R E V I VA L S O F T H E
B I B L E
An Examination of Times of Corporate Revival in the
Bible
F. Wayne Mac Leod
Light To My Path Book Distribution
Copyright © 2018 F. Wayne Mac Leod
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without the
written permission of the author.
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Scripture quotations from The Authorized (King James) Version. Rights in the Authorized Version in
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Cambridge University Press
CONTENTS
Title Page
Copyright
Preface
1 – Revival Under Asa and Jehoshaphat
2 - Revival Under Hezekiah
3 - Revival Under Josiah
4 – Revival Under Ezra and Nehemiah
5 – Revivals in the Book of Jonah
6 –Revival at Pentecost
7 – Revival in Samaria
8 – Revival in Ephesus
9 – Summary
About The Author
T
PREFACE
he Oxford English Dictionary defines revival in the following
terms:
An improvement in the condition, strength, or fortunes of someone
or something. A reawakening of religious fervour, especially by
means of evangelistic meetings.
(https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/revival)
The word, revival does not occur in the Bible in this sense, although there
are instances of a reawakening of religious fervour. The concept of revival
in Scripture, however, is very real. Scripture calls us to wake from our
spiritual slumber (Ps. 108:1,2; Isa. 51:17, 52:1; Mk. 14:37; Rom. 13:11;
Eph. 5:14; Rev. 3:2). It urges us to turn from evil ways (1 Kings 8:47; Ps.
34:14; Jer. 18:11; Zech. 1:4; Lk. 13:3; Ac. 8:22; 1 Pet. 3:11). The Bible
describes great times of refreshing for those who turn to God with all their
heart (2 Sam. 23:4; Hos. 14:5; Ps. 68:9; Isa. 32:2; Isa 57:15).
Revival may come to a large group of people, or it may come to individuals.
In Acts 18, for example, we have an account of a man by the name of
Apollos who was an eloquent speaker. He knew the Scriptures and preached
with accurately and enthusiasm concerning Jesus (Acts 18:25). Priscilla and
Aquila heard him preach and took him aside to explain the way of God
more accurately. (Acts 18:26). The result was that Apollos proved to be
more useful to the work of Christ and refuted the Jews with persuasive
arguments.
[24] Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to
Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures. [25]
He had been instructed in the way of the Lord. And being fervent in
spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus,
though he knew only the baptism of John. [26] He began to speak
boldly in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him,
they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more
accurately. [27] And when he wished to cross to Achaia, the
brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him.
When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had
believed, [28] for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing
by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus. (Acts 18)
Apollos experienced a personal revival. His encounter with Priscilla and
Aquilla opened his heart and mind to the purposes of the Lord God in a new
way. He was empowered to serve as he had never served before.
What is true of the life of Apollos is also true for some of the Old Testament
kings. 2 Chronicles 15:1-19 describes how the prophecy of Azariah
changed the life of King Asa. The Babylonians bound and exiled King
Manasseh. While he was in captivity, he repented of his sin and turned his
life over to the Lord God (2 Chronicles 33:10-16). That encounter with
Babylon changed the life of Manasseh. He also experienced a personal
revival of religious zeal and went on to have a significant impact on his
community.
While there is much to be said about revival in all its forms, the focus of
this study is times of corporate revival—times when spiritual passion was
renewed in whole communities.
There are many written records of revivals around the world in modern and
historical times. Not everyone has accepted these events as being from the
Lord. The facts of these awakenings are sometimes exaggerated so that it
hard to distinguish truth from error. It is my goal, in this study to examine
these moves of God as recorded for us in both the Old and New Testaments.
By studying the revivals recorded in inspired Scripture, we can be confident
that the facts are accurate. By exploring these revivals, we will discover
how God works in times of renewal. This will provide us with an
understanding of how to pray and what to expect when the Spirit of God
moves in power in our midst.
There are times when men and women of God have backed away from
genuine works of God because they were unfamiliar or uncomfortable.
Revival by its very nature is not comfortable. In these times God rebukes us
for our sin. We see ourselves as we are before Him. Hypocrisy and pretence
are stripped away and exposed. We stand naked before a holy God, casting
ourselves upon His mercy. We are stretched and rebuked but more than
anything else, we are renewed in our understanding of God and His purpose
for our lives. As we step into that purpose and approach this awesome God,
we are revived in our hearts and drawn closer to Him.
I trust that this study will open the heart of the reader to the need of God’s
reviving of the church of our day. I also hope it will keep us from resisting
the work that God wants to do in His church. May this simple study be a
means to bring greater openness to the work of God in the past and what He
is willing to do today.
F. Wayne Mac Leod
K
1 – REVIVAL UNDER ASA
AND JEHOSHAPHAT
2 Chronicles 10-20
Conditions Before the Revival
ing Solomon had just died. Under his reign, Israel and Judah had
reached their greatest height. They lived in the lap of luxury.
Things were not going well spiritually, however. Solomon had
married many foreign wives. These wives diverted his heart from the Lord.
To please them, the king had to compromise his faith. By the end of his
reign, with all his compromises, Solomon’s heart was not right with God.
He introduced days of religious decline. While Israel still worshipped God,
her faith was a watered-down version of what it had been. God’s people had
a growing attraction to the world and the religion of their neighbours.
When Solomon died, his son Rehoboam took the throne. Rehoboam was
not blessed with the wisdom of his father. When asked by the people to
lighten the burden under which they had lived during the reign of his father,
Solomon, Rehoboam disregarded the wise counsel of the elders and took
the advice of his friends instead. He told his people that he would make
their burden more substantial. He did this to prove his unquestioned
authority. The result was division in the country. Ten out of twelve tribes
rejected Rehoboam as king and sided with Jeroboam, Solomon’s enemy.
They formed the nation of Israel, leaving Rehoboam to rule the tribes of
Judah and Benjamin. These days were days of political unrest.
2 Chronicles 12.1 tells us that after Rehoboam’s position as king was
established; he abandoned the Law of God.
[12:1] When the rule of Rehoboam was established and he was
strong, he abandoned the law of the LORD, and all Israel with him.
(2 Chronicles 12)
God sent Shishak, king of Egypt, to fight His people. Shishak carried off the
treasures of the temple and the royal palace. Rehoboam was now forced to
replace the gold shields used under Solomon’s reign with shields made from
bronze. These were days of spiritual and economic decline. God’s people
had lost their former glory, strength, and influence.
When Rehoboam died, his son Abijah succeeded him on the throne. While
Abijah had a pretence of faith, the Bible describes him as a man whose
heart was not fully committed to the Lord his God (see 2 Kings 15: 2).
We understand from 2 Chronicles 14:3 that Abijah’s son Asa removed
foreign altars and pillars that had accumulated in the land during the reign
of his father, Ahaziah.
[14:1] Abijah slept with his fathers, and they buried him in the city
of David. And Asa his son reigned in his place. In his days the land
had rest for ten years. [2] And Asa did what was good and right in
the eyes of the LORD his God. [3] He took away the foreign altars
and the high places and broke down the pillars and cut down the
Asherim [4] and commanded Judah to seek the LORD, the God of
their fathers, and to keep the law and the commandment. (2
Chronicles 14)
These idols and pagan articles seemed to sap the strength from Judah.
During the reign of Abijah, there was a constant war between Israel and
Judah (see 1 Kings 15:6). Idols of foreign gods were scattered throughout
the land. They were continually clashing with their brothers and sisters in
the nation of Israel. There was no peace for the people in these days. They
were unable to have victory over their enemies.
