Although many books deal with some Biblical revivals, (usually Pentecost), we have not found any work which is as comprehensive as this one by Baker.
It has some very insightful and challenging observations and is compulsory reading for those who require a Biblical basis for revival.
This volume contains twelve pictures of Revival from the Old Testament, ranging from the ministry of Moses through various judges, prophets and restorationists.
It concludes with six lightening sketches of New Testament revivals including the ministry of John the Baptist, the Pentecostal outpouring and revivals in Samaria, Caesarea, Antioch and Europe.
The messages were originally given as Sunday evening talks in South Africa, and afterwards published as articles in the weekly edition of the South African News. We have included the first six chapters on the site. The rest can be purchased as a single book by email or on the complete Revival CD ROM.
We have included 5 of the 18 chapters.
"And Moses and Aaron went and gathered together all the elders of the children of Israel; and Aaron spake all the words which the Lord had spoken unto Moses, and did the signs in the sight of the people. And the people believed; and when they heard that the Lord had visited the children of Israel, and that He had seen their affliction, then they bowed their heads and worshipped." Exodus iv 29-31
A study of Biblical revivals will enable us to understand what kind of revival God is ready to give. It will also serve as a guide for intelligent prayer and effort in this direction. I intend to speak of revival in the popular sense, dealing with the cases where multitudes turned to the Lord. The first of this character is reported as taking place in the northern part of Africa.
The children of Israel were brought out of Egypt by means of miracle and revival. The plagues were God's arguments with Pharoah. Against his will he was compelled to let the people go. But the Israelites were not forced out. They were consenting parties to the exodus. Before they left the country they had been brought to faith in and obedience to God. In the list of the heroes of faith recorded in the eleventh chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews, we find the Israelites included. "By faith they passed through the Red Sea as by dry land." The story of this revival centres our thoughts around three characters--the Reviver, the Revived, and the Revivalists.
1. THE REVIVER
This revival was of God. He heard their cry. This was not necessarily directed to Him. It was the cry of distress. Their oppressed condition appealed to Him. He was moved with compassion. He said: "I have surely seen the affliction of My people which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters; for I know their sorrows; and I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians." Mingled with the compassion was indignation with their oppressors. "I have seen," He said, "the oppression wherewith the Egyptians oppress them." He could not look on, unmoved, at the injustice that was being dealt out to them. He also remembered His covenant which He had made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give the land of Canaan to their seed. And because His word awaited fulfilment He said He would bring the children of Israel out of Egypt. Being moved with compassion for their sorrows, with indignation at their wrongs, and with a desire to fulfil His word, He called Moses to be their deliverer. Moses was not willing to undertake the work, and God had a long controversy with him concerning the matter. It was God who called Moses, persuaded him, commissioned him, and strengthened him for the task.
God can Revive.
A revival is a Divine thing. It is a putting forth of Divine strength. It is God visiting the people. A revival cannot be organised any more than the spring. "Thou renewest the face of the ground." Men watch the coming of spring and avail themselves of it. They plough the ground and sow the seed, but it is God who gives the rain and the sunshine, and who makes the juices of the trees and of the grasses to flow. In like manner the renewing of spiritual life is God's work.
God wants to Revive.
The revival in Egypt was not only a manifestation of God's power, but an act of Divine grace. His heart was in the work. He visited the people because He was moved with compassion. He is not indifferent to the world's needs. Over and over again, when spiritual life has seemed to be on the point of extinction, God has stepped in and has saved both it and the people. The history of revivals is the story of God stepping in to save faith and morals from death. Each revival in the history of Israel came when religion was low. It means ruin for the people when faith is eclipsed; and God will not allow the world to be utterly lost. The revivals of Christianity have occurred when the funeral of the faith has seemed nigh. When the Christian church was corrupt, impure, tyrannica1, and generally in a scandalous condition, the Reformation came, and the people were led back to a purifying and helpful faith. When religion in England in the eighteenth century was cold and formal, when literature was atheistic, when the working people were living like brutes, the great evangelical revival, under Wesley and Whitefield, took place. And now - when men are telling us that the church has lost its hold of the mass, when a church census reveals that the most Christian of our cities has only one in six of its people attending worship, when the prevailing temper of the people is one of utter indifference to God, and complete absorption in the race for wealth or the pursuit of pleasure -God has stepped in and given us an evidence of His power and of His living interest in men's welfare by the revival in Wales. In South Africa the spirit of the times is manifest in every town and village. Indifference to God characterizes the overwhelming majority of our people. The breath of God's Spirit is needed to save faith and character, and to heal the land. And the visitation that is required, God is waiting to give.
God will Revive.
His Word abides. Over 400 years earlier His promise to Abraham had been given. The centuries had not made His promise obsolete. Many men consider an old promise obsolete though unfulfilled. But it is not so with God. The promises of revival still hold good. God said to Solomon: "If My people, which are called by My name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land." The promise of that word abides; and wherever the conditions of it are fulfilled the promise will be realized. Again, in the New Testament: "Repent, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that so there may come seasons of refreshing from the presence of the Lord." God is always willing to fulfil His Word; and if we listen and look to Him we may expect revival in our land.
2. THE REVIVED
They were a backslidden people. They were the children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and they had been brought up in the faith. When they entered Egypt they were a chastened, God-fearing company, but in the course of years they had sunk to the level of the life around them. Joshua tells us that the people served other gods in Egypt. The worship of the golden calf in the wilderness was a return to the religion to which they had become accustomed.
A revival in the southern portion of the same continent over 3,000 years later will mean a return of backslidden people to the Lord. History has repeated itself. In Africa men have forgotten their fathers' God, and succumbed to the influences of the life around them. The people outside of our churches, who make a holiday of a holy day, are not ignorant of God. They knew a church life at home; they came to us from godly homes; many of them have been in the Sunday schools of the older countries. Others, occasionally in our churches, were once more regular in their attendance upon the means of grace, and active in Christian service. A revival will mean a call to these to return to the faith of their fathers and to their first love. God is waiting to welcome such. He is ready to bless. Each backslider who returns will help to bring a blessing. Each returning one will encourage others.
