This is the sixth part of my take on the results of the Virginia’s General Election (November 7, 2017). Here are the five previous posts.
- HINDSIGHT ISN’T 20/20 — PART 1
- HINDSIGHT ISN’T 20/20 — PART 2
- HINDSIGHT ISN’T 20/20 — PART 3
- HINDSIGHT ISN’T 20/20 — PART 4
- HINDSIGHT ISN’T 20/20 — PART 5
What is the subject of today’s post? What is this post about? The subject is what the Old Testament teaches about spiritual revival. Since there were no Christians before Jesus Christ, we cannot rightly say the Old Testament provides explicitly tells us how to do a Christian Revival. Nevertheless, the God of the Old Testament and the New are one and the same. So we should consult the Old Testament as well as the New.
What Does A Revival Involve? What Does The Old Testament Suggest?
Usually we think of revivals as being a Christian or Jewish thing. Not true. Since God saw the need to cast Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden there have been revivals. Noah, at the time of the Flood, stood as God’s ambassador among men. As his testimony, he built a great ark, but only his family believed. Yet that was enough. That ark got built.
The First Recorded Revival
Was the building of the Ark a revival? Perhaps. The Revival Library provides a list of Old Testament revivals: Revivals in the Old Testament (revival-library.org). That list doesn’t specifically include the strengthening of faith required to build the Ark, but it does include a revival that occurred in the days before Noah’s Flood. The words used to justify this proposition come from Genesis 4.26.
Genesis 4:26 New King James Version (NKJV)
26 Then men began to call on the name of the Lord.
Is calling on the name of the Lord all it takes to have a revival? Why would that be so? What does it mean to call upon the name of the Lord? A little search quickly turns up quite a bit of information.
- Calling on the Name of the Lord: The Meaning and Significance of ἐπικαλέω in Romans 10:13 (themelios.thegospelcoalition.org)
- What Does It Mean To Call On the Name of the Lord? (knollwoodchurch.org)
- What does it mean to call upon the name of the Lord? (answers.yahoo.com)
- What does it mean to call upon the name of the Lord? (pastorseansblog.blogspot.com)
- “Calling on the Name of the Lord” (apologeticspress.org)
Several of the articles reference Romans 10:13. In Romans 10:13, the Apostle Paul used the phrase “calling upon the Lord” the same way in the New Testament that the Old Testament uses it. What is important about Romans 10:13 is that Romans 10 provides an explanation of the meaning of the phrase “calling upon the Lord” . The entire chapter is relevant, but these are the key verses.
Romans 10:11-14 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
11 For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; 13 for “Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
14 How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher?
What calling upon the Lord implies is belief, putting our faith in Him. We demonstrate that faith by striving to obey Him. As James 2:14-26 explains, faith without works is dead.
What Does A Revival Look Like?
What does a revival look like? Most of the Old Testament concerns the struggle of the Hebrews (latter called people of Israel) to obey God. The Book of Jonah describes a revival, but most of the Book of Jonah is about Jonah and his reluctance to obey the Lord. Because the people of Nineveh were cruel and deadly enemies of Israel (see Why did God judge Nineveh so harshly in the book of Nahum? (gotquestions.org) and Grisly Assyrian Record of Torture and Death (faculty.uml.edu), Jonah wanted nothing to do with them. Therefore, most of the book is about how God persuaded Jonah to go to Nineveh and convince the people of Nineveh to repent of their sins. Here is what happened after Jonah finally obeyed God.
Jonah 3:5-10 New King James Version (NKJV)
The People of Nineveh Believe
5 So the people of Nineveh believed God, proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least of them. 6 Then word came to the king of Nineveh; and he arose from his throne and laid aside his robe, covered himself with sackcloth and sat in ashes. 7 And he caused it to be proclaimed and published throughout Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying,
Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything; do not let them eat, or drink water. 8 But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily to God; yes, let every one turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. 9 Who can tell if God will turn and relent, and turn away from His fierce anger, so that we may not perish?
10 Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it.
Ashamed of their evil deeds, the people of Nineveh believed the message Jonah brought them from God, and they repented.
What Did A Revival Look Like In Israel?
When the people of Israel experience a revival, what did they do? Well, it is certain they had much more practice than most. The Book of Judges records seven revivals (Revivals in the Old Testament (revival-library.org)). It is not the subject of this post, but as the revival-library.org article observes, the Book of Judges chronicles repeated cycles of departure and return to belief in the Lord, describing the first cycle in Judges 2.
