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What is required for a Divine visitation?

 

What is Required for a

Divine Visitation?

 

Isaiah 64:5-7.

 

“Thou meetest him that rejoiceth and worketh righteousness, those that remember thee in thy ways: behold, thou art wroth; for we have sinned: in those is continuance, and we shall be saved. But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away. And there is none that calleth upon thy name, that stirreth up himself to take hold of thee: for thou hast hid thy face from us, and hast consumed us, because of our iniquities.”

 

Isaiah’s call to God to “rend the heavens and come down” is not without a sense of corporate responsibility for the then-present lamentable spiritual state of God’s people. This prophet is not one merely preaching at his people, chastising them for their waywardness. He identifies himself with them in their dilemma, they being the object of God’s justifiable wrathfulness. “Thou art wroth”, he says to Elohim (verse 3), and adds, “…for WE have sinned…WE are all as an unclean thing.” There is no pretence at being ‘holy’; no pride in the face of their miserable record of failure to honour Jehovah, and only dismay that the Holy One has had to turn His face away from His own covenant people – the symbol of His utter displeasure with them. It’s only in a right about turn from those defiling ways of idolatry and immorality, and a return to the paths of practical righteousness that they will be saved (verse 5).

 

Acknowledgement of sin and true repentance were, and are at all times, essential elements in preparation for God’s visitation in grace, mercy, and blessing. Whatever the age or generation, God’s principles of spiritual restoration and renewal are ever the same, and unalterable. It must be the way for us NOW, in the consciousness of woeful spiritual declension and grave need.  It ought to be a day of lament for us in the Church, as it was with Isaiah.  And as it was also with ‘the weeping prophet’ Jeremiah, in whom we see such spiritual anguish over Judah’s idolatry and apostasy, a people (the southern kingdom) that outdid Israel (the northern kingdom) in sexual impurities, and yet even repudiated the indictment of such infidelity that the word of the Lord placed at their door? The prophet pours out his soul – once-glorious Jerusalem has become like a widow.  Observe these extracts of the way Jeremiah grievingly describes her:

 

“She weepeth sore in the night, and her tears are on her cheeks…Judah is gone into captivity because of affliction, and because of great servitude: she dwelleth among the heathen, she findeth no rest…The ways of Zion do mourn…all her gates are desolate: her priests sigh, her virgins are afflicted, and she is in bitterness…(and hear the prophet’s confession)for the LORD hath afflicted her for the multitude of her transgressions: her children are gone into captivity before the enemy. And from the daughter of Zion all her beauty is departed: her princes are become like harts that find no pasture, and they are gone without strength before the pursuer...Jerusalem hath grievously sinned; therefore she is removed: all that honoured her despise her, because they have seen her nakedness: yea, she sigheth, and turneth backward. Her filthiness is in her skirts; she remembereth not her last end; therefore she came down wonderfully: she had no comforter.” (Lamentations 1:1-9)

 

“My children are desolate,” he moans – “because the enemy has prevailed.” (verse 16) THAT HURT! Does it not hurt us any more to see the Church impoverished because of her sin, her idolatry, her worldliness, her self-sufficiency, her arrogant boastings and refusal to admit the truth about her spiritual state? Notwithstanding all the hype we hear from the deluded, who think that by their ‘confession’ things in the church become ‘awesome’ (an overused and misused word, if ever there was one!), we are not meeting and mastering the forces that are shaping our modern generation. Like Judah, we see the enemy prevailing in certain situations. Hype will not cure our ills. Positive confessions will not alter the situation; simply exacerbate our delusion and dire need. Initiating ‘change’ in organizational structure may bring a ‘new look’ to the corpse, but will never produce new life. Introducing the best and polished programs may attract more people but will not sanctify our hearts or communities. Our generation does not need ’charming’ by the church’s contemporary and modified guise, but to be changed by the Church’s ‘old-fashioned’ Gospel and the power of an unchanging God “coming down” in response to our impassioned intercessions.