Under Solomon, Rehoboam and Abijah there was a slow but steady erosion
of faith. Idols and foreign altars were cropping up in the land as people
turned their backs on the one true God. The fullness of God’s blessing had
departed. Sin and rebellion against God were on the increase. A general
apathy toward the things of the Lord filled the land. The people of God
were no longer at peace with God, nor were they at peace with their
brothers or sisters. They needed a fresh visitation of God to break their
chains and refocus their attention on God and His word.
The Revival and how it Started
When Asa became king, he immediately removed the idols that had been
left in the land during his fathers reign. According to 2 Chronicles 14:4, he
commanded the people of Judah to seek the Lord and to obey His
commands.
[4] and commanded Judah to seek the LORD, the God of their
fathers, and to keep the law and the commandment. (2 Chronicles
14)
As the people of Judah turned their hearts to the Lord, the blessing of God
returned to the land. 2 Chronicles 14:6 tells us that the Lord gave them rest.
[6] He built fortified cities in Judah, for the land had rest. He had
no war in those years for the LORD gave him peace.
Their wars were over. They lived in peace on all sides. When the enemy did
attack, the Lord gave them victory. This, however, was only the beginning
of what God wanted to accomplish in the lives of His people.
Revival really broke out when the Spirit of God spoke to a prophet by the
name of Azariah. Azariah spoke that word to king Asa and the people of
Judah and Benjamin. Listen to what he told them:
[15:1] The Spirit of God came upon Azariah the son of Oded, [2]
and he went out to meet Asa and said to him, “Hear me, Asa, and
all Judah and Benjamin: The LORD is with you while you are with
him. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake
him, he will forsake you. [3] For a long time Israel was without the
true God, and without a teaching priest and without law, [4] but
when in their distress they turned to the LORD, the God of Israel,
and sought him, he was found by them. [5] In those times there was
no peace to him who went out or to him who came in, for great
disturbances afflicted all the inhabitants of the lands. [6] They were
broken in pieces. Nation was crushed by nation and city by city, for
God troubled them with every sort of distress. [7] But you, take
courage! Do not let your hands be weak, for your work shall be
rewarded.” (2 Chronicles 15)
King Asa was so touched by the words of the prophet Azariah that he set
out to remove the idols that remained in Judah and Benjamin. He repaired
the altar of the Lord that was in disrepair and invited his people to
Jerusalem for a great assembly. People came from all over Judah and
Benjamin to Jerusalem. At that time, the priests sacrificed seven hundred
head of cattle and seven thousand sheep to the Lord as the nation confessed
their sin before God. Before God, in that assembly, the people committed
themselves, by means of a covenant, to seek their God with all their heart
and soul (2 Chronicles 15.12).
The seriousness of their vows to God is seen in the covenant they made that
day:
[12] And they entered into a covenant to seek the LORD, the God of
their fathers, with all their heart and with all their soul, [13] but
that whoever would not seek the LORD, the God of Israel, should be
put to death, whether young or old, man or woman.
Anyone who did not serve the Lord with all his or her heart and soul would
be put to death.
2 Chronicles 15:14 describes the day as a day of loud shouting and the
blowing of trumpets and horns to the glory of God. This was not a quiet
event. It was no doubt very solemn, but there was much shouting and loud
blowing of trumpets. We are not told what people shouted. It may have
been related to seeking the forgiveness of God or even shouts of joy for
forgiveness and the obvious move of God they were experiencing. What is
clear is that the people were experiencing great joy as they sought the Lord.
While the meetings were loud with shouts and trumpets they were also
characterized by great joy:
[15] And all Judah rejoiced over the oath, for they had sworn with
all their heart and had sought him with their whole desire, and he
was found by them, and the LORD gave them rest all around. (2
Chronicles 15)
What a celebration there must have been in Jerusalem in those days. The
people left Jerusalem having met with God. Their lives would be changed.
Their nation would no longer be the same.
The revival that broke out in the days of Asa continued even after his death.
Asa’s son Jehoshaphat succeeded him as king in Judah. Jehoshaphat
followed in the steps of his father. He too loved the Lord and walked in His
ways. He sought to rid the land of idols. 2 Chronicles 17.6 tells us that the
heart of Jehoshaphat was devoted to the Lord:
[6] His heart was courageous in the ways of the LORD. And
furthermore, he took the high places and the Asherim out of Judah.
(2 Chronicles 17)
In the third year of his reign, Jehoshaphat sent teachers throughout the land
with the Book of the Law to instruct the people in the ways of God:
[7] In the third year of his reign he sent his officials, Ben-hail,
Obadiah, Zechariah, Nethanel, and Micaiah, to teach in the cities of
Judah; [8] and with them the Levites, Shemaiah, Nethaniah,
Zebadiah, Asahel, Shemiramoth, Jehonathan, Adonijah, Tobijah,
and Tobadonijah; and with these Levites, the priests Elishama and
Jehoram. [9] And they taught in Judah, having the Book of the Law
of the LORD with them. They went about through all the cities of
Judah and taught among the people. (2 Chronicles 17)
As the Word of God went out, people were touched by it and confessed
their sins. As they confessed these sins, the power of God fell on the nation.
The fear of the Lord fell on the nations. No-one dared to attack Judah. They
knew that God was with Judah.
[10] And the fear of the LORD fell upon all the kingdoms of the
lands that were around Judah, and they made no war against
Jehoshaphat. (2 Chronicles 17)
The power of this revival touched many aspects of their community life.
Jehoshaphat appointed judges in the land and gave them these words:
[5] He appointed judges in the land in all the fortified cities of
Judah, city by city, [6] and said to the judges, “Consider what you
do, for you judge not for man but for the LORD. He is with you in
giving judgment. [7] Now then, let the fear of the LORD be upon
you. Be careful what you do, for there is no injustice with the LORD
our God, or partiality or taking bribes.” (2 Chronicles 19)
These judges went out to judge with a sense of the fear of the Lord. They
realized that the Lord saw and heard every decision they made. Their
judgements were made accordingly. The revival of that day touched the
judges and legal officials so that they judged according to the Law of God.
They feared to offend the Lord God in their decisions and so were careful to
judge with righteousness and truth.
The revival also impacted the religious leaders. Jehoshaphat appointed
priests to administer the law of the Lord and gave them these orders:
[8] Moreover, in Jerusalem Jehoshaphat appointed certain Levites
and priests and heads of families of Israel, to give judgment for the
LORD and to decide disputed cases. They had their seat at
Jerusalem. [9] And he charged them: “Thus you shall do in the fear
of the LORD, in faithfulness, and with your whole heart: [10]
whenever a case comes to you from your brothers who live in their
cities, concerning bloodshed, law or commandment, statutes or
rules, then you shall warn them, that they may not incur guilt before
the LORD and wrath may not come upon you and your brothers.
Thus you shall do, and you will not incur guilt. (2 Chronicles 19)
As priests, they too were to serve in the fear of the Lord. They were to do so
“in faithfulness,” and with their “whole heart” (2 Chronicles 19:9), being
careful not to “incur guilt before the Lord” lest the wrath of God fall on
them.
