Showers of Blessing
Our text for this message is Hosea 10:12: "Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the Lord, till He come and rain righteousness upon you." We will return to this text after looking at several other Scriptures.
In Second Chronicles, chapter six, is recorded the remarkable prayer of Solomon for Godís ancient people of Israel at the time of the dedication of the Temple. We are told in 2 Chronicles 7:1 that God acknowledged Solomonís prayer publicly: "When Solomon had made an end of praying, the fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and sacrifices; and the glory of the Lord filled the house." The priests could not enter into the house of the Lord because of the glory of the Lord which filled the Lordís house. "And when all the children of Israel saw how the fire came down, and the glory of the Lord upon the house, they bowed themselves with their faces to the ground upon the pavement, and worshipped, and praised the Lord, saying, For He is good; for His mercy endureth for ever" (v.3).
Later God spoke privately to Solomon to let him know He had heard his prayer. We read in 2 Chronicles 7:12-15: "And the Lord appeared to Solomon by night, and said unto him, I have heard thy prayer, and have chosen this place to Myself for an house of sacrifice. If I shut up heaven that there be no rain, or if I command the locusts to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among My people; 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. Now Mine eyes shall be open, and Mine ears attent unto the prayer that is made in this place."
God is saying here, "If the day should come in which I should have to take away My favor from you and express My disfavor, among other things that will happen, there will be no rain." Notice how He puts it: "If I shut up the Heaven, that there be no rainÖ"
Over three hundred years later, when God spoke to His people through His prophet Ezekiel, He said: "I will make them and the places round about My hill a blessing; and I will cause the shower to come down in his season; there shall be showers of blessing" (Ezek. 34:26).
God had earlier said, "If I must express My disfavor, there will be no rain." But through Ezekiel God says, "There shall be showers," and these showers are equated to the blessing of God Ė "showers of blessing." The song writer most likely drawing from this text when writing "Showers of Blessing," understood that this is revival. He talks about mercy drops falling around us, and he further says, "But for the showers we pleadÖprecious reviving againÖgrant to us now a refreshingÖ."
I am using "showers of blessing" as God showing His favor, His blessing, His presence, His power upon His people. He expresses it by saying, "There shall be showers of blessing." Keep in mind the contrast between "no rain" and "showers of blessing" (a plenteous rain).
Going back to our text, Hosea 10:12, we find a similar truth. It speaks of sowing and reaping. God is speaking to His ancient people Israel at their point of need. He speaks to them on a level which they can get hold of quickly. He speaks to them about a rain, a rain of righteousness: "Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the Lord, till He come and rain righteousness upon you."
The Secret of a Heaven-sent Revival
Early in my ministry, I had the privilege of spending much time with a dear man of God who was a revivalist. He greatly impacted my life. That was about thirty-seven years ago now. He asked to be my mentor after I announced my call to be a preacher. For a couple of years I would go to his house five days a week, early in the morning. He would speak with me about various themes. He was the first person to talk to me about revival. I asked him, "What is revival?"
He brought Hosea 10:12 to my attention and said, "In Hosea 10:12 is the secret of a heaven-sent revival. If the truth of that verse is incorporated in the lives of Godís people, you as an individual can have a personal revival. If you become a pastor [and I was for twenty years] and if you can get a group of people to corporately practice this truth, that people will experience a revival," or as he expressed it, "a divine intervention." Another revivalist defines revival as "A person, place or community saturated with the presence of God."
Revival and evangelism are not the same. Evangelism is a work that the Church does for God. Revival is a work God does for the Church. If God doesnít do that work for us, we cannot effectively do the work of evangelism for God. The reason we get discouraged and suffer burnout, is that we are trying to serve God without the energy and the presence and the power of God. And the energy and the presence and the power of God constitute revival! It is God coming on the scene!
I am for soul winning and for visitation. I am also for keeping the "branch" in touch with the "Vine." When people are connected to the Lord, you donít have to browbeat them to go out and win souls. They do it because they are in touch with God! If we get out of touch with Him, we can scold people, shame people, and put them on a guilt trip, and still they are not effective. We need to come back to God and let Him do a work in us so He can do a work through us. That is revival!
Let us look at Hosea 10:12. As my friend said to me, it has the secret of heaven-sent revival. After much study, I find three words here to think about: the first word is examination; the second is cultivation; and the third issupplication.
First, there is to be a personal examination. Godís ancient people were for the most part agricultural. So God talked to them in terms an agricultural person would understand. He started with sowing and He also talked about reaping. There must also be rain because in order to have a harvest, there has to be a rain. God told His people there is something that must be done before the rain comes on the plot of ground to make possible the reaping. God brings the soil into focus and he called this ground "fallow ground." Agricultural people would have understood this immediately.
