Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Zechariah's Hymn, Day 10

Leslie Basham: Today we don’t just celebrate another holiday. Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth reminds us that the incarnation is an amazing event.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: God became a man. He put on human flesh. It’s a miracle. It’s a wonder. It’s a marvel. We can’t understand it, but we believe it. And it is the basis for our faith—that God put on flesh and came to this earth. He has visited us.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth. Merry Christmas.

What an honor, to be visited by Jesus! First-century Palestine blew their chance to welcome this special Guest, and He had to sleep in a barn. We would never do something like that, would we? Before you answer too quickly, consider today's teaching from Nancy.

Nancy: Over the last two weeks, we’ve been looking at a wonderful passage. It’s one of my new favorite passages in God’s Word, from Luke chapter 1—the hymn or benediction of Zechariah as he prophesies of the coming of Christ to this earth, and what it will mean, what it did mean in those days, what it means for all of us.

We’ve been looking at these great themes of redemption and salvation and deliverance. We’ve seen in this series that there’s a past sense, a present sense, and a future sense in which we experience God’s salvation and His redemption. And now, as we’ve talked in the last day or so about the visitation of God, the same thing is true.

We read the last portion of this passage yesterday, and we talked about the sunrise that will “visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death” (vv. 78-79). There’s a past tense in which God has visited us. He did that when He sent Christ to earth, the incarnation of Christ, which simply means that God became a man. He put on human flesh. It’s a miracle. It’s a wonder. It’s a marvel. We can’t understand it, but we believe it. And it’s the basis for our faith—that God put on flesh and came to this earth. He has visited us.

That’s why Zechariah says in the beginning of this song, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited . . . his people” (v. 68). Christ has come to earth. That’s not only a historical fact; it’s a great theological truth because of why He came and what He came to do and what He did while He was here on this earth.

But there’s also a future sense in which God will one day visit us again in the return of Christ. We await a yet future visitation of God to this planet.

As I thought about that future visitation, a passage just came to mind from The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Do you remember this? It says,

Wrong will be right when Aslan comes in sight, 
At the sound of his roar sorrows will be no more, 
When he bares his teeth, winter meets its death, 
And when he shakes his mane, we shall have spring again.1

I thought of that passage as I thought about the day coming when the great Lion of the tribe of Judah will come and visit us in might and in glory. Not in a manger this time, not in humility, but in glory and in triumph and noonday bright light He will visit.

That gives hope to the darkest of days, the dinginess of the dawn between now and then. We keep that hope deep in our hearts, and we know it will happen. We don’t know when, but we know that He will one day visit us again.

But I want to talk today about the intervening period between the first visitation in the incarnation at the first Christmas, and the future visitation when Christ comes as our glorious reigning King to reign forever and ever. In the intervening period of time, there is a sense in which God (present tense) visits His people, and in which we can experience those divine visitations of God’s presence in what historians often call revival.

Revival can happen in an individual heart, or it can happen in a whole bunch of hearts at the same time. When it’s a whole bunch of hearts at the same time, that corporate sense of revival is what historians have often called “Great Awakenings.”

You read about that in the days of Whitfield and Wesley in the 1800s, as God stirred in an extraordinary way, visiting whole nations, whole pockets, whole peoples with an awesome sense of His presence that changed everything around.

I want to talk in this last session, as we conclude this series on Zechariah, about God’s visitations and some principles that apply in general to His visitations past, present, and future. But I want to make specific application to God’s visitations in revival that we can experience in these days.

First of all, as we mentioned yesterday, God’s visitation is supernatural. It’s not something we can manufacture. You can’t put a date on the calendar as we sometimes do in the South and say, “We’ll have a revival next week.” We may have revival meetings, but God is the One who determines when to send revival, when to visit us from on high. It comes from on high.

Then, the visitation of God in revival is not an experience. It’s not ultimately an emotional something happening. It’s not ultimately teaching or principles or programs. The visitation of God in revival is Christ. It’s a Person.

It’s a fresh realization of His presence, His reign in our lives. He is the “sunrise from on high.” He is the “horn of salvation.” So as we pray for God to visit us in revival, we’re praying for a fresh awareness of Christ in our midst; “Christ in [us], the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27). Revival, God’s visitation, is a person.

When God visits us in the person of Christ in seasons of revival things are exposed. One of the invariable marks of revival is that God sends deep conviction of sin. Things that never bothered us before now become something we cannot bear to live with.

I read an excerpt recently of the biography of Jonathan Goforth—he was a missionary to China—and the revival that they experienced in one of the provinces in China where he ministered. Let me read what was written about that experience. It says,

An opportunity was then given for prayer and thereupon ensued such a scene as never before had I seen, nor again do I expect to see. A man started to pray, but had not said more than a half a dozen words when another, then another joined in, and in a moment the whole company was crying aloud to God for mercy.

Nothing in my mind can more fitly describe the scene than to compare it to the suddenness and violence of a thunderstorm. It starts with the patter of a few heavy drops, then comes the downpour lasting half an hour or so. But while it lasts how terrible it is. So it is here with this storm of prayer. It started with the one or two. Then came the burst from many hearts—all the pent-up emotions long held in check. There was no restraining it, and no attempting to do so.