The revival also had a significant impact on the political life of God’s
people. On one occasion the Moabites and the Ammonites joined forced to
attack Judah. 2 Chronicles 20 tells us how Jehoshaphat and his military
commanders dealt with this situation. Jehoshaphat was alarmed at the news
of this danger. He resolved in this matter, however, not to rely on his
wisdom but to seek the Lord. He called the people of Judah together. When
the nation had gathered, this great political leader stood in front of them,
bowed his head and lead them in prayer. Before the entire country,
Jehoshaphat confessed his inability and lack of wisdom to deal with the
situation:
[12] O our God, will you not execute judgment on them? For we are
powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do
not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” (2 Chronicles 20)
When was the last time you saw a political leader leading his citizens in
prayer? Have you ever seen that leader confessing before the Lord his or
her lack of wisdom and power to deal with the state of the nation? When
was the last time you saw that leader cry out to God with all his heart and
soul to come down from heaven and pour Himself on his land in need? The
revival that broke out in the reigns of Asa and Jehoshaphat forced political
leaders, judges, and religious leaders to their knees.
As Jehoshaphat prayed, the Lord spoke to Jahaziel the prophet. Through
Jahaziel, the Lord told the people not to be discouraged. He promised them
victory. When the king heard this word from the Lord, he fell on his face on
the ground and worshipped. Seeing their leader bowing down in worship,
the people also fell on their faces and praised the God of Abraham, Isaac,
and Jacob.
Let’s not forget the context of this prayer. The enemy is approaching with
an army so vast that it inspired fear. God’s people, however, have placed
their confidence in Him. Even as the enemy approached, they are on their
faces before God. They are overwhelmed by His grace and power. Their
hearts are filled with His presence. There is immense joy and praise in the
worst of times.
The next day Jehoshaphat prepared his army for battle. After consulting
with his people, he decided to place a choir in the front line. The
responsibility of this choir was to sing praises to the Lord as they entered
battle. As they marched toward the enemy, they were to praise God for His
splendour and holiness. They were to lead the army by singing: “Give
thanks to the Lord for his love endures forever” (2 Chronicles 20.21). We
can only imagine what it would have been like for a choir to lead this army
into battle.
As they advanced, God sent an ambush against the Amorites and the
Moabites. They were so confused that they began to fight amongst
themselves. By the time the Judean army arrived, they had found only dead
bodies on the battlefield. God’s people returned home victors without
having to fight the battle. When the story of what happened that day spread,
the fear of God spread to the surrounding nations. God’s people lived in
peace. No-one dared to attack. The nations knew God was with Judah.
In a time of spiritual compromise, God moved in the hearts of His people to
deal with the sins of their nation. In a day where God’s people had lost their
former glory, God touched them again with his power and glory.
Lessons Learned from this Revival
What do we learn from this revival? Notice that it was not until God’s
people dealt with the sin in their midst that God moved in power among
them. How often have we grieved the Spirit of God by our compromises?
How often have we excused or rebellion? We have sometimes accepted our
weakness as normal. Do you want to see God move in power? Recognize
your sins. Don’t hide them, cover them over or excuse them. Accept that
they are an offensive to a holy God. Sin and spiritual compromise stand
between our God and us.
The revival in the days of Asa and Jehoshaphat was characterized by “the
fear of the Lord.” Judges were instructed to judge in the fear of the Lord.
Priests were commanded to serve in the same way. The fear of the Lord fell
on pagan nations as they saw God moving in the lives of His people. What
is this fear of the Lord? A quick look at the way in which this phrase is used
in the Bible shows us that there is a strong connection between fearing the
Lord and following His precepts (Psalm 111.10), listening to His
instructions (Proverbs 1.7-16), and walking on His path (Proverbs 23.17-
22).
This revival of this day seemed to begin when God’s people took His word
seriously. The words of the prophet Azariah spoke powerfully and seemed
to summarize what took place in those days: “If you seek him, he will be
found by you, but if you forsake him, he will forsake you” (2 Chronicles
15:2). Azariah went on to remind the people that their faithfulness to God
would be rewarded:
[7] But you, take courage! Do not let your hands be weak, for your
work shall be rewarded.” (2 Chronicles 15)
With those words ringing in their ears, the people set about to cleanse the
land. Encouraged by the teachers of the Word, the people cleansed their
temple, their homes and their hearts. Judges put aside corruption and
partiality and judged with fairness. Priests made it their goal to warn God’s
people about sin and evil. Kings sought the wisdom of God and put aside
their ideas and agendas. The ordinary citizens fell on their knees and
confessed their sins to God. The work of their hands was rewarded. God
moved among them. There was joy and peace as the Lord liberated them
from the fear of all enemy nations. Blessing was restored, and God’s people
once again walked in fellowship with their God.
For Consideration:
Describe the conditions before the revival in the days of Asa and
Jehoshaphat? Compare these conditions to what is happening in your
society today?
What is the connection between the cleansing of the land and the revival
that broke out in those days? Could this revival have taken place if God’s
people were not willing to deal with the sins that had polluted their land?
Can we expect revival if we are unwilling to confess and repent of our sins?
Would you be willing to deal with the sins that a revival would expose in
your life?
The revival in the days of Asa and Jehoshaphat was a revival of the “fear of
the Lord.” What would such a revival look like in our day? What is the
connection between the fear of the Lord and putting aside our sinful ways?
What role did the teaching of Scripture have in the revival of Asa and
Jehoshaphat? Do we take the Scriptures seriously in our day?
For Prayer:
Ask the Lord to give you the humility to recognize your sin as He exposes it
to you. Ask for the grace to repent and have victory over these sins. Ask
God to forgive you for not taking these sins seriously or for excusing your
behaviour.
Ask God to help you to find the time to study His Word. Ask Him to speak
to you through this Word. Pray that you would have the courage and
strength to change whatever needs to be changed so that you are walking in
tune with Him.
Pray that you would have a more profound sense of what it means to fear
the Lord. Ask for a heart that fears or reverences the Lord in every part of
your life.
Ask God to revive you spiritually as you step out in obedience and learn to
walk faithfully with Him.
A
2 - REVIVAL UNDER
HEZEKIAH
2 Chronicles 21-32
Conditions Prior to the Revival
fter the revival in the days of Asa and Jehoshaphat, the people of
Judah returned to their sinful ways. Eight kings would come and
go before God would move again in revival power among the
people of Judah.
When Jehoshaphat died, Jehoram, his son, became king in Judah. He
married the daughter of the evil king Ahab of Israel. He began his reign by
killing all his brothers to ensure that his throne would be uncontested.
[4] When Jehoram had ascended the throne of his father and was
established, he killed all his brothers with the sword, and also some
of the princes of Israel. (2 Chronicles 21)
He also restored the worship of pagan gods in the land of Judah.
[11] Moreover, he made high places in the hill country of Judah and
led the inhabitants of Jerusalem into whoredom and made Judah go
astray. (2 Chronicles 21)
Because of this evil, God sent the Philistines, the Arabs, and the Edomites
against him. Under his fathers reign, these nations feared the God of Judah.
They did not dare attack His people. Under Jehoram, however, they were no
longer afraid. By his actions, Jehoram had driven the fear of God from his
land. This was a period of spiritual decline. The presence of God was no
longer evident in Judah. Even the surrounding nations understood this.