They were a poor and an oppressed people. They were enslaved. Their days were spent under the lash. They knew no day of rest. It was toil from early morn to late at night, from youth to old age. Their social conditions were radically wrong. But Moses did not wait for an improvement in their earthly lot before preaching to them the word of the Lord. They attained to faith before a commercial or social revival came. The spiritual was first, the temporal came as a result. There are many social conditions around us that need altering, and injustices that require attention. But legislation moves slowly. In the meantime we need not wait for better temporal circumstances before seeking for spiritual improvement. A revival of spiritual life is the quickest way to improve social conditions. A revived spiritual life means a quickened conscience all round. A new man means a new home, new homes mean new streets, new streets mean a new city. And an interest in the public welfare comes to the new man. A quickened conscience will put into operation good laws which are now practically a dead letter because of the lack of a healthy public opinion to make them effective; and it will also be productive of better legislation to remedy other evils still awaiting improved laws.
And just as we do not need to wait for social reform before having a revival of spiritual life, so we do not need to wait for commercial revival before receiving an increase of spiritual blessing. Commercial depression and poverty must necessarily curtail schemes of church extension, and put a stop to building efforts; but no money is wanted to bring a revival. The spiritual life can be increased without the outlay of an additional penny. God can, and will, revive poor and a distressed people if they only look to Him.
3. THE REVIVALISTS
Moses and Aaron gathered the people. The text says that Moses and Aaron gathered the elders; but as the narrative speaks of the presence of the people, we conclude that the people were brought together through the elders. The assembling of the people is our united work. There are people to be gathered, and they need to be gathered in order to hear the Word of the Lord. If the services at God's house are helpful to us we should talk about them. We should make it known that a good thing is on, and endeavour to get others to the place where our spiritual life receives help.
They preached the Word. All revivals have been accompanied with preaching. God's Spirit works through the Word. The revival in Wales is no exception; though temporarily, in many cases, the sermon was pushed on one side. But this was because all the Lord's people became prophets. The rank and file testified. Preaching, however, is more highly regarded in Wales now than ever. The new converts want instruction. "It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe." Let us know the words which the Lord hath spoken, and tell them out to others.
They did the signs. What are the signs which God empowers us to give in order to win men to the faith? "By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples, if ye have love one to another." "The nations shall know that I am the Lord, when I shall be sanctified in you before their eyes." If quarrels are made up; if fault-finding and backbiting are discontinued; if we cease to be selfcentred and learn to take a warm-hearted interest in others; if we are honest and pay our debts; and if we become contented, patient, and forgiving, signs will be given which will help men to believe.
"And the children of Israel cried unto the Lord." Judges 10:10
There are five seasons of Revival recorded in the book of Judges. The phrase, "the children of Israel cried unto the Lord," occurs in connection with each of these occasions. Each time the prayer comes after a long period of oppression. The same kind of circumstances accompany it. They forsake the Lord and serve the gods of other nations. Then they come into bondage, to those nations whose gods they serve. After years of oppression they repent and cry to God. Each time He hears them, and sends them a Saviour and deliverer.
This is the story in brief: They served the King of Mesopotamia eight years, "and when the children of Israel cried unto the Lord, the Lord raised up a Saviour . . . Othniel." They were in bondage to Moab eighteen years, and "when the children of Israel cried unto the Lord, the Lord raised them up a Saviour . . . Ehud." They were in bondage to Jabin, King of Canaan, twenty years, "and the children of Israel cried unto the Lord" and Deborah and Barak were given in response to that cry. "And Israel was brought very low because of Midian (after seven years), and the children of Israel cried unto the Lord," and the Lord sent a prophet . . . and Gideon. Then they were in bondage to the Philistines and to the children of Ammon for eighteen years, "and the children of Israel cried unto the Lord," and His answer was Jephthah.
It is the same story each time. The only alteration is in the name of the people to whom they were in bondage, the name of the deliverer sent in answer to their prayer, and the number of years in which they were held in bondage. In all the cases, except the last, we simply have the record "the children of Israel cried unto the Lord." What they said we do not know. In the last case, however, we have their prayer recorded; and I have no doubt that it is a fair specimen of the prayers of former occasions. They said: "We have sinned against Thee, both because we have forsaken our God, and also served Baalim."
The revivals in the times of the Judges show that prayer occupies a principal part in the return of any people to the Lord. And the word "cry" is suggestive of the type of prayer that issues in blessing. It is the word most frequently used in the Old Testament to describe prayer. It speaks of distress. We cry out when we are in trouble. When Peter was sinking in the water he cried, "Lord, save me." The word cry tells of a distress that is felt. These people had been in uncomfortable circumstances for years, but the full meaning of their lot had not come home to them, and distressed their spirits, until now. But now they feel the shame and disgrace of their condition. The word suggests a need that is urgent. Peter could not wait for help when he cried. He wanted assistance at once. These people said: "Only deliver us, we pray Thee, this day." The word also speaks of a feeling of helplessness. They require some power from outside to come to their relief. They are in bondage. They cannot deliver themselves. They want a leader, a Saviour
Men are in bondage to sin, and they are unconcerned. They are content with their bonds. They do not feel the shame and the disgrace of their position. And, whilst in that condition, there is no deliverance for them. But when they realise the power and tyranny of that to which they have sold themselves; when they discover the havoc it is playing with their constitutions, their minds, their characters, and their futures; when they see that it is imperative for them to be set free; and when they wake up to the fact that they have no power to recover themselves, and that they need a Saviour; then if they cry to the Lord He will help them, and that right speedily.
These prayers of the children of Israel represent the lowest form of prayer, that is, of successful prayer. There are requests that strike a much lower note than these, but then such are not answered. "Ye ask and receive not because ye ask amiss."
