Summary: The Life of Samuel, Part 4 of 5.
REVIVE US AGAIN (1 SAM. 7)
The closet thing to a revival I had experienced was at the youth fellowship in my home church. Seven of the twenty-something young people, including me, are in the ministry at the present. Five are pastors, one is a seminary lecturer, and one is an assistant pastor. Including two sisters who are married to two of the seven, about a third of the original youth group are in the ministry now. Then, we were actively serving either in the Youth Department, the Music Department, the Library Department, the Sunday School Department, or the Miscellaneous Department.
Church, fellowship, and brothers and sisters meant a lot to us. Our weekly schedule included attending youth fellowship, joining choir rehearsals, and teaching Sunday school. During midweek, we took turns leading Bible study, and attended seminary-offered extension courses. Incredibly, the church was without a pastor then.
God was lighting a fire in our hearts, raising a band of future ministers, and preparing the church for unprecedented growth. We learned, grew, and served. Most of the time, we were just given a book to read when we were assigned to teach Sunday school or lead Bible study. Other times, we were advised to shop for material from the local Christian bookstore. All you could do was to watch what was done, take a deep breath, and learn as you go.
The first revival in the Promise Land was a heartrending, far-reaching, and ongoing event. Before the revival swept Israel, things were both good and bad. The sons of Eli were dead and Samuel the prophet had succeeded him. The ark of God that was captured by the Philistines were returned to the Israelites but not to Jerusalem. Then a revival swept the land under the right conditions.
What is revival? When, how and why does it happen? Why did it happen in Israel after a long absence?
Revival is a Team Responsibility
7:1 So the men of Kiriath Jearim came and took up the ark of the LORD. They took it to Abinadab’s house on the hill and consecrated Eleazar his son to guard the ark of the LORD. 2 It was a long time, twenty years in all, that the ark remained at Kiriath Jearim, and all the people of Israel mourned and sought after the LORD. (1 Sam 7:1-2)
A web site posted an anonymous writer’s poem entitled “Little Christians” on the Internet. It recounts the dramatic growth of a church after a steep decline and a loss of members:
Little Christians came to church all the time, one fell out with the preacher, then there were nine.
Little Christian stayed up late, one slept on Sunday, then there were eight.
Little Christians on their way to heaven, one took the low road, then there were seven.
Little Christians chirping like chicks, one didn’t like the singing, then there were six.
Little Christians seemed very much alive, one took a vacation and then there were five.
Little Christians pulling for heavens shore, one stopped to take a rest, then there were four.
Little Christians each as busy as a bee, one got his feeling hurt, then there were three.
Little Christians couldn’t decide what to do, one couldn’t have his way, then there were two.
Little Christians each won one more, now don’t you see two and two make four.
Little Christians worked early and late, each brought one now there were eight.
Little Christians if they double as before, in just seven Sundays we have one thousand twenty four.
Revival did not occur the moment Eli the priest or his sons died. That would have made Eli the unfair scapegoat of all Israel’s ills. More than twenty years had passed since Eli had died, yet no revival had broken out. Even the presence of Samuel, the great prophet, did not spark a revival. However, a revival swept the nation at the most unlikely time: when the people of God mourned the ark’s absence from Jerusalem. Remarkably, this was the first and only time the nation mourned after the Lord before the exile; the word reappears twice during the exilic period (Ezek 32:18, Mic 2:4). Strong’s said this seldom-used Hebrew word for “mourned” means “to groan, i.e. bewail; hence (through the idea of crying aloud), to assemble (as if on proclamation).”
Revival cannot be premeditated, planned, or packaged; it comes only when people’s hearts are sad, when their eyes are glassy, and when their conscience is aching. Israel’s hearts longed for the Lord, their eyes were wet with tears and their hands were busy in prayer. The people did not sob quietly or privately, but wailed loudly and publicly.
The revival had to touch all of Israel to be genuine. The same Hebrew word “all” is found in verse 2 (“all the people of Israel”), verse 3 (“the whole house of Israel”) and verse 5 (“Assemble all Israel”). All of Israel - men and women, young and old, faithful or faithless, conservative and liberal, pious and idolaters - mourned after the Lord. No one was unaware, no one was untouched, and no one was uninvolved.