Wednesday, July 29, 2015

There is Sacrifice in Revival

Within a few months of the revival in Hezekiah’s day, people began to tithe according to God’s word, “And he commanded the people who lived in Jerusalem to give the portion due to the priests and the Levites, that they might give themselves to the Law of the LORD. As soon as the command was spread abroad, the people of Israel gave in abundance the firstfruits of grain, wine, oil, honey, and of the all the produce of the field. And they brought in abundantly the tithe of everything.” 2 Chronicles 31:4 – 5.

         When the pastor announces a sermon on tithing, some people yawn and think, “Oh brother, not again; all he talks about is money, money, money. I guess we are behind in the budget.” But not in revival. When God’s Spirit begins moving, almost immediately, people will give; not reluctantly, but willingly; not stingily, but abundantly! It was so in Hezekiah’s day. May it be so in our day.

          The word “tithe” means tenth. God told His people to give Him a tenth of what He blessed them with each year. It was a sacrifice of gratitude for all that God had blessed them with. It was to be enjoyed in His presence, in worship of His goodness and generosity (Deuteronomy 14:22 – 29). The purpose of giving the tithe was to teach Israel to fear the LORD. Tithing is an essential element in learning true worship. It is not given because God needs it to operate His Kingdom; no. God needs nothing. He is sufficient all in Himself. It is given in order for you to learn of Him, to worship Him in spirit and truth.

         Tithing is a sacrifice. When you begin to experience the sacrifice of tithing, you begin to learn of the sacrificial nature of God. God gives and gives and gives because He loves, loves, loves. As you give, you learn to love Him by learning of Him. This is what it means to worship the Father, to learn of His love and to know Him more and more. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16.

         In Hezekiah’s day the people gave so much that they had to pile the produce up in heaps, “And the people of Israel and Judah who lived in the cities of Judah also brought in the tithe of cattle and sheep, and the tithe of the dedicated things that had been dedicated to the LORD their God, and laid them in heaps.” 31:6. It goes on to say in the next few verses that for five months the people continued to bring in the tithe and continued to create these great heaps.

In Hebrew, the word “heaps” is the word aremah, and means to pile up. But the unusual thing about this word in these verses is that it is repeated twice each time it is used; as in aremah aremah. When the Hebrew language emphasizes something it will repeat the word twice. But this is rare. Only on a few occasions do you find this, and you find it hear. You get the picture that the tithe was piled up, piles upon piles, heaps upon heaps; in other words, abundantly! It goes on to say that they gave so much that they had to open up new storerooms for all that the people were bringing.

Revival brings about heaps upon heaps of obedience to God’s word, willingly and abundantly. Today, as you ask the Father to teach you to worship Him in spirit and truth, be prepared to learn to fear Him and learn of His sacrificial love by giving to Him a tenth of all He has blessed you with; willingly, abundantly, worshipfully, faithfully, and most of all lovingly.

Revival Organization

When some hear the word “organization” they recoil as if it were a bad word. Organization sounds boring, limiting, and even dead. But the human body is organized, something for which you can be thankful. And there is even more organization in spiritual life. According to Webster’s Dictionary, the word “organize” means to have a systematic coordination of parts forming an integral element of a whole. Words like organ, organic, organism, are all built upon this word. It is a word that describes life, especially revival life.

         One of the things that Hezekiah did during the twenty-nine year revival, according to 2 Chronicles 31:2, was to organize the Levites into their divisions for service, “And Hezekiah appointed the divisions of the priests and of the Levites, division by division, each according to his service, the priests and the Levites, for burnt offerings and peace offerings, to minister in the gates of the camp of the LORD and to give thanks and praise.” King David was the first to do this, and Hezekiah was following his example for revival.