 

Jeremiah’s words concerning Judah are compellingly evocative – Her filthiness is in her skirts”. That which she wears to cover her nakedness – are ‘filthy’.  And whatever the Church does to cover her nakedness, outside of the way God prescribes, such will always be filthy. But sadly, the folly of Judah is being repeated, for it says that “she remembereth not her last end” – she does not take heed to the warnings as to what would happen to her persisting in unrighteousness; “…therefore she came down wonderfully,” that is, God’s judicial acts become a wonder in the eyes of all who observe them, and the acknowledgement that it is GOD who performs those acts. Voices raised in protest against the unhealthy and worldly trends, and those that speak out against the false teachings plaguing us, are dismissed with acrimony. It’s as though nothing can ever happen to the ‘establishment.’ No one seems to think that what our Lord said to those failing churches in Asia Minor nearly two thousand years ago (Revelation 2-3) he might well say today, and act in fulfillment of His threats where there is unrepentance.

 

How often we are referred to Joel’s prophecy, of how God will “pour out of His Spirit upon all flesh,” (2:28-32) and of course we have the wildest of claims of how we are now seeing this promise fulfilled in an unscriptural isolation of the text from its context, a setting in which we see the nation surrounded by destructive pestilence and plague (read Joel 1). God’s people were a reproach among the heathen. The tragic spiritual state of Israel called for the disturbing of old and young, so as to awaken the people of God to their plight, and to be ashamed of their dryness, decay, and decadence. Desperate measures were required if the situation was to be altered, and God was again to be glorified. Leonard Ravenhill comments on this (‘Revival Praying,’ p.110-112), saying how that –

 

“In these turbulent times some men…hold it (the promise of Joel 2) as a shining star of hope in the black sky of this moral midnight. To do this is to use the hub of the wheel and reject the spokes… Of all the promises, this promise of revival to come ‘in those days’ is obviously conditional”.

 

He then points out that we need to start earlier in chapter 2 than verse 28, and go back to verse 12, which says, “Therefore, thus saith the Lord, turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning: and rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the Lord your God.” Yes, God’s promise of visitation IS conditional. There is that which He REQUIRES, if we are to see HIM “rending the heavens and coming down”.  The rending of the heavens will not precede the rending of our hearts! See also 1:13-14. Strong measures, indeed – and no one is excluded! All of us need to “cry unto the Lord”. Observe the call of God in 2:15-17. Would it not be a wonderful change, that instead of those about us challenging, “WHERE is their God?” they might behold a renewed, restored and sanctified Church, and have to declare, “THERE is their God?”  Well, in its context note what God goes on to say through Joel (verse 28) – “And it shall come to pass AFTERWARD, that I will pour out of my spirit upon all flesh.”  AFTER the people had put things right that were so wrong.

 

It is most evident then that in God’s order for genuine Revival the place of repentance is ever prominent, for it ensures fitness in the camp of His people for His visitation. In fact, the depth of any revival will be determined exactly by the spirit of repentance that is in evidence among God’s people. Jesus affirmed that ‘blessedness’ belongs to those who know their truly bankrupt spiritual state and bemoan such plight. Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.” (Matthew 5:3-4) This appears to be a key to every true revival born of God. Acts 3:19 – “Repent and be converted, in order that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the Presence of the Lord.”

 

Then, as Isaiah clearly states, when God comes down He performs “awe-inspiring deeds which we never even anticipated.” (64:3) What does He do? He does “…what He hath PREPARED for him that waiteth for Him.” (verse 4) That is, what GOD Himself will do! We are too often witnessing today what MAN can do, what MAN proposes and prepares, men bent on parading human ego, projecting human personality, pursuing human ambition, setting human goals, pandering to human liking that is so soulish, the result is that the Church is a caricature of what it should be in respect of God’s eternal purpose in Christ. My heart found an echo to what Dr. David Allen had to say in his fine article in the March 2001 issue of ‘VANGUARD,’ in which he expounded the importance of the human spirit, going on to make a plea for

 

“…a New Reformation: a rehabilitation of Scripture as the supreme arbiter and authority; and emphasis on the systematic exposition of the Word in the power of the Spirit; the restoration of the breaking of bread to its central place in worship and a refusal to have our music further Corinthianized.”

