Godís Pattern For
By Barry Reed
Barry Reed of New Zealand, is calling ministers of his city together for exhortations and prayer once a month, emphasizing a holy life and revival. This article is edited from a message he delivered to the group.
Scripture Reading: 2 Chronicles 29:1-11
Godís pattern for revival is seen in the Old Testament stories of spiritual awakenings which occurred in the midst of His people. Wilbur Smith writes of this pattern as seen in the seven great revivals in Old Testament Scriptures, saying:
1. They occurred in a time of deep moral and spiritual darkness and national depression.
2. They began in the heart of one consecrated servant of God, who became the energizing power behind the revival, the agent used of God to quicken and lead the nation back to faith in and obedience to God.
3. Each revival rested on the Word of God. Most of the revivals were the result of a return to the Word of God, and of preaching, and proclaiming the Law of God with power.
4. All the revivals were marked by a return to the worship of Jehovah and a destruction of idols.
5. There was a separation from sin.
6. There was a return to the offering of blood sacrifices.
7. They resulted in an experience of exuberant joy and gladness among the people of God (with the exceptions of the revivals under Jacob and Josiah, where it happened no doubt but was not recorded).
8. And each revival was followed by a time of abundance.
The revival which occurred under Hezekiah, as told in 2 Chronicles, chapter 29, is an example of this. Hezekiah had no immediate family background in spiritual matters. He had an extremely evil father, who had raised up altars to other gods all over Jerusalem. He had destroyed and desecrated both the temple and the vessels in it. Hezekiah also had a terrible son, Manasseh, who was said to be the wickedest man of the Old Testament. In the middle of this there is a great man of God. The Lord never leaves Himself without a witness.
Dark DaysA revival is a very precious thing from the heart of God in a dark hour. There were terrible events before the revival came. Hezekiah was only twenty-five years of age when he came to the throne of Israel but his heart had been prepared by God. He had a friend, Isaiah the Prophet. No doubt Isaiah talked to the young prince and told him that he must try to do something about the idolatry and declension when he came to the throne. The nation was also compassed about by enemies: Edomites, Assyrians, Philistines and Egyptians. They were circling to the north, the south, the east and the west. Hezekiah had all these armies pressing against him. Everybody would have said to him that he must do something about it. But Hezekiahís policy was not to have a policy of his own, but to seek the face of the great God of Heaven.
He was saying, "I am going to do something about Godís Temple and He will look after the politics." Hezekiah did that which was right in the sight of the Lord according to all that his father David had done. Hezekiah repaired the doors of the Temple that were broken down. The people would have said, "The king is not rounding up the army. Why not?" Hezekiah knew it was useless to try to bring safety and prosperity to the nation while there was a spiritual and moral declension within that nation. He knew it was no use trying to deal with the external things when the internal things hadnít been dealt with. The nation needed a complete change.
A Heart Devoted To Prayer
There is a pattern here to notice. The first step Hezekiah took is shown in 2 Chronicles 29:10: "It is in mine heart to make a covenant with the Lord God of Israel that His fierce wrath may turn away from us."
Micah had prophesied that God would destroy Jerusalem. Hezekiah heard this and his heart was moved to make a covenant with God. That is where it had to start--in his heart. Obviously he was a man who was devoted to the ministry of prayer. It always starts in the prayer life.
Do you have a devotional life? This is a part of the price you have to pay for leading others in the things of God. We have to be men who really seek God. But most of us are too busy. When we are too busy to pray, we are actually saying that we are too busy to do the work of the ministry.
Hezekiah is a man who is a king and he has made time to pray. Maybe we have forgotten that God told Daniel what Satan would do in the last days. He is going to "wear out the saints." Saints would be too worn out to pray and to be saints.
Do you value your ministry? Do you value the Word of God? If you do you will conduct your life in accordance with its precepts. Hezekiah said "it was in his heart to make a covenant with the Lord." You canít make a covenant with the Lord unless your heart is yielded to the Holy Spirit, your will is yielded to the will of God, and Jesus Christ is paramount in everything in your life. Also everything must be made subservient to Godís sovereign will.