Anyway, the Book of Judges is more grisly than most of the Bible. So let’s consider a later example, after Israel had kings ruling over them. Let’s look at the revival initiated by King Josiah. This is described in 2 Kings 22:1-23:30 and 2 Chronicles 34-35. What was the sequence of events.
- King Josiah was the king of Judah, and he was one of the good kings. One of the unfortunate things about the kings of Israel and Judah is that the kings had an inordinate amount of influence over the behavior of the people, and most of the kings were bad kings. So on the rare occasions Judah had a good king (Israel never had one.), the new king had to lead a revival. King Josiah began by cleansing Judah of idol worship.
- At the time King Josiah began his rule, the temple was in disrepair, and the Book of the Law was lost. Fortunately, Hilkiah the high priest found the Book of the Law in the temple, and Shaphan the scribe brought the book to King Josiah and read it to him. King Josiah was convicted by what he heard. He realized Judah had failed to obey God, and he repented.
- King Josiah had his priests find a prophet. The priest found Huldah the prophetess, and she inquired of the Lord. The prophetess gave King Josiah some solace. He was doing the right thing by humbling himself before the Lord and upholding His Word.
- Thus King Josiah did the following.
2 Chronicles 34:31-33 New King James Version (NKJV)
31 Then the king stood in his place and made a covenant before the Lord, to follow the Lord, and to keep His commandments and His testimonies and His statutes with all his heart and all his soul, to perform the words of the covenant that were written in this book. 32 And he made all who were present in Jerusalem and Benjamin take a stand. So the inhabitants of Jerusalem did according to the covenant of God, the God of their fathers. 33 Thus Josiah removed all the abominations from all the country that belonged to the children of Israel, and made all who were present in Israel diligently serve the Lord their God. All his days they did not depart from following the Lord God of their fathers.
- What was the extent of the revival under King Josiah? Because we are human, we cannot see into each others hearts. We only see what is outwardly manifested by our fellow men. I suppose that is why 2 Chronicles 35 records how King Josiah lead the People of Judah to keep the Passover.
2 Chronicles 35:16-19 New King James Version (NKJV)
16 So all the service of the Lord was prepared the same day, to keep the Passover and to offer burnt offerings on the altar of the Lord, according to the command of King Josiah. 17 And the children of Israel who were present kept the Passover at that time, and the Feast of Unleavened Bread for seven days. 18 There had been no Passover kept in Israel like that since the days of Samuel the prophet; and none of the kings of Israel had kept such a Passover as Josiah kept, with the priests and the Levites, all Judah and Israel who were present, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem. 19 In the eighteenth year of the reign of Josiah this Passover was kept.
What Were The Ingredients For A Revival In The Days Before The Birth Of Jesus Christ?
What were the ingredients for a revival in the days before the birth of Jesus Christ? One thing that is certain is that there are a lot of questions we have to answer.
- God must reveal Himself. How did God reveal Himself before Noah’s Flood? The Bible does not explain. To the people of Nineveh He sent the prophet Jonah. To King Josiah He gave a contrite heart. To King Josiah’s people He gave the Word of God, a prophetess, and King Josiah. Why did God choose to reveal Himself these ways?
- We must believe God. We must seek His Will, listen to His prophets, or read His Word. Yet how do we know God’s Will? How do we recognize His prophets? How do we ascertain that the Bible is His Word? Is it enough humble ourselves so that we have eyes that see and ears that hear someone greater than ourselves?
- We must repent. What repentance involves is turning away from our idols, the things of this world that we would put before God, and turning to God and obeying Him. How do we know what God wants from us? Why does He need anything at all?
- We must have a leader. The Old Testament is full of the works of great men including the patriarchs, judges, prophets, and kings. Without such a shepherd, it seems that revivals did not happen. Yet isn’t salvation supposed to be an individual choice?
- Hezekiah: Spiritual Renewal (.biblestudytools.com)
- Revival in the Old Testament (cleartheology.com)
- An Old Testament Revival (biblehub.com)
- How to Explain Old Testament Salvation in Christ? (revivalbiblestudy.wordpress.com)
To Be Continued
- What does a revival involve? What does the New Testament suggest?
- What is necessary for a revival today?