Solemn Pleadings For Revival
"Keep silence before Me, O islands; and let the people renew their strength"(Isa. 41:1).
I cannot suggest to Christian people a more urgent topic than this: we should plead with God that He would display among us greater works of grace than our eyes have yet seen. We have read of wonderful revivals; history records the amazing things of the Reformation, and the marvelous way in which the Gospel was spread during the first two centuries. We pine to see the like again or to know the reason why it is not so, and with holy boldness it is our desire to come before the Lord and plead with Him, as a man pleadeth with his friend. May God help us so to do in the power of the Holy Ghost.
1. Let us be silent. "Keep silence before Me, O islands." Before the controversy opens, let us be silent with solemn awe, for we have to speak with the Lord God Almighty! Let us not open our mouths to call into question His wisdom, nor allow our hearts to question His love. What if things do not look as bright as we could wish? The Lord reigneth. What if He seems to delay? Is He not the Lord God with whom a thousand years are as one and who is not slack concerning His promise as some men count slackness? We are going to make bold to speak with Him, but still, He is the eternal God and we are dust and ashes. Whatever we may say with holy boldness, we would not utter a word in rash familiarity. He is our Father, but He is our Father in heaven. He is our Friend; but at the same time, He is our Judge. We know that whatsoever He doeth is best. We would not say unto our Maker, "What makest Thou?" nor to our Creator, "What hast Thou done?" Shall the potter give account to the clay for the works of his hands (Isa. 29:16)? It is the Lord; let Him do what seemeth unto Him good (Judg. 10:15).
When we look at what He doeth, it may seem to our dim apprehension to be exceeding strange and we may fail to read its meaning; but we need not wish to read it. It is the glory of God to conceal a thing; and if He chooses to conceal it, let it be concealed. Truly, God is good to Israel and His mercy endureth forever. If this worldís history is to drag on through another score of mournful centuries, it will only reveal so much the more matter for praise when the great hallelujahs of the ultimate victory shall peal forth.
Our silence of awe should deepen into that of shame. For, my brethren, though it is certainly true that the cause of God has not prospered, whose fault is this? If there has been a lack, it has not been in God. Where then has it been? If the seed has rotted under the clods or if the cankerworm has eaten the green shoot so that the reaper has not joyfully filled his arm, whence cometh it? Has there not been sin among us, ay, sin in the church of God? What if Israel has turned her back in the day of battle? Is there not an accursed thing in the camp and an Achan who has hidden away the goodly Babylonish garment and the shekel of gold (Josh. 7)? God saith, "Can two walk together, except they be agreed?" (Amos 3:3); "If ye... walk contrary unto Me; then will I also walk contrary unto you" (Lev. 26:23-24).
Truly, when I see how God has blessed us, I am not so much astonished that He has not given more, as I am amazed that He has given so much. Does He bless such unworthy instruments, such laggards, such slothful workers? Does He do anything by tools so unfit? Does He place any treasure in vessels so impure? This is to be ascribed to His grace. But if He doth not use us to the highest point, let us take shame and confusion of face to ourselves; and before the throne of His glory, let us sit down in silence. What, indeed, can we say? We have no charges to bring against Him, no accusations against the Most High, but we must silently confess that we ourselves are vile (Job 40:4). Unto us belongeth shame and confusion of face.
Go further than this and keep the silence of consideration. This is a noisy age, and the church of Christ herself is too noisy. We have very little silent worship, I fear. I do not so much regret the absence of silence from the public assembly as from our private devotions, where it has a sacred, hallowing influence, unspeakably valuable. Let us be silent, now, for a minute, and consider what it is that we desire of the Lord; the conversion of thousands, the overthrow of error, the spread of the Redeemerís kingdom.
Think in your minds what the blessings are that your soul pants after. Get a correct idea of them, and then enquire whether you are prepared to receive them. Suppose they were to be now bestowed Ė are you ready? If thousands of converts were to be born unto this one church, are you prepared to teach them, instruct them, and comfort them? Are you doing it now, you Christian people? Are you acting in such a way that God knows you to be fit to have the charge of those converts that you are asking for? You pray for grace: are you using the grace you have? You want to see more power: how about the power you have? Are you employing it? If a mighty wave of revival comes, are your hearts ready? Are your hands ready? Are your purses ready? Are you altogether ready to be carried along on the crest of that blessed wave? Consider!
If you reflect, you will see that God is able to give His church the largest blessing and to give it at any time. Keep silence and consider, and you will see that He can give the blessing by you or by me. He can make any one of us, weak as we are, mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds; can make our feeble hands, though we have but a few loaves and fishes, capable of feeding myriads with the bread of life. Consider this, and ask yourselves in the quiet of your spirits: "What can we do to get the blessing?" Are we doing that? What is there in our temper, in our private prayer, in our acts for God that would be likely to bring down the blessing? Do we act as if we were sincere? Have we really a desire for these things, which we say we desire? Could we give up worldly engagements to attend to the work of God? Could we spare time to look after the Lordís vineyard? Are we willing to do the Lordís work, and are we in the state of heart in which we can do it efficiently and acceptably? Keep silence and consider. I would suggest to every Christian that he should sit a while before God when he reaches his home and worship with the silence of awe, with the silence of shame, and then with the silence of careful thought concerning these things. ...We will accept His Word as law, light, and life to our souls, and nothing else beside. The Lord send that solemn silence over all His people now.