Hezekiah was a burdened man. He captured some of the hurt God was feeling for His people. As Hezekiahís spiritual life developed God was able to share something of His burden with the king. It takes time to get a burden from God. Hezekiah was concerned about Godís glory, and Godís temple and the state of the people. He opened the temple doors that had been shut up, and he did this because he wanted everybody to know where he stood. He wanted the people to worship God again and he wanted Godís judgment stopped.
To all of you I say, nail your colors to the mast. Donít be afraid to let people know where you stand. Tell them you believe in holiness. Tell them you believe in the word of God. Tell them you believe in reformation and revival. Tell them you believe in Godís holy sovereignty. Tell God you are willing to stand in the gap. Live in such a way that in you the people will see a seriousness about God and the things that matter to Him.
Look at the darkness surrounding us and see what is happening to our churches and to our nation. Are we going to be like Hezekiah seeking God with all our hearts, or are we going to do nothing and keep condemning ourselves and our children?
Hezekiah made a decision. He would do what he could. He began with himself. Many had forsaken God, turned their faces away from Him, and turned their backs upon Him. Hezekiah was willing to stand in the gap. He was king but he started with his own heart first. "Now it was in mine heart to make a covenant with the Lord God of Israel, that His fierce wrath may turn away from us" (2 Chron. 29:10). After this he could turn to others and exhort them to get right with God. And the revival would come. If God is in it, this pattern never fails.
Now Hezekiah called for the priests and Levites to sanctify themselves. However, shouldnít it be the Levites and priests who approached the King? Shouldnít they be urging the king to get right with God? Yet here we see the king approaching them. Hezekiah says, "Hear me now, ye priests and Levites, sanctify now yourselves and sanctify the house of God." The priests and Levites couldnít urge the king to repentance because they were not right themselves.
What is happening with us? We are telling people to get right with God and they are not doing it. Why is this happening? It is because we donít have the blessing ourselves. We are not right. "Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? or who shall stand in His holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully. He shall receive the blessing from the Lord..." (Psalm 24:3-5).
People say to me, "Souls are not getting saved." Why is this so? "Behold, the Lordís hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither His ear heavy, that it cannot hear: but your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid His face from you, that He will not hear" (Isaiah 59:1,2).
I lift up my unclean heart and I speak with my unclean lips to the thrice holy God and I say to Him, "Save! Save!" When He doesnít, I blame the people. I say they are hard. I spoke the other day at a funeral of a relative on "The Three Crosses," where Christ was crucified between two thieves. At this funeral about 95% of the people were not Christians. As I spoke about the cross they showed great interest. The ungodly are not sick of Jesus. Itís the Christians! Itís us! The priests and Levites are not sanctified.
Sanctify yourself! Get right with God yourself! Sanctify yourselves first, then sanctify the house of the Lord. The priest is there to reflect the holiness of God to the people. The Levite is there to prepare the sacrifices and declare the law of God among the people. Holy service can only come from a holy heart. But all hearts are not holy. Thatís why God is angry. Thatís why He is hurt. "...Christ also loved the Church and gave Himself for it; that He mighty sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the Word, that He might present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy...." (Eph. 5:25-27).
Many Christians donít want us to speak about holiness or to hear a message that convicts of sin. This often leads to our protecting our young people from conviction. Let me warn you ministers not to "shield" your young people from the truth. In this city there has been upon the church the iron hand of carnality and sin. God is taking the hand off so that He can reach the people, whom He loves. He is saying to the priests and Levites, "Sanctify yourselves." We have become so accustomed to holy things that familiarity has weakened us. We think that God accepts the church in its present condition. This is not so.
About a year ago I told you something different is happening. God is personally working with His church in His sovereignty. Previously we had our programs, and would do what we thought was right, and ask God to bless it, and there was a measure of blessing. But we cannot continue like this. The Lord expects us to find out what He is doing and get behind it. He is not going to bless our plans, but His own.
Could God take over your church? It is His church! The Lord loves His people. As a priest or Levite you must sanctify yourself. God says, "Carry the filthiness out of the holy place." In the depth of the heart where thought meets intent, God wants purity.
