After the death of King David we find Solomon coming
to the throne of Israel. Seeking to fulfil his father's dream he coming
up to Mount Moriah began to build the temple.
Using only the choicest materials and forbidding the sound of any tool to be heard stone was laid upon stone. Eventually being completed the priests offering up countless thousands of sacrifices the Lord suddenly descended filling the entire place. Making his way up unto a special platform Solomon falling down upon his knees lead the nation in prayer. Responding to that prayer the Lord spoke to him in the darkness of the night. Warning of the awful consequences of national apostasy he warned him that he would seal the heavens. Withholding the rain drought and famine would spread across the entire land. Withering their crops he would then send the devouring plagues of locust and pestilence. Ripping the heart out of the economy would devour all that was good, pleasant and proper. Leaving in its wake a trail of desolation, death and destitution he then promised that if only they would seek his face he would heal their land.
Even in the darkness of despair there is hope for our land. Where there is repentance he promises revival. Indeed, realising this Hosea cried out In Hosea 10:12 "it is time to seek the LORD, till he come and rain righteousness upon you". Our society today is breaking down around us. The plagues of evolution and materialism sweeping across the country there is no longer any fear of God. Throwing aside his law there is vast increase in violence, suicide and immorality. In 1988 - 2,459 marriages were dissolved in Northern Ireland. That is an increase 13% on the previous year. In the same year 28% of all births occurred outside marriage. In 1998 - 124 people took their own lives. Surely it is time to seek the Lord.
1. THE PREPARATION FOR REVIVAL: Notice the words "if my people". The solution lay not in the hands of parliamentarians or human right activists but in the hands of God's people. In calling them to repentance notice there needed to be a putting away:-
a) Of Their Corruption:
Becoming climatized to the corruption all around them he said in
v14 “If my people..... seek my face, and turn
from their wicked ways”. Coming to the subject of sin
he speaks of it here in the plural. It is "their wicked ways". Indeed,
in this one verse alone we have not only the sin of pride and prayerlesness
but also the sin of perversion. Rather than merely sorrowing over their
many sins there needed to be a turning away from them. A repudiating of
every wicked way.
Before there can be a reviving there must be a repenting. A turning from every thing that is not of God. Indeed, being devastated by the defeat of his people at the hands of the men of Ai Joshua threw himself upon the ground. Renting his garments and crying unto the Lord we read in Joshua 7:10 “And the LORD said unto Joshua, Get thee up; wherefore liest thou thus upon thy face?”. In other words he was saying Joshua, while there is sin in the camp there is no point praying. It was only when the tribes were brought out one by one and examined and the sin dealt with that the power of God descending they overcame.
Prayer without purity is pointless. Until there is a exiling of the presence of that sin there cannot be an experiencing of the power of the Spirit. In 1904 Evan Roberts preparing himself for the work of the ministry suddenly became burdened for the lost. Going back to his home church he emphasised four things.
1. The past must be made clear by confession of every known sin to God, and every known wrong to man.
2. Every doubtful thing in the believer's life must be put away.
3. Prompt and implicit obedience must be rendered to the Spirit of God.
4. We will mention a little later. The people of God confessing and putting away every evil thing revival breaking forth over 100,000 were converted within 5 months. Many want revival but they do not want to pay the price. There must be a turning from every evil way no matter what it is. Maybe your sin is not the sin of pride or prayerlessnes but whatever it may be it must be a put away.
b) Of Their Conceit:
Turning their eyes inward we read v14 “If my people,
which are called by my name, shall humble themselves".
The word "humble" is variously translated through out the pages of
the Old Testament. For example, using it to describe Gideon's victory over
the Midianites we read Judges 8:28 “Thus was Midian subdued”. Coming
from a root which means 'to bend the knee' it means to subdue or break.
Until there is brokeness there can be no blessing. It is one of the primary ingredients of revival. Indeed, taking up this subject James said in James 4:6 “But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.”. The word "resisteth" means to be arrayed against. Becoming lifted up with pride he not only resisted the proud Pharisee but he forgave the lowly publican. Becoming lifted with pride we are told concerning King Uzziah 2 Chronicles 26:16 he "was lifted up to his destruction". It brought about his downfall.
While resisting the haughty the Lord revives the humble. He blesses the broken heart. How many today they and they spend their whole lives trying to save face. Until we lose face and admit our sin and weaknesses we will never know God's blessing. You read through the Scriptures and you will find that it was not until Gideon broke the pitcher and Christ broke the bread and Mary broke the alabaster box that they became useful. Sometimes people pray "Lord make me humble". That is not a prayer I'd advise. You may not like the way God will answer it. Note it was not God but they who were to humble themselves. Until there is that brokeness where we acknowledge our sin and our pride we will never experience revival.
c) Of Their Concealment:
Calling them to repentance and holy living he added v14 “If
my people, which are called by my name". Setting forth the recipe
for revival he not only reminded thy were his people but they were
to be called by his name. In the original the emphasis is on those who
owned, or professed his name. There needed to be an owning of Christ.
