The Spirit of God came on Azariah son of Oded. He went out to meet Asa and said to him, “Listen to me, Asa and all Judah and Benjamin. The Lord is with you when you are with him. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will forsake you. For a long time, Israel was without the true God, without a priest to teach and without the law.
But in their distress they turned to the Lord, the God of Israel, and sought him, and he was found by them. In those days it was not safe to travel about, for all the inhabitants of the lands were in great turmoil. One nation was being crushed by another and one city by another, because God was troubling them with every kind of distress. But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded.”
When Asa heard these words and the prophecy of Azariah son of Oded the prophet, he took courage. He removed the detestable idols from the whole land of Judah and Benjamin and from the towns he had captured in the hills of Ephraim. He repaired the altar of the Lord that was in front of the portico of the Lord’s temple.
Then he assembled all Judah and Benjamin and the people from Ephraim, Manasseh and Simeon who had settled among them, for large numbers had come over to him from Israel when they saw that the Lord his God was with him.
They assembled at Jerusalem in the third month of the fifteenth year of Asa’s reign. At that time, they sacrificed to the Lord seven hundred head of cattle and seven thousand sheep and goats from the plunder they had brought back. They entered into a covenant to seek the Lord, the God of their ancestors, with all their heart and soul. All who would not seek the Lord, the God of Israel, were to be put to death, whether small or great, man or woman. They took an oath to the Lord with loud acclamation, with shouting and with trumpets and horns. All Judah rejoiced about the oath because they had sworn it wholeheartedly. They sought God eagerly, and he was found by them. So, the Lord gave them rest on every side. (New International Version)
God’s people had drifted. Times of seeking the Lord became few and far between – until it rarely happened, at all. They were spiritually dry with seemingly no hope. How did they get to the point of being so far from God that they needed a spiritual revival?
After God brought Israel out of hundreds of years of slavery in Egypt, they were led to the Promised Land with Moses as leader. Moses died, and his young protégé Joshua took over and led Israel in her military campaigns to take the land that God had promised them.
God kept the divine promises. However, although Israel had geographically taken the land, they did not completely dislodge all the peoples living there, as God had told them to do. God’s people only partially obeyed. They were content to be in the land without dealing with all the remaining people.
Israel and Judah’s relationship to the land also serves as a metaphor for the church and her faith. Israel saw the land as a possession, as something to have, rather than as something to be used and developed for the glory of God.
If and when God’s people, in any age, look upon their faith as merely a possession, instead of a dynamic relationship between themselves and the Lord, then the beginnings of spiritual rigor mortis begin to settle in.
We get a haunting narrative in the book of Judges, after the people took the land, and Joshua died:
“After that whole generation had been gathered to their ancestors, another generation grew up who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel… They forsook the Lord, the God of their ancestors, who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed and worshiped various gods of the peoples around them. They aroused the Lord’s anger.” (Judges 2:10-12)
The land became something not to lose, instead of something God wanted to use to grow them into faithful people.
The day God’s people took the land was the day they rejoiced in victory, and also the day their faith began to die. The Old Testament is a long drawn out story of a disobedient and obstinate people who continually forsake their God and live like the nations for whom they did not overcome.
The Lord, ever the longsuffering and patient God, went century after century sending prophets to call them back to a living faith. Yet, with each passing year, they’d die a little bit more.
The promise, however, was always there: Seek God, and you will find him. Whenever the people were reminded of that reality and took it to heart by going after the Lord, there was revival in the land.
God’s people, in every age, must look upon faith as a wonderful opportunity to spiritually engage the world – to explore all the dimensions of knowing God. That requires putting unhealthy stuff aside and taking up healthy practices. The word for that action is “repentance.” And the result is revival, or new life.
For the Christian, if the goal is to just keep some semblance of looking like a real follower of Jesus, then there is probably some inner distress which no one sees. If we become more afraid of making mistakes than we are of missing God-given opportunities, then the time is ripe for a revival.
God does not send us to safe places to do easy things; the Lord sends prophets to remind us of our true calling, to revive us again.
The need for resurrection presupposes that there is death. Praying for revival, renewal, and reawakening means that something needs life. With God, nothing is impossible – even the deadest and driest of people and situations.
God specializes in both giving and restoring life. The Lord does more than help; God finds us and changes us. reanimates us from spiritual rigor mortis to lively resurrection through breathing on us. Jesus came to his disciples after the resurrection and said:
“Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. ” (John 20:21-22, NIV)
Faith is more than a possession; it is also a gift to be used to glorify God in loving one another and loving the world as Jesus did.
You live where you live because God wants you to bring life to your neighborhood.
Who will pray for your neighbors, if not you?
Who will be concerned for our communities, if not us?
You work at your workplace because God wants to bring life to it.
Who will make a difference at your workplace, if not you?
You are in your family, your school, or your church because God wants to bring life to all those spaces and places.
Who will bring a vigorous spiritual life everywhere they are, if not you?
We are to seek the Lord. It isn’t a game of hide-and-seek. It is an act of faith, believing that God can and will be found by those who seek after him. And wherever God is found, there you will find abundant life.
Perhaps, just maybe, what is needed is some heartfelt, sustained, and focused prayer to God.
Ask and it will be given to you.
Seek and you will find.
Knock and the door will be opened to you.
For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. (Matthew 7:7-8)
Revive us again, fill each heart with thy love.
May each soul be rekindled with fire from above.
Hallelujah! Thine the glory, hallelujah! Amen!
Hallelujah! Thine the glory, revive us again. – W.P. Mackay, 1863