These petitions are wholly for themselves. Their personal distress has called them forth. They do not pray for the sake of others, nor with any desire for the glory of God. The cry has been forced from them. Not until they could not help praying did they pray. They were in a corner. They had had no use for God when things seemed bright. They only came to Him when they could not do without Him. There was unmistakably an element of meanness in their attitude. Their cry was not for-power with which to serve God, but simply for deliverance from a cruel bondage.
But all this that was in their prayers is in the prayers of most of us when first we begin to pray in earnest. Our first prayers are for ourselves. They are forced from us by some trouble. We have forgotten God, and given our heart and strength to our own interests and desires. When the fear of the harvest of our sins comes home to us, the fear of death and of judgement, we cry unto God. The first real prayers of many of us were selfish. A higher type comes later. Not until we are delivered do we begin to pray for others, and to long for God's name to be known and honoured. It is fear, and bondage, and trouble, that make us first cry out.
But it is this cry which God hears. He begins with us as we are. He does not wait until we have been raised to a certain level before He listens. He hearkens to our cry as sinners first. He makes us saints, and then we pray as saints. But in the first place it is the cry of the publican, "God be merciful to me a sinner," that is heard. And this is where the gospel comes in, and where there is hope for us all. If God would not help us until we were on a higher platform of desire than the selfish one, we never should be heard. We cannot get higher until God hears our prayer and delivers us from sin and self.
Let us notice what this cry of children of Israel included. There was Confession. They said: "We have sinned." And the confession was particular: "We have forsaken our God, we have served the Baalim." They knew wherein they had sinned, and they acknowledged their particular offence. The promise of forgiveness is preceded by the words, "if we confess our sins." It is not a general confession of sinnership that is required; that is acknowledged by all; but a particular confession of individual sinfulness.
This is not the first time these people had acknowledged their transgressions. They are backsliders returning to God. And return to God is not easy. In this case the Lord said He would not hear them. He said: "Did I not save you from the Egyptians, and from the Amorites, from the children of Ammon, and from the Philistines? The Zidonians also, and the Amalekites, and Maonites did oppress you; and ye cried unto Me, and I saved you out of their hand. Yet ye have forsaken Me, and served other gods; wherefore I will save you no more. Go and cry unto the gods which ye have chosen; let them save you in the time of your distress." God practically told them that they had made a convenience of Him, and He was not going to have that done any more. Let them go to those whom they were serving. That was a perfectly fair proposition. It is not so easy, after repeated falls, to come back to God as it is to come to Him in the first place. The haunting fear of whether it will last, the remembrance of repeated failings, and the recollection that we have meant well before, but have not been able to continue, all hinder us. Then repeated sinning makes us greater slaves to evil. Habits have become a part of us. No! it is not easy coming back to God after several falls.
And it ought not to be easy. If is quite right that it should get harder, and that we should know it and feel it. It will make us more careful, and make us feel that to slip again is only to add to the difficulties of repentance. If we get the idea that God receives us as readily and easily each time, some amongst us may be for ever sinning and repenting. Forgiveness is wonderfully free on God's part, but it is not easy. Forgiveness is not an easy thing with us, and it is not an easy thing with God. Before the remission of sins could be preached as a gospel to the whole world, it was necessary for Christ to die. It cost God His Son to make forgiveness free to us. We must not have light views concerning the pardon of our sins.
But though it is harder to get back, return is possible. These people persevered. They said: "We have sinned: do Thou unto us whatsoever seemeth good unto Thee; only deliver us, we pray Thee, this day. And they put away the strange gods from among them, and served the Lord." They valued forgiveness and deliverance. They became more urgent. And to their confession they added action. They gave a guarantee of their genuineness in that they gave up the things which were wrong; and, before deliverance came, they began to serve the Lord. That is the way the light breaks. There are evils that must be put away, and acts of obedience rendered before assurance of acceptance can come to the soul. Repentance, surrender to Christ, and confession of Him before men, must accompany prayer. Actions as well as plaintive speech are required to show that we are in earnest. We are to "bring forth fruits meet for repentance."
And the cry of the children of Israel moved God. "His soul was grieved for the misery of Israel." God is unchangeable, but He is not immovable like a rock. His heart can be touched. There are things that appeal to Him. Genuine repentance, distress, strong desire, these things touch Him, and He responds. He will not leave a true man alone. If you really are anxious to be better, and to be delivered, God will come to your aid. "Wilt thou be made whole," He says. "If any man will come after Me," " Whosoever will." Where there is a will God will find a way to bless. "Those that hunger and thirst after righteousness & shall be filled."
“And Samuel spake unto all the house of Israel, saying: If ye do return unto the Lord with all your hearts, then put away the strange gods and Ashtaroth from among you, and prepare your hearts unto the Lord, and serve Him only; and He will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.” I Samuel vii. 3.
BOTH the religious and the national life of Israel were at a low ebb. For years an old and feeble priest had been at the head of affairs. His sons ministered in the priest’s office. They were covetous and immoral, and used their position for their own vile ends. The offerings of the Lord were consequently abhorred. Their father, Eli, had not the courage to deal with them as a parent should, or to purify the service of the Lord’s house, as the position of high priest required him to do. The service of God was neglected and in disrepute. At this time the Philistines came against the people, and inflicted upon them a severe defeat. In their extremity the Israelites sent for the ark of God. They did not inquire into the moral reasons why the Lord’s help was not forthcoming. They turned superstitiously to a symbol instead of to the living God. Their religion was one of externals only, and was altogether independent of questions of character. With the ark in their midst they fought another battle with the Philistines, but were defeated more disastrously than ever. The ark itself was taken, the priests were slain, and Shiloh, their national centre and the meeting place of their faith, was laid waste. For 20 years they were under the heel of the Philistines, and had no place where they gathered to worship God. Though the ark was returned by their oppressors, it was consigned to a private house. It was no longer a rallying point for their faith. Then the people began to lament after the Lord. They became conscious of His absence. There was a power and a blessing, once enjoyed, but now missed. The presence of the living God was their need.
