Revive Our Hearts Podcast

A Picture of Revival

Leslie Basham: Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth invites you to ponder: What might it be like if God visited His people in a special way?

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: If His manifest presence came down and showed up powerfully in your life, in your family, in your church . . . what difference would that make in our world? What difference would it make among the nations, among those who oppose God?

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Brokenness: The Heart God Revives, for Thursday, August 9, 2018.

Nancy's continuing in the series "A Cry for Revival."

Nancy: One of the great prayers for revival, that I have loved for years and years, is found in Isaiah chapter 64. We're looking at that prayer this week, except we haven't got to Isaiah 64 yet! We've been in chapter 63 for the past three days.

We've seen the judgment and the wrath of God toward His enemies, in Isaiah 63. We've seen the salvation and the compassion of God toward His people. We've seen the rebellion of God's people, and how God becomes their enemy.

We've seen the people remembering the days of old, when God came and delivered them and rescued them when they needed Him most. And then, the prayer actually begins in chapter 63, verse 15, where the people of God cry out: "Look down from heaven and see . . ."

That's the beginning of the prayer that continues all the way through Isaiah chapter 64.

We went all the way through chapter 63 yesterday, and the chapter division at this point is an unfortunate because [in the original texts] there's no division there. It's a continuation of the prayer. So if you didn't hear the first part of the prayer yesterday, let me encourage you to go to ReviveOurHearts.com. You can listen to that program or read the transcript.

The prayer continues. Isaiah has already said, "Lord, would you look down from heaven . . ." (Isa. 63:15). And now he's saying, "It's not enough that you look down; oh God, would you come down? Come down . . . come down!"

"Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down" (Isa. 64:1). Now, I'm going to continue, and today we're going to talk about the first three verses, the first part of this prayer, but let me just pick up with that first phrase.

"Oh"—the first word. This is no mindless, dispassionate, distracted, half-hearted prayer with half the people falling asleep. This is a prayer meeting where people are very much alive. It's passionate, it's earnest, it's fervent, it's desperate, it's pleading!

A hundred years later, Isaiah looks forward prophetically to the time when the remnant in exile will be praying and crying out to God for deliverance, and they realize that their only hope is for God to come down.

The hope is not that God will throw off the Babylonians; the hope is that God Himself will come down and visit His people and change their hearts, and correct what it was that led them into exile in the first place.

You see, the Babylonians are not the issue. You don't even see them named here. But what you do see is God's people crying out, "Oh, God, that You would rend the heavens and come down." They're saying, "Nothing else, nothing less will suffice." The need is so great that nothing short of a divine visitation will do.

This is a bold prayer; it's a faith-filled prayer. These are people who know that God has all power in His hand. They've seen what He's done before, and they are longing to see Him exercise His power once again.

And so they pray, "Oh, that you would rend the heavens." What a visual that is. They're saying, "God, get rid of every barrier that keeps us from seeing You and experiencing Your grace and Your power."

"Rend the heavens and come down." Again, this is a recognition that God is in heaven. He is high; He is exalted; He is separate from sinners. It's a plea for God to intervene, to come down from heaven, to do down here on earth His will as it is done in heaven, and to do what only He can do on this earth.

And yet, even as we're seeing the passion and the fervency of this prayer, I think there's also a personal and intimate feel to this prayer. It's as if a child in need were calling out to a parent: "Quickly, come here! I need you! Mommy, Daddy, come help!"

It's just like this outburst of desperation, "I need you!" It's the kind of thing you wouldn't say to somebody you didn't know. You wouldn't say it to somebody you didn't trust; you wouldn't say it somebody that had never proven their ability to do what you are asking them to do.

So, there's this, "God, we're Your children. We're Your people. We need You! God, help us! We're desperate! We need you to . . .

Rend the heavens and come down that the mountains might quake [or 'tremble in fear' is what that word means] at your presence as when fire kindles brushwood and the fire causes water to boil—to make your name known to your adversaries, and that the nations might tremble at your presence! When you did awesome things that we did not look for, you came down, the mountains quaked [they trembled in fear] at your presence (vv. 1–3).

Now, let's just stop there, and I want us to look at those three verses. Wow. So much is in them that can help shape our praying for revival in our day. This is a beautiful Old Testament description of revival.

You see that revival is God-centered, not man-centered. This is God coming down, God intervening, God shaking things up, God transforming everything! And in the wake of God's presence coming and visiting, there is nothing and no one left unaffected or unchanged.

You see His fiercest enemies trembling in fear before Him—those who have shaken their fists in God's face and said, "We will not have you to rule over us!" Now they are trembling. God has won!