         King David organized the Levites into divisions, according to 1 Chronicles 23 – 26, to lead Israel to “…make offerings before the LORD and minister to him and pronounce blessings in his name forever.” 23:13. They were “…to stand every morning, thanking and praising the LORD, and likewise at evening,” 23:30. He also arranged the Levites to sing his songs of praise with instruments he had made (23:5), and stationed them as gatekeepers and on the walls surrounding Jerusalem (26:1 – 19).

David surrounded and guarded the city with songs of praise and thanksgiving, declaring the greatness of God’s name and power. The people of Jerusalem were literally surrounded by praise. Anyone approaching the city knew immediately whose city it was; it was the LORD’s! Hezekiah followed this same arrangement. He had the record of David’s administration as well as the songs he wrote (the Psalms).

You do the same thing as you regularly, daily, and systematically begin your day with one of the Psalms and readings from the Bible. It is a discipline, which requires organization and administration. You set the thermostat of your life and day with praise, thanksgiving, and blessing by organizing your life and day around God’s word. Neglected, your life becomes a thermometer of problems and stresses of the world. But resting your heart and mind at the start of each day on the goodness and majesty of the Father brings focus with an eternal perspective, and literally changes the environment around you. As people come near you, they can sense that you are different and, like Jerusalem during the days of David and Hezekiah, that you belong to the Lord.

Taking one of the verses from the Psalm for the day, and/or one of the verses from the readings or Psalm 119, keeps the gates of your heart, the eye-gate and the ear-gate, guarded and well armed. The sacrifice of praise from your lips is offered up continually throughout the day. This is what revival looks like and sounds like. Hezekiah learned it from David’s life, according to God’s word, and so can you. Stay faithful in the organization of revival.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Revival Gathers and Separates

During the first month of the first year of the reign of king Hezekiah, a revival began in Judah that lasted for twenty-nine years. There are several things that Hezekiah led the nation to do during the first year of the revival that set the momentum for it to last as long as it did. One of the most powerful things Hezekiah did was to reinstitute the Passover, and he invited Israel (ten tribes in the north) to come. Not only had Israel and Judah been divided for over 300 years, but they had also been enemies and had experienced several wars against each other.

         The Passover celebrated Israel’s deliverance by God, out of slavery in Egypt and into possession of the Promised Land. God brought them out in order to take them in. Israel’s twelve tribes became a nation as a result, God’s nation. God gave instructions to keep the Passover in order to remember their birth as a nation, their identity in relationship with Him, and of God’s faithfulness to His promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The sacrifice of the Passover lamb was the first sacrifice God gave to Israel and it did not require a priest; it was a family sacrifice led by the father of the house.

         But following the death of Solomon, Israel’s third king, the nation split, ten tribes in the north and two in the south. The northern tribes called themselves Israel while the two tribes of the south took the name Judah. They had not celebrated the Passover as one nation in centuries and in 2 Chronicles 30 you see the impossible take place; Israel had the Passover as a nation just like they did when they came out of Egypt!

         Hezekiah invited the ten tribes in the north according to 30:6 – 12. Many rejected the offer and even mocked Hezekiah for even considering such a crazy idea. But others came. In fact, 30:13 describes the scene, “And many people came together in Jerusalem…a very great assembly.” Revival is the result of God’s people laying aside their differences and coming together in unity and in worship around the mighty deeds of Christ. But the only way to gather together is to separate from something else. The ones that gathered had to separate themselves from those who were mocking, from centuries of division and war, and from their heritage of their places of worship in the northern part of the Holy Land. Revival unites and it also divides!

         Hezekiah knew God’s word and God’s heart. He knew that remembering the way God delivered Israel from bondage, which was according to His word to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, was to celebrate God’s faithfulness. Celebrating God’s faithfulness to His people included the ten tribes in the north. They could not be left out even though they had sinned by going away and by forming their own version of God’s word and worship. Hezekiah knew of God’s mercy and steadfast love and forgiveness, and that inviting them back would be an expression of God’s grace and loving-kindness. Hezekiah was willing to be divided from his own prejudice in order to unite with God’s people in worship. This is what revival looks like! The opposite is what we are all too familiar with in the church today.

