Having cleansed the temple, after years of misuse and great neglect, as the consequence of the apostasy of his father Ahaz, Hezekiah now got to work in reinstating worship within the sacred precincts. This work of reformation was in essence a revival of true religion among the people of Israel.
Revivals, while they are all uniformly a work of the spirit of God, have defining and unique characteristics that set them apart from one another. Some are characterised by song, like the Welsh revival of 1904, others by people being struck prostrate under the power of conviction, like the Ulster awakening of 1859; there are some that progressed in a less obvious yet deep and meaningful ways among the people, like the work known as the ‘silent revival’ which occurred in the fishing villages of the eastern Britain under the ministry of Jock Troup. Some revivals are associated with great and intense preachers, like the work associated with WP Nicholson in 1920’s Ulster and the Evangelical Awakening in 19th Century Britain, when the Wesley brothers and George Whitefield were so prominent. Some are associated with less significant figures who dedicated themselves to prayer like Jeremiah Lamphier and the New York revival 1857 and the four young men who began a prayer meeting in Kells, Co Antrim where 1859, the year of grace, began.
Hezekiah’s revival was sudden, which encourages our hearts because when God moves, the tables are turned, a nation is transformed overnight, such is the irresistible power of grace.
1: The Content of the Sudden Revival
This sudden revival was a return to Scripture, to the divinely ordained means of worship.
Great care is taken in describing the sin offerings and the burnt offerings and the creatures that were offered upon the restored altar.
It is significant that the first sacrifices were sin offerings. The purpose of the sin offering was to make atonement for specific wickedness, which was known.
A study of the Levitical rules will show that where sin was committed, once the person became aware, or where the whole nation became aware, as in this instance in the days of Hezekiah, the sin offering was presented. In each instance the worshipper took responsibility for his own iniquity.
There cannot be revival without an awareness of our sin and the deceitfulness and darkness of our hearts. As God comes down He shows us Himself and we became painfully aware of our need of grace, of the shed blood of Christ.
The sudden revival was characterised by the sprinkling of blood as the only ground of forgiveness.
Every true revival magnifies Christ, His atonement being the sole means whereby lost sinners can be converted. Revival involves the turning of Christians to Christ with greater reality, which leads to passionate preaching of Christ and the conversion of lost souls. The. blood atonement always lies at the heart of a genuine work of grace.
Only after the sin offering was presented, could the regular burnt offering be offered; this was the cue for praise and song as the great temple choirs and orchestra once again reverberated within the temple.
The praise and thanksgiving were based upon the blood of the sin offering. I can imagine the solemn and grieving hush as the blood was sprinkled and then the joy and praise as the forgiven people worship with thanksgiving.
The songs associated with revival are biblical in content. Redemption lies at the heart of their blessed themes. They ever turn the soul Christ-ward. The more we recognise our wickedness and what our Saviour did for us, the greater our joy and gladness.
2: The Commitment in the Sudden Revival
The people God used in this awakening were committed, entirely consecrated to God for the task at hand.
Hezekiah led the way, showing himself to be a man who meant business.
There was no sloppiness with regard to the King’s attitude to public worship; he was both early and earnest with a heart prepared by God.
Hezekiah was a man who meant business, who was fully aware of the purpose for this great sanctuary had been erected by Solomon, his famous ancestor.
Evidently this attitude rubbed off on the people of God. After the sin offerings and praises were offered, the people responded to the invitation to come with their own sacrifices. I can see them queuing with their bullocks, oxen, lambs and sheep. Thousands of the best livestock were given to God, and such was the abundance that there were too few priests for the work. Following the example of their King, the people did not hold back.
The word ‘consecrate’ is employed in this passage, which literally means to fill one’s hands. Their hands were filled with gifts for the Lord, they did not come empty. But if we are to have full hands for the Lord, they must be empty of that which proud, selfish and material. Are we willing to part with whatever is holding us back from a closer walk with God.
Emptied that Thou shouldest fill me,
A clean vessel in Thy hand;
With no pow’r but as Thou givest
Graciously with each command.
Every revival is characterised by commitment and zeal for the Lord. With consecration, people give themselves, their abilities, opportunities and wealth more freely than every to God’s work. Preachers are called into service and missionaries are sent overseas as the church’s vision for a lost world is sharpened.
3: The Comfort from the Sudden Revival
As that momentous day reached sunset, Hezekiah and the people rejoiced that they had lived to see this moment.
But what humbled and comforted their hearts more than anything was this – the work was of God.
The sudden turnaround in the spiritual life of Judah could only be attributed to one source; the sovereign intervention of God.
Revival is a work of the Holy Spirit alone, therefore we must seek His infilling, upon individual believers, and His outpouring upon the community of Christians. It is so encouraging to know that the darkness of this society is not beyond the power of grace.
One final question from John Butler, which crystallises our great need of an awakening in our own lives.