There are few better known verses in the Old Testament than:
If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
These are words of revival and we can observe a spiritual progression. Alan Redpath said:
“I would always distinguish revival from evangelism. Although often confused, the two are entirely different. Evangelism is winning the unsaved; revival has to do with the Christian. Evangelism is the permanent duty of the church; revival is a gracious out pouring of the Spirit of God.”
“It is possible to have a measure of success in evangelism without ever having revival, but I do believe that genuine revival in the church would lead to a mighty blessing in evangelism, inevitably. The fact that the fruit of evangelistic witness today may be relatively small in comparison with the effort and money that are put into it is not necessarily the fruit of the evangelist. To introduce young converts into dead churches even though many of them are orthodox in doctrine, is to quench the Spirit and freeze out the fruit of a soul-saving ministry.”
1. “If my people who are called by My name. . .”
This is written specifically to God’s people those who owned, or professed God’s name.
2. “. . .humble themselves. . .”
Revival does not come to the proud.
He has showed you, O man, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.
"God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble."
And, of course, our model is Jesus who, ". . . humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross."
3. “. . .pray. . .”
To pray selflessly, earnestly and constantly is the key to revived relationship with God. Charles Finney say that he prayed all night, not because God was reluctant to hear him but because he had to get his heart ready for what God had to say. As the old timers spoke about “praying through”. So to George Mueller who 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.
4. “. . .seek My face. . .”
According to Avery Willis, the situation of 2 Chronicles 6 and 7 involves a “Solemn Assembly” that is a where the whole nation seeks the Lord’s face and favour. To support his view, Willis cites several passages; for example, Asa in 2 Chronicles 15:2; Jehoshaphat in 2 Chronicles 20; Hezekiah in 2 Chronicles 29-31; Josiah in 2 Chronicles 34 and Joel in Joel 1:14; 2:1,12-17.
5. “. . .turn from their wicked ways. . .”
Let the wicked forsake his way, And the unrighteous man his thoughts; Let him return to the Lord, And He will have mercy on him; And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon. (Isaiah 55:7).
We so need revival. it’s so easy to lose a passion for God and a passion to walk according to his ways. Therefore there must be a turning from everything that is not of God. The great hymn by B. B. McKinney picks this out:
Send a revival among Thine own,
Help us to turn from our sins away,
Let us get nearer the Father’s throne,
Revive us again, we pray.”
6. “. . .Then I will hear from heaven. . .”
To hear means to listen to a point of action. This is no different to Jesus who was moved into action at the sight of those who were ”sheep without a shepherd". God was promising to respond to their cries. Evangelist Dwight L. Moody said of the God’s response to our confession: “It brings heaven within speaking distance.”
7. “. . .I.will forgive their sin. . .”
God’s mercy to sinful people is coupled with his patience towards his forgiven people, with you and me. For 1 John 1:9 reminds us, Christians, that “If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
8 “. . .I.will heal their land.”
Avery Willis writes, “Make the connection. If we will not heed God’s warning through His Word, He’ll speak to us through His world. He will allow disasters to come upon us. . .to get our attention.” But once our attention is grasped and confession made, then God can pour out his revival. For God will heal the land and sending down the showers of Holy Spirit rain. He promises not only to cleanse their land but to cause the seeds to burst forth bring wider blessing.
In many of the Great Revivals, these was a positive impact on the surrounding area. So during the Welsh Revival, early in the 20th century, the local courts closed as there was no crime, drunkards were reformed and pubs reported losses in trade. Bad language disappeared and never returned to the lips of many. It was reported that the pit ponies failed to understand their born again colliers who seemed to speak the new language of Zion – without curse and blasphemy! Even football and rugby became uninteresting in the light of new joy and direction received by the converts. The Revival storm that hit the hills and valleys of Wales in the dying months of 1904 soon became a hurricane that affected the world. International visitors came and as they caught the flame, they passed it on to new countries. Welsh communities throughout the world felt the effects and news of God’s powerful work soon had many other churches praying that God would visit then as well – the Khasia Hills in Indi being a good example of prayer answered.
The same happened in Lowestoft in the early 1920’s when many people in the town became Christians. It was said that the presence of God was so real that criminality was suppressed. People lived at peace because they had peace with God.