple reading caused a deep grief and sorrow in Josiah. Second, he sought to know what will happen next (wanting to know if there was hope left) and he inquired of God through Huldah. What he did with that information would determine the future of Judah during his reign.
The message he received back from Huldah was encouraging, to say the least, and God acknowledged the heart of a repentant man. Revival was not possible without his repentance and the reforms which were immediately implemented.
The twenty second chapter of II Kings serves as a model for what is needed after repentance. A matter of the heart is followed by swift and decisive action. He immediately dismantled those things that were offensive to God throughout the land. He removed those in power who were leading God’s people in rebellion through pagan idol worship. The heartbreak of chapter 22 is softened by the beauty of a nation who returns to their God in chapter 23.
The Old Testament book of Hosea offers another perfect example of a man God used to identify the spiritual problem of his day. However, in his time, there was no hope of repentance in their future, so only judgment would follow. Chapter 4 of Hosea identifies the outward problems of the inward disease, and it’s why no hope was coming. The chapter begins in the first two verses like this:
Hear the word of th Lord,
You children of Israel,
For the Lord brings a charge against the inhabitants of the land:
“There is no truth or mercy
Or knowledge of God in the land.
By swearing and lying,
Killing and stealing and committing adultery,
They break all restraint,
With bloodshed upon bloodshed.
By chapter 4, their spiritual infidelity was already identified along with the worship of graven images that were part of it. (4:12) By the time verse 2 concludes, seven of the ten commandments have been identified as being violated. The response to Hosea’s message was indifference and ignorance, quite the opposite of Josiah and Judah. God holds them accountable in 4:6 and then identifies their dire condition in what is a truly iconic and breathtaking verse.
My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.
Because you have rejected knowledge,
I also will reject you from being priest for Me;
Because you have forgotten the law of your God,
I also will forget your children.
They refuse knowledge, so they are rejected by God and so will be their posterity as well. (“your children”) Are the people alone to blame? No. This is a problem that begins with the priests (leaders and pastors of today) and then finds its way to the people. The leaders decay spiritually and then the people suffer under the leaders (4:9.)
And it shall be: like people, like priest.
It is a repeating cycle in both the Old and New Testaments. A lack of knowledge of God and His Word leads to people who are carried away in error, all the while thinking things are fine. The leadership is biblically illiterate, so that illiteracy is then passed along to the people. The more things change, the more they remain the same.
Note the reforms of II Kings 23, how they are completely God-centered, with no mention of what’s in it for me. They saw their offense and sought God’s forgiveness. They put away the gods of self-gratification and indulgence. They opted for a life of self-denial and consecration to God. They familiarized themselves with God’s Word and lived accordingly.
Contrast that with the Hosea and the northern 10 tribes. How highly was God’s Word esteemed? How familiar were the priests with all that God commanded? Did they know it well enough to instruct from it, even if they believed it?
Contrast that with the 21st century church. How highly is God’s Word esteemed? How familiar are the “pastors” with the entirety of scripture? Do they know it well enough to instruct from it? Do they relegate much of the bible to “history?” So why bother, besides, we need to be intentional, missional, relevant, etc. That is pastoral malpractice and invites God’s wrath upon the hirelings that would pedal that poison to unsuspecting sheep.
It is astounding how “me-centered" the church has become, but is not the leadership to blame? Everything seems centered around making people feel comfortable. From the pews to the message, we are looking for ways to get people in the seats. The mere mention and study of God’s holiness and our penchant for sin are sorely missing. They are replaced by feel good production, slick marketing and a live for now as we build a kingdom for God.
If we neglect speaking about His holiness and if we avoid speaking about sin, we will then avoid speaking about repentance and true revival will never come. For the record, I see no such revival in our future. This may sound pessimistic, but I am of the opinion that no such time is coming to us as it did to Judah under Josiah. Why? I think the answer is simply that people are unaware of their condition. They have no real understanding of God’s holiness and how He deals with such indifference.
I don’t see a church looking for genuine revival for these reasons, as I don’t think the church knows the meaning and mechanism as I have already discussed. I see the church consumed with self more today than at any other time in my almost 30 years of being a believer. The need for the church to fall to its knees before a holy God in repentance is essential, but not likely. As a worldwide body, we are uneducated in His Word, we have no fear and we are self-absorbed. I personally believe we are that generation Jesus addressed when He said in Luke 18:8
Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?
Watching and waiting Luke 21:28