Until we are recognised as God's we will not be revived by God. There must be an owning of his name. Realising this Jehoshaphat leading out his armies against the Moabites we read in 2 Chronicles 20:22 “And when they began to sing and to praise, the LORD set ambushments against the children of Ammon, Moab, and mount Seir, which were come against Judah; and they were smitten.”. It was when they owned his name in song that the Lord intervening gave them the victory.
Where there is a refusal among the saints to own their sovereign there will be a refusal by the sovereign to own his saints. He will not bless them. Earlier we were mentioning the recipe set down by Evan Roberts for revival and the fourth condition was "4. Public confession of Christ must be made within and without the church". Sadly this is where many believer's fail. When the subject of religion is brought they almost faint lest it be discovered they are believers. Isaac Watts wrote :-
2. THE PRAYER FOR REVIVAL: In calling them to pray he was not merely summonsing the Levites but he said "my people". All that professed his name were to pray. Lifting their voices notice:-
a) They Were To Pray Selflessly:
Coming before the altar we read in v14 “If my
people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray".
In the Hebrew there are twelve different words used to express the single
verb "pray". The one used here is on at least two separate occasions rendered
'to judge'. Explaining it meaning Robert Young tells us it means
to "to judge self habitually". In other words coming to pray for their
land they were to judge their prayers making sure they were not selfish.
The motives behind our prayers are as important as the word in our prayers. The old man must be crucified. Indeed, pinpointing the reason for failure in the realm of prayer James said James 4:3 “Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.”. The reason for their failure was not was not because they had not prayed or because they had asked for the wrong things but because they were asking the wrong way. It was for their own personal benefit.
Until our prayers become selfless they will never become successful. Selfishness in the heart leads to silence in the heavens. Theodore Roosevelt was the 26th President of the United States of America. One of his children speaking about him said "Father always has to be the centre of attention. When he went to a wedding he wanted to be the bride and when he went to a funeral he wanted to be the corpse". There is a danger of becoming self centred in our prayers. Praying for revival for our own glory rather than God's glory. It is possible even to pray for revival that we might have the fame of Jonathan Edwards or that our lives might become easier. Such prayers God will not hear. Judge your prayers. It is the selfless prayer he hears and answers.
b) They Were To Pray Earnestly:
Praying together v14 “If my people, which
are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face".
As well as praying they were to seek his face. Illustrating this the Lord
told of a friend who went to a neighbour's house at midnight seeking to
borrow bread for a hungry traveller. At first being ignored he continuing
to bang on the door the Lord then said “seek, and ye shall find” . In telling
them to seek his face he was demanding earnestness.
As well as waiting before God there must be a wrestling with God. A determination not to let him go. Indeed, taking up this subject James said in James 5:16 “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” .
Without fervency our prayers are doomed to failure. They will rise no higher than the ceiling. Spurgeon said "only that prayer that comes form the heart can get to the heart of God". There is a vast difference between saying prayers and really praying. If our petitions are to ascend into the heavens there needs to be the bending of the bow of our souls. Have you that earnestness?
c) They Were To Pray Definitely:
v14 They were to seek his face. His face speaking of his favour they were
to seek his favour.
Coming to God we must come on the grounds of favour. Pleading his mercy and not our merits.
3. THE PROMISES FOR REVIVAL:
Fulfilling their part the Lord then promised to do certain things. Notice
a) The Promise Of Forgiveness: v14 “then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”. Repenting, humbling themselves and praying he promised to forgive not part but all of their sin.
Before there can be revival there must be remission. Sin has to be taken away. If only you seek his face he will forgive your prayerlessness and carelessness. There is mercy with the Lord.
b) The Promise Of Favour: v14 “then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”. The word "hear" in this verse means 'to listen to a point where you are moved to action'. In other words he was promising to respond to their cries.
Where there is a movement towards God there will be movement by God. Coming he will answer your prayers. G. Muller said "I live in the spirit of prayer. I pray as I walk about, when I lie down and when I rise up. And the answers are always coming". We are not like the prophets of Baal who cut themselves in vain. The answers will come.
c) The Promise Of Fruitfulness: v14“then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”. Healing the land and sending down the showers of rain he was promising not only to cleansing their land but causing the seeds to burst forth to bring an economic revival.
Revival not only purifies but prospers the land. The only answer to immorality and boom and bust economics is revival. Woodrow Wilson's last words to the America people were these: "Our civilisation cannot survive materially unless it is redeemed spiritually." We need revival. Are you willing to humble yourself and pray, and seek his face, and turn from every wicked ways?