And in this prayer, the remnant recalls times in the past when God came down. He did awesome things; He displayed His power over all creation. Now they plead with Him, "Please come down again!" There's a sense of longing, of desperation, of great need, of humility . . . and a sense of confidence in what God could do if He would just come down.

There's the realization that the mess we're in now would all change. As you read this paragraph, you realize that the goal, the motivation, the purpose for pleading with God to come down is not so that we can be happy or have all our problems solved.

In fact, as you see in this passage, a divine visitation may cause some problems. As when fire sets twigs ablaze, it causes waters to boil; mountains quake, nations tremble. The purpose of a divine visitation isn't so all our problems will go away. The purpose is, "to make Your Name known, so people will know You are God!"

Listen, if that's not why you're living, you're living for the wrong reason. And if you're a child of God, deep in your heart, that's what you want more than anything else—God's Name to be known among those who don't know Him.

Your greatest concern is not that a particular person get into office, or that a particular party win an election, or that this person, or that, be dealt with. Your greatest burden, your concern is that the Name of God would be known and hallowed and reverenced and respected.

"Hallowed be Your Name; Your kingdom come; Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven" (see Matt 6:9–10).

Now that phrase that stands out to me most in this paragraph (Isaiah 64:1–3), is a phrase that's repeated three times. Did you catch it? "At Your presence . . ." It's at the end of each of the first three verses: "Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake at your presence . . . to make your name known to your adversaries, and that the nations might tremble at your presence! . . . you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence."

You saw the same concept a chapter earlier in Isaiah 63:9, when Scripture says, "and the angel of his presence saved them," when it's speaking of the exodus out of Egypt. The presence of God . . . I want to just park on that concept for a few moments and whet your appetite for what can happen when the presence of God comes and visits His people.

Now, going back to the era of the Puritans, they talked about three different aspects of the presence of God. Simply stated, they talked first about the omnipresence of God—the fact that God is everywhere all the time. God is everywhere. He's in this room; He's throughout the earth. The omnipresence of God . . . most people are unaware of that, but He's still there.

"If I go north or south, to the east or west, to the deepest part of the sea, [anywhere I go] there You are" (see Ps 139:9). You can't escape the presence of God.

And then they talked about the cultivated presence of God. That's what we mean when we say, "Draw near to God and He will draw near to you" (James 4:8). As we use the disciplines of grace, the means of grace—prayer, Bible reading, fellowship, the Lord's Supper, church discipline. As we draw near to God, we have a greater cultivated sense of God's presence.

So if you've been having a quiet time, seeking the Lord, reading His Word, praying for twenty-five years, you're going to have a greater sense of God's presence than probably some person out there who has never cultivated God's presence.

Yes, God is everywhere; God is omnipresent, but you've got a cultivated sense of God's presence that maybe they don't have. But then, the Puritans talked about something they called the manifest presence of God, where God is experienced and sensed and felt and known—in His glory and power, in an unusual way.

Now, the manifest presence of God is all over heaven. When you read Old and New Testament descriptions of what's going on in the presence of God, at the throne of God, it's all about the manifest presence of God.

But here on this earth, we don't see a lot of that. We don't experience a lot of it. But there are those moments, in the life of an individual or church or family, sometimes even a nation, when God . . . Let me say it's as if He were drawing back the curtain and giving us a glimpse of something that we can't see in its fullness until we see Him face to face (or the vision would kill us). But it's a glimpse of His glory—the manifest presence of God.

Have you ever been in a church service, and there was conviction and the sense of God's presence, and people just knew God was there. In one service that's coming to mind even right now, as God was moving and convicting people of their need to clear their consciences and get right with Him, I remember seeing somebody actually (it sounds crazy), but they wanted so to get to the place where they could deal with their sin, that they actually stepped over pews so they wouldn't have to bother people—jumping/stepping over pews so they could get to the prayer room so they could go and say, "Yes, Lord!" and respond to God. There was this urgency. 

I mean, that's not the kind of thing that happens every Sunday, right? It would be great if it did, but it's not. This is the unusual, the extraordinary sense of the presence of God. Richard Owen Roberts is a man whom I've known for many, many years.

Dr. Roberts is an older man. He's one of the leading historians, students, and writers on the subject of revival in our lifetime. I love his works on revival. He's spoken here to our staff many times. Anything you can find by him, read it. Listen to it.

