The Impact Of God’s Presence In Revival
Lessons From The Welsh Revivals (Part 3)
By Aeron Morgan
So, what takes place when "God comes down"?
1) Defiant Mountains of Resistance Flow Down
Like the impact of God descending on Sinai, when the mountain "quaked greatly" (Ex. 19:10-18) all resistance is vanquished. The prophet Micah also saw the Lord coming forth threateningly, saying, "For behold, the Lord is coming out of His place, and will come down and tread upon the high places of the earth. And the mountains will melt under Him, and the valleys will split open, like wax before the fire, like waters poured down a steep place" (Mic. 1:3-4).
That is the description of God coming in His judicial might.
The context in Isaiah 64, of course, is also one of judgment, God coming to deal with enemies who seemed to be unrelenting, so that He might vindicate on the behalf of His people. The desire is that God would come in His marvelous providence, manifesting Himself both to His people and for them, in their behalf – not in judgment but in restoration.
For our present thoughts on revival it is the principle that is taken from this, so as to see God coming down to His church and for His church, not in judgment but that she might be recovered from the desolate place she has been in. Mountains represent what is solid and strong on the face of the earth, things that seem so unflinching and persistent; and so imposing it appears nothing can change their situation. I admit I have wept as I have pondered if there is a way back for the church, a church that seems to have gone so far astray from the "old paths" of truth and righteousness (Jer. 6:16). However, Isaiah encourages me to believe for such "mountains" to flow down at His presence, at least at the local church level. I believe we can know the blessedness of spiritual renewal in our local fellowships, whatever may be taking place elsewhere. It is God’s prerogative as to what He might do in His sovereign purpose beyond what is local, as in past times of revival when He touched the entire nation.
I am sure that Evan Roberts did not fully anticipate what God would do so powerfully throughout the Principality, and well beyond, when God came down at his home church, Moriah Chapel in Loughor, South Wales. He was twenty-five years old when the 1904 Revival broke out in that small Welsh community. It must be said that as a boy he was unusually serious and very diligent in his Christian life, daily attending the Chapel. It is worthy of note that he believed emphatically, and proclaimed fearlessly, his faith in the inerrancy and inviolability of God’s holy Word. All his service was built upon this elevated understanding of divine truth. The Bible had been his inseparable companion since early childhood days. It was not surprising that even at 13 years of age he began to develop a heart for a visitation from God. He later wrote, "I said to myself: I will have the Spirit. And through all weathers and in spite of all difficulties I went to the meetings...for ten or eleven years I have prayed for revival. I could sit up all night to read or talk about revivals. It was the Spirit who moved me to think about revival."
And God does come in answer to prayer! What He did for and through young Evan Roberts, He can do today – with the mountains of apathy, unfaithfulness and general barrenness; mountains of superficiality and worldly compromise among us in the church, all needing to be urgently addressed. God alone knows how deeply entrenched are the inroads of idolatrous sin and corruption in our societies at this time. But as surely as God "came down" so mightily in times past, He can come yet again into our current situation: into our lives, homes, churches, communities, and even our nation, and bring about the needed change so that HE might be glorified. Nothing abides His all-consuming presence! Well might we pray – "O God, come down!" It is the only answer.
2) God’s Name Becomes Known to All
"...to make Thy name known to Thine adversaries..." (Isa. 64:2).
His "name" represents the sum of all of His glorious perfections – that is, all that He is.
First of all, we must recognize that it is time for the church itself to come to a true knowledge of God. This means that God’s servants must not fail to constantly reveal some measure of His glory through sound expository teaching and preaching; that which magnifies His greatness, supremacy and sovereignty. We must know God for who He IS and not be sufficed with mere "notions" concerning Him, whether such notions are the product of how He is enunciated from shallow pulpit preaching or (God forbid) the invention of our own deficient imagining.
I concur with John Piper’s assessment of things in the church today, when he says, "Our people are starving for the greatness of God. Our people need to hear ‘God-entranced preaching!’" Preaching that does not have the aroma of God’s greatness may entertain for a season, but inevitably it will fail to satisfy the heart’s cry to see God’s glory. Seeing God in His awesome splendor has to start in the church. Then we must believingly pray to behold Him arise in His majesty and might and see conditions changed and lives transformed.
