Conditions Preceding Revival – Lessons From Samuel8 min read
God is a God Who works, not only in spite of our failures, but through them. He works in difficult circumstances. He works in times of departure from His Word. Thus it should be no surprise that as we come to the book of 1 Samuel we find God working through a barren woman and a failing high priest. This work culminates in a sort of revival in chapter 7 where the people turn their hearts back to God and again win the victory over the Philistines. So then, our concern should be “What lessons can we learn from the God Who works revival? What conditions does He work in and through?” This is where the first two chapters of 1 Samuel come in.
Conditions Showing the Need for Revival
The last verse of Judges characterizes the general condition of Israel in the time without a monarchy in this way: “Every man did that which was right in his own eyes.” Even though God gave clear laws for every aspect of life, these were counted as optional. This is magnified even further in the priesthood at the time of Samuel’s birth. The high priest, Eli, completely failed as a father, taking no action against his sons’ wickedness. He was uncommitted to his role as a spiritual leader.
Being the recipients of Israel’s complacency and their father’s loose convictions, Hophni and Phineas (the priests) were really the epitome of wickedness in Israel at this time. In spite of their very high position, God called them “sons of Belial.” Though they were occupied with God’s sacred things, they did not know God Himself. Thus they indulged on the sacrifices as being the means to satisfy their appetites. The altar had no true value in their eyes, except what they could gain from it. Adding to this, they were fornicators. Scripture says “they lay with the women that assembled at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.” Essentially, they used the priesthood for prosperity and pleasure, nothing more. It isn’t really any wonder, though, considering the spiritual temperature of Israel at that time. Their ancestors had the truth, but failed to pass it on, thus producing a generation with no concern for it at all.
It seems we live in the same situation today. Worship has turned into a means for entertainment; preaching has turned into nicely-wrapped pep-talks. God’s laws have been “reinterpreted” to be careless about immorality, especially with the rise of homosexual political agendas. Evidence of false conversion is abundant, yet since no one can judge anymore, there is no way of addressing this issue. And at the heart of all these things, we find the two main issues are these: a failure to define and stand on objective truth as well as an embracing of relative standards and emotion-based theology. We have the truth before us, but is isn’t being passed on. That is the same issue that Israel faced in Samuel’s day. They needed revival then, and we need a revival now – not from manipulation or orchestration, but from a renewed passion for God’s truth.
Conditions Contributing to the Solution
Even in those days, though, God was working. Corruption does not change the character and power of God. This is seen in His dealings with Hannah.
This dear woman was subjected to barrenness, an anathema to Jewish women. Not only that, but she was married to a rather dull husband, who had no intelligence whatsoever in consoling his wife. And to make things worse, he was a polygamist. He was married to Hannah and another woman named Peninnah, who had children and loved to brag about that to Hannah who had none. In all of this, God was actively working in Hannah so that she might be a dependent vessel, one whom God could work through. In the same way today, God will not use an arrogant people. He will use broken people so that He might shine as the all sufficient One. “To this man will I look: to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit and trembles at My Word.” Do we really think revival will come to the pragmatist? Do we really think revival will come to the “compartmental Christian” who only gives some of His life to God? Do we really think revival will come to those who trade truth for entertainment? These are all examples of pride, because they all begin with self. Hannah was rid of “self.” This is why God gave her a son who would lead Israel in revival. However God chooses to humble us, let us rejoice; it is the humble people that get revival. That may come through trial, failure, and persecution. But if God is in it, Who can object to the usefulness of these things?
This humbling work in Hannah is seen in her first prayer. This was a prayer marked by weeping and by a grieved heart. Hannah described this prayer as the pouring out of her soul to the Lord. She held nothing in reserve before God – not of her life, nor of her son. Thus she vowed to commit her son fully to the Lord’s service should He grant her one. God answers prayer, and He especially answered this one with power. Hannah became pregnant, and she kept her vow. This woman was not committed to God on a nominal basis; she acted on her claims. Such is the kind of believer God will use.
And so we have seen conditions on our part for revival, but we must never forget the Author of it. We are simply vessels; it is God Who must do the work. If we are ever to see collective spiritual restoration – or even personal spiritual restoration, for that matter – we must understand what a Biblical commitment to God’s character looks like. We are brought face to face with this God in Hannah’s second prayer as seen in chapter 2. There are five main attributes of God that we can see in the prayer, and these will make all the difference in how we consider God in respect to revival.
- First of all, Hannah is committed to God’s uniqueness: “There is none holy as the LORD: for there is none beside thee: neither is there any rock like our God.” When we pray for restoration and salvation, we are praying for things that are far beyond us. We need a God Who we can turn to with all confidence as we consider Who He is. This comes when we realize that there is none like God. He is unparalleled. This is the God we need to work in us. If He is a unique God, surely He can do a unique work.
- Secondly, Hannah is committed to God’s sovereignty: “The LORD kills, and makes alive: he brings down to the grave, and brings up.” God does what He wants when He wants and uses weak vessels in the process. Let us never forget our place. Revival is for God, and it will be done God’s way. Only a sovereign God will do.
- Thirdly, Hannah is committed to God’s preeminence: “The pillars of the earth are the LORD’S, and he hath set the world upon them.” The Lord Who can establish a floating earth is the Lord Who can establish a wayward people. The Lord Who is King over all the earth is the Lord Who will exalt Himself in restoration should He so desire.
- Fourthly, Hannah is committed to God’s goodness: “He will keep the feet of his saints, and the wicked shall be silent in darkness; for by strength shall no man prevail.” Oh, let us not forget that God is more passionate about restoration than we will ever be. “He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.” He is a God of goodness, and we can rest in this for our needs, however deep and far-reaching they may be.
- Finally, Hannah is committed to God’s plan and power: “The adversaries of the LORD shall be broken to pieces; out of heaven shall he thunder upon them: the LORD shall judge the ends of the earth; and he shall give strength unto his king, and exalt the horn of his anointed.” We are not on the losing team of the war, but because we forget this we often find ourselves on the losing team of individual battles. If spiritual restoration will ever be ours, we must confide in the God Who will fight our battles for us. We are no match for the world, the flesh, and the devil. We are no match for persecution and religious corruption. But God is, and He has an ultimate plan to eradicate all of these things. This is the God we seek revival from.
All these things provide foundation for the raising up of a man of God, Samuel, who would eventually lead Israel in repentance and victory. The scenes in which God works may be different, but the circumstances and ways in which God works don’t change. The God we have seen working in Hannah’s life is the God we can see at work in our own. He is sufficient for all things. To appropriate this, our obligation is first to recognize the corruption around and in us and then bow before the great God of Heaven, giving Him His rightful place. God works in spite of an Eli, but through a Hannah. Which will we choose to be?