On Sunday, I preached a message about how all creation is called to give God praise. We join the mountains and hills, heavens and deep waters, and all animals and birds in a loud shout of “hallelujah.” In particular, men and women give God praise because God has “raised a horn for his people” (Psalm 148:14, NIV).
The horn symbolizes God’s victory. It’s a metaphor that calls to mind a bull that is victorious in battle and then raises their horns in triumph. Over and over the scripture says that God has “raised a horn” for the people by acting to bring freedom from oppression, establish justice, and bring salvation to the people ultimately through Jesus Christ (see Luke 1:68-69, NIV).
I arranged to have a shofar (ram’s horn) as an object lesson. This type of instrument has been traditionally blown on Jewish holy days and has been used by churches to signal the experience of revival or call for it.
I wasn’t planning to “play” the horn, but was surprised when Chris Brock picked it up after the First Community service and made a “joyful noise” with it! He then offered to play it for the traditional service to accentuate the power of this symbol. It was a celebratory moment.
What could this mean for us? It could be just another moment of worship. Or it could mean something more.
What if God is wanting to bring about a revival in our congregation? What if God is wanting to blow a fresh wind of the Spirit through First Baptist Church such that our community can’t help but notice?
Who needs revival?
God revives those who are the Lord’s people, those who are called by God’s name (2 Chronicles 7:14, NIV).
Sometimes people say that America needs revival, or that the world needs revival, but revival comes specifically to the people of God.
Some people don’t need revival. Some people claim the name of Jesus and their lives burn brightly for Him. They seek to do God’s will and their lives are filled with joy.
For many people, however, they have wandered off and their faith has grown cold. Sometimes leaders are divided against one another. Sometimes God’s church is unhealthy, or sometimes God’s people are discouraged. Men and women may be starved for the Word of God.
J.I. Packer said, “Revival is the visitation of God which brings to life Christians who have been sleeping and restores a deep sense of God’s near presence and holiness. Thence springs a vivid sense of sin and a profound exercise of heart in repentance, praise, and love, with an evangelistic outflow.”
But thank God that he pursues like that. God calls them back.
Under what circumstances does revival occur?
There are four conditions where spiritual renewal becomes a living reality:
First, revival will occur only when the Lord’s people are broken. Verse 14 of 2 Chronicles 7 says, “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves…” The word here is not the typical word for humble. We usually think of someone who is humble as kind of deferential or meek. But in Chronicles, the word means something different. It means a heart broken before God.
Revival starts with brokenness. Charles Finney said, “Revival is a renewed conviction of sin and repentance, followed by an intense desire to live in obedience to God. It is giving up one’s will to God in deep humility.” Revival doesn’t come to the proud, to the self-sufficient, to the self- satisfied. If you want revival, then let your heart be broken.
Second, revival will occur only when God’s people begin to pray. This type of prayer is not a friendly conversation with the Lord. This is pleading with God, fasting, having a kind of holy attitude of mourning. This is crying out to God for mercy.
Third, revival will come only when the Lord’s people seek his face. You might ask, why do we have to seek the face of God? Isn’t God everywhere, always present? But there are times when we go through suffering or when we willfully turn from God. In those times, it may seem that God has turned away from us.
It’s not true. God is always facing us.
God’s face is full of love and forgiveness and mercy — that’s how God faces us. Seek his face, the scripture says, not a side view of God or sometimes seeking, but beholding and seeking to know God.
Fourth, revival will come only when God’s people abandon their sinful ways. We don’t like to talk about sin or judgment, because it makes us feel bad about ourselves. But let’s remember what sin is. In the time of Chronicles, sin included worshiping false idols, trusting in foreign powers, and exploitation of the weak.
Maybe we need to repent of our lack of care for our spouses, or our inhospitality to our neighbors, or our tendency to stay so busy that no one can know our true feelings. All of us are prone to pride, and some are prone to bitterness or racism or complacency. None of us are immune to these things, so why can’t we acknowledge them?
When revival happens, what will be the impact?
When we humble ourselves and pray with penitent hearts, God will hear us. God will respond. God won’t remain hidden forever. God will turn to face us when we turn to face God.
When the Lord’s people pray and humble themselves with penitent hearts, God will carry away our sins. This is the heart of the human problem. Psalm 103:12 (NIV) says that “[God] has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.” God has done that in Jesus. What remains is the acceptance of that gift and to live as one who has been forgiven.
Finally, when the Lord’s people pray with humble and penitent hearts, God will remove the effects of sin. That’s what it means when it says that God will heal our land. As God changes hearts, we can’t undo the harm we have caused through greed and hoarding and harm to others, but God can redeem even the worst of our mistakes.
That’s what we dream about — a state of shalom in the world, where even the land is at peace with us.
Church, let’s pray for revival. Let’s pray that it will begin in us.
Rodney “Gypsy” Smith was born on the outskirts of London in 1860. He never received a formal education, yet he lectured at Harvard. He had very humble beginnings, but he was invited by two sitting United States presidents to the White House. Gypsy crisscrossed the Atlantic Ocean forty-five times, preaching the gospel to millions of people, and he never preached without someone surrendering their life to the lordship of Jesus Christ.
Gypsy was powerfully used by God. Everywhere he went, it seemed like revival was right on his heels. But it wasn’t his preaching that brought revival. It never is. Preaching may move the hearts of men, but praying moves the heart of God. That’s where revival comes from.
So some people came to him and asked him about how revival can come. They wanted to know how they could make a difference with their lives the way he had with his. His answer was simple yet profound – as timely and timeless now as it was a hundred years ago.
He gave them this advice: Go home. Lock yourself in your room. Kneel down in the middle of the floor, and with a piece of chalk draw a circle around yourself. There, on your knees, pray fervently and brokenly that God would start a revival within that chalk circle.
God has shown us the way back.
So let the shofar blow. Let revival come, Lord. Let it begin with me. Let it begin with you.
Pastor Brent McDougal