The next four kings to reign in Judah would continue in the ways of
Jehoram. Ahaziah chose to rely on the evil counsel of his mother rather than
seek the Lord:
[3] He also walked in the ways of the house of Ahab, for his mother
was his counselor in doing wickedly. (2 Chronicles 22)
After the untimely death of her son, Ahaziah’s mother Athaliah, whose evil
counsel Jehoram had followed, proclaimed herself queen of Judah. To
guarantee her reign, she killed all members of the royal family except for
one young male child who was hidden from her. She continued to lead
Judah into sin and rebellion against God. Her people assassinated her and
replaced her on the throne with the young child who had been hidden from
her.
Joash, the child who had escaped the cruel hand of Athaliah, began his
reign by serving the Lord. He repaired the temple and restored the worship
of Jehovah. The problem, however, was that after the death of the priest
Jehoiada, Joash abandoned the temple. 2 Chronicles 24.24 describes the
result of this turning away:
[24] Though the army of the Syrians had come with few men, the
LORD delivered into their hand a very great army, because Judah
had forsaken the LORD, the God of their fathers. Thus they
executed judgment on Joash. (2 Chronicles 24)
Judah was powerless against her enemies. Even a small band of Syrians
defeated the large Judean army in battle. The nations who feared to attack
the people of God under Jehoshaphat now easily defeated them. Joash’s
servants would ultimately assassinate him, and his throne was handed over
to Amaziah (2 Chronicles 24:25-27).
Like Joash, Amaziah served the Lord initially but chose to bow down to the
foreign gods of Edom. When God sent a prophet to rebuke him for this,
Amaziah refused to listen. During his reign, the northern kingdom of Israel
invaded Judah and took away the treasures of the temple of God. The
citizens of Judah assassinated Amaziah (2 Chronicles 25:27).
These days were days of political unrest. The people of Judah assassinated
four successive leaders. Two of these leaders called for the brutal murder of
members of their own family to assure their reign. The nation had
abandoned the principles of God’s word. The people bowed down to
foreign God and ignored the purpose of God for them as a nation.
Under the leadership of king Uzziah conditions improved for a time. He
built up the nation again. When things began to improve, however, Uzziah
became proud. In his pride, he abandoned the Lord. The Lord struck him
with leprosy, and he died in isolation from his people.
Jotham, who took the throne after the death of Uzziah, did nothing to stop
the evil practices of the nation. When King Ahaz came to the throne things
went from bad to worse. He proved to be a very corrupt king. He sacrificed
his son on an altar to pagan gods. He closed the doors of the temple of God
in Jerusalem and set up foreign idols in the streets of Judah. Shrines to
foreign gods were built in every town and city of Judah. Ahaz brought
Judah to its lowest point spiritually. Under his reign, the worship of God
was abandoned and replaced by the worship of Baal.
The nation that had once inspired fear was now weak and helpless against
her enemies. God’s presence and abundant blessing were no longer evident
in the land. Political unrest was rampant. Four of her leaders had been
assassinated. Two royal families had been wiped out. With the worship of
Baal, immorality abounded in Judah. Temple prostitution was on the rise.
Children were sacrificed on altars to pagan gods in Judah. These were dark
days for the people of Judah.
The Revival and how it Started
The revival began with the crowning of Hezekiah. At the age of twenty-
five, this king had a burden for restoring the worship of God. 2 Chronicles
29.3 tells us that he wasted no time in reopening the temple. The verse tells
us that he did this in the first month of his reign. From the context, we
understand that the temple of the Lord was in disrepair. Hezekiah called a
meeting of the priests and Levites and commissioned them to consecrate the
temple. They were to remove all defilements and prepare it for worship.
In those days no sacrifices were offered for the sins of the people. The
doors of the temple were closed. No incense was going up to God.
Hezekiah’s told the religious leaders that he intended to make a covenant
with God so that His anger be turned from the nation. The result of this
encounter between Hezekiah and the religious leaders was that the doors to
the temple were opened, and the priests and Levites “consecrated
themselves and went in as the king had commanded, by the words of the
LORD, to cleanse the house of the LORD” (2 Chronicles 29:15).
This process of cleaning the temple was a massive task. 2 Chronicles
29:16,17 tells us that the priests went into the temple and began to remove
all the unclean things that had accumulated over the years. They brought
them to the temple courtyard where the Levites gathered them up and took
them outside the city limits to be destroyed. It took sixteen days to cleanse
and purify the temple (2 Chronicles 29.17). They informed king Hezekiah
when they had completed their task.
Early the next morning Hezekiah called a meeting of all the city officials.
As political leaders and representatives of the people, they gathered in the
temple. Hezekiah brought seven bulls, seven rams, seven lambs and seven
goats and gave them to the priests, commanding them to offer these as a sin
offering to the Lord God. When the priests brought the goats in for the sin
offering, the king and his political officials laid hands on them confessing
their sin publicly as a nation.
When the sacrifices began, Hezekiah ordered the musicians to sing to the
Lord. As the trumpets and the instruments played, and the choir sang, the
whole assembly fell to the ground in worship and adoration of the one true
God. This continued until all the sacrifices were offered to God. We can
only imagine what this ceremony would have been like. What was on the
people’s minds as they bowed with their faces to the ground in worship of
Jehovah? How long had it been since they had worshipped the God of
Israel? How many of them had been guilty of bowing the knee to Baal?
After the sacrifices Hezekiah commanded the musicians to continue playing
and singing to the Lord. 2 Chronicles 29.30 tells us:
[30] And Hezekiah the king and the officials commanded the Levites
to sing praises to the LORD with the words of David and of Asaph
the seer. And they sang praises with gladness, and they bowed down
and worshiped. (2 Chronicles 29)
The people present that day were filled with gladness and praise as they met
with the Lord God. This service seemed to go on for a long time. When the
Levites finished praising the Lord, Hezekiah invited the people to bring
thank offerings. All those whose hearts were willing (2 Chronicles 29.31)
brought burnt offerings to the Lord. 2 Chronicles 29:31-36 describe what
happened:
[31] Then Hezekiah said, “You have now consecrated yourselves to
the LORD. Come near; bring sacrifices and thank offerings to the
house of the LORD.” And the assembly brought sacrifices and thank
offerings, and all who were of a willing heart brought burnt
offerings. [32] The number of the burnt offerings that the assembly
brought was 70 bulls, 100 rams, and 200 lambs; all these were for a
burnt offering to the LORD. [33] And the consecrated offerings
were 600 bulls and 3,000 sheep. [34] But the priests were too few
and could not flay all the burnt offerings, so until other priests had
consecrated themselves their brothers the Levites helped them until
the work was finished— for the Levites were more upright in heart
than the priests in consecrating themselves. [35] Besides the great
number of burnt offerings, there was the fat of the peace offerings,
and there were the drink offerings for the burnt offerings. Thus the
service of the house of the LORD was restored.
The response of the people was beyond anything the king could have
imagined. There were so many sacrifices to offer that day that the priests
had to enlist the help of the Levites to skin the animals. There was a sense
of the presence of God. What they saw happening could only be explained
as a visitation of God. 2 Chronicles 29.36 says:
[36] And Hezekiah and all the people rejoiced because God had
provided for the people, for the thing came about suddenly.
This was only the beginning of this great revival in Judah. In 2 Chronicles
30 Hezekiah send word to Israel and Judah to come to the temple in
Jerusalem for a Passover celebration. He called both Israel and Judah to
repent and return to the one true God.
This was the first Passover celebration that had been observed for a long
time. Couriers were sent throughout the countryside. While they were
generally scorned in the territory of Israel (2 Chronicles 30.10), in Judah,
where the Spirit of God was working, the response was very different.