 

Indeed, what must engage our hearts at this late and critical stage in time is this: What is the purpose of God for us in this world? Is it not that the Church may permeate with God’s life, bathed in His mighty and holy Presence, and seen to be a distinct people in and by the world, having been given a Divine mandate to fulfill and a Divine message to proclaim? The Church is essentially missionary, and thus exists not simply for its own sake but for the salvation of the lost in our world. It seems to me, then, that Revival is a renewal of Biblical thinking. It is what GOD wants to do, and not so much what WE want Him to do. God forgive us for our audacity that attempts to order God as to WHAT He should do – and especially when we also tell Him HOW He should work! Men may manipulate the crowds, but they cannot manipulate God!

 

In Isaiah 64 the prophet is very clear on this. He says, “Lord, Thou art our Father; we are the clay and Thou art our Potter; and we are all the work of Thy hand.” (verse 8)   What son dictates to his father? What clay may command the Potter? Perhaps we need to think again about ‘Revival’ – as to the kind that we NEED, not just what we want! You see, REVIVALS are such times of blessed and fruitful, though awesome “effusions of the Holy Spirit” which so radically alter the spiritual climate and condition within the Church, as well as mightily impacting the community round about. It has been said that unless we are favoured with frequent revivals, and a strong, powerful work of the Spirit of God, we shall, in a great degree, degenerate, and have only a ‘name to live’: religion will soon lose its vigour; the ministry will hardly retain its luster and glory; and iniquity will, of consequence, abound. That is alarming!

 

The urgent need of this hour is for God to “stir us up to take hold of Him,” (verse 7) to bring an end to the deadness and barrenness which has prevailed for too long in our Churches, and redress the godlessness and increasing amorality abounding in our local communities? When John Wesley visited Ireland in 1747, during the Revival that had already been in progress for two years, unusual unction and power attended his preaching. So much so it is reported that his voice could not be heard for the voice of those who cried for mercy, or praised the God of their salvation. When I have read the histories of many Revivals, and become mindful of significant principles common to them all, I am troubled at much that is claimed to be ‘revival’ in our times where not only are those special marks absent but so many precious souls are left disillusioned and disturbed. Indeed I increasingly feel I am in sympathy with the comment of C.H. Spurgeon, who in his sermon entitled, “The Kind of Revival we Need”, said,

 

“I am slow to judge any well intended movement, but I am very fearful that many so called revivals in the long run wrought more harm than good. A species of religious gambling has fascinated many men, and given them a distaste for the sober business of true godliness”.

 

Surely, we desire the kind of revival that is a distinctly supernatural work of the Holy Spirit, that puts real power and authority into Biblical preaching, inspires believers with holy zeal to live, worship, and manifest the fruits of true godliness as pleases the Holy Spirit, and at the same time solemnly and radically affects the hearts of the careless so that they turn to God and live. It seems that in the Church today we continue to delude ourselves with the idea that we have the ability to affect our communities and attract them to the Church, hence the multitudinous and innovative programs that are introduced to entice people, especially the young, into the Church. But all this fleshly effort achieves very little except, if we are honest, discouragement and frustration.

 

You cannot organize a revival any more than scheme to change the times of the oceans’ tides! It will occur in God’s own time, and never at any other time. To promote its own spiritual well being, and to fulfill the glorious purposes of God for it in any generation, the Church needs nothing more or other than the same power that brought it into existence. God does not need our cheap, gaudy ‘charismatic tinsel’ to further His eternal Cause. What a need there is in the Church today for a greater and deeper knowledge of God as to His being and nature and eternal purposes – which, by the way, we will discover in His Self-revealing Word and not in some superficial existential charismatic trip.

 

Remember, GOD HAS NO NEEDS! He is totally Self-sufficient, Self-existent, and Self-dependent. Whilst for us, it is “in Him we live and move and have our being,” (Acts 17:28), to God and to HIM alone, nothing is necessary (verse 25). What blatant audacity to parade our ego before the ineffable and holy majesty of the Almighty, making out that we are ‘something’ or ‘somebody’, and that God NEEDS us if His Cause is to prevail. Were we never enlightened to the fact that He is sovereign, that he cannot be influenced or controlled or counseled; that He is absolutely free so that none can hinder Him or compel Him or thwart His purposes or frustrate His decrees? The truth of God’s absolute sovereignty and complete Self-sufficiency rebukes our human self-confidence and carnal self-esteem. This does not mean that He does not use men. Revivals teach us that so often He takes hold of some humble vessel through whom He deigns to work, and how often it has been a person who in the eyes of others is the least likely to be used by God in such a role.