We must get it right about the God we profess to know and serve. Yes, God IS with us – and may we never deny nor despise "the day of small things" (Zech. 4:10). But, oh for that revelation of God, first to us as His people, and then to see our communities impacted through us as we faithfully make known His excellences in our Gospel witness. Programs originating in the minds of men, with their presentations that merely inflate the human ego, will never achieve that. God’s manifest presence alone will prove sufficient to confront and conquer those sinister forces that are at work in shaping our society! And NO adversary can stand before HIM when He "comes down" in His glory.
What must never be forgotten is the fact that revival must be fervently sought, and must primarily stem from a passion for the honor of His name. It is the answer to our prayer, as Jesus taught us to pray: "Hallowed be Thy name!" Or, to paraphrase it, "Let Thy name be celebrated, venerated, and esteemed as holy everywhere, and receive from all people proper honor." It is not without significance that this is the first element in the Lord’s Prayer, and all that follows is grounded in the revelation of who God the Father is, the Holy One in whom essential and moral perfection is inherently found. He Himself must be glorified, held everywhere in proper adoring reverence! God Himself insists: "Thus will I magnify Myself, and sanctify Myself; and I will be known in the eyes of many nations, and they shall know that I am the Lord" (Ezek. 38:23; cf. Isa. 37:20).
This is what is apparent in times of spiritual awakening. It was so in the Welsh Revivals. All reports uniformly tell of churches everywhere not only aflame with passionate religious enthusiasm but the fact that this derived from an incredible unveiling of the majesty of God in their midst, and the indisputable signs of His matchless grace being poured forth on the people.
It is worth noting that the 1904 Revival reached almost every nook and corner of the Principality – whilst the ministry of Evan Roberts, whom God used mightily, was, with little exception exercised within only one of its counties at that time. Revival fires burned brightly in places God’s servant did not visit, and, in other places he was invited, the fire was already burning before he arrived.
It was NOT man; it was GOD – and God in His glory and for His own honor "coming down." The disgusting lauding of men in our times – men who profess to be "specially anointed" for the claimed but false "revivals" of the past couple of decades, and thus blasphemously celebrated like Hollywood stars – must be utterly grievous to the blessed Holy Spirit!
3) A Shaking Takes Place of Extraordinary Extent
"...that the nations may tremble at Thy presence" (Isa. 64:2).
The cynical challenge put before the church by the world today is, "Where is your God?" (Psa. 42:3). When David was confronted by that question, he said that such mocking provocation was "like a sword in my bones" (Psa. 42:10). But, today, WHO CARES that the godless seem to be at the helm, dictating even to the church with their utter disregard for God and His righteous law (Psa. 2:1-3). And things are predicted to get even worse! Who knows that with the increasing apostatizing evident around us we might well experience severer persecution – even from within the ranks of Christendom – because of our love for and faithfulness to the Truth, and our stern refusal to compromise? There are churches and leaders who want to sink differences, stress the points on which they are agreed, and unite – a unity based on compromise not conviction, one that is organizational and not organic. Such an ecumenical hotchpotch disturbs no devils, embarrasses no government, and will never cause our decaying generation to sit up and take note of GOD Almighty. It is the whore of Revelation 17 and 18. How fearful the description: "...the habitation of devils...and the hold of every foul spirit...a cage of every unclean and hateful bird...For all nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication" (Rev. 18:2-3).
We need revival, to save churches and leaders from being partakers of her sins and of the plagues she will suffer in end-time judgment (vv. 3-8). In one hour she is going to be made desolate (v. 19).
After all is said and done, our task is not to patronize our society but to confront it with GOD, and with His holy, infallible, and unbending law; to proclaim a pure and uncompromised Gospel of grace, so as to see souls turned from the very jaws of hell. And that can only be accomplished by a restored and renewed church, true and righteous and holy. Unless we see the return of the true fear of the Lord in our churches, we will not see it in the streets of our towns and cities, or in the seats of our governments.
Dr. Eifion Evans, in a published lecture he gave in 1960 on Revivals, said that "...the revivals of the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries came to an apostate, declining, expiring church, while those of the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries took place against the background of a dormant, listless, and unconcerned church. The former situation witnessed the emergence of particular, leading doctrines and outstanding figures, while the latter situation was radically altered by invigorated prayer together with a return to the apostolic preaching of the whole counsel of God."