[12] The hand of God was also on Judah to give them one heart to
do what the king and the princes commanded by the word of the
LORD. (2 Chronicles 30)
In preparation for this Passover 2 Chronicles 30.14 tells us that the
people set to work to cleanse the city of its impurities:
[14] They set to work and removed the altars that were in
Jerusalem, and all the altars for burning incense they took away
and threw into the brook Kidron. (2 Chronicles 30)
Foreign altars and idols were sought out and broken down. These objects
were thrown into the brook Kidron outside the city. Every evidence of
pagan worship was destroyed and removed. Nothing that would offend their
God could remain in the streets.
A large crowd responded to the invitation of Hezekiah. For seven days
these people remained in Jerusalem. 2 Chronicles 30.21 describe this time:
[20] And the LORD heard Hezekiah and healed the people. [21]
And the people of Israel who were present at Jerusalem kept the
Feast of Unleavened Bread seven days with great gladness, and the
Levites and the priests praised the LORD day by day, singing with
all their might to the LORD. [22] And Hezekiah spoke
encouragingly to all the Levites who showed good skill in the
service of the LORD. So they ate the food of the festival for seven
days, sacrificing peace offerings and giving thanks to the LORD, the
God of their fathers. (2 Chronicles 30)
These were days of great gladness. 2 Chronicles 30:20 tells us that many
people were healed of affliction. During those seven days, the people
praised the Lord and listened to the preaching of Hezekiah. They also
offered many sacrifices to the Lord.
When the seven days of celebration were over, the people decided to remain
another week and continue their praise and thanksgiving (see 2 Chronicles
30.23). During this second week, Hezekiah donated one thousand bulls and
seven thousand sheep and goats for the assembly to offer to the Lord. The
town officials were also moved by the Spirit of God to provide another one
thousand bulls and ten thousand more sheep and goats.
The people did not want to go home. Their one-week celebration was
stretched out to two weeks of praise and thanksgiving. 2 Chronicles 30:24
tells us that God’s Spirit moved among the priests and a number of them
consecrated themselves to Him. 2 Chronicles 30 goes on to describe what
took place at that time:
[25] The whole assembly of Judah, and the priests and the Levites,
and the whole assembly that came out of Israel, and the sojourners
who came out of the land of Israel, and the sojourners who lived in
Judah, rejoiced. [26] So there was great joy in Jerusalem, for since
the time of Solomon the son of David king of Israel there had been
nothing like this in Jerusalem. [27] Then the priests and the Levites
arose and blessed the people, and their voice was heard, and their
prayer came to his holy habitation in heaven. (2 Chronicles 30)
The people of God experienced the presence of God in those days. His
grace and favour were showered down on them. They were filled with the
joy of the Lord. 2 Chronicles 31:1 tells us that when they left this meeting,
they went throughout the region of Judah smashing down idols and sacred
stones that had been used for the worship of other gods. From the temple,
the revival spread to the entire city of Jerusalem and on to the country of
Judah. Even the northern kingdom of Israel felt its impact.
King Hezekiah commanded the people to contribute financially to the
ministry of the Levites, so this work of God could be sustained. The
response to this order was so great that in four months the Levites had so
many contributions that storehouses were built to hold the overflow (see 2
Chronicles 31.2-11). The work of God lacked no resources. The fruit of this
revival was seen for months. The nation was changed. The temple was
cleansed of its impurities. The city of Jerusalem was purged of its pagan
idols. The country was renewed in its devotion to God and the work of God
that had been abandoned for years now lacked no provision.
Lessons Learned for this Revival
As we examine the revival under Hezekiah, we see that it had as its roots a
desire to see the nation and the temple cleansed of its impurities and sin.
The revival began when Hezekiah committed himself, as a young twenty-
five-year-old king, to purify the temple of its defilements. Once again, it
was sin that separated God from His people. The revival began in the
temple and with the religious people of the day. Over the years they had let
things slide. The temple had become defiled with the influences of the false
religions of the day. It needed to be cleansed. For over two weeks the
priests and Levites dealt with these defilements in the temple.
2 Chronicles 29.15 tells us that these priests “went in to purify the temple of
the Lord, as the king had ordered, following the word of the Lord.” It was
the word of the Lord through Hezekiah that directed them in their efforts.
They took the word of the Lord seriously, and for sixteen days the priests
worked to purify the temple, taking out armloads of articles that were
forbidden by the Law of God. How many such items and practices would
we find in the church of our day? Is it possible that our churches need to
undergo such a cleansing?
As these impurities were removed, God’s Spirit, who had been grieved,
began to reveal His presence. He moved His people to confess their known
sins. Tens of thousands of animals were sacrificed as God moved in
cleansing power in the lives of His people. As they confessed their sins, the
worshippers were freed from guilt, and their hearts began to overflow with
joy and thanksgiving to God.
The people were so touched by God and His presence that they flooded the
temple with gifts. One week of celebrating God’s praise was stretched out
to two weeks. Their hearts were moved to worship and praise the God of
Israel.
The revival began when God’s people became serious about obeying His
word and dealing with their sin. Once again, the Word of God played a vital
role in this revival under Hezekiah. Hezekiah understood the teaching of the
Law of God. He would not rest until he saw his people living in obedience
to that law. He saw his society in the mirror of God’s Law and knew that
something needed to be done. He committed himself to do his part in
calling people back to the teaching of God’s Law.
Judah had reached its lowest point under Ahaz. Idols were everywhere in
the country. Temple prostitution, child sacrifice, and immorality abounded.
How easy it could have been for Hezekiah to throw up his hands in despair.
Who was he to deal with so vast a problem in his society? Before God,
however, he knew he had an obligation to do his part. God blessed
Hezekiah’s efforts. Through this man, the nation was cleansed of its
defilements and returned to God.
God is looking for a man or woman today whose greatest desire is that His
Word is honoured in our church and society today. He is looking for
servants who will commit themselves to do their part in calling God’s
people back to God? He is calling us to let the light of His word shine into
the hidden recesses of our lives to expose any sin or defilement. He is
asking us to submit to what that Word reveals, not only in theory but also in
reality. He is calling us to repent and to confess the sin His Word and Spirit
reveal to us. The temple must be cleansed. Our mind and thoughts must be
purified. Not until we become serious about dealing with these evils can we
expect to see God move in power in our churches and our land. May God
break us by his Word and renew us in His Spirit through our obedience to
Him.
For Consideration:
Describe the political, moral and spiritual climate in Judah prior to the
revival in the days of Hezekiah.
What was the burden of Hezekiah? Where did this burden come from?
Hezekiah ordered the cleansing of the temple. How has the church of our
day been influenced by ungodly philosophies and ideas? From what
impurities does the church of our day need to be cleansed?
The revival of Hezekiah’s day brought a renewed passion for God and a
willingness on the part of His people to give sacrificially to the work of His
kingdom. To what extent do you personally need to experience such a
revival?
What role did the confession of sins play in the revival of Hezekiah’s day?
Could this revival have happened if the people were unwilling to deal with
the sins of the past and present?
The central theme of the revival of Hezekiah’s day seems to be that of
“cleansing”. God moved to cleanse the temple, the city and the country of
its impurities. What does this teach us about the focus of God in revival?
For Prayer:
Ask God to help you to examine your life in the light of His Word. Ask
Him to give you a seriousness about what He reveals about your life
through this Word.
