Revival Under Ezra: Embracing Brokenness
By Mark D. Partin
“When these things were done, the leaders came to me, saying, ‘The people of Israel and the priests and the Levites have not separated themselves from the peoples of the lands, with respect to the abominations of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and the Amorites. For they have taken some of their daughters as wives for themselves and their sons, so that the holy seed is mixed with the peoples of those lands. Indeed, the hand of the leaders and rulers has been foremost in this trespass.’ So when I heard this thing, I tore my garment and my robe, and plucked out some of the hair of my head and beard, and sat down astonished. Then everyone who trembled at the words of the God of Israel assembled to me, because of the transgression of those who had been carried away captive, and I sat astonished until the evening sacrifice.
“At the evening sacrifice I arose from my fasting; and having torn my garment and my robe, I fell on my knees and spread out my hands to the Lord my God. And I said: ‘O my God, I am too ashamed and humiliated to lift up my face to You, my God; for our iniquities have risen higher than our heads, and our guilt has grown up to the heavens. Since the days of our fathers to this day we have been very guilty, and for our iniquities we, our kings, and our priests have been delivered into the hand of the kings of the lands, to the sword, to captivity, to plunder, and to humiliation, as it is this day. And now for a little while grace has been shown from the Lord our God, to leave us a remnant to escape, and to give us a peg in His holy place, that our God may enlighten our eyes and give us a measure of revival in our bondage. For we were slaves. Yet our God did not forsake us in our bondage; but He extended mercy to us in the sight of the kings of Persia, to revive us, to repair the house of our God, to rebuild its ruins, and to give us a wall in Judah and Jerusalem. And now, O our God, what shall we say after this? For we have forsaken Your commandments’” (Ezra 9:1-10).
Every person has an inborn determination to control his or her life. We want to be our own boss. But to experience revival, we must surrender to Christ, coming to Him on the terms that God’s Word lays out for us. We yield our lives to Him. We learn to live the cross-style life; the crucified life. We learn to embrace the Cross, embrace brokenness.
Roy Hession, a twentieth-century British preacher who embraced the need for repentance, said, “To be broken is the beginning of revival. It is painful, it is humiliating, but it is the only way.” Although brokenness is humiliating, God draws near to those who have a broken and contrite heart (Isa. 57:15).
True brokenness is not a feeling or an emotion, although God does move on our emotions. Brokenness is not merely intellectual, but God does move on our intellect. Brokenness is not a sense of being wounded, although we may have been wounded. Brokenness is a constant awareness of our God-neediness. True brokenness requires a choice, an act of the will, as we respond to what God has done in our intellect and emotions. Brokenness is not a one-time choice, but an ongoing way of life. It is absolute surrender to the will of God. It is the stripping of all self: self-will, self-reliance, self-confidence, and selfishness. Only in brokenness can a person know and experience true revival. God allows us to go through intense seasons of brokenness to make us totally dependent on Christ. We will not meet God in revival until we meet Him in brokenness.
By the time of Ezra 9, God’s people had already experienced great revival. The problem was they stopped. They backslid; they disobeyed the law of God. Ezra took the burden of his people’s sins and came before God with honest confession. He was ashamed and humiliated. He was broken.
Why? Ezra had not committed these sins, but he was a vessel of the Lord. He had been captured by the Lord, so he became totally broken. Ezra 8:22-23 tells of his testimony to the king. After fasting, humbling himself, and seeking God, Ezra said, “The hand of our God is upon all those who for good seek Him.” To have God’s hand on your life is to be captured by God, and then you surrender your will to His will.
Brokenness requires God’s initiative and our response. God used three things to bring Ezra and Israel to brokenness. He used other believers (Ezra 9:1), and they named their sin. God used His revealed Word, and the people trembled at the words of God (v. 4). God used the circumstances of captivity and plunder (vv. 6-7). When Ezra explained the seriousness of their sin and their circumstances, the people responded to God.
When was the last time you responded publicly to the Word of God? When was the last time you trembled at the Word of God? When was the last time you were embarrassed by church people’s sin? When was the last time you were so captured by God that the sin of the church drove you to pray? When was the last time you heard honest, public confession of sin? When was the last time you confessed anything publicly?
Once during a time of revival, a lady came forward and the minister asked her what she needed. She told him she needed prayer for a physical condition. As he talked with her, he said, “You have a judgmental and critical spirit.”
I was standing next to him when he said that, and my eyes widened with surprise. I waited to see her response. She seemed unfazed. The three of us prayed, and she returned to her seat. Little did I know how God used those few words to initiate brokenness in her life. This is what she said:
“I left the church that night, more miserable than ever. I actually became angry and offended as I thought about what had been said. My critical spirit was certainly a reality now. The Holy Spirit was revealing my pride and selfishness finally to me. I prayed all night. I began to see myself through God’s eyes. I could see how badly I was breaking my Savior’s heart and delaying fulfillment of His will for my life. I began to cry and purge all self-centered idolatry. The view of myself through God’s eyes literally made me vomit. I was finally free. Finally, I could see what God was doing in my life. God had to initiate brokenness in my life and I had to yield to Him in order for Him to prepare me for future service.
“Brokenness gave me an entirely new perspective. I had a new perspective about God, my loving Heavenly Father, and I had a new perspective for my life. Before brokenness, I had an attitude of self-centeredness, self-reliance, and self-righteousness. I was miserable on the inside, but to the world I appeared successful in every way. Pride was definitely a stronghold on my life. It was only as I asked others to pray for me that I was able to totally surrender that area of my life to God. Yet that area controlled all the other areas. Hallelujah I am free!”
The greatest hindrance to revival is not other people who refuse to humble themselves, but our refusal to humble ourselves and confess our need to God. You will not meet God in revival until you meet Him in brokenness. (See Isaiah 57:15; John 12:24-25; Philippians 2:3-4; and James 4:8-10.)
Scriptural Prayer for Revival
O Lord, Your people need revival; revive us again. Father, show me what it means to separate myself from the world and its ways. Teach me true surrender to You (Ezra 9:1).
Show me the last time I was moved to astonishment over sin, my sin, and over my church’s sin. Teach me, Lord, how to give You control of my life, my time, my thoughts, my finances, my family. Lord, tomorrow teach me to do it again, afresh. May I be broken; let remorse and sorrow be evident in my life, just as it was in Ezra’s life (v. 3).
Father, let me tremble at Your Word. Let conviction flow forth (v. 4). Capture me for Your glory, just as You did with Ezra. Let me know purity – purity of speech, thoughts, and lifestyle. Let me take every thought captive unto Your glory. Teach me to fall on my knees before You, and to raise my hands in honor and out of my emptiness before You. O Lord, I need You (vv. 5-6).
Show me my sin. Burden me over it. Let brokenness manifest itself in me. Break down the strongholds of pride, greed, and lust. Wash me, Lord. Let me see my own humiliation (v. 6).
Burden me for the condition of the church, Your bride. O Lord, she is to be without spot or blemish. Purify Your church; send revival to Your church. Father, enlighten my eyes so I can know Your way and have discernment, so Your church can see (v. 8).
O God, give us revival at any cost. Do not forsake us in our bondage. I surrender to You. Break me unto Your glory. Revive me, and extend mercy to me (v. 9). …Revive us, Lord. In Jesus’ name, amen.
– Taken from Praying with Fire by Mark D. Partin. Copyright © 2013. Used by permission of PrayerShop Publishing. www.prayershop.org