Men crowded to the front to make confession . . . weeping in the presence of others because they had been in the presence of God and His light had revealed them to themselves.

“The sunrise shall visit us from on high,” turning on the light, dispelling and dissipating the darkness.

Then let me say that the visitations of God among His people can be missed and generally are missed by most. That’s a tragic thought. It’s an amazing thought that the sunrise should come up and most people don’t catch it.

But you know, when the sunrise comes up in the morning (the literal sun), most people don’t catch it. Most people are still asleep. They’re in their house. They’re not watching the sunrise.

So it is when Christ comes to visit us in seasons of revival. Not all see it, and not all that see it receive it. For some of us, that’s because we’ve got these little theological boxes that God has to fit into, and if He doesn’t do it the way we’re accustomed to, then we get nervous and say, “That can’t be of God.”

Now, we need to be discerning because everything that says it’s of God isn’t necessarily of God. That would be another whole series. But it is possible to miss or dismiss the visitation of God.

I’m afraid that in our day, if God were to come in true revival once again, many of our most sound, evangelical, Bible preaching churches might write it off or might totally miss it. You know why? Because we’re not looking for it. We’re not expecting it. We’re not longing for it. We’re not waiting for it.

That word wept is not like he was just crying softly. It’s a deep, inner gushing of weeping. It’s sobbing. He sobbed over the sunrise who had come to visit us from on high; he looked over the city of his people, and he wept.

He [Jesus] sobbed and said, “You did not know [recognize] the time of your visitation” (Luke 19:44). You missed the sunrise. Don’t miss the time of His visitation. Say, “Oh, Lord, open my eyes, open my ears, open my heart. Help me to know. Help me to discern. Help me to receive when You are moving, when You are rising as a sunrise in my heart, when You want to revive my heart in a fresh way.

“Lord, help me not to miss it. Help me to recognize when You are coming to deal with my life in a fresh way, or when You’re coming to deal with my family or the church family or this nation in a fresh way. Lord, help me to recognize the time of Your visitation.”

The visitation of God in revival is unlike anything any of us has ever experienced before. And it’s always worth the wait. It’s worth the wait!

I want to close this series on the divine visitations of God by giving you some glimpses of what it’s like when God visits His people. The first two are taken from one of those divine moments when God visited His people in 1904 and 1905, in what has come to be known as the Welsh Revival.

Some time ago on Revive Our Hearts, we aired a whole series on the 100th anniversary of the Welsh Revival. You can order that CD. It’s really worth listening to—some great, great stories of what it’s like when God moves. That series is called “The 1904 Welsh Revival.”

But let me read to you a brief account of a portion of that revival from a man named R. B. Jones, who was an eye witness of the 1904 revival in Wales. He said,

If one were asked to describe in a word the outstanding features of those days, one would unhesitatingly reply that it was the universal, inescapable sense of the presence of God. . . . The Lord had come down. . . . In the revival gatherings . . . in the homes, on the streets, in the mines and factories, in the schools . . . wherever people gathered became a place of awe, and places of amusement and carousal were practically emptied.

That revival crossed the ocean, and God moved in a great way here, in some parts of this country. We’ve quoted this here on Revive Our Hearts, but it just struck me again. It’s one of my favorite illustrations of the visitation from on high.

The front page top headlines of the Denver Post January 20, 1905, read this way: “Entire City Pauses for Prayer at the High Tide of Business as the Soul Rises Above Sordid Thoughts.” That was the headline.

Here’s how that article began. It said, "For two hours at midday all Denver was held in a spell. The marts of trade were deserted between noon and two o’clock this afternoon.” By the way, in those days the different stores took a covenant together that they would close between noon and 2:00 so people could go to the prayer meetings. This was a great prayer revival.

It says in this article,

All worldly affairs were forgotten and the entire city was given over to meditation on higher things. The Spirit of the Almighty pervaded every nook. Going to and coming from the great meetings, the . . . men and women radiated His Spirit which filled them. And the clear Colorado sunshine was made brighter by the reflected glow of the light of God shining from happy faces.

Does that sound a little bit like what we read in Luke 1? “The sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness.” God has visited His people. The sunrise shall visit us from on high.

Now, you may hear some of those accounts and wonder, “Yes, but does God do that kind of thing today? Does God still visit His people in times of revival? Or is that just something that happened in the old days?” Well, there are parts of the world today and within the past hundred years that have experienced those divine visitations.

I’ve been privileged to see glimpses of God’s glory, glimpses of that visitation from on high, as I’ve had the privilege of serving with Life Action Ministries, the parent ministry of Revive Our Hearts. I’ve seen God visit individual hearts and homes and churches all across this country, as the four teams that are a part of this ministry have gone and taken the message of Christ’s visitation into churches all across this country.

I want to read to you just some reports that have come in the last months of churches that have met with God and experienced a touch of God’s visitation. These are not such that historians would call them “Great Awakenings.” I don’t know that I’d call this Revival. But it’s a glimpse of the glory, the visitation of God.