How this yearning found expression we do not know, but we have, in our text, the answer that Samuel gave to their longing. The instructions were obeyed. With all their heart they sought and served the Lord. A national assembly was convened, and ceremonies, expressive of their contrition and of their whole-hearted surrender to God, were observed. They confessed their sins, and individual cases were judged by Samuel, and his judgements were accepted. Then the Philistines gathered against them again. Samuel prayed for deliverance; and, before a blow was struck by them either in self-defence or for liberty, the power of the Lord was made manifest. In a thunderstorm He appeared and discomfited their foes. They saw that He was once more amongst them; and, acting under the inspiration of this, they pursued their enemies and were delivered out of their hands. National deliverance followed a general revival of religious faith and practice. The points we will notice in this story are: The Cause, The Conditions, and The Consequences of Revival.
I. THE CAUSE OF REVIVAL.
In our study of the revival under Moses in Egypt, we noticed that God is the great first, moving cause in such an event. That fact remains concerning all real religious awakenings. In this story we deal, however, with the secondary cause.
The human cause was Samuel. He was the instrument that God used. When quite a boy the Lord had spoken to him and given him His first message. This was one of warning and rebuke to Eli for the careless way in which he dealt with his family and supervised the Lord’s work. After that “the Lord appeared again in Shiloh: for the Lord revealed Himself to Samuel in Shiloh by the word of the Lord. And the word of Samuel came to all Israel.” That is the record of 20 years before the revival. But the work that produced the great awakening began then. Our text must not be regarded as an isolated utterance of the great prophet at the end of the twenty years, but as an epitome of the message which, during that period, he was continually giving. The burden of his preaching was that the reason for their defeat and oppression was moral. The nation would not revive until religion revived. If there was a widespread reformation in their lives the Lord would give them deliverance. For twenty years Samuel preached this. It took all that time for it to sink into their minds. But it bore its fruit at last. The revival seemed sudden when it came, but it was the result of years of patient labour. This is a lesson we need to learn.
A revival is sadly needed in this land. The religious life is low. Morality is conspicuous by its absence in much of our business life. Men have little conscience in the matter of debt. Gambling is indulged in to an alarming extent. Social evils grow. Not only are divorces on the increase, but the number of wives and families abandoned by their husbands is very great. An awakening that will touch the consciences of men is needed if religion is to be an aggressive force, and if our social, commercial and civic life is to be saved from ruin. With these facts before us, and encouraged by the Welsh Revival, we have begun to pray and work for revival. After a short time many have become discouraged. We see no great movement, and we think we have expected too much. We begin to explain that the Revival in Wales is largely a matter of temperament, that the people are emotional, and naturally religious. We say it is impossible to have such a revival here. Our circumstances are so different, our populations are so mixed, we have such a mass of anti-Christian element. Judaism, Mahommedanism, Hindooism, Confucianism—all number their adherents by the thousand. The emigrants from Continental Europe have a lower moral standard than the British and the Dutch, and a greater mixture of superstition with their religion. All these combine against the atmosphere that would issue in a revival. But our God is equal to all this. The special difficulties are a challenge to His power and to our faith. The greater the difficulty and the need, the greater the reason for a revival. But we must have patience. We must be prepared to work long, and to do what, in the political world, Lord Rosebery calls spade work. God’s best things can only be given to those who show appreciation of their value by persistent desire and effort to obtain them. The spasmodic prayers that represent flitting desires, though they are good, He does not answer. The prayers which reveal the settled longing of the heart are the prayers He heeds. And it takes time to reveal that such desires are possessed by us.
Some may be inclined to say: “If we only had a man like Samuel amongst us we should soon have a revival. But we lack an outstanding leader.” Wales has given us the answer to this. The work there is the work of no one man. God has used many men, and many of humble origin. There is a story told concerning the football team of Harvard University which is also appropriate to this. For several seasons the Harvard team was beaten by those from the Yale and Pennsylvania Universities. Three young men gave themselves to the task of finding the cause, and also a remedy. The tide of defeat was stayed, and then it turned to victory. One day, after beating Yale by 28 to nil, a friend enquired about the new plan, and received a reply to the effect that every member of the old team was a star. Each was the best in his own particular line, and each played his own particular part, but the playing was that of individuals. “Now,” he said, “we have only one star, but we have a team. We all work together.” Is there not in that a hint for us? A number of us working together can equal a Samuel. With faith in and consecration to God, and with a conviction of the need of and desire for revival, the blessing can come through us.
II. THE CONDITIONS OF REVIVAL.
1. Earnestness.—” If ye do return unto the Lord with all your hearts,” said Samuel. That is, if you are in earnest, then put away, the strange gods. Nothing that is required to bring revival can be done unless, first of all, there be whole-heartedness. “If you mean business,” Samuel seems to say, “I can give you the programme, but it turns upon this, ‘If with all your hearts.’” But this earnestness that must precede everything else must continue throughout and permeate the remaining conditions. After putting away comes: "Prepare your hearts unto the Lord,” or “set” or “make firm your hearts.” Also "serve Him only.’’ The whole thing must be done with the entire being.
John Collett Ryland, in the eighteenth century, at the age of 20, wrote these words: “If there is ever a God in heaven or earth, I vow and protest, in His strength, or that God permitting me, I’ll find Him out; and I’ll know whether He loves or hates me; or I’ll die and perish, soul and body, in the pursuit and search.” Ryland not only found God, but became one of His ministers. Within six years of writing this he was called to be the pastor of a Baptist church. Such earnestness cannot fail of finding God. “The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.”
2. Repentance.—Though the people had forgotten God they had not altogether discarded religion. In the place of the true they had put the false. The false gods and the practices connected therewith must now be put on one side. Whilst the mind was occupied with other gods, the true God could not be seen. The heart must be wholly turned to Him to see Him; and in order to do this that which filled the vision must be put on one side. In this country we have not to face the substitution of a false religion for the true, so much as we have to face the substitution of the things of this life for the eternal. “The pure in heart shall see God." The reverse is true : “The impure shall not see Him.” Lust blinds the eyes to God. Men cannot see Him, or be sure of Him, when they are lustful. It is easy and natural to be sceptical when impure.
