The successful revival movements of the past have been instigated by foundational, overarching truths that are firmly rooted in Holy Writ and no other source. The Protestant Reformation was undergirded by the message of righteousness by faith, which is espoused so profoundly and comprehensively in Romans and Galatians, but also threads through every subsidiary teaching and principle from Genesis to Revelation. This is one example of many.
I am going to suggest that God’s Word not only contains such indispensable principles that trigger revival; it seems to also contain a blueprint, a schematic, for revival. The blueprint that comes to mind can be found in the gospel according to 2 Chron. 15:1-8. This passage struck me several years ago during my devotional time.
We’ll spend much of these moments making contemporary applications, but it’s important to briefly delineate the immediate perspective before launching this passage 3,000 years ahead.
Azariah the prophet had a message for King Asa. Up to this point, Asa had actually been faithful, but his reign wasn’t far removed from that of Rehoboam, who was everything but faithful. There was one monarchial generation between the two, but that lasted for approximately the duration of a power nap. Despite Asa’s early efforts, there was much remedy still needed to get Judah healthy and vital again.
With that background, let’s look at the blueprint. It includes four components:
1. Seek the Lord (v. 2)
This makes sense. Revival is needed when a chasm exists between humanity and divinity. Effecting a revival means closing and ultimately eliminating that chasm. This call in v. 2 is an active call, not a passive one.
With that said, the seeking is definitely not one-sided. When we find God, He doesn’t pivot His shoulder away from us, glance back toward us, and spit out a casually-toned “Oh, hello.” The Lord seeks His people with more eagerness and zeal than we could ever muster. The reason that this call is an active one and that the seeking must be two-sided is that His eagerness and zeal are never accompanied by imposition. God is a gentleman. If we want nothing to do with Him, He honors our request.
2. Take Courage (v. 7)
Asa made an effort to clean up Judah. This likely generated opposition. Facing opposition can be frustrating and overwhelming. This reality necessitated the prophet Azariah’s charge. When God is for us, who can be against us? Taking a stand for truth and living a radically peculiar lifestyle will render us the enemies of the world, but the One for whose sake we take this stand has overcome the world (John 16:33), so we have nothing to fear. A reward is promised for the courageous, which is an additional B-12 shot for those who may be prone to anxious sluggishness while in the throes of such a spiritual transition.
3. Eliminate Idolatry (v. 8)
Living in “Christian” America fosters the mindset that the concept of idolatry is irrelevant and maybe even difficult to define (especially compared to the more explicit nature of this phenomenon in the days of antiquity—they had all sorts of statues made of all sorts of metals; what could be more idolatrous than that?). That mindset might be due to the propensity to think strictly materially, which in turn might stem from a rigid or shallow understanding of the second commandment (Ex. 20:4-6).
In reviewing the second commandment, a person might draw the conclusion that God is against images. If so, I would respectfully disagree. Read Gen. 1:26, which reveals that God made humans in His image. I would propose that the most concise yet comprehensive definition of idolatry is the reversal of that verse: making God in our image. I will leave defining what that looks like concretely as a personal endeavor.
In the meantime, hopefully this outlook will not only bring clarity but put a positive spin on any “housecleaning” we might need to do. Instead of giving up this, sacrificing that, plucking out this, trashing that, our most effective method of eliminating idolatry might be to simply cooperate with the Lord’s work of restoring us to His likeness.
Within the context of revival, that makes all the sense in the world. What was God doing in Gen. 1:26? He was giving people life. What is true revival? It is God giving people a new life.
4. Restore the Altar (v. 8)
When it comes to studying and reflecting upon Scripture, I strive not to take any unsanctioned liberties. I’ll take a mild liberty here, but it shouldn’t be a harmful one. Factually speaking, this verse is referring to the altar outside the temple. I would suggest that prompting a successful revival requires a restoration of both altars—the altar of burnt offering and the altar of incense.
Defining this restoration process fully is a tall order, though a worthwhile one. Let’s approach it from one particular angle. In simple terms, these altars are the emblems of sacrifice and prayer, respectively. So, restoring these altars means being more sacrificial and earnestly prayerful, right? I won’t minimize the value of these spiritual disciplines at all, and let’s not forget that a precedent has been set, in this very passage, that the calls issued to God’s people are active.
Be that as it may, I recommend that the best way to experience a new life (true revival) is to lean upon Christ’s labors instead of our own. Maybe restoring the altars primarily means gaining a more thorough understanding of the nature and import of His work at these altars and a deeper appreciation and sense of awe for Jesus being our all in all—lamb, ransom, substitute, burden-bearer, brother, intercessor, advocate.
There is no question that God wants us to experience revival, and this passage is but one token of evidence that He has made every provision for this to become a reality. I encourage everyone to follow His blueprint and build their houses upon the Rock.