“And they issued a proclamation throughout Judah and Jerusalem to all the descendants of the captivity, that they must gather at Jerusalem”
Imagine a scene where the leaders of the nation call its citizens to gather at the capital with the purpose of repenting from evil and seeking the Lord. Imagine the National mall filled, not with people outraged because they feel somehow neglected or mistreated by the government but because they have realized they are guilty before God and are there to plead with Him for forgiveness. Imagine what a powerful impact a revival of that magnitude would have upon the very fabric of society. That is exactly what happened in Ezra’s day. The people realized they had turned from God and were ready to make whatever changes necessary in their lives and families to restore right relationship with God.
What strikes me about this is how it started. We read that Ezra saw the condition of the nation, fell on his face, fasted, prayed, confessed his sin and sought the Lord to bring revival to the land. He prayed, “give us a measure of revival in our bondage.” All that followed stemmed from one man crying out to God and making the necessary changes in his own life. Before a family, nation, society or culture can experience revival it must begin in the heart of an individual. It has been said if we want to see revival we need to draw a circle on the ground, step into the circle and pray for God to revive the heart of the person within the circle. When that heart is revived and that person’s life begins to honor God we are well on our way to seeing revival break out across our land.
One man wrapped in the garments of sorrow over personal sin, crying out God for forgiveness can spark a work of God that will transform the face of a nation
“Then I said, ‘I will not make mention of Him, Nor speak anymore in His name.’ But His word was in my heart like a burning fire Shut up in my bones; I was weary of holding it back, And I could not.”
Due to his experiences, Jeremiah no longer wanted to publicly declare the Word of God. His message had been ignored and rejected, and now his listeners were becoming hostile. He was mocked, ridiculed, then arrested. It is not difficult to understand why he reached a point where he thought this is simply not worth it. Scarred, scared, and perhaps somewhat embarrassed by the lack of positive response to the message, Jeremiah declares emphatically, he is done. He will leave preaching to others and find something else to do.
I have to admit, I had my share of times when I felt as Jeremiah did. In the early years of ministry, when things were growing so slowly as not to be detectable, it was easy to become discouraged. As time moved on, there were seasons when it seemed as though people were not listening. Those who have been believers for quite some time, begin to drift from the Lord, and make foolish decisions. This can be so discouraging, it leads to a desire to pack things up and call it quits.
Fortunately, God had placed His Word within Jeremiah and His Word is volatile. As it sat within the prophet, it began to burn like a flame, until he was forced to proclaim it once again. The Word of God will always work like that. When we take the time to read, study, and memorize the Word, we will find it begins to burn within us. This burning will lead to a changed life, as well as opportunities to tell others about salvation found in Christ. The more time we take to get the Word in, the more effective we will become in getting the Word out.
“Therefore my loins are filled with pain; pangs have taken hold of me, like the pangs of a woman in labor. I was distressed when I heard it; I was dismayed when I saw it. My heart wavered, fearfulness frightened me; the night for which I longed He turned into fear for me.”
Isaiah faced a season of life that filled him with pain, distress, fear and sleepless nights. This condition was brought on by the events that were taking place on the world stage. The Assyrians were mounting their forces and attempting to expand their nation into a world empire. They were known to be a particularly violent people who showed no mercy to their victims. As Isaiah heard reports of the nation’s around Judah falling victim to Assyria, he was filled with dread. This is not an uncommon experience. Watching reports of what is happening today on the national and international stage, will fill most of us with worry or perhaps even panic. While we can do very little about what is happening, we are in control of how we will respond. I think there are a few lessons we can learn from the prophet.
Isaiah called for a watchman to be set at his post. A watchman’s job was to keep his eyes on the horizon and report any and all activity, as a form of warning for the city. Ezekiel compared the role of the believer to that of a watchman, explaining that it was our job to warn the wicked of coming judgment, as a way to lead them to the Lord.
Instead of allowing the nightly news to fill us with dread, fear, and worry, we should use each report as catalyst to remind us of the need to proclaim the hope of the Gospel. Let’s be watchmen, standing on the walls and declaring to all who will listen, that Jesus loves them and desires to set them free from sin and death.
2 Chronicles 30:6
“Then the runners went throughout all Israel and Judah with the letters from the king and his leaders, and spoke according to the command of the king: ‘Children of Israel, return to the Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel; then He will return to the remnant of you who have escaped from the hand of the kings of Assyria.'”
As revival began to break out in Judah, a group of people were organized to take the message beyond their borders and reach out to the northern tribes of Israel. Their message was a simple call on the people to return to the Lord. These men, armed with the word of God and the authority of the king, were called “Runners.” This name was certainly appropriate because of the speed in which they carried the message, and distance they had to travel.
This passage is a vivid illustration of the commission Jesus gave to the church when He told us to “go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15) Throughout the history of the church, many have taken this commission seriously and followed the example of the runners, carrying the gospel beyond their comfort zone, and even outside of their own borders. I think of Philip, who was driven by persecution from Jerusalem to Samaria, where he led many to faith in Christ. Later, It was Paul and Barnabas who heard the call of God to travel to the farthest reaches of the globe with the message of salvation through faith in Christ. The story of the church, down through the ages, is always enhanced when men and woman will follow the example off the runners, and are willing to count the costs and carry the gospel beyond their borders. I am so thankful that from the earliest years of my walk with The Lord, a great emphasis was always placed upon extending beyond the church walls, to reach the world with the message of Christ. I grew up in a church that made huge investments in the kingdom of God. They sent teams around the world, and even bought facilities in foreign countries to help train men and women for the ministry.
Let’s follow the pattern of the runners and keep our eyes on the horizon, willing to give whatever it takes to reach as far as The Lord will allow. Who knows what long lasting impact we might have for the kingdom of God.
1 Chronicles 16:23
“Sing to the Lord, all the earth; proclaim the good news of His salvation from day to day.”
Over the years, I have met Christians who seem crippled by uncertainty. They struggle with every decision they make, because they don’t seem to be able to determine God’s will. It is true God has a perfect plan for our lives, and to understand it, we must get alone with Him, and listen to His still small voice. But it is equally true, God has already laid out much of His will for us in the pages of His Word. In the text before us, we learn what we should be doing with our mouths.
First, we should be singing. Privately and publicly, at home and in church, our mouths should be expressing praise to God. This praise will serve at least three vital purposes in our lives. One, It will draw us closer to God. Praise is like a gateway into the throne room of heaven. The Psalmist declared we should walk through the courts with praise. Second, praise will increase our confidence in God. Too often, we magnify our problems while neglecting to magnify the Lord. The more we focus on God, the easier it will be to handle the situations of life. Third, praise is a marvelous witnessing tool. I can remember my first encounter with Christians and being amazed by the joy they expressed as they worshipped the Lord.
David gives us a second charge. We are to use our lips not only to praise God, but also to declare the good news of salvation, every day. It is the will of God that we tell others about Christ. There are many different ways to share the message of salvation. We can straight-up share the simple message of salvation with them, and invite them to receive Christ. We can invite someone to join us at church. We can even invite them to a meal afterwards, and discuss what they just heard. We can have someone over for a meal or take them to coffee, and ask them what they think about Christ; giving ample time to carefully answer any questions they have. We can pass on copies of a Bible study, or invite them to tune into an online message. The opportunities to proclaim the good news of salvation are endless, the only question is are we taking advantage of them.
Take a moment to consider, when was the last time you declared the good news of salvation with someone? Facebook and twitter are wonderful tools, but they don’t replace the need for one-on-one conversations with others. Take a moment now to pray for someone who you will invite to church, or to sit and discuss the way of salvation with this week.