Jesus used a similar illustration when He spoke of a sower sowing his seed (See Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23). He said there are four types of soil, and the condition of the soil determines whether the seed gets into the soil or not. There is only one of the four that is genuine. Jesus called it "good ground." Then He made His application. "Good ground" is the picture of an honest heart. This is one who hears the Word of God, receives it into his heart and brings forth a good harvest.
This is not the only time Godís people are pictured as soil. Paul talks about it in 1 Corinthians 3:9, where he says, "You are Godís husbandry." That means, you are Godís garden, Godís field, Godís vineyard.
When Hosea was speaking in these terms, he was saying, "Your life, your heart is like this soil, like Ďfallow ground.í" If you and I are going to expect the "rain of righteousness" Ė Godís favor and Godís smile, or revival Ė then weíre going to have to give ourselves a personal examination and see if our heart is what he calls "fallow ground."
When I place my heart beside this text, if Iím honest and call myself to a personal examination, Iím asking myself, "Does my heart correspond to fallow ground?" If so, I need not expect the rain of Godís favor and the shower of His blessing. God will not rain on fallow ground. I need not expect the rain of Godís favor and the shower of His blessing unless I do some cultivating and break up that ground.
What is fallow ground? Fallow ground is not new ground. New ground is a plot of ground that has never been cultivated and planted. It has never brought forth a harvest. Fallow ground is a plot of ground that used to be productive, but now for some reason, it is neglected and is permitted to lie waste. It is unproductive because it is not disturbed. It hasnít had a plow in it. It has been allowed to crust over. It used to give a harvest of whatever was sowed in it. There may be something growing in fallow ground, but it is only weeds.
There was a time when Godís people loved God and walked with Him and were faithful to Him, but when Hosea was writing, they were away from God. Fallow ground is a picture of the waywardness of man, of those who leave God and go their own way. God came to His people, and through Hosea spoke of His wonderful love and how He yearned over His people. He used this down-to-earth illustration and said, "If you do not break up that fallow ground, there will be no rain of blessing."
So there must be personal examination. Ask yourself if there is any area of your life that you can think of that at one time was more productive for God. Recently I prayed with a man who was broken. He has a young adult son who is away from God. The man told me, "Iím cold. I donít know how long it has been since I was honestly broken over the spiritual condition of my boy." He was confessing that his heart corresponded to fallow ground. He said, "I can remember when I had a burden for souls, but now I am out of church. Pray for me that I will get back with God where I used to be with Him."
Do you remember a time in your life when the Scriptures were sweeter to you, when prayer was more real, and when church meant more to you? That is examination. In Revelation 2:1-7, the Lord spoke to the church at Ephesus, and He commended the church for a number of things. But after He commended them for their labor, their works and their orthodoxy, and for not letting false teachers teach in their church, He said, "I have somewhat against you, because you have left your first love." He didnít say, "You donít love Me." He was saying, "You donít love Me like you did at the first." Something else had taken His place in their heart. He said, "RememberÖand repent, and do [that is, repeat] the first worksÖ" Those first works were putting Him in first place. Revival is getting the Lord back. Revival is when we are not trying to do a work for Him, but we are letting Him work in us and then through us.
If we are open and honest and have a heart for revival, we know if God is saying to us, "Here is an area of neglect; here is something that used to be productive for Me; hereís where you loved Me more; here is where you enjoyed My presence moreÖ" If the Holy Spirit is speaking to us like this, then the next step is what I have called cultivation.
If the Holy Spirit shows us through personal examination that there is fallow ground, then we must take the second step. The key to revival is to seek the Lord, but some of us are seeking the Lord for revival and havenít given attention to the first two steps. Seeking the Lord is in vain if we do not come with that mindset of repentance and brokenness and being willing to say to Him, "You be all of my life." God doesnít send revival to a people who do not surrender to Him.
The second step we must take is what I call "painful cultivation." Brokenness is not pleasant. Ego and self and pride are put out. Brokenness is what David wrote about when he got away from God. David needed revival, and he wrote, "A broken and a contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise" (Psalm 51:17). In the first four verses of Psalm 5l there are eleven personal pronouns in the first person. David is not covering up anything; he is not excusing himself; he is not alibiing; he is not blaming anyone. As you read what David wrote, you feel his heart. "Have mercy upon me! Cleanse me from my sin!" Brokenness is openness. David had a personal revival and God came back to David.