One of our teams wrote about a church where they had just spent a couple weeks in extended ministry. The church had been praying earnestly for weeks leading up to these meetings. The hearts of people were prepared and tender. They said testimonies went on and on as people shared what God was doing in their hearts. This report was about one particular testimony service, and here are just some of the details that were shared:

  • Two ladies, one who worked with youth and the other whose husband was a trustee, confessed that they had recently thought about leaving their husbands.

These are women who are in leadership in the church getting honest about the true condition of their lives and their marriages.

  • Men stood and confessed their lack of leadership in the home, asking forgiveness from their wives and children.
  • A mentally handicapped child who had been molested by his father and the now bitter mother both came to glorious freedom and forgiveness.
  • Two teen girls confessed their waywardness and their need for help.
  • One older man stood and said he knew God but had not been convicted by God and didn’t sense the Holy Spirit working in his life. Men came to lay hands on him and pray for him.
  • The biggest impact was probably a man who had a former leadership position in this church, but he left the church a year ago when his family fell apart. He and his wife were divorced (she was our meal coordinator, the team said, for the weeks we were at the church).

The man left his job and became a bum on the streets. He came back to the church this past week for the first time in a year. Last night he stood and confessed his sin and his failure as a husband and as a father and sought the church’s forgiveness. Again the pastor and other leaders surrounded him and prayed for healing. By this time much of the church was in tears. Much body life and reconciliation—a glorious night.

The pastor has already told us that they feel as though the Lord wants them to meet as a church on a daily basis as they have been doing for the past six weeks now. They want prayer and the Word to become a daily part of their life. He said yesterday that for the first time in his life he goes around and finds himself speechless in the light of “God.”

“The sunrise shall visit us from on high.”

He said he doesn’t know how to describe what’s happening to him and the church other than to say, "It’s God. It’s God.”

A pastor wrote us recently; his church had just concluded one of the meetings with our team. He said,

These meetings went for ten days . . . two-and-a-half-hour services at night . . . and our people wanted more. God was here. He met with us. We saw pagans get saved. We saw "Christians" get saved (imagine that!). We saw many, many believers openly repent, confess, get things right with others, etc.

One of our teens openly confessed smoking marijuana. Her open repentance broke our teens. Men openly confessed their addiction to pornography. Women forgave those who abused them as children. Men confessed their failure to pray with their wives. It was glorious.

“The sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness.” This pastor says,

Our final service last night went for three hours. The people wouldn’t stop testifying. Two nights ago they just lingered after the service. We couldn’t get them to go home. This is the closest thing to real revival we have ever seen.

Our team didn’t take revival to those churches. God brought revival to those churches. “The sunrise from on high shall visit us.” God visited His people, and our teams were just a channel, just an instrument that God used to let these people know about the sunrise from on high.

Oh how desperately we need a fresh visitation in our day of the horn of salvation, a visitation from the sunrise from on high! Are you desperate for that?

As you think about your life, as you think about your family, as you think about your work environment, as you think about your church—are you desperate for a fresh visitation of the sunrise from on high, a fresh visitation of the presence of Christ in your church?

Are people repenting? Are they being reconciled? Are they being transparent? Are they being honest? Or are you doing what so many people and churches do, just going about day after day, year after year, business as usual?

Are you desperate for something fresh? Are you desperate? Are you longing? Are you waiting? Are you praying? Oh, that we might reach the point where we say, “Lord, we can’t go on without You! We long for, we pray for, we plead for a visitation of the sunrise from on high.”

We have the promise of God’s Word. Because of the tender mercy of our God, "the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness."

Leslie: Today’s teaching from Nancy wraps up a series called, Zechariah's Hymn.

If you’ve missed any of it, you can hear the whole series at Revive Our Hearts.com. Zechariah is an easily-forgotten-about character in the Christmas story. But this study has been rich and meaningful. And listening to more of it would enrich your Christmas celebration. Again you can hear it at ReviveOurHearts.com. On Monday we’ll hear from Dr. Russell Moore. He’ll show us how the life of Mary has a lot of practical implications for women today.

Russell Moore: One of the unique ways that Satan can attack women is through the issue of fear, because a woman is created, like Eve, to be a nurturer of new life. She has all sorts of ways in which she is vulnerable. Married women, single women, all sorts of women, there are all sorts of fears that can be present in a congregation.

"I'm not married, and I'm getting older," or "I'm grapping with infertility and I'm afraid I'm going to die with no children," or "How do I know if my husband isn't going to do what my dad did with my mom and walk out? How would I manage being a single mom with these kids and I'm working two or three jobs and I don't have health insurance?"

There are all sorts of fears that are present. Part of what it means to minister to one another is reinforcing among women a sense of the sovereign protection of God; a sense of the way God knows you, He recognizes you, He is following you, goodness and mercy are chasing you. So you can be freed from the kind of fear in which you believe you are out on your own with only a man or a group of men to protect you.

Leslie: Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is from the English Standard Version.

1The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, C. S. Lewis, chapter 8 (p. 79). 

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