2. Let us renew our strength. Noise wears us; silence feeds us. To run upon the Masterís errands is always well, but to sit at the Masterís feet is quite as necessary; for, like the angels that excel in strength, our power to do His commandments arises out of our hearkening to the voice of His Word. If even for a human controversy quiet thought is a fit preparation, how much more is it needful in solemn pleadings with the Eternal One? Now let the deep springs be unsealed; let the solemnities of eternity exercise their power while all is still within us.
But how happens it that such silence renews our strength? It does so, first, by giving space for the strengthening Word to come into the soul and the energy of the Holy Spirit to be really felt. Words, words, words Ė we have so many words, and they are but chaff! But where is the Word that in the beginning was God and was with God (John 1:1-2)? That Word is the living and incorruptible seed. "What is the chaff to the wheat? saith the Lord" (Jer. 23:28). We want less of the words of man and more of Him who is the very Word of God. Be quiet, be quiet, and let Jesus speak. Let His wounds speak to you; let His death speak to you; let His resurrection speak to you; let His ascension and His subsequent glory speak to you; and let the trumpet of second advent ring in your ears. You cannot hear the music of these glorious things because of the rattle of the wheels of care, and the vain jangle of contentious self-wisdom.
Be silent that you may hear the voice of Jesus; for when He speaks, you will renew your strength. The eternal Spirit is with His people, but we often miss His power because we give more ear to other voices than to His. Quite as often, our own voice is an injury to us; for it is heard when we have received no message from the Lord and therefore gives an uncertain sound (1 Cor. 14:8). If we will wait upon the blessed Spirit, His mysterious influence will sway us most divinely, and we shall be filled with all the fullness of God. Even as we have seen the frost yield suddenly to the influence of the warm south wind, so shall our lethargy melt before His sovereign energy. How often have I felt in a moment my ice-locked spirit yield to the breath of the Holy Ghost...Be silent, then, that the Spirit may thus work upon you. Let other spirits be gone; let the spirit of the world, and the spirit of the flesh, and the spirit of self be banished Ė and let the Spirit of the Ever-Blessed be heard speaking in your soul. Thus shall you renew your strength.
We must be silent to renew our strength, next, by using silence for consideration as to whom it is that we are dealing with. We are going to speak with God about the weakness of His church and the slowness of its progress. Be silent, that you may remember who He is with whom you are so earnestly reasoning. It is God the omnipotent who can make His church mighty if He will, and that at once. We are coming to plead now with One whose arm is not shortened and whose ear is not heavy. Renew your strength as you think of Him. If you have doubted the ultimate success of Christianity, renew your strength as you remember who it is that has sworn by Himself that surely all flesh shall see the salvation of God (Isa. 40:5).
You are coming to plead with Jesus Christ. Be silent, and remember those wounds of His with which He has redeemed mankind! Can these fail of their reward? Shall Jesus be robbed of the power He has so dearly earned? The earth is the Lordís, and He will unwrap her of the mists that dimmed her luster at the Fall. He will make this planet shine as brightly as when she first was rolled from between the palms of the omnipotent Creator. There shall be a new heaven and a new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness. Think of that, and renew your strength. Hath not the Lord said concerning His beloved Son that He shall divide the spoil with the strong and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hands (Isa. 53:12)? Shall it not be so?
Think, too, that you are about to appeal to the Holy Spirit! There again you have the same divine attributes. What cannot the Spirit of God do? He sent the tongues of fire at Pentecost; and Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and men of every nation heard the Gospel at once. He turned three thousand hearts by one sermon to know the crucified Saviour to be the Messiah. He sent the apostles like flames of fire through the whole earth, until every nation felt their power. He can do the like again. He can bring the church out of darkness into noonday (Isa. 58:10). Let us renew our strength as we think of this. The work we are going to plead about is not ours one-half as much as it is Godís. It is not in our hands, but in hands that cannot fail; therefore, let us renew our strength as we silently meditate upon the Triune Jehovah with whom we have to speak.
In silence, too, let us renew our strength by remembering His promises. We want to see the world converted to God, and He has said, "The earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea" (Hab. 2:14). "The glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it" (Isa. 40:5). "They that dwell in the wilderness shall bow before Him; and His enemies shall lick the dust" (Psa. 72:9). "The idols He shall utterly abolish" (Isa. 2:18). There are a thousand promises. Let us think of that, and however difficult the enterprise may be and however dark our present prospects, we shall not dare to doubt when Jehovah has spoken and pledged His word.
Taken from the Spring 2013 issue of Free Grace Broadcaster, Chapel Library. Used by permission. In North America, write for free conservative Christian literature from prior centuries: Chapel Library, 2603 W. Wright St., Pensacola, FL 32505 USA. Worldwide, visit www.chapellibrary.org.