Revival meetings. Remember those days when an evangelist or “revivalist” would visit your church for a week or two or more of special meetings geared to getting God’s people “revived,” in hopes that when the meetings were concluded the church would be in a healthier state with a renewed burden for souls and with recharged spiritual batteries in order to remain “steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord.” (I Cor. 15:58). Those days are but a memory for most churches today as shorter and fewer revival meetings find their place on today’s church calendars. But they are not any less needed.
Ezekiel was given a look, by the Spirit of God, at a valley full of dry bones. (Ezek.37) It was, as one reads the chapter, a representation of the lifeless state of Judah and Israel about 600 years before the first advent of Christ. By the Spirit of God, Ezekiel learned that God would one day bring those bones together, bone on bone, stand them up straight and then, in time breathe new life into those lifeless, very dry bones. God gave to Ezekiel the interpretation of this vision when he said that he would one day make of Israel (the northern confederacy of ten tribes that split off after Solomon’s death) and Judah (the two tribes in the southern part of Palestine Jerusalem being the capitol), one nation putting them back again in their own land with David sitting on the throne. Of course, David was dead but Matthew 1:1 introduces the New Testament as the story of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, son of David, son of Abraham, indicating that David’s descendent, Jesus Christ, God’s Messiah would sit on that throne of David fulfilling in part that Old Testament prophecy as recorded in Ezekiel 37. (Ezek. 37:19-25)
In 1948, after more than 1900 years Israel once again became a State, situated in their own land. They have not yet become one, as the 10 northern tribes carried into captivity in 722 B.C. are still the “lost tribes” of Israel, but they will one day be one, possessing their own land, with the Son of David sitting upon His throne in Jerusalem. The prophecy has not yet been fully fulfilled but when Jesus returns with His church at the conclusion of the seven-year tribulation, the prophecy will be fulfilled as Christ Jesus sets His kingdom up in Jerusalem and rules and reigns in righteousness for a thousand years as a prelude to the eternal state.
So, what does all of this prophecy about Israel’s future have to do with us now? Well, the primary interpretation of Ezekiel 37 has to do with Israel’s end-time future, but the application of this prophecy is appropriate to the church in these last days. Israel was pictured as down in the midst of the valley which was full of bones (Ezek. 37:1) The bones were very dry and their condition was characterized as hopeless. (v.11) All appearance of life had departed. (v.3) There was fragmentation of the body. (vss. 7,11) There was form but no power. (v. 8) The only solution for this desperate dry-bones, lifeless state was a breath of new life from God’s Spirit, and that is what God said would happen. (v. 14) When the spirit of God breathed upon those lifeless corpses which were nothing but dry bones put together again bone on bone, then there was new life, the bones stood upright and they were at once “an exceeding great army.” (v.10)
Churches today, in too many instances at least, are spiritually dry. There are no tears of compassion for lost souls. Few people are being saved so that too often there is a corpse but no appearance of life; there is form, but little or no power. There are creeds, but no Christ; sound but little substance; motion but no progress, a building but no church, sermons but no messages; pulpiteers but no preachers, froth but no faith, giving but little sacrifice, money but without missions and people but with meager signs of the kind of royal love of which James spoke in James 2.
The late Vance Havner set forth the characteristics of genuine revival: “We hear much about revival these days, but the heart of revival is the Lordship of Christ. A mere emotional upheaval, a spurt of religious excitement is not revival. When Christians become convicted of rebellion against the rule of Christ in their lives, confess their sins, renounce self, take the cross and let Jesus have the first and last word in everything, that is REVIVAL by whatever name you call it.”
The late evangelist and former Editor of the Sword of the Lord, Curtis Hutson, once said, “The church does not need new members as much as it needs old members made new.” Another sage said it this way, “The problem is not that churches are filled with empty pews but that the pews are filled with empty people!”
R.A. Torrey gave the key to having a revival today: “Let a few Christians get thoroughly right with God; let then bind themselves in prayer and then let them put themselves at God’s disposal in the winning of souls.” Evangelist Gypsy Smith was once asked how to have revival and his reply was, “Go home, lock yourself in your room, kneel down in the middle of your floor. Draw a chalk mark around yourself and ask God to start the revival inside that chalk mark. When He has answered your prayer, the revival will be on.”
When asked the secret of his spiritual power, Charles Spurgeon simply said, “Knee work! Knee work!”
Once in a while someone will say, “I don’t think there will be another great revival before the Lord returns.” Or, “These are such dark times; surely the Lord must be coming very soon.”
Well, these are dark times, but they have been dark before. One historian noted that in America, following the Revolutionary War, the days became dreadfully dark spiritually. Students at Harvard were typically atheists; at Williams College there was a mock celebration of a communion service. At Princeton, the Dean opened a Bible in chapel and a pack of playing cards fell out. Christians were so unpopular they met in secret and recorded their meetings in code. The last two decades of the eighteenth century were the darkest period, spiritually and morally, in the history of American Christianity.” (J. Edwin Orr, Campus Aflame, 1971). And then, the 2nd Great Awakening came with the Wesleys and Whitefield shaking two continents for Christ and God gave with that dark backdrop a nation-wide revival. Our prayer is one that Oswald J. Smith prayed: “God of revival, meet us now as on Thy name we call; forgive our sin, and hear our prayer, let showers of blessings fall.”
Dry bones? Yes, as Israel as a nation was depicted in Ezekiel 37; but likewise, the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ, 2021. But oh! The breath of new life brought those dry bones to life again and it was like a great army.” So, too, Dear Lord, breathe upon us by your Holy Spirit the breath of life and make us a great army for God once again in this 21stcentury. You have done it before; please God, do it again. Amen.”
“Wilt Thou not revive us again: that Thy people might rejoice in Thee?” Ps. 85:6