         Some of the ones that came from the north had not followed the rules of cleansing when they arrived in Jerusalem for the Passover. Rather than excluding them over the cleansing details, it says in 30:18 – 19, “For a majority of the people, many of them from Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar, and Zebulun, had not cleansed themselves, yet they ate the Passover otherwise prescribed. For Hezekiah had prayed for them, saying, ‘May the good LORD pardon everyone who sets his heart to seek God, the LORD, the God of his fathers, even though not according to the sanctuary rules of cleanness.” The lesson is clear: We must put aside our petty “sanctuary rules” in order to gather together as the people of God around the cross of Christ and His table, the Lord’s Supper.

         There was a strong moving of God’s Spirit and revival that swept across the United States during the 60’s and early 70’s. It was called the Jesus Movement. It reached many young people. Some had already gotten involved in the drug culture and sexual revolution of that time. But they were saved, delivered, and changed in the fires of revival! Their hearts and minds were transformed but their outward appearance remained.

They began singing of their new faith with their guitars and drums. They went to the churches in their long hair, granny glasses, bell bottom pants, and music, but so many of the churches would not let them in; too many “sanctuary rules.” As a result, they went underground and scattered into the culture, but they never lost the fire of revival that God had birthed them in! Today, they are scattered all over the world, still on fire for Jesus. What would happen if all of the “Jesus freaks” from the Jesus Movement were to come together like the nation of Israel did in Hezekiah’s day? How about a twenty-nine year revival? Anyone interested? Pray for it, today.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Revival and the Cross of Christ

King Hezekiah began his reign as king of Judah with revival. The word “revival” means to live again. The life of Israel revolved around worshiping God. The kings before Hezekiah had abandoned the worship of God. They substituted the worship of the gods of other nations. Israel lost her identity and life in the process. But Hezekiah led the nation to return to her true identity. And worship, according to God’s word, was who there were. So Hezekiah began by reestablishing true worship, according to God’s word.

After opening the doors of the Temple and giving the charge to the Levites to consecrate the Temple by carrying out the filth, Hezekiah commanded them to sacrifice seven bulls, seven rams, seven lambs, and seven male goats for a sin offering, 2 Chronicles 29:20. The sacrificial system was the central aspect of Israel’s worship. God’s instructions concerning sacrifice were an expression of God’s grace and mercy. The sacrifice was a substitute for the worshiper in order to pay the penalty for sins committed by the worshiper. The innocent animal died in the place of the sinner. Sacrifice revealed Israel’s sin against a holy God as well as God’s love by providing a way to remain in relationship with Him. The seven-fold sacrifice initiated by Hezekiah was according to God’s word and was presented in the place of the nation of Israel for their sin of abandoning God.

In 2 Chronicles 29:24 an important word is used to describe the purpose of the sacrificial system in Israel.“Then the goats for the sin offering were brought to the king and the assembly, and they laid their hands on them, and the priests slaughtered them and made a sin offering with their blood on the altar, to make atonement for all Israel.”  The word “atonement” is the Hebrew word kippur, which means to cover, to conceal, to purge, to reconcile, to ransom. It is a major word in the Old Testament describing the purpose for sacrifice.

The blood of the sacrifice would cover the sins of the people, which would restore the relationship with God that had been severed by sin. This was the first act done in the cleansed Temple to restore true worship to God by the nation. Hezekiah was leading the nation back to their true identity, back to true worship in relationship with God. Sacrifice was the cornerstone. It was the first expression of worship because it recognized the holiness of God and the separation of the people caused by sin. It also celebrated God’s provision, according to His word, for restoring the relationship. This was an expression of God’s grace and love.

