While Ezra prayed and made this confession, weeping and lying face down on the ground in front of the Temple of God, a very large crowd of people from Israel—men, women, and children—gathered and wept bitterly with him. (Ezra 10:1)
Relate: Revival. What does that word mean to you? For some you might be wondering if it is a medical term. For others, you come from a spiritual background where you know what it means but it isn’t often used. Others like me might almost roll their eyes at the very mention of the word. I grew up in a Pentecostal background where the word was so overused it almost became cliche. We would talk and talk about revival. What does it take to bring it? What will happen when it comes? At least once a year we would hold “revival” services where a guest evangelist (a traveling preacher) would come and hold daily services for a week or so. I remember frequently going to the “revival” services of neighboring churches as well as my own. If they were really serious they might just rent a big top and have the services on the church’s front lawn calling it a “camp meeting revival”. Sometimes God would move in a dynamic and tangible way for a few Sundays in a row and everyone would say the church was experiencing “revival”. During my first couple years of college I know more than a few people who had traveled across the country to experience the Brownsville revival near Pensacola Florida.
While that last one was definitely on a different scale than the others, most of the time when we were talking about “revival” what we were really saying was that God did a little something extra and we even got some goosebumps. Someone who was part of revival on a whole different scale than what we imagined wrote a bit about true revival. Duncan Campbell was an instrumental part of what is sometimes called the Lewis Revival, in other places it is called the Hebrides revival. He writes:
When I speak of revival, I am not thinking of high-pressure evangelism. I am not thinking of crusades, or of special efforts convened and organized by man. That is not in my mind at all. Revival is something altogether different from evangelism on its highest level. Revival is a moving of God in the community…
In talking about this revival, he mentions a time when he was preaching and when the service was over almost everyone left. Some were hanging around chatting outside the church. Others had begun walking home. But one postman was still inside the church praying. Suddenly, those outside could hear the anguished cry of this postman’s prayer. They heard him crying out, “Oh God, you promised!” Just like that, those outside found themselves rushing back in. In prayer and anguish they began confessing and repenting of their sin.
React: When revival comes, people abandon their work and entertainments to come meet God. When He shows up, dinners are abandoned at their tables. When revival comes, nothing else matters. In today’s scripture Ezra prayed. The people repented. Violently, emotionally, in a very “undignified” manner they repented. Then the community changed. That is revival. All of Ezra chapter 9 is his prayer. All of chapter 10 is the result. Everybody in the entire community was impacted, not just a few people in one or two synagogues.
Now if you are like me, you will be tempted to comment below about some fond memories of revival experiences from the past. I can remember more than a few times and services when God did some amazing things in my life. But is that revival like I am talking about here? If I started randomly talking to my neighbors would they be able to remember experiences like those during the Great Awakening, or Azusa Street, or Israel during Ezra’s time? Those were revivals. They changed the community.
Five times a day every mosque everywhere in the world rings out a call to prayer. I must confess that most of the time I don’t even notice it anymore. it has just become background noise, but when I do notice it, I pray for God to reach a million souls here in Turkey. People are getting saved here and there one at a time, but what I am praying for is true revival that would radically transform the very society. God can do it. He has done it at other times and places, but how much are we willing to sacrifice for Him to do it here. Is he looking for someone like that postman who would abandon everything else, set aside their agenda and cry out “Oh God You promised!” Will I be that individual? Will you?
Even though we long for revival, we long to see You move, we must confess that all too often we do not want it enough. Let us not be content with what we have always had and experienced. Let us not be content with just a special time or a faint sense of Your presence. Show up. Show up in our communities in such a way that people everywhere fall on their face in repentance. Show up in such a way that entire communities, entire cities are changed. Bring us, bring me to my knees. Send me, send us back into our prayer closets and prayer rooms and don’t let us leave them until You have arrived. Dear God, send revival.