He says,

There's a very precious sense in which revival is, literally, God in the midst of His people. His manifest presence produces all that is desirable in revival. The absence of His manifest presence accounts for all that is undesirable during the seasons of moral and spiritual decline that precede revivals. Revival is a time when heaven comes closer to earth than at any other time in the lives of men and women. 

"Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down."

We see in this passage, the power of God's manifest presence. Read these metaphors of it being like an earthquake that causes the mountains to shake, to quiver, to tremble in fear. We have the picture of fire that kindles brushwood, it causes water to boil. It's forceful; it's powerful; it's dangerous. It's not tame.

There's nothing tame about God, when you see Him moving in times of revival. Nothing stays the same when the presence of God comes down. You think of mountains as being strong, permanent, immovable. But in times of revival, those mountains tremble. They're done away with.

They could be mountains of sin, mountains of unbelief, mountains of deeply entrenched wrong ways of thinking, mountains of materialism and greed, mountains of injustice. They are things of which you think, This will never move. This will never change. But in the presence of God, those mountains come crumbling down.

The nations tremble before the presence of God. How often do you see that happening today? Not very! You see nations shaking their fist at God, saying, "We'll have nothing to do with You!" You see nations, including our own, now, institutionalizing and legitimizing and legislating evil.

But imagine seeing our nation—and other nations of the earth—trembling at the presence of the Lord . . . afraid to do anything that would dishonor Him. This happens! It can happen when God manifests His presence. His Name is known to His adversaries. Those who have resisted Him become His worshipers.

Richard Owen Roberts, again speaking about revival, says,

Without doubt, the greatest single aspect of every true revival is the peculiar and wonderful sense of the presence of God, which is manifest. It is this mighty sense of the presence of God which draws large crowds, produces intense conviction, causes tears to flow, enables hardened sinners to right the wrongs of years past, produces seemingly instantaneous conversions and results in spontaneous joy and enthusiasm. 

The presence of God brings those things about!

I want to just read to you from the annals of history what it has been like at times when the manifest presence of God came down, when God rent the heavens and came down and visited His people.

For the first one (there are three or four here), let me take you, in the words of Jonathan Edwards, to a scene that he describes in New England when the presence of God broke through in 1735. Here's that description:

The town seemed to be full of the presence of God: it never was so full of love, nor of joy and yet so full of distress, as it was then. There were remarkable tokens of God's presence in almost every house. It was a time of joy in families on account of salvation being brought to them: parents rejoicing over their children as new born, and husbands over their wives, and wives over their husbands.

The goings of God were then seen in His sanctuary. God's day was a delight and His tabernacles were amiable. Our public assemblies were then beautiful. The congregation was alive in God's service, everyone earnestly intent on the public worship, every hearer eager to drink in the words of the minister as they came from his mouth. [Nothing boring here! This is what it was like.]

The assembly in general were, from time to time, in tears while the Word was preached; some weeping with sorrow and distress, others with joy and love, others with pity and concern for the souls of their neighbors . . . God was in our midst!1

Then we come to 1859, a revival that took place in Northern Ireland, and here's a description of one particularly memorable experience,

We had been praying for and expecting some such precious blessing, but were, notwithstanding, taken by surprise, so sudden, powerful, and extraordinary were the manifestations of the Spirit's presence. 

Did you catch that? "We we'd been praying for this. We should have been expecting it, but when it happened, it was so amazing, we were still surprised!"

Persons of every shade of temperament and character were mysteriously affected, overpowered, prostrated, and made to pour out the most thrilling, agonizing cries for mercy. Most of those thus impressed and awakened found peace and comfort in a very short space of time, and then their countenances shone with sweetness and glory beyond description.

Very many of them received a marvelous fluency and power of prayer. A hatred of sin, a love for the Saviour, a zeal for His cause, an affection for one another, and an anxiety about perishing sinners took absolute possession of their hearts and literally ruled and governed their actions.

For about six weeks, almost all agricultural operations [this was an agricultural economy] and, indeed, every kind of secular employment was suspended [six weeks!], no man being able to think of or to attend to anything but the interests of his soul. Night and day the sound of praise and prayer never ceased to float upon the air.

An overwhelming sense of awe and terror held in check the boldest sinners, while thousands who till now had lived as if eternity was a fiction seemed now for the first time to realize its truth and presence, and to feel as if the end of all things was at hand.2

See the sense of urgency, the sense of eternity, that comes upon the heart of the most hardened sinners and the most committed believers? There's a sense of joy, of conviction. It's an intensity that comes with the presence of God.

Let me read you one more; this one took place in 1949 (within the lifetime of a number in this room) on the Isle of Lewis, the largest island just off the outer Hebrides. Duncan Campbell was the man that God used to preach in that revival.