Money is as blinding to the true vision as lust. If men are wholly occupied with the pursuit of wealth, and are determined upon getting money, they cannot see God. It is not a question so much of whether the methods of getting it are justifiable or unscrupulous, as it is the absorption in the pursuit of it. A man who has no time for anything else but business, though he run his business honestly, will find that God is outside his vision. His whole horizon is filled with that which absorbs him. Men must turn from the whole-hearted pursuit of money if they would get right with God.
Ambition is equally blinding. “How can ye believe,” Christ said, “which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only?” If the praise of our fellows be the dominant motive of our life we cannot find God. If we are prevented from taking our stand for Him, simply because it would mean the contempt of those whose good will we value, we shall find it impossible to be refreshed and helped by His presence. The inspiring, comforting, purifying effect of His presence is worth every sacrifice; and anything that is first, and places Him in a secondary position, must be put on one side.
This repentance includes confession. The children of Israel gathered at Mizpah and said:
“We have sinned against the Lord.” The facts of one’s life must be faced. The sins must be acknowledged. The responsibility for them must be taken. The blame must not be put upon circumstances. True confession is accepting the guilt. “If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins.
But confession is not completed by making a secret acknowledgment unto the Lord. If our sins have been against individuals, and these are within reach of our word, the confession must be made ‘to them. “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed,” says James. “Samuel judged the children of Israel in Mizpah.” The individual cases came before him, and wrongs were righted. Relationships that were discordant were made harmonious. When people are ready to make up their quarrels revival is not far off.
III. THE CONSEQUENCES OF REVIVAL.
1. Unity — The Book of Judges concludes with the sentence: “Every man did that which was right in his own eyes.” There was no recognized head. Eli, as high priest, never rallied or united the people. Not till Samuel came was the old unity restored. Now “all the house of Israel lamented after the Lord.” “Samuel spake unto all the house of Israel.” “And Samuel said: Gather all Israel to Mizpah.”
Revival always means unity. In Wales the churches have never been so one as at the present time. Though the distinctive rite of the Baptists has been more in evidence than ever, 40,000 out of the 8o,ooo converts having been publicly baptised, the harmony of the churches has not been disturbed. In spite of the fierce controversy over the Education Act, Church of England clergymen have joined with the ministers of the Free Churches in the meetings for prayer and the care of the converts. The points of agreement are seen to be more; and whilst individual convictions are not lessened, they do not divide the workers.
In South Africa revival would mean not only greater unity amongst the churches, but amongst our various races. The great mission of Gipsy Smith brought together in the centres he visited men who had been separated for years, and, that kind of thing would be multiplied throughout the land if revival should sweep over it like a great wave.
2. Conflict — The children of Israel could not bestir themselves without their gathering appearing to be a challenge to the Philistines. Sooner or later the two powers must be pitted one against the other. Revival does not mean ease. It is a preparation for work. It will either arouse the organized forces of evil into open hostility, or it will compel the Christian forces to attack them more seriously.
3. Deliverance — “And He will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines!” When the religious life of a country is low the wicked prosper, and at the expense of the majority of the people. Drinking corporations flourish, monopolies and trusts come to great estate, wealth is amassed without any consideration for those who are pushed on one side. Dividends have to be paid, and corporations are heartless. Revival means a great awakening of the public conscience, and with that awakening deliverance from greed and selfishness and corruption will follow.
A GREAT revival of religion took place in the fifteenth year of the reign of Asa, king of Judah. The awakening was different from any of those which we have already considered. It did not follow a period of religious decline, but an era of reformation. Neither was it occasioned by national adversity, causing the people in despair to turn to God; but it came after a season of increase and prosperity; and after a great national victory and deliverance. During the two preceding reigns, the worship of Jehovah had been pushed into the background, and the erection of idols, and places for their worship, had proceeded with the active support of the rulers. Upon Asa’s accession ecclesiastical reform was immediately effected. The State policy was reversed. The people were commanded to observe, the law of God, and an active campaign against idolatry was instituted. A period of quiet settled upon the land, and the freedom from external attack was utilized for internal development and the strengthening of the national defences. After ten years of progress, an army of one million Ethiopians came against Judah. Asa took the field] with only half that number of soldiers. But Asa “cried unto the Lord.” And the Lord heard his prayer and gave a mighty victory to His people.
As the king and his hosts returned, the prophet Azariah met them and called their attention to the condition of Israel during the times of the judges, and to the fact that whenever the people turned to God He was found of them. Encouraged by the story of the past and the exhortation of the prophet, the zeal of Asa was quickened, and the work of reformation was carried further still. There were some abuses that had not yet been dealt with, and there were works for God which had not been undertaken. Following this increased zeal against the false faiths and on behalf of the true, was the calling of a national assembly at Jerusalem. The success which had crowned Asa’s reforming zeal in the early years, the response made by God to his faith in the hour of national danger, the further zeal following the words of the prophet, all served to awaken the religious spirit in the people. They came “to him in abundance when they saw that the Lord his God was with him.” In the fifteenth year of his reign Asa found his policy and example had borne fruit, and that his subjects were thoroughly infected with the spirit that animated him. “They entered into a covenant to seek the Lord God of their fathers with all their heart and with all their soul.” And in accordance with the law which said, “He that sacrificeth unto any god, save unto the Lord only, he shall be utterly destroyed,” they determined that “whosoever would not seek the Lord God of Israel should be put to death. ” The revival was marked with great joy. The people “rejoiced at the oath, for they had sworn with all their heart, and sought Him with their whole desire.” Asa also found another matter claiming his attention. The queen, Maacah, mother of the king, had erected an idol in a grove. This he destroyed, and Maacah he deposed. A further period of rest—this time of 20 years—marked the Lord’s approval of the national awakening. This story shows
