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Summary: Real revival brings change on individual and community levels. It often brings miracles as well, but the key is that people change what they’re doing and become more obedient to God. There were several revivals in the Old Testament before Jesus too, and t

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In September 1857, a man of prayer, Jeremiah Lanphier, started a businessmen’s prayer meeting in the upper room of the Dutch Reformed Church Building in Manhattan. In response to his advertisement, only six people out of a population of a million showed up. But the following week there were fourteen, and then twenty-three when it was decided to meet everyday for prayer. By late winter they were filling the Dutch Reformed Church, then the Methodist Church on John Street, then Trinity Episcopal Church on Broadway at Wall Street. In February and March of 1858, every church and public hall in down town New York was filled. Horace Greeley, the famous editor, sent a reporter with horse and buggy racing round the prayer meetings to see how many men were praying. In one hour he could get to only twelve meetings, but he counted 6,100 men attending.

Then a landslide of prayer began, which overflowed to the churches in the evenings. People began to be converted, ten thousand a week in New York City alone. The movement spread throughout New England, the church bells bringing people to prayer at eight in the morning, twelve noon, and six in the evening. The revival raced up the Hudson and down the Mohawk, where the Baptists, for example, had so many people to baptize that they went down to the river, cut a big hole in the ice, and baptized them in the cold water. When Baptists do that they are really on fire!

There are also stories of revival in what is called the miracle city in Guatemala where all the jails have closed, there’s almost no more alcoholism in the primarily native community, over half the population of about 20,000 have been born again, poverty has been eliminated and even crops are producing at much higher rates and quality.

These are just a couple examples, but real revival brings change on individual and community levels. It often brings miracles as well, but the key is that people change what they’re doing and become more obedient to God. There were several revivals in the Old Testament before Jesus too, and that radical change is what we see beginning in the Jerusalem revival of 458 BC as described in the last 2 chapters of the book of Ezra.

When was the first exile of God’s people? Wasn’t it with Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden? In reality God’s people have been in exile here on earth ever since. The Bible says this is not our home, that we are aliens in this world. So what we witness in the exiles and return of the Jewish people time after time in the OT, is just a reminder of the actual state of all mankind since the fall.

Every human being since the fall has been in exile from God. The process of salvation is essentially a return from this exile. So as we look at these revivals and returns to the Promised Land we can see how they reflect the process that all people go through as they return to God. A process not only of salvation, but also sanctification.

So first of all we must look at what causes this exile. The simple answer is sin. More specifically it is the choosing of idols over God. Even more specifically it is choosing our way and our desires over God’s commands.

When I was a kid I loved those electric racing car sets. You know with the cars that went in these little slots on the road tracks. You used a little gun to control the speed and watched these cool little cars race around the track. The cars were never meant to go full speed around the sharp corners. If they did they’d fly off the track and sometimes get damaged so you couldn’t use them anymore.

That used to frustrate me but I still wanted go as fast as I could around those corners. So rather than slowing down, I just hoped the cars would eventually stay on the track, and of course you try tweaking the cars and such. Eventually though, all my cars would be damaged and I wouldn’t be able to use them anymore. My desire to do something that the cars were never designed to do was exciting at the time, but in the end left me with nothing.

That is the true nature of sin. God says this is how you and the universe are designed. I promise your life will be perfect if you stay within those design guidelines. But if you use your life outside of how it was designed, I can’t be responsible for the consequences, and ultimately you will be greatly disappointed.

In Ezra the primary sin that is mentioned is intermarrying with other cultural groups of the region Read 9:1-2. Why is it “breaking faith” when they intermarry? It’s not because God is racist, it’s because these marriages would pollute the spiritual make up of God’s people and draw them away from Him. These marriages would cause God’s people to commit adultery against God, thus breaking the first commandment that you shall have no other gods. And that leads to death.

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