It was said that, after he preached on this particular occasion, "a solemn hush came over the church. The service closed in the tense silence, and the building emptied." Now, before I continue reading this, let me just ask, what's it like at the end of most of our services?

I mean, all of a sudden, is anybody thinking about the sermon, is anybody thinking about the service? Maybe in your church they do . . . maybe in some churches. But how often do we just all of sudden, it's on to who's playing what game that afternoon, who's going to whose house, what we're having for lunch, what we're doing next week. 

I mean, enjoying each others' company, but this was so different! So the service closed, the building emptied and the entire congregation was lingering outside, reluctant to disperse. Others had joined them, drawn from their homes (people who hadn't been in church) by an irresistible power they had not experienced before. Where did they go? They came to the church.

There were looks of deep distress on many faces. The awful presence of God brought a wave of conviction of sin that caused even mature Christians to feel their sinfulness, bringing groans of distress and prayers of repentance from the unconverted.

Strong men were bowed under the weight of sin, and cries for mercy were mingled with shouts of joy from others who passed into life.3 

Now I would say, that's worth going to church for! That's what happens when the presence of God comes down.

Do you believe this kind of thing could happen today? What would it be like, what might it be like if God visited His people? If His manifest presence came down and showed up powerfully in your life, in your family, in your church?

What difference would that make in our world? What difference would it make among the nations, among those who oppose God? Then, we have to ask, do we really want the presence of God? Are we willing to receive the results of His presence in our lives, in our circumstances?

Sometimes I think it's more comfortable to live in the realm of what's normal, what's natural, rather than to launch out into the depths of His supernatural life. Because, you see, the presence of God upsets the status quo. 

Like an earthquake, it drastically alters the landscape; like a fire, it burns everything that is temporal or contaminated. I think sometimes we may shrink back from the implications of God coming down and visiting us with His presence.

We're afraid it might be uncomfortable; it might push us out of our comfort zones. What would change? What would it cost us? What adjustments would we have to make? What would get exposed in the light of His presence that we've been able to keep secret and hidden until now?

Then there are those who doubt that it really is possible. That's why I love reading these stories. I've been reading them since I was a young girl—the stories of how God moved in times past—and that's what gives me faith to believe He really could do it again.

Some are ambivalent. They're satisfied with things as they are; they don't feel the need for anything more. But I'm telling you, I believe that deep in the heart of every true child of God, somewhere is that longing to see God rend the heavens and come down . . . to visit us with His presence!

So is that your desire? I know it can be scary. I know sometimes we think we'd just like to keep business as usual, church as normal. It's a little scary to think of what might happen if God really did come down.

But, is there that desire in your heart for God to rend the heavens and come down? If so, ask Him for it. Cry out. Say, "Oh, oh, oh, come down Lord Jesus! Visit us. Manifest Your presence and Your power. Remove mountains that stand in Your way. We can't live without Your presence any longer, so regardless of what it costs, that's what we want."

Will you be one of those who say, "Lord, come down. Come and visit us!" The Lord will hear those cries and, in His way and in His time, I believe we will see Him come down.

Leslie: Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has been showing us what happens when God answers the cries of His people. It’s part of a series she’s been teaching through all this week called, “A Cry for Revival.” If you missed any part of the series, go to ReviveOurHearts.com to listen to the audio or read the transcript of previous programs.

Well, in a little over a month, Nancy will be in Indianapolis for True Woman ’18. It’s the ten-year anniversary of the first True Woman conference, and you don’t want to miss it! Conference tickets have already sold out, but it’s not too late to join us. You can participate through the True Woman ’18 livestream on September 27–29. There’s no cost to register, and it will be available in both English and Spanish.

This year the English livestream will be hosted, giving you a taste of what it’s like to be there in person. We’ll take you behind the scenes and introduce you to attendees, musicians, and speakers such as Jackie Hill Perry and Mary Kassian. You can host your own True Woman event right in your home or church and share this experience with other women. Get all the details you need to register for the free livestream by visiting ReviveOurHearts.com.

It's easy to look out into the world and see a bunch of other people who could use revival. But when we get honest and pray for genuine revival, we are always struck with our own need. Nancy will show us the power of humble prayer tomorrow.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants you to draw near to God in prayer. It's an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

1 W. Vernon Higham, The Turn of the Tide (Cardiff, Wales: The Heath Trust; Wheaton, Illinois: International Awakening Press, 1995), 69. (four sermons on Isaiah 62–64).

2 Higham, p. 50–51.

3 Higham, p. 39.

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