I. THAT REVIVAL IS POSSIBLE IN A TIME OF PROSPERITY.
The majority of the revivals of the Bible, and the majority of those in the Christian era, have followed periods of religious decline and of national trouble. It is with nations as with individuals— trouble is generally required to make them turn to the Lord. Not till we are in extreme case do we, as a rule, seek Him. And so it is possible for us to feel that revival cannot come without trouble. The statement has been frequently made about ourselves in South Africa that we have to be brought a good deal lower yet before any great blessing can come to us. It is true we have had a long spell of disastrous events, and that the spirit of our people is not yet one of deep humility before the Lord. If there is no great turning to the Lord we shall probably see more trouble and prolonged uncertainty. But there is nothing on God’s side necessitating further chastisement. It is only human perversity that makes trouble a preliminary to blessing. The history of Asa shows that God’s Spirit can work at all times. Other stories have told us that adversity is not a bar to revival. This one tells us that though prosperity is not generally conducive to it, it need not hinder it.
II. REVIVAL IS HELPED BY A REMEMBRANCE OF THE PAST.
Azariah’s address about former awakenings was a great stimulus to Asa. When he heard the prophecy he took courage. The prophecy was in the ancient story. What had been could be again. The history of the past is always possible in like conditions. In the time of the Judges—or rather in the period covered off and on by their rule, for their rule was spasmodic, not continuous—there had been great awakenings. The people were leaderless; civil government was not established; the work of God was unorganized; every city was in danger of attack ; there was no security anywhere for life or property; and yet in such conditions the people had sought and found the Lord. If this were possible then, what was not possible now? They were strong; the throne was firmly established; the country was safe; preachers had liberty to give their messages; the priests had facilities for sacrifice; and the influence of the court was all on the side of good. The story of the past was certainly possible of repetition. And in this manner we should encourage ourselves to-day. We read of many awakenings in Old Testament times, in seasons of adversity and prosperity, with the help of the king, and sometimes with his influence on the opposite side. About sixteen revivals are recorded, or hinted at, between the times of Moses and Nehemiah. These awakenings occurred before the advent of Christ, before the knowledge of God and of His will was so clear as it is to-day, and before His Spirit was poured out as at Pentecost. How much more possible is revival for us? The conditions are far more favourable.
Then the history of revival in the Christian era is helpful. God has never been without witness. In the darkest ages men have stood up for Him, and won others too. When confession of Christ meant death, the preaching of the Word imprisonment, attendance at public worship and possession of the Scriptures the confiscation of goods, revivals occurred. Before freedom of conscience was established, before printing was invented, and when; after the invention of printing, the Bible was a dear book, and the common people could not read, in all these times religious awakenings took place. With the multiplication of Christian agencies and influence, and the widespread diffusion of the Scriptures, coupled with the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit, what wonderful seasons of refreshing may be ours.
The revival in Jonathan Edwards’ church in America in the eighteenth century was occasioned by hearing of revival in England. The story of it in that church called forth prayerful and expectant effort in other quarters. The revival in Ireland and Wales in 1859 was helped by the story of a similar event in the United States in 1857, and the revival in Ireland and Wales led to a like work of grace in England and Scotland. The present awakening in Wales has already borne fruit in other lands; and in this country the blessing we are expecting will be largely due to the prayerful interest with which that movement is being followed.
III. REVIVAL REQUIRES AN INCREASE OF SPIRITUAL LIFE AMONGST THOSE ALREADY POSSESSING IT.
Asa had taken a strong stand against evil; he had put his hand with considerable energy to good things; he had exhibited great faith in a time of trouble; he had given evidence that he had learnt the art of successful prayer; and he had been blessed so conspicuously that people saw that God was with him, and yet there was room for improvement. There were evils still tolerated in the country and in his home. And there were also works of God awaiting his hand. The altar of the Lord required renewal, and the dedicated things needed to be brought into the temple. And when Asa consecrated himself to these things God sent the blessing.
In an admirable book on “The Revival in Wales and some of its Hidden Springs,” Mrs. Penn Lewis traces the awakening there to a series of conventions and meetings, in which good men and women entered into a deeper life. If the tone of the life of the members of our churches be considerably raised the blessing will not tarry. The great masses of the people are unreached by our church agencies. They will not come to our meetings; but they are all touched during the week, in daily life, by Christian people. If in the midst of the world our spirit be different from its spirit, if there we are gentle, patient and forgiving, happy and contented, unselfish and loving, the masses will be brought face to face with personified Christianity. They will pause and consider its meaning. It will first rebuke them, and then in many cases it will win them. “The strangers out of Ephraim and Manasseh and out of Simeon fell to Asa in abundance, when they saw that the Lord his God was with him.” The outsiders were reached by the deepening of his religious life.
IV. REVIVAL NECESSITATES DRASTIC MEASURES WITH EVILS.
Idolatry is degrading to character and demoralizing to social life. It obscures God. The world was so sunk in it that it was necessary for a people to be called out from the world, separated from it, and by strong laws and discipline purified from the prevailing faith and practices, in order that the true faith might be planted, preserved, and propagated. The history of the Jews shows that idolatry could not be dealt with on any other line but an intolerant one. In the New Testament the firm and intolerant attitude of the nation to evil is laid upon the individual. Habits which are as much a part of us as hands and eyes are to be surgically treated if they hinder the soul’s growth. The power of God can only flow through the man whose life is clearly and definitely severed from sin. The same position must, be taken by the church. Her hands must be free from everything that degrades the life of the people. There are evils amongst us as demoralizing as idolatry was amongst the Jews.