In a day when there appears to be a fever for the spectacular, the quest for what is showy, sensational and sensual, we need to be reminded that all true revivals reveal God consistently using the ordinary means of grace to procure and promote revival – fervent prayer and the faithful preaching of the Word of God, just as Dr. Evans clearly recounted. He went on to say that when the churches had been thus led to pray, the preaching of the Word became more powerful, and the substantial truths of the Gospel, presented plainly and earnestly, and applied closely and personally, were signally used to the recovery of multitudes of men.
Our lands are filled with darkness, but precious souls are not beyond the reach of divine grace. Joel saw them, "Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision: for the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision" (Joel 3:14); tumultuous masses droving blindly onward to their own destruction. Yet the church does not seem to care, being so taken up with itself, complacently content with its reputation and riches and human resources – its "Laodicean" religion and its corrupt pretense at worship. Could it be some even deem the situation beyond recovery, or perhaps are baulked by the personal cost involved in doing something to resolve the situation?
As I review the works of God in the great revivals of the past, I clearly see that while such hopeless moral and spiritual chaos prevailed in a locality and in a nation, God "came down" in His sovereign grace and divine pity to "bring a clean thing out of an unclean" (Job 14:4) far beyond human competence or contrivance. David Matthews tells of what took place when God came down:
"Down in the bowels of the earth, miners not only discussed the services but actually sang boisterously the grand old hymns taught them in their childhood and almost forgotten through sin. Everything sprang into new life. Former blasphemers were the most eloquent, both in prayer and praise. These men appeared to be making up for lost time – "the years that the locust hath eaten" (Joel 2:25). Drunkards forgot the way to the saloons, which in fact were empty in a few nights. All the former inebriates were worshipping.... It was the young people who responded with greatest eagerness to the searching challenge of absolute surrender and consecration to the service of the Lord. Wherever they went, the very air became vibrant with songs of praise."
Can God do it again? Of course He can! Well, end times are upon us! The day of grace hastens to its close. We desperately need God to "come down," for with His dreadful presence alone will we see a nation tremble before Him, and sinners brought to Him in true repentance and saving faith! IF we do not see GOD come down in spiritual renewal, then our nations will be left to His coming down in severe retribution, that which is solemnly predicted in Revelation. Swiftly they will come to naught. Does not this stir us to seek the Lord?
4) Awesome Things Occur by God’s Sovereignty
"...You did terrible things that we did not look for..." (Isa. 64:3).
It seems that in genuine revivals, God’s coming to His church always carries with it "the unexpected," the amazing, that which is truly awesome. I do not mean the bizarre! His holiness precludes that. But everything now appears to be so predictable. The spontaneity of Spirit-controlled gatherings is rare, for everything is directed and orchestrated to follow out some plan. The "dummy run" during the week before the Sunday services, and the "polishing" of the music program, is all to secure effectiveness. Amateurs are trying to be professional – as if God is interested in our slick, sophisticated presentations!
There has never been so much talk of "the anointing" and yet never so little of its true experience and dynamic expression. The vain profession to such renewal and fullness of the Holy Spirit is such an insult to the true character, power and objectives of Pentecost. What A. W. Tozer had to say about conditions in the church half a century ago is just as relevant today:
"How empty and meaningless is the average church service today...the form of godliness is there, and often the form is perfected till it is an aesthetic triumph. Music and poetry, art and oratory, symbolic vesture and solemn tones combine to charm the minds of the worshipper; but too often the supernatural afflatus is not there...In the average service the most real thing is the shadowy unreality of everything."
Please do not brush that off, as though it applied only to (what we might call) the mainline denominational churches; it well describes a lot of the neo-Pentecostal scene. O, God help us!
Ah, in those times of true spiritual renewal, holy men, by any Scriptural measure, when confronted by the Holy One were overpowered within their own beings, smitten as with a sword, and often prostrated in awe before Him; for no flesh can abide, let alone glory, in His presence. God was never familiar; and gatherings never an entertainment. Maybe this is why we have few who will "stir themselves to lay hold of God" (Isa. 64:7) to plead for Him to truly "rend the heavens and come down." It is too terrible! But there is no other answer to our need. O God, please come down!
Will you consider the present desperate situation, generally speaking and seek the Lord as never before? This is a challenge to the whole church today. It is crucial. We must have revival, and if we seek the Lord I dare to believe He will "rend the heavens and come down." But there is a price to pay.
– Used by permission. Aeron Morgan is originally from Wales and has pastored churches in the United Kingdom and in Australia, where he now resides. He serves as an itinerant minister in many countries.