 

Well, HOW may we gain such an impressive manifestation of God’s presence in our day and in our churches, such that will impact our communities? What is required of us to experience such a ‘Divine visitation’? This prophecy of Isaiah (chapter 64) furnishes a part of the answer for us.

 

First, God acts on behalf of those who earnestly wait for Him. Verse 4. Men, says the prophet Isaiah, are yet to perceive “what God has prepared (what He will do) for the one who waits for Him.” Sounds very simple – yet it is the thing that generally proves most difficult. Setting time aside to unhurriedly seek the Lord is a discipline and a sacrifice few are ready to make. The Assembly’s corporate prayer meeting continues to be the ‘Cinderella’ of all church activities. Maybe because it is too hard on the flesh! “To wait” means ‘to adhere to’, and has the sense of possessing such a longing for God, that we are prepared to tarry before Him with such submissiveness of spirit and desire to honour and obey Him, and to persevere until He is moved to meet us. Churches where this disposition and intense desire and passion are manifest these days are rare!

 

The Welsh Revival of 1904 had an impact far beyond even the Principality. Dr. Edwin Orr documented its influence, showing it to have touched all five major Continents. Dr. Campbell G. Morgan wrote a tract describing his own visit to Wales, a tract that was widely circulated and positively affected many to seek God for Revival in their own places. One of those was Frank Bartleman, who was very much involved in the 1907 Azusa Street Revival. He wrote to Evan Roberts in Wales (“Azusa Street”; New Kensington, PA: Whitaker House, 1982; p.16), simply to ask him to pray for them in California. Evan Roberts replied:

 

“My dear brother in the faith:  Many thanks for your kind letter. I am impressed by your sincerity and honesty of purpose. Congregate the people together who are willing to make a total surrender. Pray and wait. Believe God’s promises. Hold daily meetings (for prayer)…”

 

Second, God has respect unto all who truly reverence Him. Verse 5. “Thou meetest him that…” The prophet knows what draws God. Note it, the word ‘meetest’ in the Hebrew means ‘to make an inroad’. How difficult God must find it some times, to gain access into the heart, or even to ‘encroach’ on His Church! Laodicea is an example of that (Revelation 3:20). But He WANTS to come and be among us; HE LONGS TO COME DOWN – in order that His glorious purposes can be achieved, His name honoured, and His people blessed.  Here in the text is the key, and in our next meditation I am going to draw your attention to three necessary elements if God is to ’make an inroad’, to ‘rend the heavens and come down’.

 

In the meantime, let us be a-praying, seeking God fervently for our own local situations, knowing that God delights to “come down” and meet with his people. And may I exhort you, that in your quest for His visitation, DO NOT just think in terms of some major and phenomenal interruption. His coming may initially be the slight “going in the mulberry trees”, and how sensitive we must be to recognize that it IS God at work. Let us not despise the day of small things.  “Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth!” (James 3:5.) 

 

O God, I beseech You, please come to us, and in Your own sovereign way. HOW You will deign to ‘come down’ upon us, we know not, and recognize it to be your own prerogative; THAT you come is what deeply concerns us!

 

CONSIDER JEREMIAH’S PRAYER –

 

“The joy of our heart is ceased; our dance is turned into mourning. The crown is fallen from our head: woe unto us, that we have sinned! For this our heart is faint; for these things our eyes are dim. Because of the mountain of Zion, which is desolate, the foxes walk upon it. Thou, O LORD, remainest for ever; thy throne from generation to generation. Wherefore dost thou forget us for ever, and forsake us so long time? Turn thou us unto thee, O LORD, and we shall be turned; renew our days as of old. But thou hast utterly rejected us; thou art very wroth against us.”  (Lamentations 5:15-22)