"For ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be My sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty" (2 Cor. 6:16-18).
Despising And Ridiculing Holiness
We live in times when many people despise and ridicule holiness. What about you? Do you tell young people, "Live pure"? We should go to every young person and say, "I am not your example. Jesus Christ is your example. Follow Him." Also we should go to every woman and say to her, "Your husband is not your example. Jesus Christ is your example. Follow Him." No wonder people live substandard lives when they have substandard leaders, a sad indictment indeed. But Godís pattern is different. His pattern is, cleanse the priests and the Levites and take the filthiness out of the Holy Place first. "My sons, be not now negligent for the Lord has chosen you to stand before Him" (2 Chron. 29:11).
In every revival God raises someone up to tell the priests to get right with God. This is true not only in the Bible. It is true in church history. I think of young Evan Roberts in the Welsh revival. He prayed, and he prayed, and he kept praying. One day God told him that the Holy Ghost was about to come, so Evan Roberts was afraid not to be at the prayer meeting. Then the Holy Ghost came! Evan Roberts made that great statement, "Bend the Church and save the world."
But we have a church that doesnít want to be bent, that doesnít want to be humble. We are expected to sit idly by while Adam in twentieth century religious garb struts himself across the platform and tells us to be like him. "My sons, be not now negligent for the Lord has chosen you to stand before Him." Are we willing to be told to get right? Are you willing to get right?
"Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God" (2 Cor. 7:1). Pastors and leaders are called to walk holily before God. Some of us have not always done this. I was one of those. God is working sovereignly among us. If we do not deal with our sin, God will! Here are some areas of sanctification among many, the Lord had to deal with me about:
Being jealous when God is using someone else and not me.
Being secretly glad when a brother I didnít think was very good, fell, as it made me seem more spiritual.
Expecting the Lord to stand by me when I was wrong, so my reputation in the eyes of the people wouldnít suffer.
Asking the Lord to bless my sermons instead of finding out from Him what He wanted to say to the people.
Not listening to others when they were telling of their blessings, but wanting to share mine instead.
Using Christ and His message to promote myself and give me a place in the Church.
Not letting the Lord probe to the depth of my sinfulness, but trying to push Him off with a shallow confession and partial obedience.
Wanting others to be hurt because they hurt me.
The Rulers Of The City
First the king got right, then the priests got right, and the Levites got right. After this they cleaned up the house of God. It took them eight days. Then Hezekiah went to the rulers of the city. "Then Hezekiah the king rose early, and gathered the rulers of the city, and went up to the house of the Lord" (2 Chron. 29:20). The rulers of the city should expect godly counsel in the leaders of the church. We are to pray for and with our civic leaders. They should be the better for knowing us. They should be able to rely on our prayers and love. Do we expect them to face the spiritual and moral darkness alone? They will be able to govern with moral strength when we bring them into a spiritually pure atmosphere. Then they too will get right with God. That is revival!
Common Recognition Of Common Sin
Then all the people made a sin offering for the kingdom, and for the sanctuary, and for Judah. They werenít just thinking about themselves. Neither should we. Itís the whole Church in this nation that I am concerned about. Hezekiah said to make a sin offering for the kingdom, for the sanctuary, and for Judah. They laid their hands on the sin offering. They identified the fact of their own sin and were transferring their sins to the sin offering. Among the king, the priests, the Levites and the civic leaders there was a common recognition of common sin.
Then they talked about reconciliation and atonement for all Israel. This is the first time the word "atonement" had appeared in the Holy Scriptures since they had entered the promised land. The king commanded that they make a burnt offering and a sin offering. A burnt offering is made by a sanctified man and he is saying to God, "I devote my whole life to you." This is what Paul is teaching in Romans 12:1: "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service." That is a burnt offering to God.
When leaders are challenged to get right with God they should do it. We have entered a time in Godís sovereign plan and dealings with us in this nation when it is dangerous for those who will not give up their sin.
Are you burdened about the Church and your nation? Why donít you like Hezekiah make a covenant with God in your heart, that Godís wrath may be turned away. Help lead our nation back to faith and to obedience to God!