The drink is one of these. The terrible increase of insanity, which is a national peril, is due to drink more than to any other one cause. Crime, poverty, and disease each owes more to intoxicants than to any other single thing. The physique, the mental power, the wealth, the social life, the character and security of our people, are threatened by this terrible scourge. The church must not be afraid to be intolerant of it. We are told we must not interfere with the liberty of the subject. But the liberties of us all have been long interfered with through the freedom and licence granted to “the trade.” The church should purge itself completely of the evil. No one interested in the liquor traffic should be elected to its sacred offices, and all should take the total abstinence position. Any other platform but the total abstinence one is ineffective for God’s people to occupy.
Another evil sapping the best life of the country is gambling. The complete absorption of the masses of the people in sport—an absorption that means that in the time of national trouble the issue of a football or cricket match puts in the shade the issue of a battle or a campaign, an absorption that means that questions upon which the nation’s future depends, and upon which each man is called to vote, are only seriously discussed by the few—is due not to the active participation of the people in the games themselves, but to the betting and sweepstakes connected therewith. And this interest means that the masses are financially and personally interested in the issue of each sporting event, and whilst the issue of these events is uncertain, the employer does not and cannot have the whole-hearted attention of his employees. The gambling spirit is against efficiency in business; and to men handling money it is a constant source of temptation. It fosters the spirit of dependence upon chance, and is a menace to honest, steady toil. Members of Christian churches should abstain from betting, sweepstakes, and playing for money in games of chance; and the churches in their corporate capacity should rigorously exclude all raffling, etc., from bazaars and sales of work. If the church allows these things, even “for a good cause,” it cannot protest effectually against the evil.
V. REVIVAL CALLS FOR COURAGEOUS AND PURPOSEFUL EFFORT.
The conqueror of a million, himself at the head of an army of half a million victorious soldiers, is urged to be strong; and told that his hands should not be weak. The courage of the battlefield fails in the presence of moral evil. A different spirit is wanted to stand against sin, especially when that sin is in one’s own household. It did my heart good the other night to hear two or three strapping young men, who looked as if they would be afraid of no one, confessing their weakness to the Lord, and asking Him to give them courage to confess Christ before their comrades. “Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall; but they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength.”
Asa not only needed courage but purpose. He made up his mind to obey the Lord, and to work for the blessing promised. There is need for Christians to consecrate themselves for the work of revival. It will not come without definite purpose on the part of some. Individuals must make up their minds to live for this purpose, to study the laws of revivals, and to work and pray wholeheartedly for blessing. With courageous and purposeful effort the work will be hastened.
I Kings, xvii. and xviii.
In the reign of Ahab and Jezebel the children of Israel were becoming confirmed in idolatry. For over fifty years the people had been departing from the old faith, until the worship of Baal had become the State religion. For the first time in their history their ancient faith was persecuted. Men worshipped Jehovah with their lives in their hands. The prophets of the Lord were hunted down and put to death. One hundred of them were saved through the help of Obadiah, a friend at court, who hid them in a cave and supplied them with bread and water. The people were contented with this state of things. The country was prosperous; new towns were built; large palaces, public buildings, and temples were erected; and the prestige of the nation amongst the surrounding peoples was high.
One man, however, was studying his Bible. It was a small book compared with the one we have to-day. In it he found these words: “It shall come to pass, if ye shall hearken diligently unto My commandments which I command you this day, to love the Lord your God, and to serve Him with all your heart, and with all your soul, that I will give you the rain of your land in his due season, the first rain and the latter rain, that thou mayest gather in thy corn, and thy wine, and thine oil. And I will send grass in thy fields for thy cattle, that thou mayest eat and be full. Take heed to yourselves, that your heart be not deceived, and ye turn aside, and serve other gods, and worship them; and then the Lord’s wrath be kindled against you, and He shut up the heaven, that there be no rain, and that the land yield not her fruit; and lest ye perish quickly from off the good land which the Lord giveth you.” Under the influence of this, Elijah “prayed earnestly that it might not rain.” It was an awful prayer, but he saw that if the people were to be won back to the faith of their fathers they must reap the consequences of their idolatry. They were not open to argument. They were utterly indifferent to the claims of God, and would not give them a moment’s thought. It was imperative that they should find the way of transgressors to be hard; and so Elijah prayed that God’s Word might be fulfilled.
When he was sure that what the Lord had said would come to pass he publicly announced the course of events. In the court of the king he declared : “As the Lord God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word.” And then under command from God he retired from public life.
For three and a half years the Word of God was not preached. There was a famine of the Word. And there was also another famine. The logic of events was to make its appeal to the people. A drought settled upon the country. The land gradually dried up. The sky, for month after month, remained a pitiless blue. The crops failed; the cattle and sheep pined away; the people sickened and died. Ahab had the country scoured in vain to find provision for his horses. Under the stress of these years a scapegoat had to be found, and Elijah was denounced as the cause of all the trouble. There was not a place known to the king to which he did not send for the prophet. A price was upon his head. But the judgment was doing its work. As the hearts of the people fainted within them they were being prepared to hear God’s message. They were getting hungry for comfort and help; and when the time was ripe Elijah was bidden to show himself to Ahab. This he did. But the king had no power to arrest him. There was a power with him that made the king tremble in his presence. The subject commanded the ruler. Under the direction of Elijah, Ahab summoned a national assembly. The people gathered in their thousands, and Elijah appealed to the masses direct with his message. “How long,” he said, “halt ye between two opinions? If the Lord be God, follow Him; but if Baal, then follow him.” To this there was no response. “The people answered him not a word.” Then he proposed a test. Two bullocks should be selected for sacrifice. One should be prepared by the prophets of Baal, the other by himself. These should be placed on altars with wood, but no fire. “And,” said the prophet, “call ye on the name of your gods, and I will call on the name of the Lord: and the god that answereth by fire, let him be God.” To this the people agreed. The bullocks were brought, and the prophets of Baal were given the first opportunity of obtaining the desired effect. For hours, in the hottest part of the day, with the burning rays of the sun shining upon their offering, these men, 450 in number, arrayed in all the paraphernalia of their office, careered and danced around their altar, crying, “O Baal, hear us! O Baal, hear us ” Tricks were impossible in the daylight, and under the eyes of such a multitude. As the hours dragged on the excitement rose, and in their frenzy they jumped upon the altar, cried aloud, and cut themselves with knives. But “there was neither voice, nor any to answer, nor any that regarded.”