Take a moment to pray for your church. Ask God to reveal any impurities
He finds there. Ask God to give the members and adherents of your church
a passion to deal with any impurities He reveals.
Ask God to give you the strength to resist anything that does not bring Him
glory in your life. Ask Him to renew your passion and delight in Him by
removing all the distractions and obstacles that keep you from Him.
T
3 - REVIVAL UNDER JOSIAH
2 Chronicles 33-35
Conditions Before the Revival
he revival that took place under King Hezekiah had a significant
impact in his day. After his death, however, his son, Manasseh,
became king in his place. Manasseh was very rebellious and evil
and brought the nation of Judah to a new low in their spiritual history. 2
Chronicles 33 and 2 Kings 21 record this story.
Manasseh came to the throne as a child of twelve (2 Chronicles 33:1). He
restored the worship of Baal in Jerusalem and Judah (2 Chronicles 33:3).
By setting up altars to Baal throughout the land, he restored the evil
practices his father had driven out of the nation. Manasseh worshipped the
stars. Hezekiah, his father, had cleansed the temple of the Lord. Manasseh
built pagan altars and placed them in the temple (2 Chronicles 33:4). In
both the inner and outer courts of the temple, Manasseh installed altars used
for the worship of the stars (2 Chronicles 33:5). He had his sons burnt to
death as a sacrifice to his pagan gods in the Valley of Ben Hinnom (2
Chronicles 33:6). He practiced sorcery, divination, witchcraft and consulted
mediums (2 Chronicles 33:6). 2 Chronicles 33.9 describes the reign of
Manasseh:
[9] Manasseh led Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem astray, to
do more evil than the nations whom the LORD destroyed before the
people of Israel. (2 Chronicles 33)
2 Kings 21.16 adds to this description of his reign:
[16] Moreover, Manasseh shed very much innocent blood, till he
had filled Jerusalem from one end to another, besides the sin that he
made Judah to sin so that they did what was evil in the sight of the
LORD. (2 Kings 21)
Manasseh was one of the evilest kings Judah had placed on the throne. He
destroyed all that his father had fought so hard to achieve. The revival of his
fathers day had not impacted him. Under his reign, the land returned to its
sinful practices and rebellion against God.
The Lord sent prophets to speak to Manasseh and the inhabitants of
Judah, but they refused to listen (2 Chronicles 33:10). God then sent
the king of Assyria against him. The Assyrian king took Manasseh
into captivity (2 Chronicles 33:11). Notice the impact that this
captivity had on Manasseh:
[12] And when he was in distress, he entreated the favor of the
LORD his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his
fathers. [13] He prayed to him, and God was moved by his entreaty
and heard his plea and brought him again to Jerusalem into his
kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the LORD was God.
There in his captivity, Manasseh repented of his evil deeds and turned to the
Lord God. Manasseh’s life was radically changed after his encounter with
God in Assyria. He experienced his own personal revival. When he returned
to Jerusalem, he destroyed the foreign gods he had set up (2 Chronicles
33:15). He cleansed the temple as his father Hezekiah had done and
restored it to its original condition, commanding Judah to return to the Lord
their God and to abandon their evil practices (2 Chronicles 33:16). While
things did change in Judah because of this personal revival, this work of
God did not seem to spread as he had in the days of Hezekiah. 2 Chronicles
33.17 tells us:
[17] Nevertheless, the people still sacrificed at the high places, but
only to the LORD their God. (2 Chronicles 33)
The people of Judah did listen to their king and sacrifice to the Lord, but
they did so in the high places where they worshipped their pagan gods.
There is evidence here of compromise. They offered sacrifices to God in the
place where they had worshipped their pagan gods. They had not
completely cut their ties to their past rebellion.
When Manasseh’s son Amon came to the throne, he returned to the evil
ways of his fathers past. He did not repent of these evil deeds as Manasseh
had, but continued to lead Judah away from the Lord. His officials
conspired against him and assassinated him in his palace. Josiah became
king in his place.
To summarise this period of Judean history, we see that under the reign of
Manasseh, Judah reached a low point in their spiritual history. They
desecrated by installing altars to foreign gods in its courts. Occult practices
were on the rise. Child sacrifice and immorality were in evidence in the
land. Violence was rampant. Manasseh slaughtered many citizens of Judah.
While Manasseh did experience a personal revival, that revival did not
spread. He encouraged his people to worship the Lord God, but they did so
in a way that compromised the truth. They were not wholehearted in their
commitment to the Lord their God. Under the reign of Amon, his son,
Judah continued to wander from God and His purpose for their lives.
The Revival and how it Started
Things began to change in the land when an eight-year-old king by the
name of Josiah came to the throne. This young child had the heart to seek
the Lord. The strange thing about this was that his father Amon was an evil
king. He did not learn about the Lord from his home environment. God
placed His hand on this young life, however, and prepared him to lead His
country into another great revival.
When Josiah was in the twelfth year of his reign, he began to purge
Jerusalem and Judah of its high places and idols. Under his administration,
altars to Baal and the idols used in the worship of foreign gods were torn
down and smashed. 2 Chronicles 34.7 tells us that he had these idols
crushed to powder. He was very serious about this matter. He did not want
to see these idols being repaired and placed back in the land. They were
destroyed completely. He also burned the bones of the priest of this false
religion on their altars. This not only desecrated these altars but removed
any trace of these priests from the land. All evidence of foreign religion was
removed from Judah. Nothing remained.
By the eighteenth year of his reign, Josiah ordered the purification of the
land and the temple. The priests and carpenters set to work repairing and
cleansing the temple as the king had commanded. As they were working, a
priest by the name of Hilkiah made an amazing discovery. He found the
Book of the Law. For many years this book had been lost. No one read it. It
was hidden in the rubble of the temple. Hilkiah gave the book to a Shaphan,
the secretary. Shaphan took it to King Josiah and read it to him.
The reading of this Book of the Law and the response of Josiah to it
precipitated a revival that spread throughout the countryside. When Josiah
heard the words of the Lord as recorded in the Book of the Law, he tore his
robes in a sign of morning. He knew that the anger of God was on them as a
nation. He knew that they had sinned against Him. He felt the weight of
their sin as a nation. He asked the priests to inquire of the Lord about the
words of this book. The priests went to a prophetess by the name of Huldah
who had a word from the Lord for them. She told them that the judgement
of God was indeed on the nation. God had seen the repentance of Josiah,
however, and was pleased with him. His eyes would not see the disaster that
God had planned for this rebellious people.
When they took the word of the Lord back to King Josiah, the king invited
his people to come to the temple. When they had assembled, he read the
Law to them. When he had finished reading, he led the people into a
renewal of their covenant with the God of their fathers. They committed
that day to keep the words of the Book of the Law with all their heart and
soul:
[31] And the king stood in his place and made a covenant before the
LORD, to walk after the LORD and to keep his commandments and
his testimonies and his statutes, with all his heart and all his soul, to
perform the words of the covenant that were written in this book.
[32] Then he made all who were present in Jerusalem and in
Benjamin join in it. And the inhabitants of Jerusalem did according
to the covenant of God, the God of their fathers. (2 Chronicles 34)
Josiah continued his battle against idolatry and Baal worship in the land.
The Bible tells us that while Josiah lived and reigned, the people did not fail
to serve the Lord their God.