The next element of worship that Hezekiah gave instructions for was for the music of king David to be played while the whole burnt offering for Israel was being given up to God. In 29:25 – 30, a beautiful picture is seen of the Levites playing the instruments that king David had made for the sole purpose of worshiping the Lord with the words he had written for worshiping the Lord, while the smoke of the burnt offering was rising to the Lord. This was a picture of Israel at her best, in true worship, according to the word of the Lord! The spiritual significance of that moment in the life of the nation is hard for us to imagine. But for Israel, it was the very heart of her identity and life with God, according to His word.

That scene from king Hezekiah’s day pointed forward to the new covenant of God, not for a single nation, but for each individual person; for you. The sacrifice is not an innocent animal, but the holy Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ. He died your death for you that you might live His life in Him. The Father made this possible by raising His Son from the dead! Hallelujah!!! Praising God as a result of this revelation with words of praise from God in His word is an even more beautiful picture than the one in Hezekiah’s day. The spiritual significance of your daily time with God, in His word, praying to Him with words of praise from Him in the Psalms is impossible to imagine! But the Father knows and it pleases Him.

Keep one of the lines of praise from your psalm for the day in your heart today, and give the sacrifice of thanks and praise to God for the cross and your eternal relationship with the Father. This is your true identity in Christ. AMEN!

Revival House Cleaning

The first thing that young king Hezekiah did when he began to reign was to open up the Temple for worship and to reinstall the Levites to their duties of standing before the Lord and ministering to the people of God, according to His word. Hezekiah told the priests to consecrate themselves and the house of the Lord. In 2 Chronicles 29:16 you find the account of the cleansing of the Temple by the priests, “The priests went into the inner part of the house of the LORD to cleanse it, and they brought out all the uncleanness that they found in the temple of the LORD...”

The word “cleanse” is the Hebrew word taher, which means to purify, to be clean in a moral sense. It was used extensively in the Old Testament to describe anything in relationship with God; people, food for God’s people, items in the Temple, gold, all were described with the word taher.

The Temple in Hezekiah’s day had been defiled with idols and idolatry from previous kings. It had also been abandoned. Hezekiah told the priests to start in the inner part, which was where the Holy of Holies was located. They were told to carry out all of the things that were unclean. These items were the detestable items associated with Baal worship. God had forbidden any association of His people with the pagan worship of the Canaanites. Their worship could be summarized as worshiping creation rather than the Creator.

The second lesson to learn about revival is that cleansing must start in the inner part of your life; your heart and mind. The things of the world, the flesh, and the devil accumulate over time. These things creep in when true worship is neglected. They defile the mind. When your thoughts are unclean, your will (choices) is deceived, and your feelings get in motion to support and carry out the corrupted desires of your will with your body. Your body has memory and quickly programs these choices into learned behavior. The New Testament calls these learned behaviors strongholds.

But when the light of the revelation of God appears, true worship results and these idols are seen for detestable and vile things that they are. Getting rid of them is the new choice, informed by the Holy Spirit in you. The Bible calls this choice, repentance; changing your mind about what had been tolerated and acceptable. Your body will object because it gets quickly comfortable with the routine of sinning. But it will submit to new thoughts, which are based upon the truth of God’s word, and will also learn and remember them just as it did with sinning.

When John the Baptist appeared on the scene, he began preaching the same message that Hezekiah had instructed the priests in his day. John preached a baptism of repentance; a cleansing experience of getting rid of the detestable things in the inner part of life. When Jesus came into Jerusalem for the last week of His life before His crucifixion, He also cleansed the Temple and immediately began healing and teaching there (Matthew 21:12 – 16).

The same cleansing takes place each time you go before the Lord in your personal worship time. The light of God’s word will uncover those things that do not please Him. As you carry out the filth, taking it to the cross, you experience revival house cleaning. This pleases the Father and is vital in your walk with Christ. When the house is cleansed, the Lord moves about freely with healing and sound doctrine.

Today as you spend time in God’s presence, ask Him to reveal the things that He wants removed. As you take them to the cross, ask God to fill you will His healing power and learn of Him. Take a verse from Psalm 119:81 – 88 with you and rejoice with it during the day.