21 Days of Prayer for Revival

Devotional

DAY 11: BOTH GRIEF AND JOY


WEEK 2: COMMUNITY REVIVAL


What would community revival look like? Of course, every powerful work of God is different so it is difficult to predict, but let’s have a look at a spiritual revival that occurred in the Old Testament to see if we can find some clues. First some background. As God had promised in yesterday’s Scripture, many Jews returned from exile and set about rebuilding Jerusalem. It was not easy reconstructing a nation from scratch and eventually their energy waned, and they returned to bad habits both physically and spiritually. It was very disappointing.  But God was not ready to give up, so he called an important godly official in the Persian empire (a Jew named Nehemiah) to lead a new delegation back to Jerusalem to get the revival going again. Nehemiah helped the Jews to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, but they still were not in a good place spiritually. So Ezra, the main Bible teacher of this revamped nation, stepped up. 


Scripture: Nehemiah 8:1, 5-11


Devotion


The Book of the Law of Moses that Ezra read from was most likely the whole Pentateuch – the first five books of the Old Testament. These books contain foundational narratives of God’s relationship with his people, but they particularly focus on how God’s family can live in covenant relationship with him. They lay out what Israel needed to do to live close to God. Now you would probably find someone reading laws to you rather boring. A bit like someone reading a Constitution aloud. Not a promising start for revival. But most of these people were illiterate. They were used to listening to the leaders read and as Nehemiah makes clear, there were some helpful explanations happening as the covenant law was read. They also stood the whole time out of respect for God’s word, and this probably aided concentration. 


Whatever the arrangements, God was at work in a powerful way this day. Everyone started to cry as they listened. They realised that they had not been living the way God wanted. That they had abandoned God and his covenant again. They were mortified at their callousness to what God asked of them. It struck them how far they had slipped away from their God as a nation. And the tears flowed. They were deeply sorry. God was convicting them about their apathy and disobedience. Revival was beginning. Revival is always accompanied by deep repentance from sin. This seems to be the only way to enter revival. God convicts and we repent. Often accompanied by tears. We repent alone and we repent together.


But while repentance is vital and Israel would need to do more of it (see Nehemiah 9), revival does not stop there. The spiritual leaders of the nation recognised this. The dominant emotion of revival is not grief but joy. The joy of coming close to God. The joy of living God’s way. The joy of following God together. The joy of delighting in God. The joy of seeing God work in power. The joy of the Lord becomes our strength. In revival there will be more joy than you could ever dream of. A foretaste of heaven. 


Prayer Response


Lord I long for the tears that will bring release. Release from my shame and guilt. Release from my cold-heartedness to you. Release from the chains of sin that bind me. But even better will be fresh joy. I desperately need your joy to sustain my spiritual strength. I want to profoundly enjoy you and your work.


Prayer for Revival


Lord in your grace, please bring your conviction on us – our church, our community, our nation. Show us how we have abandoned you. How we have wounded you. How we have ignored you. How we have disappointed you. Do not leave us alone to slowly perish in our self-righteousness. Please convict us so that we can know real joy.