When I talk about cultivation, Iím talking about what Hosea 10:12 says: "Break up your fallow ground." Cultivation involves confession. It involves repentance. If someone thinks repentance is not for our age, then that person must not think revival is for our age. Repentance begins when I realize that self is taking over. Iíve taken a personal examination, and I acknowledge that Iíve crowded God out and Iím on the throne. Acknowledging this is an element of brokenness. There is openness, confession, humility, honesty. When we come to that place, we can take that step of painful cultivation. Having given ourselves to personal examination and taken the second step of painful cultivation, we are ready for the third step.
"It is time [until the first two steps have been taken it hasnít been time yet, but now it is time] to seek the Lord till He come and rain righteousness upon you." After personal examination and painful cultivation, we are ready for persistent supplication.
"Öuntil He come and rain righteousness upon you." Iíve never read of a revival that was not preceded by persistent supplication. This is after we have come to the place where our hearts are prepared and God will listen to us; it is after we have come to the place, as David says, of a broken and a contrite heart. God doesnít despise nor discount the brokenness. Rather, it puts us in a place where God listens to us when we are humble enough and honest enough and will open our hearts and will confess and say, "Itís my sin; thatís who I am, Lord; thatís where I am." It puts us in a place where we can seek Him until He comes and rains righteousness upon us.
One day about two years ago, I got a call from a friend who is a deacon at a First Baptist Church, where the senior pastor had resigned. The church wanted revival meetings, and my friend had recommended me as the speaker at the meetings. The church had asked him to contact me. My schedule was quite full, but I arranged to be with the church for meetings from Wednesday evening until Sunday evening.
A week before the scheduled services, the young youth pastor, now serving as pastor of the church, phoned me. After talking with him, I said to my wife, "What a heart he has for God!" He had recently come out of a seminary which had had a revival, and he came from the seminary with the power of God on him.
On Wednesday night, at the first service, a large number of people gathered. Godís power was there. When you walked in, a hushed feeling came over you, and an awareness of the awesomeness of God. People responded to the message and filled the altar and the aisles, professional people along with all others, weeping and broken before God.
At the conclusion of the service, the youth pastor got up and said, "God was in our midst tonight. God used Brother Hurt to speak to our hearts. Since he preached on prayer, I trust more of you will join us for the prayer meeting tomorrow. Weíll see you at five oíclock."
Afterward I said to the young pastor, "I usually donít visit before church time. I wonít be here for five oíclock prayer meeting, but you tell the people Iím trying to prepare myself for the meeting. Before coming to the platform I try to be with Him."
The young pastor said, "Brother Hurt, it is not 5:00 p.m. we meet for prayer. Itís 5:00 a.m. Youíre a guest and thatís early. We will understand if you are not present."
The next morning I came into the parking lot of the church about ten minutes until five, and it was still dark. But there were lights on in the church and there were cars everywhere. There were many people there, including a good number of high school and college young people. God had used the youth pastor to light a fire in their midst. They broke up in little groups, and you should have heard them pray. Oh, the power of God! I couldnít tell you all that took place that week.
I asked the young pastor after the first prayer meeting, "Did you just start these prayer meetings?" He said, "Brother Hurt, this is the 30th day weíve met at 5:00 a.m., crying to God, and God has been breaking through for us."
In the Sunday morning service, Godís power broke in. The young pastor had encouraged the people to be open about their needs. A couple whom I had known somewhat before asked me to pray with them about their daughter who had turned her back on God and was very hard. The parents were open about this need and were humble and broken, not like many who are too arrogant to open up to people. But openness makes way for revival. The parents were praying that God would bring their daughter back to Himself during these meetings.
On Sunday morning, neither parent was aware that the daughter had come to the service. As the invitation was given, she came forward. The father was operating the camera that was televising the service. He left the camera in the hands of his assistant and came down, and the mother came from where she was as their daughter was saved.
The young pastor phoned me after I had gone on to another commitment. He said, "It is ten oíclock and we just got out of the evening service. Godís power kept moving in on us and no one wanted to go home."
How much do you want God to do something for you? God is serious about revival. We must not play games with Him. Personal examination. Painful cultivation. It is painful to put down the ego and arrogance and pride and to quit trying to save face and instead call ourselves by the right name. It may be painful to get right with people we have wronged.
After personal examination and painful cultivation, we are ready for persistent supplication. We are ready to "Seek the Lord till He come and rain righteousness upon you."
Used by permission of Wilbur Hurt. Wilbur Hurt is a former pastor, and now a conference speaker and a traveling revivalist.