2 Chronicles 35 describes a Passover celebration that took place during the
days of Josiah. Josiah provided 30,000 sheep and goats and 3,000 cattle to
be sacrificed to the Lord (21 Chronicles 35:7). Beyond the offerings made
by King Josiah, his officials “willingly” contributed another 7,600 Passover
offerings and eight hundred more cattle.
[8] And his officials contributed willingly to the people, to the
priests, and to the Levites. Hilkiah, Zechariah, and Jehiel, the chief
officers of the house of God, gave to the priests for the Passover
offerings 2,600 Passover lambs and 300 bulls. [9] Conaniah also,
and Shemaiah and Nethanel his brothers, and Hashabiah and Jeiel
and Jozabad, the chiefs of the Levites, gave to the Levites for the
Passover offerings 5,000 lambs and young goats and 500 bulls. (2
Chronicles 35)
Approximately 41,400 animals were sacrificed to the Lord God at that
Passover celebration!
2 Chronicles 35.18 describes this Passover as follows:
[18] No Passover like it had been kept in Israel since the days of
Samuel the prophet. None of the kings of Israel had kept such a
Passover as was kept by Josiah, and the priests and the Levites, and
all Judah and Israel who were present, and the inhabitants of
Jerusalem. (2 Chronicles 35)
The Lord was moving among His people. The temple was restored and
cleansed. Pagan idols were ground to powder. All traces of foreign worship
were removed from the land. The people of Judah renewed their vows to
serve and honour God alone. The king and his officials contributed
generously to the service and praise of the Lord their God. Once again
God’s name was being worshipped in Jerusalem. The Passover celebrated in
those days was unlike any that had taken place. God was revealing His
presence in Judah.
Lessons Learned from this Revival
Josiah had a burden to restore the worship of God. It was not, however,
until the Book of the Law was discovered that revival broke out in Judah.
As that word was read to the king, he was broken. That book brought
conviction of sin and brokenness to his heart. He took the book and read it
publicly to the people of Judah. That same conviction and brokenness
pierced the soul of the nation. God met them in His inspired Word.
As in Josiah’s day, the Word of God needs to be pulled out from under the
rubble. It has become hidden in the clutter of modern philosophies and
ideas. It has been buried under traditions and customs. Its importance has
been undermined. It is pushed aside because it is not convenient. Its
teaching has become so watered down it is no longer recognizable. This
Word has been removed from our public schools. Government policies are
made which are in direct violation of its principles. Liberal theology has
stripped away the truth of this Word and made it little more than an
interesting religious novel. Is the authority of this Word lost to our society
today? It was not until God’s people rediscovered the Book of the Law and
became serious about its application that the Spirit of God moved in revival
power in the days of Josiah.
The revival in Josiah’s day was directly connected to the rediscovery of the
Word of God. Once again, we see that God moved in power when His
people allowed His word to redirect their lives and point out sin in their
lives. Do you want to see a revival in your life? Turn to the word of God.
Search it with all your heart. Let it reveal Christ in all His beauty to you.
Let it show you how far you have drifted from God and His ways. Let it
redirect you into the paths of righteousness. Commit yourself to study and
apply its pages to your life. When it convicts you of your sins, confess them
and be reconciled to God. Accept its encouragement. Step out boldly in its
promises. God will meet you in these pages? He promises that all who truly
seek Him, and His ways will find Him (Deuteronomy 4:29; Jeremiah
29:13).
For Consideration:
What were the spiritual conditions in Judah under the early reign of
Manasseh
What did it take for Manasseh to come to the Lord? How did this renewal
affect his life and reign as king of Judah?
Compare what took place under the reigns of Manasseh and Josiah by
examining the following two verses:
Manasseh:
[17] Nevertheless, the people still sacrificed at the high places, but
only to the LORD their God. (2 Chronicles 33)
Josiah:
[6] And in the cities of Manasseh, Ephraim, and Simeon, and as far
as Naphtali, in their ruins all around, [7] he broke down the altars
and beat the Asherim and the images into powder and cut down all
the incense altars throughout all the land of Israel. Then he returned
to Jerusalem. (2 Chronicles 34)
What difference do you see in how these two kings dealt with sin in their
midst? How is compromise an enemy to revival?
How important was the discovery of the Book of the Law to the revival that
took place in the days of Josiah? What role did that Word play in shaping
the revival?
Has the authority of the Word of God been lost to our generation? Explain
For Prayer:
Ask God to teach you how to live under the authority of His inspired Word.
Ask Him to show you if there are areas of your life where you are not
walking in submission to His Word.
Ask the Lord to keep you from compromise when it comes to obedience to
His purpose for your life.
Thank the Lord that He can bring change in the life of even the most
rebellion person. Thank Him for how he transformed the life of Manasseh.
Ask Him to work in the life of someone you know who seems hardened to
His Word.
D
4 – REVIVAL UNDER EZRA
AND NEHEMIAH
Ezra 7-10; Nehemiah 8-13
Conditions Before the Revival
espite the revivals of their past, the people of God continued to
fall into sin and rebellion against their God. Because of their sin,
God sent His people into captivity. Israel, to the north, was the
first to go. The Assyrians attacked and took her into captivity. The nation of
Judah, to the south, remained a few years longer in her land, but the
Babylonians invaded and forced her into exile as well. For years the people
of God lived away from their homeland. In the year 538 BC King Cyrus of
Persia declared freedom for the Jews to return to the land of promise. Under
the capable leadership of men like Ezra and Nehemiah, the Jews began the
long process of rebuilding their country. They built houses and important
buildings. They also set up an altar to the Lord. Plans were set in place to
rebuild the temple that had been destroyed by their enemies.
Israel’s neighbours did not appreciate the reconstruction of the city of
Jerusalem. They were not too keen on seeing this once powerful city
restored to its former glory. They opposed the rebuilding by sending a letter
to the king of Persia claiming that if they rebuilt the city, the Jews would no
longer feel any allegiance to the king of Persia. This accusation brought a
halt to the reconstruction.
Through His prophets, God encouraged His people to persevere in the
rebuilding process, despite the opposition. When further letters were sent to
the king of Persia, the response returned in favour of reconstruction. The
work of rebuilding the temple of God was completed under the reign of
King Darius of the Medes and Persians. These were days of tremendous joy
for the Jews. The temple was dedicated by the sacrifice of one hundred
bulls, two hundred rams, four hundred male lambs and twelve male goats
(one for each tribe). Ezra 6:22 tells us about the celebration of the first
Passover in this new temple:
[22] And they kept the Feast of Unleavened Bread seven days with
joy, for the LORD had made them joyful and had turned the heart of
the king of Assyria to them so that he aided them in the work of the
house of God, the God of Israel. (Ezra 6)
There was great excitement in the air in those days. They had been given
the opportunity to start all over. God had allowed them to return to their
homeland. He had put it in the heart of the king to allow them to complete
the work on the temple. Now they stood in the completed temple
worshipping the Lord God who had delivered them from captivity and
restored their blessing.
