3. Reject everything contrary to God’s Word
2 Chronicles 17:6, 30:14, 31:1, 34:3-5
King Jehoshaphat was clear about the prohibition of idol worship. So had all the other kings before him that had allowed it. But in 2 Chronicles 17:6, it tells us that Jehoshaphat did something about it. The text says, “His heart was courageous in the ways of the Lord.” This courageous heart sought to obey the Lord in all things, including the destruction of the popular high places of worship and the Asherim.
For his part, King Hezekiah did similarly brave acts recorded in 2 Chronicles 30:14 and 31:1. And Josiah at the ripe young age of 20 likewise followed in the godly footsteps of these two kings (2 Chron. 34:3-5), making sure to defile the graves of the pagan priests.
We see that often times the problem isn’t knowing what the will of the Lord is or where we can find counsel in His Word. The problem so often in the church is that it lacks leaders with backbone and deep conviction of heart to risk losing everything in order to bring things into biblical alignment.
Jonathan Edwards wrote that when the Spirit began to actively sweep through New England, not only was there the fruit of godly leadership and a respect for the Word of God, but the people began to show signs of radically changed lives. Edwards described them as people who lived not for the pleasures and amusements of this world but for the breaks in between their daily work and their free time to engaged in spiritual activities. These renewed Christians prayed and read the Word together; they put aside their sinful amusements and picked up new, godly habits. Edwards wrote that hardly a conversation was had that didn’t include talk about Christ. True biblical fellowship began to sprout afresh in New England.
Our culture is saturated with filth and worldliness. But it seems that there is a massive pipeline that pumps that filth right into Christian homes. And if it comes into our homes, it is often coming into our churches. Our churches are becoming Corinthianized—adapting the church to fit into the sinful elements of our culture instead of reaching out to the sinful world we live in with the life-giving gospel of Jesus Christ.
What we need is a return to the Word. We need to realize that our too many Christians are being entertained to death. They are overwhelmed with cable TV, streaming movies, the Internet, streaming music, social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. I know that many of these social media sites can be used for good purposes (including blogging), as well as for evil. We must help our churches, and for some of us, even our own families, see what God outright rejects as, while we teach them what he expects. This begins with a reformation of the heart. Only when the heart is changed will those attractions of the world begin to lose their luster and Christ will be seen for the treasure that He truly is.
4. Restoration of true worship
2 Chronicles 29-31, 34:29-35:19
With a sense that worship needed to be restored, King Hezekiah went about the arduous task of restoring the physical house of the Lord. He knew that even though our God does not live in a house built with hands (Acts 7:48). From 2 Chronicles 29-31 Hezekiah restored the Temple so that the people of God would have a place to worship. He restored not only the physical buildings, but he reorganized the Levites and the priests so they could function as God had intended them to in their sacred positions. From the singers to the restoration of psalms for worship, to the reinstitution of offerings and Passover observances, Hezekiah filled the Temple once again with the praises of God’s people.
Between Hezekiah’s reign and King Josiah some fifty-five years had elapsed and many of the reforms that Hezekiah had overseen were undone. So, in 2 Chronicles 34:29-35:19 we see the cycle of restoration begin once again. It is said that great minds think alike, and it seems to hold true for godly minds as well. Josiah, like his predecessor Hezekiah, sought to see the repairs finished so that proper worship could once again be restored for God’s people.
For both of these kings, their mission served a dual purpose. They were driven by their love for God and their desire to see the people of God give Him the worship that He is due.
Similarly, as God changed hearts in Northampton many centuries after Josiah, and as He filled them with the sweetness of His Word, people began to worship as they should. Jonathan Edwards wrote,
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; 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. (Edwards Reader, 63)
I’m sure we have all experienced those people who come to our services out of habit, without a true heart for worship. Some pastors and churches have tried to fix their lackluster attendance with theatrics, concert-like music that has more in common with the world than worship, the ever-elusive search for “relevance,” and a host of other solutions that appeal more to the flesh than can be said are pleasing to the Lord. But Hezekiah, Josiah and Edwards did no such thing. They all pointed people God-ward. And when God got a hold of the people’s hearts, they were drawn into true worship.
Brothers, don’t give in to the temptations to draw a crowd by giving them what they or you think that they want. Give them what they need—they need Christ crucified, risen, glorified and coming again. For sure, it will offend many. But the gospel is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16).
I don’t want to overstate my case These are not sure-fire steps that lead to certain revival. There’s enough of that nonsense in the church today. The Bible doesn’t give that sort of prescription. But as we have seen, the Bible does teach through precept and example.
What I have shared with you is not a formula. The Spirit doesn’t work that way. But in Hezekiah’s, Jehoshaphat Josiah’s and Jonathan Edward’s stories, they were committed to what God has commanded in His Word. And we should be too. If we will commit ourselves to do the same, we will be blessed. Maybe not with the next Great Awakening, but with the favor of God so that he will be pleased with our service as His under-shepherds and those who seek to see the glory of Christ once again restored to His Church.
Edwards, Jonathan. A Jonathan Edwards Reader. Ed. John E. Smith, Harry S. Stout, and Kenneth P. Minkema. New Haven: Yale UP, 2003.