Then Elijah called the people near to him. The altar of the Lord, which was broken down, was repaired; the sacrifice was made ready; the wood was saturated with water; over the whole water was poured three times, and the trench surrounding the altar was filled. Then Elijah prayed: “Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that Thou art God in Israel, and that I am Thy servant, and that I have done all these things at Thy word. Hear me, O Lord, hear me; that this people may know that Thou art the Lord God, and that Thou hast turned their heart back again.” And he did not pray in vain. The fire of the Lord fell, and “when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces, and they said, The Lord, He is the God; the Lord, He is the God.” The people returned en masse to the God of their fathers. The prophets of Baal were destroyed. The national repentance was complete.
But as yet there was not a speck in the sky. The heavens continued to be as brass. But the people had repented, and Elijah once more publicly committed God. He declared that there was the sound of abundance of rain; and with that promise ringing in their ears the people returned to their homes. Elijah’s work, however, was not complete. Though the promise of God was so absolute, and so certain of fulfilment, it needed human co-operation to make it effective. “Thus saith the Lord God, I will yet for this be inquired of by the house of Israel to do it for them.” Elijah retired to pray, and as earnestly as he had requested that it might not rain, so now he prayed that the showers might fall. And when a cloud no bigger than a man’s hand appeared in the sky he sent word at once to Ahab to hasten home before the storm broke.
On the surface of the story Elijah appears to us as a man of gigantic character, and quite impossible of imitation. But the Apostle James assures us he "was a man subject to like passions as we are". There were moments when he exhibited cowardice, faint-heartedness, and hopelessness, as we are prone to do. His greatness was due to that which is possible to us all—faith and prayer.
Elijah believed in the living God. “As the Lord God of Israel liveth before Whom I stand. This he said in the presence of Ahab. When he was before the whole court the most real being to him was God. He lived his life and uttered his words in the presence always of the King of Kings. To Him he was responsible. And this faith he had in an atmosphere similar to the one in which we live and work during the week. God is not real to the people of this land. He is not in all their thoughts. Business and pleasure absorb, and are realities; but God is far away. The complete banishment of God from the thoughts of the majority creates an atmosphere that affects our faith and our spiritual perceptions. In such an atmosphere Elijah also moved. But he came to it from another one. In retirement he had fellowship with God, he pondered over His words, he allowed them to sink into his soul till they governed his desires and thoughts. His inner life was brought into harmony with the revealed will of God. And after breathing this atmosphere for hours he could move amongst men and be unaffected by the air they breathed. His spiritual health was such that the diseased ideas of men could not impregnate him. When the presence of God is cultivated it becomes an overpowering, mastering sense, and with it a man moves victoriously amongst his fellows. It is not belief in the being of God that is our need, nor the furnishing of the mind with arguments for His existence; but the sense of God, of His presence, of His sympathy and imminent help, and of our responsibility to Him. Such a feeling will enable us to act independently of the fear of man, and will make us strong.
Elijah believed in the Word of God. He had no doubts about its truth. What God had said would come to pass. His words were not idle ones. His promises and threatenings were equally true. The latter were righteous and necessary. It was not vindictiveness, nor delight in human misery, that caused God to threaten, but love for the souls of men. The threatenings were warnings. Their fulfilment was to turn men back to Him. “That they may know that Thou hast turned their hearts back again.” This word needed to be received by men. It called them to co-operate with God for its fulfilment. It was a guide. It contained a program. To this program human acquiescence was necessary. Men must consent to it as good and just. The will revealed in it was a will to be accomplished through men. It was made known in order to bring men into line with God. So, accepting the word, and loving the people and the honour of God, Elijah prayed that, until their hearts were right they might know the bitterness of sin. The absence of rain was terrible, but contentment in a state of sin was a greater calamity. And when the people were broken under the influence of the drought he prayed again that rain might come.
God’s Word abides. Such a faith as Elijah’s we require. The program of the Bible should be studied by us. To it we should agree. The revealed will of God should be our delight. For the realization of the promises we should pray and work.
This faith governed Elijah’s life. It gave him courage to face Ahab and to tell him the truth. It enabled him to preach judgment to a people who did not believe in such a thing, and to whom such a doctrine was repugnant. He believed in the mercy of God to an unthinking, rebellious nation. God was more anxious to give rain than to withhold it. His faith enthused him, and he desired to communicate it. The people needed it. He desired they should understand and receive it. Prayer, hard work, earnestness, clear teaching, strong, loving desire, were born of such convictions. He could not help preaching. Such truths as he held with such intensity could not be bottled up. They must find expression. And the faith that enthused him was contagious. Men could not help feeling its power. It swayed the people. And though in some quarters it did not convince, it triumphed. It bore down the opposition of unbelief, and was found to be unanswerable. His faith, and not the unbelief of Ahab, ruled the people.
Such a faith, fed by the Word of God, and fostered in hours of retirement, is possible to us, and will make us instruments of revival to the people amongst whom we dwell.
Chapter 1. Revival In Egypt
Chapter 2. Revival In the Times of the Judges
Chapter 3. Revival Under Samuel
Chapter 4. Revival Under Asa
Chapter 5. Revival Under Elijah
Chapter 6. Revival Under Jonah
Chapter 7. Revival Under Hezekiah
Chapter 8. Revival Under Josiah
Chapter 9. Revival Under Zerubbabel
Chapter 10. Revival Under Haggai And Zechariah
Chapter 11. Revival Under Ezra
Chapter 12. Revival Under Nehemiah
Chapter 13. Revival Under John The Baptist
Chapter 14. Revival at Pentecost
Chapter 15. Revival In Samaria
Chapter 16. Revival In Caesarea
Chapter 17. Revival In Antioch
Chapter 18. Revival In Europe