It was into this situation that a Jewish priest by the name of Ezra arrived
from Babylon. Ezra 7.6 describes this individual for us:
[6] this Ezra went up from Babylonia. He was a scribe skilled in the
Law of Moses that the LORD, the God of Israel, had given, and the
king granted him all that he asked, for the hand of the LORD his
God was on him. (Ezra 7)
Ezra 7:9-10 goes on to say:
[9] For on the first day of the first month he began to go up from
Babylonia, and on the first day of the fifth month he came to
Jerusalem, for the good hand of his God was on him. [10] For Ezra
had set his heart to study the Law of the LORD, and to do it and to
teach his statutes and rules in Israel. (Ezra 7)
These verses tell us two important details about Ezra. First, he was skilled
in the Law of Moses. Notice that he was not just knowledgeable in the Law
of Moses, but he also taught and lived it out in his personal life.
The second detail we need to see in these verses is that that hand of the
Lord was on him. God was blessing him and his efforts. His ministry was
powerful because he chose to walk in obedience to the Word of God and
teach it to the people. In the revivals we have examined to this point, we
have seen just how significant the Word of God was in the spreading of
revival fires. God sovereignly brought a man who loved, studies, taught and
walked faithfully in the truth of His word to Jerusalem at this crucial point
in Israel’s history.
It was not long after Ezra arrived that he discovered that the people of God
who lived in Jerusalem were not walking in obedience to the Law of Moses.
The first evidence of this was in a report brought to him in Ezra 9:
[9:1] After these things had been done, the officials approached me
and said, “The people of Israel and the priests and the Levites have
not separated themselves from the peoples of the lands with their
abominations, from the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the
Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and the
Amorites. [2] For they have taken some of their daughters to be
wives for themselves and for their sons, so that the holy race has
mixed itself with the peoples of the lands. And in this faithlessness
the hand of the officials and chief men has been foremost.” (Ezra 9)
God’s people had been marrying women from pagan nations. The city
officials were particularly guilty in this matter. The Law of Moses forbade
the intermarriage of Jews and women of pagan religions. While this had
apparently become quite accepted in the land, notice the response of Ezra to
this news:
[3] As soon as I heard this, I tore my garment and my cloak and
pulled hair from my head and beard and sat appalled. [4] Then all
who trembled at the words of the God of Israel, because of the
faithlessness of the returned exiles, gathered around me while I sat
appalled until the evening sacrifice. [5] And at the evening sacrifice
I rose from my fasting, with my garment and my cloak is torn, and
fell upon my knees and spread out my hands to the LORD my God
(Ezra 9)
Ezra was appalled that this practice was unchecked in Israel. He knew that
God’s word was clear on this matter. This flagrant sin broke his heart.
Pulling hair from his beard and head, Ezra sat in mourning before God. As
Ezra examine the situation in Jerusalem, he found that these foreign wives
had led their husbands into unfaithfulness toward the God of Israel. While
others overlooked this sin, Ezra grieved deeply in his heart because of it.
This shows us just how dedicated this man was to the Word of God.
The Revival and how it Started
When Ezra discovered the sin of intermarriage with pagan women, he tore
his tunic and pulled hair from his beard and head as a sign of mourning.
Ezra 9.4 tells us that everyone who trembled at this sin gathered together
under the leadership of Ezra. Ezra led them in prayer for the state of the
nation. Listen to his prayer:
[5] And at the evening sacrifice I rose from my fasting, with my
garment and my cloak torn, and fell upon my knees and spread out
my hands to the LORD my God, [6] saying:
“O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift my face to you, my God,
for our iniquities have risen higher than our heads, and our guilt
has mounted up to the heavens. [7] From the days of our fathers to
this day we have been in great guilt. And for our iniquities we, our
kings, and our priests have been given into the hand of the kings of
the lands, to the sword, to captivity, to plundering, and to utter
shame, as it is today. [8] But now for a brief moment favor has been
shown by the LORD our God, to leave us a remnant and to give us a
secure hold within his holy place, that our God may brighten our
eyes and grant us a little reviving in our slavery. [9] For we are
slaves. Yet our God has not forsaken us in our slavery, but has
extended to us his steadfast love before the kings of Persia, to grant
us some reviving to set up the house of our God, to repair its ruins,
and to give us protection in Judea and Jerusalem.
[10] “And now, O our God, what shall we say after this? For we
have forsaken your commandments, [11] which you commanded by
your servants the prophets, saying, ‘The land that you are entering,
to take possession of it, is a land impure with the impurity of the
peoples of the lands, with their abominations that have filled it from
end to end with their uncleanness. [12] Therefore do not give your
daughters to their sons, neither take their daughters for your sons,
and never seek their peace or prosperity, that you may be strong and
eat the good of the land and leave it for an inheritance to your
children forever.’ [13] And after all that has come upon us for our
evil deeds and for our great guilt, seeing that you, our God, have
punished us less than our iniquities deserved and have given us such
a remnant as this, [14] shall we break your commandments again
and intermarry with the peoples who practice these abominations?
Would you not be angry with us until you consumed us, so that there
should be no remnant, nor any to escape? [15] O LORD, the God of
Israel, you are just, for we are left a remnant that has escaped, as it
is today. Behold, we are before you in our guilt, for none can stand
before you because of this.”
Notice that Ezra felt deep shame as he approached God about this matter
(Ezra 9:6). He recognized that, as a nation, they were guilty of disregarding
the law of God. He confessed their sin to God. As Ezra and the people
prayed, crowds of people began to gather:
[10:1] While Ezra prayed and made confession, weeping and
casting himself down before the house of God, a very great assembly
of men, women, and children, gathered to him out of Israel, for the
people wept bitterly. (Ezra 10)
As they listened to Ezra pray with such passion, the crowd was convicted of
their sins and began to weep bitterly (Ezra 10.1). As they wept before God,
a man by the name of Shecaniah spoke to Ezra. He felt they needed to do
something to make things right with God. We have a record of this proposal
in Ezra 10:
[2] And Shecaniah the son of Jehiel, of the sons of Elam, addressed
Ezra: “We have broken faith with our God and have married foreign
women from the peoples of the land, but even now there is hope for
Israel in spite of this. [3] Therefore let us make a covenant with our
God to put away all these wives and their children, according to the
counsel of my lord and of those who tremble at the commandment of
our God, and let it be done according to the Law. [4] Arise, for it is
your task, and we are with you; be strong and do it.” (Ezra 10)
As a result of this proposal a proclamation as issued throughout the land.
Ezra 10:7-8 give us the details of that proclamation:
[7] And a proclamation was made throughout Judah and Jerusalem
to all the returned exiles that they should assemble at Jerusalem, [8]
and that if anyone did not come within three days, by order of the
officials and the elders all his property should be forfeited, and he
himself banned from the congregation of the exiles. (Ezra 10)
They decreed that all Jewish exiles were to assemble in Jerusalem within
three days. Anyone who did not come to this assembly was to forfeit his
land and property and be banned from the nation. We see just how serious
the people who gathered before Ezra took this matter.
Over the next three days, people began to gather in Jerusalem. On the third
day, the day of the great assembly, the people stood in the pouring rain to
hear Ezra speak (Ezra 10:9). He told them that they had sinned against the
Lord their God by marrying foreign wives. He challenged them to confess
this matter to God. He also encouraged them to separate from their foreign
wives. This issue could have been very controversial, but the Spirit of God
had been moving in their presence. With one voice, the assembly
recognized their guilt. Right then and there a plan was devised to deal with
this matter. One by one they put away their foreign wives and got right with
God. Their hearts were broken, as God moved among them in revival
power.
Nehemiah 8 speaks of yet another time when God used His servant Ezra to
sweep the nation with revival. On this occasion, Ezra stood before the
people with the Book of the Law. Opening the book,