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162 - Characteristics of Genuine Revival

by Stephen Davey Scripture Reference: 2 Kings 18:1–8; 2 Chronicles 29–31

The record of Scripture informs us that the northern kingdom of Israel has fallen to the Assyrians because of their evil practices and defiance of God. And frankly, it looks like the southern kingdom of Judah is heading in the same direction.

But somewhat unexpectedly, God graciously brings to the throne of Judah a godly king. Even though his father Ahaz was wicked, young King Hezekiah walks with God. He will become one of Judah’s godliest rulers.

Chapter 18 of the book of 2 Kings begins a lengthy and detailed account of Hezekiah’s reign. Now I should point out here that the chronology is a bit difficult. It appears that Ahaz was still king of Judah when Israel fell. So, you need to understand that Hezekiah was reigning for some time, as co-regent with his father. Once Ahaz dies, some dramatic changes are going to take place under the reign of Hezekiah.

Listen to this impressive description of King Hezekiah here in verses 3-4:

And he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, according to all that David his father had done. He removed the high places and broke the pillars and cut down the Asherah.

He broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the people of Israel had made offerings to it.

Did you notice that? The bronze serpent that had been set up on a pole 700 years earlier (Numbers 21:4-9) had become an idol. The people had turned it into some sort of superstitious, mystical image. Well, Hezekiah gets rid of it.

Verse 5 says of Hezekiah:

He trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel, so that there was none like him among all

The kings of Judah after him, nor among those who were before him.

And in verse 7, we read, “The Lord was with him; wherever he went out, he prospered.”

That’s quite a resume here in the book of 2 Kings, but that is just a summary. Over in the parallel account of 2 Chronicles—which we are combining in our study as we work our way through the books of Kings and Chronicles—we are given an expanded account of Hezekiah’s reign. Second Chronicles 29 is the first of three chapters devoted to Hezekiah’s reforms in Judah following the wicked reign of King Ahaz.

In chapters 29 through 31 we find several characteristics of genuine revival. And the first is this: true revival begins withrighteous leadership.

Spiritual awakening is, and always has been, the work of the Holy Spirit; but He always uses some key, godly people in that work. Hezekiah has a heart for God, and we see this in one of the first things he does after his father’s death. In 2 Chronicles 29:3 we read, “In the first year of his reign, in the first month, he opened the doors of the house of the Lordand repaired them.” He also calls on the Levites to consecrate themselves in preparation for serving the Lord according to God’s law.

This brings up another characteristic of true revival: yes, it begins with consecrated leadership, but secondly, it leads to a renewal of worship. Hezekiah understands that the people have abandoned God’s prescribed temple worship; so he says here in verses 6-8:

“Our fathers . . . have forsaken him [the Lord] and have turned away their faces from the habitation of the Lordand turned their backs. They also shut the doors of the vestibule and put out the lamps and have not burned incense or offered burnt offerings in the Holy Place to the God of Israel. Therefore the wrath of the Lord came on Judah and Jerusalem.”

So, with the help of the Levites, Hezekiah restores the temple and cleans out all the dirt and debris, as well as the idols Ahaz had placed there. And when it is all cleaned out, sacrifices are offered, and verse 35 tells us that the long-neglected “service of the house of the Lord was restored.”

This sets the stage for another characteristic of revival in 2 Chronicles chapter 30; and that’s a return to obedience. People cannot turn to the Lord in faith without becoming aware of His commands and desires. So, Hezekiah reinstates the Passover festival that had been long neglected.

There is a logistical problem here, however. Passover is to be observed in the first month, but the priests cannot get properly consecrated and prepared in time. So, rather than wait an entire year, verse 2 records, “The king and his princes and all the assembly in Jerusalem had taken counsel to keep the Passover in the second month.”

The king sends messengers throughout Judah, calling the people to come to Jerusalem for the Passover. They even go into the regions of Israel to the remnant of people left there after the Assyrian conquest of that land. Listen to Hezekiah’s invitation to all of them, here in verses 6-7:

Return to the Lord . . . Do not be like your fathers and your brothers, who were faithless to the Lord God of their fathers, so that he made them a desolation, as you see.  

I’m glad to tell you that the people of Judah respond to this invitation; but I’m disappointed to tell you only a few from Israel come to Jerusalem. In fact, many of them laugh at Hezekiah’s messengers and mock them.

Nonetheless, Jerusalem is soon filled with songs of celebration.  We are told in verse 26:

There was great joy in Jerusalem, for since the time of Solomon the son of David king of Israel there had been nothing like this in Jerusalem.

There was a revival in the land, and that always brings God’s people fulfillment and joy.

It also brings even more obedience. As we come to chapter 31, we find this fourth characteristic of true revival: theremoval of idols. The worshipers leave Jerusalem after the festival and begin to dismantle all the remnants of idolatry in their land. Even the few people who came from Israel, return home to tear down the pagan altars in their land.

This is a good lesson for us today; if you follow the Lord with your whole heart, you will get rid of anything that can pull you back down into disobedience. This is what you call “burning your bridges behind you.” Get rid of whatever it is that will lure you back into sin.

When you find yourself faltering in your walk, recommit yourself to intentional, focused, biblical worship, and recommit to obeying God’s Word, whether you feel like it or not.

Make sure you get rid of those idols. As someone once said, our hearts are factories that so easily produce idols; so, let’s stay alert to anything that consumes our attention and distracts us from our love for Christ and His Word. And when we do, well, we’re in the process of experiencing another personal, genuine revival.