Image of Uzbekistan by Chi Lok TSANG on Unsplash
Much has been said, written and filmed of the daily gatherings of thousands of worshippers at Asbury College since early in February this year. Many have pronounced this as the beginnings of a genuine revival of faith in God. Others have been critical or less enthusiastic. I do not want to restate the reasons for or against although I must admit I see it as a move of the Holy Spirit in response to young people that were desperately hungry to experience God and prepared to devote their time and selves to meet wiith God. What I do want to consider is what are the precursors for revival. I will let you decide whether Asbury meets them.
Jesus himself promised in Matthew 5 that those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be satisfied. Matthew 5 : 3-6 NET
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to them. 4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. 5 “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. 6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.
Revival is not just a modern phenomenon.
Revival in Israel 1050 BC
1 Samuel 7: 2-6 New Catholic Bible
2 The Ark remained at Kiriath-jearim for a long time, for twenty years. All of the people of Israel lamented after the Lord.
3 Samuel said to all the people of Israel, “If you intend to return to the Lord with your whole heart, then rid yourselves of the foreign gods you have among you, the Astartes, and commit your hearts to serve the Lord alone, then he will deliver you out of the hands of the Philistines.” 4 So the Israelites threw away their Baals and Astartes, and served the Lord alone.
5 Samuel then said, “Assemble all of the Israelites at Mizpah, and I will intercede to the Lord for you.” 6 When they had gathered at Mizpah, they drew water and poured it before the Lord. They fasted that day and confessed, “We have sinned against the Lord.” Now, Samuel was the judge of the Israelites at Mizpah.
What was the spiritual climate of Israel like in the days of Samuel the prophet? The people had begun to worship the gods of the Philistines (or Canaanites or Phoenicians as they became known as later) and had been defeated by the Philistines in warfare and lost their territory and paid tribute and provided slaves to the Philistines. After twenty years the people were desperate for change and recognised that they had displeased God by their actions. Samuel was a godly, faithful leader who preached to them about repentance, turning to God and turning away from other gods. They responded with fasting and confession of sin.
I was somewhat puzzled by the description of the people pouring water on the ground before the Lord. Fortunately I found this article that explains that water was a precious commodity in that area and to pour it out represented them pouring their life out as a sign of dependence on God for survival. What is “Pouring Water Before the Lord” as Samuel Did in Mizpeh?
Our lives are like water spilled out on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again” (2 Sam. 14:14 NLT).
An even greater revival in Nineveh about 760 BC
Nineveh was the largest city in the Middle East and the capital of the Assyrians at the height of their empire. The population is estimated to have been about 150,000. The king was Ashur-dan III possibly but records are not good for this period of time.
When and how was Nineveh destroyed?
Jonah 3: 4-9 (NLV)
Jonah started into the city, for a day’s walk, and he cried out, “In forty days Nineveh will be destroyed!”
5 Then the people of Nineveh believed in God. They called for a time when no food was to be eaten. And all the people, from the greatest to the least, put on clothes made from hair. 6 When the news came to the king of Nineveh, he got up from his throne and laid aside his beautiful clothing. Then he covered himself with cloth made from hair, and sat in ashes. 7 And he sent word through all of Nineveh, saying, “By the law of the king and his leaders, do not let man or animal, cattle or flock, taste anything. Do not let them eat or drink water. 8 Both man and animal must be covered with cloth made from hair. Everyone must pray to God with all his heart, so each person may turn from his sinful way and from the bad things he has done. 9 Who knows? God may change His mind and stop being angry so that we will not die.”
Again we see a prophet warning that God was displeased with a people. They heeded the message, fasted and prayed and repented of their sin.
What can we learn for today?
We have seen that social decline or hardship can make people more willing to listen to those who claim to speak with God's authority. I have no way of being sure whether those were the conditions at Asbury. There seems to have been no top down call to repentance but more of a bottom up move to seek God. The requisite hunger and desire to be right in the eyes of God most definitely seems to have been present. Prayer and fasting, repentance all seem to be evident at Asbury.
Note how a financial crisis in New York City on October 13th 1857 brought many business people into a revival New York Prayer Revival
Perhaps economic problems or war might bring revival to Europe or other areas that have seen a rise in godlessness. I believe the war in Ukraine is creating a revival among the people of that nation that will have a global influence.